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How Long Does Evaporated Milk Last? (Opened, Unopened)

Here’s how long evaporated milk lasts, storage tips, and how to tell if it’s gone bad, plus delicious recipes you’ll love!

Evaporated milk is a popular food storage staple. And it’s a key ingredient in many of our favorite recipes.

It lasts far longer than regular milk, so you can keep several cans on hand to use as needed.

However, even though it’s shelf stable, it doesn’t last forever!

If you have old cans sitting in your pantry or a partially used opened can, you may wonder how long it’s safe to consume.

Thankfully, we’ve done the research for you!

Below we share tips for proper storage, information on evaporated milk shelf life, how to tell if it’s gone bad, and delicious recipes using evaporated milk!

How long does evaporated milk last?

Milk pours from small creamer into cup of tea resting on matching saucer.

Evaporated milk typically has a best-by date which is different than an expiration date. This means the product is still usable after the date on the label. But, the quality will diminish over time.

These products have a long shelf life of about 6-12 months by the manufacturer’s standards. However, if the milk is properly stored and sealed, you can use it well beyond that point.

NOTE: Evaporated whole milk lasts longer than skim milk. The values in this post are based on whole milk. For skim milk, subtract 3 months.


You can use evaporated milk 3-6 months after the date on the label for the best quality. But, it maintains good quality for up to 1 year after the date.


If you have open cans you should refrigerate or freeze them as soon as possible.

Leftover evaporated milk should be left at room temperature for no more than 2 hours.

Refrigerated evaporated milk may last 3-5 days when stored towards the back of the refrigerator (not the door).

And, you can freeze evaporated milk for up to 3 months.

Evaporated Milk 101

Evaporated milk in a clear glass canister on a blue background with spoon.

Evaporated milk (unsweetened condensed milk) is made by removing the water content (about 60%) from regular fresh milk. The result is a creamier, richer liquid with a slightly sweet taste and a slightly darker shade.

Unlike regular milk, condensed milk is shelf-stable.

After it’s dehydrated, it goes through a sterilization and canning process at high temperatures. This process kills off harmful bacteria and seals in the nutritional value.

These products may be made from whole milk or skim milk. And you can choose from regular, low-fat, and-fat free.

It’s readily available in grocery stores and it’s a key ingredient in dessert recipes like pumpkin pie and ice cream, casseroles, creamy soups, and even beverages like hot chocolate.

These products can also stay in food storage for a long time. So, it’s an ideal substitute for regular milk in emergencies.

Simply dilute evaporated milk with an equal amount of water to substitute for regular milk.

If you run out, or your grocery store is out of stock, you can try using a different type of milk or dairy product with a similar texture and flavor:

Here are some whole evaporated milk substitutes:

  • Heavy cream
  • Coconut milk
  • Half and half
  • Powdered milk
  • Quinoa milk

And here are some skim evaporated milk substitutes:

  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk
  • Rice milk
  • Flax milk
  • Hemp milk

RELATED: 17 Ways To Substitute For Evaporated Milk

How To Store Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk in can next to measuring cup on a burlap cloth.

At Room Temperature

You should store an unopened can in a dark cool place like a kitchen pantry. You should also ensure the can isn’t exposed to water.

If your cans aren’t stored in a dry place they may rust and contaminate the milk.

In the Refrigerator

Once evaporated milk is exposed to air, it must be refrigerated.

The best option to store leftover milk is in an airtight container towards the back of the refrigerator where temperatures are coldest.

In the Freezer

You can also freeze evaporated milk.

The best way to freeze evaporated milk is in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, you can add the cubes to a freezer bag.

This will allow you to defrost individual portions as needed.

Like other dairy products, freezing condensed milk will change the quality of the product (texture, flavor, and color). So you should keep this in mind when adding it to recipes.

One of the best ways to use frozen leftovers is in smoothies. It will add creaminess and thickness to your drink. And you’re less likely to notice differences in quality.

How To Tell When It’s Gone Bad

Woman makes a disgusted face after drinking from a small white mug.

Consuming expired evaporated milk may lead to food poisoning. So you should always check for signs of spoilage before you use it.

Always discard cans that are leaking, rusting, bulging, or severely dented.

And look out for:

  • An off or sour smell
  • Sour taste
  • Changes to the texture of the milk (if the milk develops a curd-like texture, throw it away!)
  • Mold
  • Changes in color (dark yellow or brown)

You should discard refrigerated leftovers after 5 days even if you don’t notice signs of spoilage to be safe.

And, if you do happen to consume spoiled milk, look out for symptoms of food poisoning.

These may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you notice these, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

NOTE: Milk skin is not a sign of spoilage. The film on milk happens due to fat separation. You can fix this by stirring the milk or heating it.

How To Make Your Own

Close up of boiling milk in a large metal stock pot on a stove.

Want to make your own?

Here’s an easy recipe that will yield the same amount as a store-bought can:

Add 2½ cups of milk into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally until it starts to boil.

Cook until the milk has reduced by about 60% (it doesn’t have to be exact, but if you use 2½ cups of milk this would leave 1 cup of milk).

Cool and use as desired.

NOTE: This recipe should work with whole or skim milk, though 2% is ideal. Store leftovers in an airtight container and use them within 3-5 days.


Does evaporated milk need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes. You should refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours, using an airtight container, towards the back of the refrigerator.

What does evaporated milk look like when it goes bad?

The milk may have a thick, curdled texture and a dark yellow or brown color.

Does evaporated milk go bad in the fridge?

Yes. You should use any opened leftovers within 5 days. And always check for signs of spoilage like sour smell or taste, changes in texture, darkening color, or mold. Unopened cans do not need to be refrigerated.

Can I use evaporated milk in place of regular milk in recipes?

Yes, you can, but you’ll want to reconstitute the evaporated milk by adding equal parts of the milk and water together to get the correct amount for the recipe.

Yummy Recipes to Try

Here are some easy and delicious recipes using evaporated milk we know you’ll love!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Large pot of creamy chicken noodle soup on white table with bowls and plates nearby.

This Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup features a creamy broth, tender chicken, and savory vegetables. It’s incredibly easy to make and only has 8 ingredients!

Chile Relleno Casserole

Baking dish of chile relleno casserole on white table surrounded by plates and spatula.

Chile Relleno Casserole is full of whole green chiles, a fluffy egg batter, and lots of cheesy goodness. It’s an easy breakfast with flavors the entire family will love!

Marshmallow Fudge

Several pieces of marshmallow fudge on a white rectangular serving platter.

This marshmallow fudge combines butter, sugar, marshmallows, and chocolate chips for a holiday treat that is smooth and oh-so delicious!

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