Buy too much and it goes bad. Buy too little and your morning cereal might be left dry. If you’re constantly fighting the battle of how much milk to buy, you might find it helpful to know that milk can, in fact, be frozen.
By freezing milk, you can be sure you’ll have enough to last you through a shortage, whether that be a coronavirus pandemic or simply a miscalculation on the amount you’ll need while making holiday recipes. Milk can also be expensive at times, so if you see it on sale, you can use this simple trick to help stock up and save some money.
Also read: Keep milk out of the fridge door, and other storage tips.
Here’s what you need to know about freezing milk.
How to freeze milk
Step 1: Choose a milk. Because freezing liquids can often cause fat to separate, skim and low-fat milks freeze best. The less fat a milk has, the closer it will resemble the taste and texture of the original product after it has thawed. That said, you can still freeze just about any milk.
Step 2: Save plastic jugs. The secret to freezing milk it to transfer it to an airtight container. Those cardboard cartons do not qualify. Save a few plastic milk jugs if you plan on freezing milk. In fact, save a few of different sizes (pint, 1 liter, 2 liter, gallon). That way, you can thaw only what you need at a time. Glass containers are a bad choice as they can easily shatter or crack during the freezing process.
Step 3: Check expirations dates. Freezing milk is easy, but you do need to make a few careful considerations beforehand. Milk you would like to freed does need to be done before the “best by” or expiration dates are up. In fact, you should also consider how much time you’ll need on the backend, too. Don’t freeze milk with one day left before expiration, then expect to use it for a week after it thaws.
Step 4: Save some space. Don’t forget this step or you’ll be left with a giant mess in your freezer! As you fill your plastic containers, remember to remove or leave about 1 cup of milk from a gallon of milk, or about 1 1/2 inches of headspace in any container to give milk room to expand when it freezes. Replace the lid and store in the freezer.
Step 5: Don’t wait too long. Milk can be stored for up to three months in the freezer. Store away from meats, fish, or other potentially pungent foods, as milk is known to easily absorb other nearby flavors.
How to Thaw Milk
Milk thaws pretty quickly. A frozen gallon will be ready in about a day, with smaller containers thawing at quicker rates.
Step 1: Remove milk from freezer. Place frozen milk container in refrigerator. Place in a large basin if you have reason to believe your container might leak as the milk thaws. Do not thaw milk at room temperature, as you risk bacteria growing if your milk gets too warm.
Step 2: Shake well. Shake container vigorously before each and every use.
For faster results: If you need to speed things up, fill the sink basin with cold water and place the jug inside for a while. When the water warms—or about every 30 minutes—replace with cold water. Repeat until thawed. You might choose to finish thawing in the fridge, but this will help speed things along.
Note: Never refreeze milk once it has been thawed.
How does milk change after freezing?
Frozen milk will retain its nutrients, but its texture may differ somewhat. Freezing and thawing can cause the fat to separate from milk, and the texture can become grainy. If you don’t enjoy the texture of your thawed milk, use it in baked goods, cooking, cereal or in smoothies. If you still prefer to drink it, shake vigorously or use a blender or immersion blender to help mix the fats back in and create a more consistent product.
Also see: Plant-based milk not necessarily healthier than cow’s milk, study shows.
Can you freeze milk substitutes?
There are lots of dairy substitutes out there. Can they be frozen, too?
Almond milk: Yes. Almond milk will separate naturally after it thaws, but it’s still safe to drink. All recommendations for regular milk apply for almond milk. If you’re cooking with it or adding it to smoothies, a vigorous shake should be enough.
Cashew milk: Cashew milk can be frozen and thawed using the considerations and techniques for regular milk. Cashew milk can be expensive, so it can be a shame to waste even one drop. Because of the price, we’re often talking about smaller amounts of milk that need to be frozen. Consider using an ice cube tray to freeze leftovers. That way, you can just pop a cube or two anytime you’re making a smoothie or need a quick coffee creamer.
Coconut milk: Coconut milk can separate and will definitely lose its thick, rich texture once frozen, but you can use an immersion blender for 30 seconds to bring it back to life.
Oat milk: Oat milk can be frozen, but it will be somewhat grainy once thawed. Use a cheese cloth to strain milk once thawed. This will get rid of those tiny granules (if they bother you). If you’re using thawed oat milk in cereal, granola, oatmeal, smoothies, or anything else with a grainy texture, don’t bother to strain it—you won’t even notice it!
Soy milk: Keep in mind that unopened shelf-stable soy milk can be stored on a pantry shelf for about a year. If it’s been opened, it’s good for about two weeks—maybe a little more if stored in the fridge. Most soy milk produces recommend not freezing their product, but that said, it can be done. Like other milks, you’ll lose some texture and maybe some flavor, but it will retain its nutritional value and still be safe to consume. Freeze and thaw soy milk with all considerations you would for regular cow milk.
Also see, The difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk.