Most milk is freezable. Freezing is a safe and cost-effective way to store milk. The process extends the life of milk and helps create less waste.
Freezing and storing milk has many benefits. It allows households to have a backup milk supply when they are running low. It extends the natural life of milk, so instead of throwing it away when it spoils, people can thaw it and use it when it suits them. It may also save money.
People can freeze most milk, including breast milk or human milk. Frozen milk retains its nutritional profile when it thaws, and the sooner someone freezes it, the better the milk quality after thawing. The enzymes and fat-soluble vitamins it contains may decrease very slightly but largely remain the same.
This article provides tips for freezing different types of milk and how to defrost it. It also answers some common questions about freezing milk.
To keep milk fresh for as long as possible, it should remain at a temperature of between 32°F and 39.2°F (0℃ and 4℃). If its temperature rises above 39.2°F (4℃), bacteria may grow, resulting in the milk spoiling sooner and becoming undrinkable.
Freezing milk is straightforward, but here are some useful tips:
- Freeze milk on or before the best before date. Freezing milk as quickly as possible will help retain its taste and nutritional profile.
- Once a container of milk is open, people can use the milk safely for 3 days.
- Avoid exposing milk to light, which may destroy some of the vitamins.
- Use milk containers in order of best before date.
- Leave milk in the original container and freeze it unopened. Alternatively, freeze single portions using ice cube trays or similar. People can also freeze milk in an airtight container.
- The container should have space for frozen milk to expand.
- Thaw milk in the fridge to ensure it does not go above 39.2°F (4℃)
- Once it thaws, milk may separate into solids and liquid, but shaking it will return it to its smooth texture.
There are a wide variety of plant-based and nondairy alternatives to milk, and they are all suitable for freezing.
Freezing nondairy milk is similar to freezing cow’s milk. The milk may separate slightly, the flavor and odor may change slightly, and the texture may be grainier. The thawed milk is suitable for cooking, adding to tea or coffee, or using in a smoothie.
Below are guidelines for freezing nondairy alternatives to milk.
- Soy milk: People can freeze soy milk in a similar way to cow’s milk. Once it thaws, it may separate, but shaking it will return it to its original appearance.
- Coconut milk: Because of its high fat content, coconut milk is not very suited for freezing. People can freeze it, but only for short periods, and the texture may alter once it thaws.
- Oat milk: Oat milk may separate after thawing, so it needs shaking or blending to combine the solids and liquid.
- Almond milk: Almond milk also separates after thawing and may stay separated even after blending. For this reason, it may be more suited to smoothies and other drinks rather than for drinking neat.
- Shelf-stable milk: Shelf-stable milk has undergone ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) to extend its shelf-life, so it is unlikely to need freezing. Like other kinds of milk, people can freeze shelf-stable milk, but it is likely to separate after thawing.
- Sheep’s milk: People can freeze sheep’s milk, but it may
losesome of its sweetness after thawing. Its aroma may also be more pungent.
- Goat’s milk: Goat’s milk is freezable, but there may be a decrease in fat, protein, and lactose when it thaws.
Freezing human milk enables parents and caregivers to build up supplies to use at their convenience. The
- Store breast milk in special storage bags or clean food-grade containers consisting of glass or plastic. Choose bisphenol A (BPA)-free plastic containers.
- Freeze breast milk as soon as possible after expressing it.
- Place breast milk at the back of the freezer, where it is less likely to be subject to temperature fluctuations from opening the door.
- Label breast milk clearly with the date a person expressed it.
- Store breast milk in small amounts to avoid waste.
- When filling a container with breast milk, leave an inch at the top for expansion.
- Thaw breast milk in the fridge and never at room temperature.
- Never refreeze breast milk.
- Store breast milk in the freezer for up to 6 months to retain its quality. Storing breast milk for up to 12 months is acceptable, but it may be less nutritious.
The following are tips on thawing milk include:
- Allow 24–36 hours for milk to thaw in the fridge.
- Shake milk before opening it.
- If the solids and liquid remain separate, use a blender or electric mixer to recombine them.
- Freeze milk for 1–3 months to ensure the best quality.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding freezing and thawing milk.
Why does thawed milk sometimes spoil?
Milk can spoil if its temperature rises above 39.2°F (4℃). How long a person can use thawed milk depends on how fresh it is when they freeze it. To be safe, people should use milk as soon as possible after thawing it. A person should pay attention to any signs of spoiling, such as a strong odor or lumpy consistency.
The milk looks strange when it thaws. How can a person prevent this?
The fat in milk often separates from the liquid when it thaws. Shaking the milk or using a blender should help bring it back together.
Can you freeze milk in glass bottles?
Regular glass bottles may crack at freezer temperatures. As the liquid inside them expands, it may put sufficient pressure on the walls of the glass bottle for them to break.
Jars suitable for canning and freezing consist of tempered glass and will withstand the freezing process better. A person can allow extra space in the container for the milk to expand and thaw it completely before removing it from the jar or bottle.
Freezing milk is easy, helps avoid waste, allows a backup supply, and saves money.
Thawed milk will be most nutritious if people freeze it at its freshest. However, as long as freezing happens on or before the best before date, it is fine to freeze milk and thaw it for later use.
The texture of thawed milk may be different from fresh milk, but the solids and liquid usually recombine when a person shakes or blends it.
It is best to freeze milk in its original container, an airtight BPA-free container, or in tempered glass jars or bottles. Placing it at the back of the freezer will ensure its temperature remains constant.
To thaw milk, a person should leave it in the fridge for 24–36 hours. The more milk there is, the longer it will take to thaw.