Can You Freeze Milk? Here Are Our Test Kitchen's Tips
It happens to the best of us: we grab that gallon of milk forgetting we're going out of town and won't be able to use it up before we're back. Or perhaps a storm is rolling in or a public health concern encouraging us to stock up on staples. If you've got a stash of milk with fast-approaching "best if used by" dates, we have good news: you can freeze milk. Though the best way to freeze one type of milk (with all the differing percentages of fat, and non-dairy milk options) may not be the best for another. Here's what our Test Kitchen learned about freezing milk.
Best Containers for Freezing Milk
Select canning jars that are specifically approved for freezing (this is clearly noted on the jar packaging). These Ball mason jars ($9.89, Target) are a common option. Use only wide-mouth glass jars as the jars with necks (aka regular mouth) crack more easily when the milk expands. Do not fill jar to the top; leave about an inch of room for expansion.
Ice Cube Trays
Fill an ice cube tray with your milk and freeze until solid, about 3 to 4 hours. Once frozen, transfer frozen cubes to plastic freezer bags.
If you've got space in the freezer for the gallon or half-gallon container you purchased, you may put that entire thing in the freezer. But as with every option here, the container cannot be totally full. Open the gallon and remove about an inch of liquid to make space for expansion.
Rigid plastic containers with airtight lids designed for freezing such as these Ziploc containers ($2.79, Target) are a great choice for freezing milk in smaller containers that fit more easily in an already-full freezer.
Plastic Freezer Bags
Don't use your typical sandwich baggie; instead opt for plastic bags designed for freezing like these Harmon zipper freezer bags ($3.19, Bed Bath & Beyond) or vacuum freezer bags. The freezer-safe bags are made of thicker material and more resistant to moisture any oxygen. Remove as much air as possible from the bags, and don't forget to leave room for expansion.
How to Freeze Milk
The method for freezing milk (and how long to freeze milk) will be the same for dairy milk, nut milks, and soy milk.
- For all milk types, pour milk into your desired container leaving an inch or so of headspace to allow for expansion. Note: This does not apply if using ice cube trays.
- Freeze up to 3 months from the date of purchase. Some sources suggest using frozen milk within one month for best quality.
- Thaw milk in the refrigerator at least 3 days and shake well before using.
Freezing Different Kinds of Milk
While you can freeze any milk, some definitely hold up better than others. The best kinds of milk for freezing are regular dairy.
Skim, 1%, 2%, and whole dairy milks all held up great in our testing. They froze and thawed well without obvious signs of deteriorating quality, such as color changes and curdling. Drink it, add to cereal, use in recipes, use frozen thawed dairy milk just like you would fresh dairy milk.
The almond milk and refrigerated coconut milk we tested appeared curdled when thawed. Even major manufacturers of almond milk say not to freeze almond milk because it causes separation and change in texture. In general nut milks and oat milk do not freeze well. They will likely separate and take on grainy texture so they aren't good to drink on their own. However, if you'd like to freeze some in ice cube trays as mentioned above to add to smoothies or recipes for sauces and blender soups, you will not notice the off texture when incorporated into recipes like those.
Just like the nut milks we tested, soy milk appeared curdled when thawed and the soy milk, in particular, took on an unappealing light coffee color. We do not recommend freezing soy milk, nor do the major manufacturers. But also like the nut milks, if you freeze in ice cube trays and add to blended recipes like soups and smoothies this is a good alternative to tossing out soy milk that would go to waste.
How Long to Freeze Milk
Use frozen milk in the first month for the best quality, but storing in the freezer up to three months from purchase is OK.
Now you'll never have to waste a dime or succumb to the dreaded sniff test to see if your milk is spoiled. Just get it in the freezer before the "best by" date on the container to safely freeze your milk for later.