Freezing Milk Makes It Easy to Stock Up and Save

A complete guide to freezing whole, low-fat and skim milk, plus defrosting tips and the best ways to use it once thawed.

As a fresh and perishable food, milk probably isn't an ingredient you buy in bulk, but if it's on sale or you want to avoid trips to the supermarket, stocking up can be a good idea. Plus, milk can be easily frozen, which means buying an extra gallon can save time and money, limit waste and keep you away from busy checkout lines. Read on for how to freeze and thaw milk, and the best ways to use it.

Someone pouring milk into a glass from a glass milk jug
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How to Freeze Milk

Whole, low-fat and skim milk can all safely be frozen for up to three months in an airtight container. While it's fine to freeze milk in plastic milk jugs, it shouldn't be frozen in paper cartons or glass, and you need to leave about 1½ inches of space at the top to allow room for the milk to expand while freezing. It's best to freeze milk in smaller quantities, so it defrosts more quickly and so you don't have to commit to defrosting and using an entire gallon. (Check out these tips for Stocking Your Pantry.)

Label and date the container of milk and then place it in the freezer away from any foods that could potentially emit odors, such as meat or fish. Another convenient option is to freeze small amounts of milk in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a larger airtight container, then label, date and freeze for up to three months. Each well in a standard ice cube tray holds about 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons of milk.

How to Thaw Frozen Milk

Always thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator, preferably with the container set on a plate to collect any condensation. How long it takes to defrost will depend on the size of the container, but it's best to allow for a full 24 hours. Once defrosted, give the milk a good shake and use within one week, shaking well before each use. (Check out A Dietitian's Take on Dairy here.)

How to Use Previously Frozen Milk

Milk that's been frozen retains all the nutritional value of fresh milk and can be used for drinking, baking and cooking. However, because fat separates out during the freezing and thawing process, milk that's been frozen can be a bit grainy, which is why you need to thoroughly shake it once thawed, as well as before each use—you can also use a blender or an immersion blender to mix it up and improve the consistency. Low-fat and skim milk aren't typically as grainy, simply because there's less fat to separate out. If you find the texture unpleasant, reserve the milk for cooking, baking and smoothies, where it won't be as noticeable. And, if you're nervous about the consistency, freeze a small amount of milk as a test and see what you think. (Check out these Baking Substitutions You Probably Already Have in Your Kitchen.)

Freezing Nondairy Milks

Dairy-free milks, including almond, soy and oat, can technically be frozen, but the freezing and thawing process can affect the taste, texture and even the color, so it's often not worth the trouble. Plus, many are already shelf-stable. If you want to try freezing, the process is the same as for dairy milk, but you may want to test a small amount first to see if you like it. As with dairy milk, graininess is the main issue and is less noticeable if you stick to cooking, baking and smoothies rather than drinking.

Wondering about freezing other staples? See Can You Freeze Cheese? and Can You Freeze Egg?

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