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How can you tell if sweetened condensed milk is good?

Sweetened condensed milk is a very versatile ingredient used in many desserts and baked goods. However, because it has a long shelf life unopened, it can be difficult to tell if your can of sweetened condensed milk is still good to use or not. Here are some tips on how to tell if your sweetened condensed milk is still good.

Check the Expiration Date

The first thing to look for is the expiration date printed on the can. An unopened can of sweetened condensed milk will typically last for around 9-12 months past the printed date on the can. Once opened, it should be used within 2-3 weeks. So if the can is unopened and the date hasn’t passed, it should still be fine to use. If it’s past the date, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has gone bad but the quality may start to deteriorate.

Inspect the Can

Take a close look at the condition of the can. Make sure there are no dents, bulges, cracks, or rust on the can. Any of these issues can indicate a problem and mean air or bacteria have gotten inside and contaminated the product. Avoid cans with any of these defects.

Open the Can and Inspect

Once you’ve checked the date and can integrity, go ahead and open the can. Be sure to transfer the contents to an airtight container if you won’t be using it all right away. Look at the consistency, color, and smell of the opened sweetened condensed milk:

  • Consistency – It should be smooth, creamy, and pour easily. If it’s thick, clumpy, or dry, it has likely gone bad.
  • Color – The milk should be a uniform pale yellow color. If you see browning or dark spots, it is oxidized and should be discarded.
  • Smell – Take a whiff of the milk. It should have a mildly sweet, milky smell. If it smells sour or unpleasant, it’s time to toss it.

Watch for Signs During Cooking

You can also evaluate the quality when you go to use the sweetened condensed milk in a recipe. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Curdling – If the milk curdles or separates when heated, that indicates spoilage.
  • Texture Issues – Properly condensed milk will result in smooth, creamy desserts. Lumpy or grainy texture signals problems.
  • Off Flavors – Taste the finished dish carefully. Rancid or sour notes mean the milk was spoiled.

How to Store Opened Sweetened Condensed Milk

Once opened, sweetened condensed milk needs to be stored properly to prevent bacteria growth. Here are some tips for storage:

  • Transfer to an airtight container like a mason jar or resealable plastic container.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.
  • Make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent air exposure.
  • Keep the container upright to avoid leaks.
  • Do not return any unused milk back to the original can.

Signs Your Opened Milk has Spoiled

Be on the lookout for these signs that opened sweetened condensed milk has gone bad:

  • Liquid has separated and appears curdled
  • Milk is lumpy or has texture issues
  • Off white color instead of pale yellow
  • Sour milk odor
  • Mold visible on the surface

If you notice any of these issues, discard the milk right away. Don’t taste it or use it in recipes.

How to Substitute Spoiled Sweetened Condensed Milk

If your sweetened condensed milk has spoiled, don’t fret. Here are some easy substitutions to use instead:

  • Evaporated milk + sugar: Use 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup sugar for every 1 cup sweetened condensed milk.
  • Whole milk + sugar: Use 1 cup whole milk plus 1/3 cup sugar for every 1 cup sweetened condensed milk.
  • Condensed coconut milk: Use an equal amount of canned coconut milk mixed with sugar as needed.
  • Dulce de leche: The cooked and caramelized version makes a great swap in many recipes.

With these substitution options, you can still bake up delicious treats even if you have to toss a spoiled can of sweetened condensed milk.

How to Tell if Sweetened Condensed Milk is Spoiled – Visual Guide

Signs of Good Milk Signs of Spoiled Milk
  • Smooth, creamy consistency
  • Pale yellow color
  • Mild sweet smell
  • Curdled or separated
  • Lumpy texture
  • Off white color
  • Sour odor

Tips for Storing Sweetened Condensed Milk

Here are some top tips for storing sweetened condensed milk to extend its shelf life:

  1. Refrigerate after opening and use within 2-3 weeks.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container like a mason jar.
  3. Make sure container is tightly sealed.
  4. Keep container upright to prevent leaks.
  5. Never return unused portions back to the original can.
  6. Use clean utensils each time to prevent bacteria contamination.
  7. Mark container with date opened for easy reference.

Common Uses for Sweetened Condensed Milk

Here are some of the most popular ways to use canned sweetened condensed milk:

  • Desserts: Pies (banana cream, key lime), cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, candy, fudge, ice cream
  • Sauces: Caramel, chocolate, fruit dipping sauce
  • Beverages: Coffee drinks, milkshakes, Thai iced tea/coffee
  • Other: Fruit salad, granola bars, homemade chocolate, frosting

It adds sweetness, moisture, richness, and body to all kinds of recipes. Keep several cans on hand for whenever inspiration strikes!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does unopened sweetened condensed milk last?

Unopened sweetened condensed milk will typically last 9-12 months past the printed expiration date on the can when stored in a cool, dry place.

Can you freeze sweetened condensed milk?

Yes, you can freeze unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk. This will extend the shelf life significantly. Frozen condensed milk can typically last up to 1-2 years in the freezer before quality starts to decline.

What happens if you accidentally boil sweetened condensed milk?

Boiling sweetened condensed milk will cause it to thicken and take on a darker caramel color. The result is essentially homemade dulce de leche. While very thick, it is still safe to consume if fully cooked.

Why does my condensed milk have a pink tinge?

A pink or reddish tint is probably due to reaction between the metal can and acids in the milk. It’s harmless, but indicates lower quality. Fully curdled or separated milk should be discarded.

Can you substitute sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk?

No, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk cannot be used interchangeably. Evaporated milk is unsweetened and less thick. Substitute 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk + 1/2 cup sugar for 1 cup sweetened condensed milk.


Checking expiration dates, inspecting the can integrity, and carefully evaluating the opened milk will help determine if your sweetened condensed milk is still fresh and usable. Proper refrigerated storage in airtight containers is also key once opened. Knowing the signs of spoiled milk and how to substitute will allow you to still create delicious recipes even if you have to discard a bad can. Follow these tips and enjoy the creamy goodness of sweetened condensed milk in all of your favorite treats.