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How to freeze and defrost milk

Milk is a key item on most shopping lists, but with such a short shelf life, it can go to waste if you don’t use it fast enough. You can easily store it in the freezer to prevent food waste and save some money. Here’s our complete guide to how to freeze milk (dairy or otherwise) – and how to safely defrost it whenever you’re ready.

How to freeze milk

Before you ask, “Can you freeze milk?”, see what type of milk you have. Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk is more suited to home freezing than creamy blue-top, as the higher fat content makes it difficult to freeze properly. But, even then, you can recombine the fats and water by giving the milk a vigorous shake once defrosted. Milk freezes at a temperature of 0.5°C, so it might start to form ice crystals if kept at the back of a particularly chilly fridge.

When it comes to freezing milk, there are two important things to remember: your container should be freezer-proof and plastic, so it doesn’t shatter and leave dangerous shards. It also needs to be airtight, as milk can absorb odours and flavours from other foods in your freezer: no one wants onion-infused milk in the morning.

So, you have a few pints surplus to requirements, and simply want to stash it away in the bottle it came in? That’s easy: all you need to do prior to freezing is make some space in the top of the container by using up (or drinking) a small glass of milk, leaving about 1½ inches at the top of the bottle. This is necessary because, like other liquids, milk expands when frozen, so it might burst out of its container if you don’t give your dairy room to breathe.

Next step, label the bottle with the date that you froze your milk on, and pop it in the freezer. It should freeze solid after about 12 hours. If you want to freeze a smaller quantity of milk (and take up less space in the freezer), there’s a trick for that: fill up an ice cube tray with milk to make 60ml milk cubes. This method is best for freezing milk in a hurry, as it only takes about 4 hours. Just remember to cover your ice cube tray in plastic wrap, to protect your milk cubes from absorbing other flavours.

These are fab for fast smoothies and shakes, where you can drop your milk cubes straight into the blender and whizz for a creamy yet chilly beverage. It’s also ideal for iced coffee, where melting milk ice will only make your cold brew that much more delicious.

1426x920 IcedCoffee

How long can you freeze milk for?

Once your milk is frozen solid, you can leave it there for up to 3 months, and it’ll be safe to drink when you defrost it. However, it’s wise not to freeze milk for more than 1 month, as freezing can make your milk separate and go grainy. If this happens, you can whizz the milk in a blender and it’ll be good to go again.

How to defrost milk

How to thaw frozen milk is very simple: get it out of the freezer, and pop it into your fridge door (with a couple of kitchen towels wrapped around it, if you’re concerned about condensation) to defrost overnight. The next morning, all you need to do before pouring it onto your cereal is give the bottle a good shake. Defrosting in the fridge is the safest way to defrost milk, as the cool temperature hinders bacterial growth, but it can take up to 12 hours.

If you need it in a stitch, the best way to defrost milk quickly is to submerge the bottle in a bowl of cold water. After 30 minutes, pour away the water and replace it with fresh cold water, to stop the water warming to an unsafe level. One hour of cold water immersion should be enough to defrost your milk.

Need your frozen milk to whip up a nice, creamy sauce? Whether you’re making béchamel or bread sauce, you can put frozen milk straight into a pan and safely heat it through.

Freezing your milk is like hitting the ‘pause’ button. This is because freezing temporarily suspends harmful bacteria and chemical reactions, but does not stop them altogether. So, never defrost your milk in the microwave, or by leaving it on the counter at room temperature. Defrosting it slowly in a warm environment will mean that any bacteria in the milk that existed at the time of freezing will quickly increase, which can make it unsafe to drink.

16 Bread sauce (LH)

How long does frozen milk last after thawing?

Frozen milk will only stay fresh for the number of days it had between the date you originally froze it and its expiry date: so if you put it in the freezer a day before its use-by date it will only stay fresh for one day once defrosted. Be sure to label your milk with the date you froze it, so you don’t forget!

Can I freeze dairy-free “milk”?

Good news, vegans and the lactose-intolerant – plant-based milk-alternatives can be frozen safely, using the same methods as above. However, because vegan milk-alternatives are a blend of water and puréed plant matter, they have a tendency to separate once frozen. This can be fixed by pouring into a blender and blitzing to re-emulsify, but your milk-alternative will be better suited to smoothies and baking, rather than sipping straight from the cup.

8 RFO LargeHero Vegan Cake

What can I make with thawed milk?

As the texture of frozen and thawed milk – both dairy and plant-based alternatives – can change, using it up in cooking is the tastiest way. Need some milk inspiration? Here are some of our favourite recipes using milk.

Milk-poached chicken with peas and pasta

RFO 1400x919 PoachedChickenPasta

Easy mushroom soup

RFO 1400x919 MushroomSoup

Three-milk cake

RFO 1400x919 Three milk cake

Chocolate brioche buns

chocolate brioche buns (l)

Slow-cooked mango rice pudding


Pineapple and turmeric smoothie

1400x919 PinappleTumericSmoothie

There you have it – that’s how to freeze milk simply, quickly, and most of all, safely. Next time there’s a trickle left in the carton, or you’ve got a whole bottle to spare, you can save buying milk later on by freezing what you already have. You never know what you might make with it.

Freezing and defrosting guidelines 

In order to enjoy optimum flavour and quality, frozen items are best used within 3 months of their freezing date. For more tips on freezing and defrosting food, read our article Love Your Freezer.

Discover even more helpful food hacks on our Food Waste page.

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