Wait, You Can Freeze Milk?

While you can turn what’s left of that gallon into ricotta, you also could—gasp—freeze it.

April  3, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.

So you bought a gallon of milk for a cake recipe, and only when you got home did you realize the recipe calls for one. meager. tablespoon.

While turning the rest of that gallon into thick yogurt, chocolate ice cream, or ricotta are all very admirable projects, you also can freeze it for later. Yes, really.

Some things to keep in mind as you embark on mission milkberg: Don’t forget to label your frozen milk with the freeze date, and aim to use frozen milk within three months. While it could last beyond that, milk contains fat, and fat attracts freezer smells. Onward!

How to Freeze Milk

In a plastic container.

If your milk jug is both made of plastic and small enough so as to not take up an obnoxious amount of space in the freezer, go ahead and freeze the milk right in its original container. If your milk came in a paper carton or glass container—or there’s just a lot of it left—it’s safer and quicker to decant into smaller freezer-safe, plastic containers. This way, you don’t have to thaw a whole gallon each time you need just a splash. (Don’t forget to return the glass bottle for your deposit!)

Because liquids expand when frozen, be sure to leave a good amount of headspace—at least 2 inches—in your chosen, freezer-safe, plastic container. The only thing more cry-worthy than cleaning up spilt milk is spilt milk and glass shards.

In ice cube trays.

Alternatively, you can freeze leftover milk in ice cube trays for easy portioning. Once frozen, transfer the milk cubes into a freezer-safe plastic bag or an airtight plastic container. These are great for solo portions of bechamel, or the aforementioned low-milk cakes.

How to thaw frozen milk

The safest way to thaw frozen milk is overnight in the fridge: Place the container of frozen milk in a bowl to catch condensation. If you’re planning on heating the milk up anyway, go ahead and pop the milkberg right into a saucepan.

Because it’s only the water content in the milk that’s freezing, thawed frozen milk may get a little, erm, chunky. Shake in a jar or whiz in a blender to re-emulsify. While it may not be the tastiest drinking experience, thawed frozen milk will work seamlessly in baking and cooking recipes. Once thawed, be sure to use the milk within a week (just sniff it daily lest it go bad sooner).

Recipes That Put Frozen Milk to Good Use

What other things are you freezing these days?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • j7n
  • Bipasha Biswas
    Bipasha Biswas
  • Stormy873
  • Smaug
  • Paulette Tribulato
    Paulette Tribulato
Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.


j7n May 18, 2021
A plastic bottle is the best container because it can be compressed prior to freezing in order to allow it to expand along its entire surface. A good method for preserving fresh unpasteurized milk. The texture of thawed is good after shaking. But a bottle takes longer than 1 day to thaw in the fridge until there is no ice in the middle.
Bipasha B. April 4, 2020
I grew up in India where milk is sold in quart size pouches. We froze milk regularly and took out what we needed. Since milk is boiled for tea etc. at a regular basis, defrosting was not necessary. The whole packet was cut open and the frozen chunk of milk-ice melted, boiled, and simmered away!
Stormy873 April 4, 2020
Living in the country I have learned to be prepared. Right now I have 12 gallons of milk in the freezer along with 9 dozen eggs. My advice, always freeze 1/2 gallons of milk and no larger. It takes to long for bigger jugs to thaw.
Paulette T. September 21, 2020
How do you freeze the eggs? Sounds like a great idea.
Smaug April 3, 2020
My neighbors used to freeze milk when I was a kid and had no problems- they used the original package, which may have still been glass but I think was paper- no plastic containers in those days. Note that, while water (which of course is most of what milk is) expands when frozen that is NOT a general property of liquids. A gallon of milk is going to make a huge amount of ice cream, but milk does come in smaller quantities; the price escalates rapidly, though. If you only use milk occasionally for baking, your best bet would be powdered milk