There aren’t many more unpleasant things in day-to-day life than heading to your fridge, pulling out the milk thinking it’s fresh, and then pouring stinky, cheese-like lumps into your cereal. Rather than buying fresh milk which comes with a short lifespan of only a few days and running the risk of the aforementioned problem, why not choose from the best shelf-stable milk instead? This no-spoil milk can be kept unrefrigerated until you know you need it, whether that be days, weeks, months or even years from the point of purchase. Read on to discover more about the best shelf-stable milk.
What is Shelf Stable Milk?
Shelf-stable, or no-spoil milk as it is sometimes called, is simply milk that doesn’t go into the refrigerator until after it’s opened. Popular in Europe, shelf-stable milk is increasing in popularity in the US, thanks largely to the recent panic buying and health concerns surrounding the high-temperature, short-time pasteurization commonly used in the US and Canada. It’s always a good item to have in your pantry as supply and demand are continuously shifting, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Most shelf-stable milk options come in individually-sized boxes which can be a convenient alternative to your standard, gallon-size milk cartons. Alternative milks have some great no-spoil options as well, including almond, pea and nut-based formulas.
Options include organic, pasture-raised cow’s milk in small eight-ounce containers that are perfect for kids and adults and make for a great mid-morning snack, not to mention an excellent addition to lunch boxes. Or you can choose from larger, 32-ounce containers which are still small enough to be consumed within the recommended seven days after opening.
Types of Shelf Stable Milk
Most of the time “shelf-stable” refers to UHT milk, but there are actually a few different types of milk that don’t need to be refrigerated. Let’s explore all the options.
UHT milk is a popular milk in many countries around the world. It can be kept “on the shelf” for six to nine months without spoiling. The process that allows it to do this is called Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization, which is used to destroy dangerous organisms in the milk before it is boxed, which in turn allows months of shelf life before it needs to be used.
This is still real, all-natural, 100 percent milk that only needs to be refrigerated once it is opened.
Evaporated milk is usually available on supermarket shelves in cans. It’s made by removing about 60% of the water from normal milk, creating a slightly sweet concentrate. Sometimes referred to as “unsweetened condensed milk,” you can add water back into the concentrate to create a milk-like beverage. Alternatively, evaporated milk can be used in baking, cooking and mixed drinks. It’s usually shelf-stable for several years thanks to the canning process.
Growing in popularity thanks to the vegan movement, a variety of soy, nut and grain milks are technically shelf-stable thanks to the fact that they contain no dairy. If you don’t need the nutritional value of normal milk, vegan milks can be a really good way to store milk in your pantry for several months to a year. However, there are so many different varieties of vegan milks that it’s important to find the one that tastes best to you before investing in an entire case.
Finally, powdered milk is probably the least popular of the shelf-stable milks. This is produced using a process that evaporates all the water from the milk, leaving behind a fine powder. To once again create milk from the powder, all you need to do is add water and mix. Having powdered milk in your cupboard can be a great way to create several gallons of milk without needing to store so many bulky containers.
Shelf-Stable Milk FAQs
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about shelf-stable milk. Before switching over from your regular refrigerated dairy milk, or even just adding a backup supply of this non-spoil alternative to your food supplies, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what you’re getting into.
Does Shelf-Stable Milk Need to be Refrigerated?
One of the great things about shelf-stable milk is that it does not require refrigerating until it has been opened. Once opened, it will usually last for around seven to 10 days, just like your normal dairy milk. However, pre-opening, shelf-stable milk provides you with much greater freedom when initially storing it, making it easy to have milk on hand when you need it, and without having to sacrifice space in your refrigerator. The one thing to be aware of, no matter whether it requires refrigeration or not, is the product’s overall use-by date.
Does Shelf-Stable Milk Taste Different?
While some people may not be able to taste a difference, it’s fair to say the majority of people notice a slight difference in flavor between regular refrigerated dairy milk and its shelf-stable alternatives. Like anything in this world, to what degree that disrupts the taste of your cereal, your morning eggs or any other milk-containing dish you create, is down to your individual palate. It’s also worth mentioning that if you are switching from a dairy-based milk to a nut or pea-based alternative, you will notice some differences.
How Long Does Shelf-Stable Milk Last?
Compared to its refrigerated counterpart, if shelf-stable milk remains unopened it can have an impressively long shelf life of between six and 12 months, if not even longer. This means it’s an ideal option for storing in pantries or wherever you keep your food reserves for those just-in-case moments. However, once it has been opened, like regular dairy milk, shelf-stable milk has to be refrigerated and usually lasts for between seven and 10 days.
Whether you’re shopping for your children’s lunch boxes or you’re stocking up on non-perishable goods, these are the best shelf-stable milk products you can order from Amazon, Walmart and other online retailers.
1. Silk Shelf-Stable Almond Milk
There are also alternative milks that store really well on your shelf. Like the best shelf-stable milks from dairy companies, nut milks don’t have to be refrigerated until after you’ve opened them. These last for months without being chilled and are also perfect for families. This product contains six 32-ounce boxes of Silk Almond Milk. This unsweetened product doesn’t have extra sugar and is also non-GMO, gluten and dairy-free. This product also comes in a vanilla flavor for those with a sweet tooth.
Silk Almond Milk
2. Horizon Organic Vitamin D Shelf-Stable Milk
Horizon also offers larger containers of nutritious milk options including this vitamin D milk that you can store in your pantry alongside your other non-perishables. The packaging locks in freshness and can stay out of the fridge up until you want to drink it. Chill it right before you open it for optimal taste, and refrigerate it afterward. As with all of Horizon’s products, it’s free of gluten, eggs, peanuts, wheat and other allergens and is certified USDA Organic. Their milk is also free of GMOs, has no hormones or antibiotics, artificial flavors or preservatives. If you can find it in stock, Horizon sells its shelf-stable whole milk in 3-ounce and eight-ounce boxes.
Horizon Organic Vitamin D Shelf-Stable Milk
3. Hoosier Hill Farm Whole Milk Powder
Although most shelf-stable milk is UHT, made from non-dairy products or canned as evaporated milk, there is one additional way to keep milk for long periods of time in your pantry, namely in the form of a powder. Whole milk powder can be blended with water to create liquid milk. It can also be used in baked goods or as a nutritional supplement. About four and a half cups of powder mixed with 15 cups makes one gallon of milk. As an added bonus, this milk powder is produced in America’s heartland and guaranteed to be fresh.
Hoosier Hill Farm Whole Milk Powder
4. AROY-D 100% Coconut Milk
BEST FOR COOKING
While drinking coconut milk might be questionable (unless it’s mixed into something delicious, like a pina colada, per se), this shelf-stable milk is ideal for cooking. Not only will it keep in your pantry for several months, but it also doesn’t contain any preservatives. Instead, it relies on its natural coconut-y nature to stay edible. This product of Thailand can be used to make delicious curries, baked goods and desserts. It’s also vegan and comes in carton (aseptic) packaging to ensure it’s easy to store.
AROY-D 100% Coconut Milk
5. Natrel 2% Milk
MOST LIKE THE REAL THING
If you don’t want to trade your real milk experience for vegan milk or evaporated milk, you can’t beat the Natrel 2% Milk. Most UHT sold in the USA is whole milk, but this version has 38% less fat. Like other UHT milks, it’s pasteurized at a high temperature to prevent the need for refrigeration before you open the container. However, this process does not affect the nutrients or quality of the milk. It simply makes it less sweet than you’re probably used to. There are no additives or preservatives in this milk, and it’s kosher. This order contains six 32-ounce boxes, but other quantities are also available from Natrel.
Natrel 2% Milk
6. Sproud 100% Dairy-Free Milk
BEST PEA MILK
Pea-based milk might not strike you as the best option for the best shelf-stable milk, but the positive reviews from over 95% of Amazon users would suggest this Sproud 100% Dairy-Free Milk is doing something right. It turns out that peas have more benefits than you might have imagined, from being rich in protein, helping to maintain a healthy gut and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Furthermore, this calcium and vitamin-filled milk is also available in a number of different varieties, including unsweetened, original and chocolate flavored.
Sproud 100% Dairy-Free Milk
7. Fairlife YUP! Low Fat Ultra-Filtered Milk
Fairlife makes ultra-filtered shelf-stable milk in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and cookies and cream flavors. However, if you’re stocking up your emergency pantry, the regular Classic White variety may be your best bet. Rich in calcium and vitamins A and D, this reduced-fat ultra-filtered milk is a nutritious and long-lasting beverage. This product comes with twelve 14-ounce bottles of milk.
Fairlife YUP! Low Fat Ultra-Filtered Milk
Fairlife YUP! Low Fat Chocolate Milk
8. Horizon Lowfat Shelf-Stable Chocolate Milk
BEST FOR KIDS
Horizon Organic Lowfat Chocolate Milk is shelf-stable and individually sized at eight ounces per container making lunches and breakfast easy. It’s free of all common allergens including gluten, egg, peanut, shellfish, soy, wheat and tree nuts.
This brand is certified USDA Organic so you know you’re only feeding your family the best and is enriched with vitamins A & D. You only need to refrigerate it after opening so stock up and it’ll last on the shelf for a while.
Horizon Lowfat Chocolate Milk
9. Milkadamia Macadamia Milk
Most vegan milk we come across is made from oats, almonds or soy, but there is a new vegan milk in town that’s about to blow the others away. Milkadamia Macadamia Milk is made from Australian macadamias which are regeneratively farmed. The nuts are then “milked” right here in the USA to create a delicious, unsweetened beverage with a hint of vanilla. It’s vegan, lactose-free and non-GMO, and this type of milk only contains 50 calories per serving. Of course, to fulfill the purpose of this article, this milk is also shelf-stable and doesn’t need refrigeration until you open the carton.
Milkadamia Macadamia Milk
10. Organic Valley Whole Milk
These Organic Valley Whole Milk milk cartons are perfect for individual distribution, each one is 6.75 fluid ounces. Organic Valley’s milk is shelf-stable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated until after you open it. As a brand, they also never use antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMOs. Buy exactly the number you need of these mini cartons, which take up just the right amount of shelf space in your pantry.
Organic Valley Whole Milk
11. Good Karma Plant-Powered Flaxmilk
Good Karma Flaxmilk is another great brand of vegan, shelf-stable milk. Made from flax and containing high amounts of omega 3 and protein, this lightly sweetened, vanilla-flavored product is always ready to enjoy in coffee, tea, baked goods and other recipes. Plus, flax milk contains 20% less sugar than traditional milk and is suitable for people with dairy, nut or soy allergies. This is a pack of six 32-ounce cartons designed for long-term storage in the pantry.
Good Karma Plant-Powered Flaxmilk
12. Maple Hill Shelf Stable Milk
BEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
For a milk your environmental conscious can feel good about drinking, turn to Maple Hill Shelf Stable Milk. This whole milk is made from 100% grass-fed cows, meaning that it doesn’t require massive amounts of land-draining straw to create one quart of milk. In addition, the cows have access to outdoor spaces 365 days a year and live on 150 small family farms in upstate New York. Plus, the milk, which is processed at high temperatures to allow for storage outside the refrigerator, comes in recyclable milk boxes.
Maple Hill Shelf Stable Milk
13. Ripple Non-Dairy Shelf-Stable Vegan Milk
BEST NON DAIRY
Regular drinkers of shelf-stable milk, whether that’s UHT or vegan, will know that it doesn’t froth as well as traditional milk. Ripple Shelf Stable Vegan Milk solves that issue with pea protein. This milk will froth, steam and blend naturally into any barista-style beverages you care to create. In addition, pea protein has a high nutritional value with six grams of protein per serving. This non-dairy milk is also low in sugar, meaning whatever you choose to create with it will be delicious and good for you at the same time.
Ripple Shelf-Stable Vegan Milk
14. Parmalat Shelf Stable UHT Whole Milk
BEST WHOLE MILK
If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, you’ve likely had something similar to Parmalat for breakfast or in your barista-style coffee drinks. This UHT milk tastes very similar to the milk you’re used to and contains the essential calcium, vitamins and minerals you need from a glass of milk. However, it doesn’t have to be stored in the refrigerator thanks to its high-temperature pasteurization and Tetra Pak packaging. The latter has a six-layered airtight design that keeps your milk safe for months on end.
Parmalat Shelf Stable UHT Whole Milk
15. Pacific Natural Foods Organic Oat Beverage
Oat milk is another milk alternative that lasts a long time on the shelf and tastes richly sweet in your coffee, tea, baked goods or other recipes. This pack of twelve 32-ounce containers will last you a while and the milk is enriched with calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin. This milk is also 100% organic and contains no lactose or cholesterol.
Pacific Natural Foods Organic Oat Beverage
16. Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk
BEST EVAPORATED MILK
If you’re looking to really stock up on non-perishable milk, evaporated milk should be on your list. This canned evaporated milk from Carnation is milk with half of the water removed, giving you more milk in less space. This makes it perfect for cooking and baking. It’s also much richer and creamier than other varieties of canned milk. To prepare this milk, simply mix a 1:1 ratio of water with Carnation’s evaporated milk. The end result is regular milk with extra vitamin D added.
Maximize space and resources with evaporated milk cans like this one from Carnation. This canned milk should last for a full year in a cool dark space. The cans are available in family-size 97-ounce cans and smaller 12-ounce cans. You can also buy a pack of eight 12-ounce cans from Amazon and stock up on Carnation’s evaporated milk.
Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk
17. Califia Farms Shelf-Stable Almond Milk
BEST FOR BARISTAS
This is a shelf-stable barista-blend almond milk specifically made for use in coffee shops. It’s smooth, delicious and full-bodied — which makes it easier to create foam and latte art as it’s easier to stretch. The milk is also sugar-free and only 35 calories per serving, and is free of soy, gluten and carrageenan. It’s also non-GMO, kosher and vegan. This pack of six 32 oz. containers is perfect for stocking up, and it’s much less expensive than other brands making it ideal for small businesses just getting off the ground.
Califia Farms Almond Milk
18. It’s Just Whole Milk Powder
BEST FOR BAKING
Did you know you can use powdered milk in recipes for cakes, cupcakes, muffins and other baked goods? Who knew! You just need to add water to this powder and it creates 100% whole milk with the same creamy texture you’re used to. It’s perfect for keeping on hand in case you lose power and your fridge goes warm, because you know when that happens milk is the first thing to go. It’s also great for camping and backpacking trips as it’s lighter to carry than liquid. It contains no rBST, no rBGH and no preservatives.
It's Just Whole Milk Powder
19. Califia Farms Oat Milk
BEST OAT MILK
Have you heard? Oat milk is the new almond milk, and this brand makes a great one to invest in that’s shelf-stable. It’s made from whole rolled, gluten-free oats and is unsweetened. It has no gums or stabilizers and is great for alternative milk folks who are nut-free as well. This milk brand is non-dairy, gluten-free, plant-based, kosher and non-GMO, and it comes at a very affordable price for a six-pack.
Califia Farms Oat Milk
20. KOS Organic Coconut Milk Powder
As long as you like the flavor of coconut, this KOS Organic Coconut Milk Powder is a fantastic alternative to standard, everyday dairy milk. Whether it’s in cereal, soups, sauces or any other recipe, it’s easy to make up and tastes great, too. This shelf-stable milk is supplied in a 12.6-ounce resealable tub which can be kept in a cool, dry place when being stored. This milk powder is also certified organic, non-GMO, vegan-friendly and completely free of dairy. Plus, it comes backed by over 1,500 five-star ratings from Amazon users who love it.
KOS Organic Coconut Milk Powder
21. NESTLE NIDO Fortificada Dry Milk
BEST DRY MILK
Choosing a powder replacement instead of a liquid option can have a number of benefits, with being easier to store and having a far superior use-by date being examples. In every prepared glass of this NESTLE NIDO Fortificada Dry Milk, you’ll find more amounts of vitamin C, iron and calcium than you would find in average dairy milk. Each 56.4-ounce canister contains around 53 servings of milk and has received over 10,000 five-star ratings from Amazon customers who would never go back.
NESTLE NIDO Fortificada Dry Milk
22. Nestlé LA LECHERA Sweetened Condensed Milk
BEST CONDENSED MILK
While not quite as versatile as a lot of the long-life milks on our list, this Nestlé LA LECHERA Sweetened Condensed Milk still has plenty to offer. In can and unopened, this milk can last more than a year without a problem. Then, once opened, you’ll have around four to six days to use the milk for sweetening coffee, baking or even as a creamy topping on desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, this is a great long-life milk option to keep around.