Taking the mystery out of dried milk

Many dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are easy to add to our food storage pantries because we know what to expect when we buy them. There’s no big surprise when you open a can of dehydrated onions or freeze-dried strawberries. However, when it comes to dried milk, there are lots of confusing options. Which are best for drinking? Baking? What about the so-called “milk alternatives”?

Having dry milk on hand is extremely handy whenever I run low on regular milk. Back in the day when my kids were drinking cold milk by the gallon, having a back-up ready to go was a life-saver. With a couple of tricks, you can even turn it into buttermilk or evaporated milk.

In fact, I do have a lot of dried milk in my pantry. We don’t drink a lot of milk anymore now that my kids are older, but I do use it for baking and in other recipes. I have stocked up on mostly instant milk and powdered milk, with a can or two of milk alternatives. Here’s how these are different.

Instant Dry Milk

Instant Dry Milk is non-fat and will dissolve instantly in water, both cold and hot. If you’re looking to stock up on milk that will be used primarily for drinking, this is your go-to product. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the taste if your only memory of drinking dried milk is from 20  years ago. The product has improved a lot since then!

Instant milk is made by a process called spray drying, in which milk is quickly dried by hot air. This produces a very, very fine powder, which helps instant milk dissolve quickly when mixed with water.

Some moms add a small amount of vanilla to the rehydrated milk, just to add a little extra flavor, and then serve it nice and cold. If you’re concerned about additives, check the label on the brand you are considering buying. Some add only Vitamins A and D3, while others might contain additional ingredients.

You can use this product in your cooking and baking recipes as well, so it’s quite a workhorse in your kitchen. Store it carefully, however, in the coolest location possible. Its ideal storage temperature is in the 55-70 degree range (F), which is quite cool. Warmer temperatures will lead to a gradual decline in nutrition and flavor, in particular.

Powdered Milk

Not all food storage companies sell powdered milk, but this dry milk is a little different from “instant” dry milk. It’s also non-fat and is intended for cooking and baking. It doesn’t need to be rehydrated before being added to your recipes. If your family doesn’t drink much milk, you may want to stock up more with powdered milk and less with instant.

Powdered milk is created in a process called drum drying. This process produces a dry milk that has a different texture than instant milk, and since more heat is added in the drum drying process, the flavor changes slightly. The powdered milk particles aren’t puffed with any air, which makes it more difficult to combine with water. Some moms mix powdered milk with warm water for easier blending.


Dry Milk to Fresh Milk

Either Instant or Powdered milk will combine with water to produce milk that can be used in recipes. Check your container of instant/powdered milk for instructions, but in most cases, you can use these measurements:

1 cup water + 1/3 cup dry milk =  1 cup milk

1 quart water + 1 1/3 cups dry milk = 1 quart milk

2 quarts water + 2 2/3 cups dry milk = 2 quarts milk

1 gallon water + 5 1/3 cups dry milk = 1 gallon milk

A #10 an of instant milk will make around 50-55 cups of rehydrated milk.

How to store dry milk

Dry milk can be a bit fussy when it comes to long-term storage. Food storage companies will claim that their dry milk will last 25 years in storage, but that’s in optimal conditions in temperatures ranging from 55 to 70 degrees (F)! Most homes are warmer than that and household temperatures vary from day to day and from season to season. Inconsistent temperatures negatively affect any food in your pantry.

Because milk is a little pickier than other foods, it may be wise to stock up on smaller amounts and put it in your regular food rotation. That is, use the dry milk with the oldest expiration date and then replace it with newer, fresher dry milk. If you don’t use dry milk all that often but still want it in your storage, either buy it in smaller containers (#2.5 cans rather than the gallon-size #10s) or repackage it in canning jars or smaller mylar bags.

Dry milk versatility

You probably know how to quickly transform regular milk into buttermilk, but did you know you can do the same, and more, with dry milk?


To one cup of reconstituted milk, add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Stir and allow to set for 5 minutes. Add to any recipe that calls for buttermilk.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

In a blender, combine 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cup dry milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 Tablespoon butter. Blend well and use in any recipe in place of sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated Milk

Whisk or use an electric mixer to combine  1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 c. + 1 Tablespoon powdered milk powder. When thoroughly combined, use this in place of evaporated milk.

Bonus recipes

Try this yummy Hot Cinnamon Milk Mix!

2 cups Thrive Life Instant Nonfat Powdered Milk

1 cup dry powdered creamer

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Vanilla extract

Mix all dry ingredients together and store in airtight container. Add 3 heaping spoonfuls to a mug of hot water. Add a splash of vanilla, stir well, and enjoy!


Prepper Cheese

3 cups powdered milk

6 cups water

¼ cup vinegar (any type) or lemon juice

You also need the following supplies

  • A piece of cheesecloth, flour sack towels, or soft t-shirt type fabric
  • Colander
  • Large slotted spoon
  • A cook pot
  • Thermometer capable of reaching 180 degrees F. This includes most candy thermometers.

Mix together the powdered milk and water in a large pot and stir until the milk is dissolved. When the milk is completely dissolved, heat it over a medium heat to 180 degrees F. Now stir in the ¼ cup of vinegar and remove from the heat. Set it to the side and cover with the cloth.

After it has cooled, remove the solid curds by straining through a cloth lined colander. Squeeze out the excess whey and your cheese is ready to eat. If you want, you can add a bit of salt after it is finished.

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