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How to Use Sour and Spoiled Milk

My milk expired April 24th. Today is May 6th. It's definitely gone bad.

My milk expired April 24th. Today is May 6th. It's definitely gone bad.

It's always such a bummer when I pull out the milk for my morning Earl Grey tea only to discover that it's gone sour.

My typical milk usage fluctuates pretty widely depending on how much baking and cooking I do in a given week. After preparing homemade soda bread and cream of potato soup, the milk is usually running low. But when I don't have time to make dinner, only a small amount gets used up in my tea and coffee.

I feel bad dumping it out, especially when it's half a gallon or more. I'm usually really good about estimating grocery amounts and using up perishable items before they go bad, but milk is such a tricky one.

I've always just assumed there's nothing to be done once it's spoiled but to toss it out, feel a little guilty, and buy more. It seems I was wrong!

My spoiled milk still looks normal here, but it smells very sour.

My spoiled milk still looks normal here, but it smells very sour.

Spoiled Milk at the Office: A History Lesson

Last week at the office, I got out the milk for my coffee and noticed that it had quite gone off. It smelled sour and was even a little chunky. I let the office manager (a wonderful gentleman full of neat tips and stories) know that I was dumping it out due to spoilage, and he shared a fascinating bit of history with me.

His mum lived through the Great Depression when lots of people couldn't afford certain ingredients regularly or didn't have access to them. He said that growing up, she always told him to save the spoiled milk for the pancakes. He said it was perfectly safe and they used to use it in place of buttermilk for baking.

At first, it sounded a little gross, but after thinking about it, I realized that yogurt, cheese, and traditional buttermilk were all historically made from various processes that included spoiling milk. People have been consuming those safely for hundreds of years, so how bad could it be?

My Biscuit Recipe

Baking With Spoiled Milk

Well, I had a carton of milk that expired two weeks ago and was definitely sour, so I decided to try my coworker's tip and bake with it as an experiment. (Actually, it's my roommate's spoiled milk, but somehow I don't think he'll miss it.) I chose my biscuit recipe which normally calls for buttermilk to test it out.

Using the Sour Milk


I made the recipe exactly as I normally would and substituted in the sour milk instead of buttermilk.


Here's now the biscuits turned out. They certainly look fine. So far, so good.


I steeled my courage and ate a biscuit. It tasted pretty much the same as it normally would. It definitely had that bit of sour aftertaste, but it was indistinguishable from the usual taste of buttermilk, as far as I could tell.

And, more importantly, I didn't get sick. I wouldn't recommend drinking spoiled milk by itself, but the heat from baking with it seems to have killed any potentially harmful pathogens that it might have contained.

In conclusion, using spoiled milk as a replacement for buttermilk seems totally legit. In my opinion, squeamishness is the only impediment to this bizarre but effective housekeeping recommendation.

Final Tip

While my recipe turned out fine, I wouldn't advise using spoiled milk in place of regular milk. Since it has a slightly sour buttermilk taste, I recommend using it only as a replacement for buttermilk in your baking recipes.

© 2013 Christy Kirwan


Elaine Flowers from Dallas, Texas on August 23, 2017:

I actually prefer old milk over fresh milk to make things like pancakes and cornbread. I discovered this when I had no other choice and found that the outcome was so much better. I never throw out milk!

Anita Anderson on February 04, 2017:

Are we talking about organic whole milk and cream, or also about pasteurized milk and cream?

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on March 27, 2015:

I like this article, I never waste milk even if it's gone off there are many recipes using sour milk.

I never have sour milk even if it's a week over the use by date.

Some ways to keep your milk from going scour.

Never leave it on the bench, use it and put it back in the fridge straight away.

In New Zealand I buy milk in 2 litres plastic bottles, every morning I always rinse the cap under the cold water tap removing any milk that's left on the lid from the last time I used it, get a clean wipe and wipe the top of the plastic bottle which will remove stale milk.

If you check a bottle it's the lid that cradles the milk going off, (just smell it,) it's that, that turns the milk off very quickly, hope this is helpful to other readers to keep milk fresh longer.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on September 16, 2014:

As a graduate of culinary arts, you can really use sour and soiled milk when baking sour bread or biscuits.

Thanks for sharing this tip.

Rebecca Furtado from Anderson, Indiana on May 25, 2014:

What a great idea. When my boys were teenagers it was a gallon every 3 days. Now not so much. I still buy it in gallon because the price difference between a gallon and 1/2 gallon in my neck of the woods is about thirty cents. Great hub.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 10, 2013:

There always seems to be a bit left that goes sour. Thanks for sharing a way to use this milk. I think the biscuits look delicious!

Beth37 on June 11, 2013:

Good idea... I don't think I've had milk sit around long enough to spoil. I think I must buy 4 gallons a week at least, or I did when my older kids were still at home... maybe 3 now.

kaiyan717 from West Virginia on June 04, 2013:

This is a great idea, as I too hate to waste. Next time some goes bad, I will just make a batch of buttermilk biscuits to throw in the freezer for later use. Thanks for the idea!

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on May 25, 2013:

Wow, this is very interesting information! I had no idea you could use sour milk, but I also hate wasting food. I am not a big baker, but I will file this one for future use. Thanks for the info!

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on May 25, 2013:

Yep! I have been using it for years. ( as long as it doesn't have chunks in it!). I use in biscuits, cornbread, sour dumplings, apple fritters, and other bready dishes. If it has just gone off, it can be used to make Stroganoff sauce too, but it tastes slightly different than using sour cream. Not bad, just slightly more tangy, and less creamy. Using it mixed with cream of mushroom soup can bring a new taste to casseroles. Seems to compliment fish very well, I suppose because of the tartness. I've never seen anyone get sick from doing this. However, as you said...not a good idea to drink it straight, use it in recipes that don't require adequate cooking times (or high temperatures). I have seen people get sick from guzzling ruined milk straight!

Great idea for a hub, and I hope it helps people save a few extra pennies!

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on May 25, 2013:

In our home we don't dump spoiled milk. My mother makes different kinds of sweetmeats from spoiled milk. Now my mother has another dish to make.

Mary Craig from New York on May 09, 2013:

Great hub Christy. It is my understanding it is okay to use sour milk as long as it hasn't gotten to the point of being spoiled. There are actually tons of recipes on the Internet that call for sour milk so your experiment is right on the spot!

Voted up, useful, and very interesting.

Christy Kirwan (author) from San Francisco on May 06, 2013:

For science! Thanks for the comments. :)

I know it sounds pretty crazy, but my roommates have tried them by now and nobody's gotten sick, so I'm calling it a success.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 06, 2013:

You are a brave lady for even trying this!

Katee Shew from Canada on May 06, 2013:

Well as long as I don't get sick from spoiled milk, I would be willing to use it. Good idea here, of course I am still worried about it :P

Jami Johnson from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont. on May 06, 2013:

Hmmm, how interesting. I find this information very useful, but I don't know how brave I am in actually testing it out :)

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