What Is Instant Nonfat Dry Milk?

A Guide to Buying, Using, and Storing Instant Nonfat Dry Milk

wooden spoon full of powdered milk

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Instant (or powdered) dry milk is a dairy product that is manufactured by evaporating milk to complete dryness. In a nonfat variety, the fat has been removed. This process makes milk shelf-stable since liquid milk needs to be refrigerated and has an expiration date. It also reduces bulk weight, making it easier to ship. Instant dry milk is used by bakers and can be a helpful element in an emergency preparedness kit.

Fast Facts

  • Production: Add water to powdered milk and make liquid milk.
  • Substitution: Liquid cows milk
  • Shelf life: 18 months

What Is Dry Milk?

Dry (or powdered) milk is simply milk that has had the moisture removed, so it turns into powder. For many bread bakers, dry milk is an essential ingredient used to replace the expensive cartons of milk found in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. The reconstituted dry milk has no effect on the flavor of the bread and ensures that no regular milk goes to waste in a home that drinks little to no milk.


Powdered milk comes in the same varieties as fresh dairy products that you find in the grocery store. There are dried versions of whole milk, nonfat (skimmed) dry milk, dry buttermilk, dry whey products, and dry dairy blends.

Dry Milk Vs. Evaporated Milk

Dry milk is sold in a powder format. Evaporated milk is liquid and found in a can. Evaporated milk is canned cow's milk that has about 60% of the water removed from the fresh milk. It is sometimes called unsweetened condensed milk. Sweetened condensed milk is evaporated milk that has added sugar.

Dry Milk Uses

Powdered milk can be used to make milk. It's also an ingredient in soups, puddings, cakes, bread, and other items. Some cooks find adding liquid milk makes the food too thin, where dry milk can help maintain a thick consistency and proper texture of food. Because of its long shelf life, it can be useful if you don't drink milk regularly or want some in case of emergency, power failure, camping, bad weather, or any other conditions that would prevent access to fresh milk.

What Does It Taste Like?

Dry milk tastes like regular milk. Since liquid cow's milk is usually served cold, it's helpful to use cold water to prepare the powdered milk if you want to maintain the same taste and mouthfeel. If used in baking, dry milk powder will just taste like milk.

Dry Milk Substitute

Since dry milk is often a substitute for liquid milk, then liquid milk can be a substitute for dry milk. If the goal of the dry milk is to maintain thickness, you may want to make a cornstarch slurry with your milk or check the recipe for the reason dry milk was included.

Powdered Milk Recipes

Keep in mind that powdered milk can be used to create milk in any recipe that calls for liquid milk. Here are some that specifically calls for nonfat dry milk:

Where to Buy

Dry milk can be found in most major grocery stores or online retailers. It is usually in the baking aisle and is sold in a powdered format. Some brands are sold in bags and others in tubs.


The biggest enemies of dry milk are sunlight, warm temperatures, oxygen, moisture, and insects and rodents. To combat these problems, some people store their boxed dry milk in clean, food-grade plastic containers to keep out rodents, bugs, and moisture. These containers are then stored in the coolest, driest place the home has to offer. Do not store boxes of dry milk in garbage bags. In the past, food storage books would suggest storing basic food supplies in metal trash cans, lined with a garbage bag. Garbage bags are often treated with insecticides and the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the food.

When a box of dry milk is open, store the dry milk in a plastic container and keep it in the coolest place in your kitchen or pantry. For best results, store the opened dry milk in your refrigerator.

For long-term storage of dry milk, many emergency preparedness catalogs sell instant nonfat dry milk in #10 cans and in food-grade plastic pails. They also sell dry buttermilk in pails. When kept at temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, these unopened containers of dry milk can last for up to 20 years and are ideal for people wanting a long-term solution for storing dry milk.

Article Sources
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  1. Milk Structure. Guelph University

  2. Human Health Issues Related to Pesticides. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency