What Is Powdered Milk?

And how is it different from malted milk powder and evaporated milk?

spoon with infant formula
Photo: DimaSobko via Getty Images

Powdered milk may not seem like the most appetizing ingredient (who wants a bunch of dried up milk?), but it's actually part of what makes various breads and prepared foods delicious. Additionally, powdered milk is an important resource for people who don't have much access to fresh milk and can even help you get essential vitamins and nutrients in the wake of a disaster. There's a reason survivalists recommend stocking up on powdered milk — it's reliable and very well may be your only source of calcium, protein, or vitamins A and D after a crisis.

Read on to learn what powdered milk is, how it's made, how to store it, and how to rehydrate powdered milk. Additionally, learn how powdered milk is different from evaporated milk and malted milk powder, what is powdered milk's nutritional value, and what substitutes you can use when you don't have powdered milk on hand.

What Is Powdered Milk?

Powdered milk is milk that's been pasteurized and then dried via evaporation. Various types of milk, including skim milk, whole milk, and even non-dairy milks, are available in powdered form. Powdered milk is primarily used as an ingredient in infant formula and candies, especially chocolates. It's also used in baking recipes as an alternative to milk to prevent thinning out the batter. Powdered milk is much easier to transport and has a much longer shelf life than regular milk, which makes it a popular staple among survivalists and in areas where there is very little access to fresh milk.

What Does Powdered Milk Taste Like?

Because powdered milk is simply a dehydrated form of milk, it shouldn't lose any of its milky flavor. However, many people claim that powdered milk has a bland taste compared to fresh milk. Much of this depends on the type of milk used. If you rehydrated powdered skim milk and compare it to fresh whole milk, for example, there will be a considerable difference in taste. Some people recommend mixing reconstituted milk with fresh whole milk or other ingredients such as vanilla extract or coffee creamer to enhance its taste.

Powdered Milk vs Malted Milk Powder

Powdered milk and malted milk powder are easily confused due to their similar names. However, their ingredients and appearance are quite different. While powdered milk is a dehydrated form of milk, malted milk powder is a dehydrated combination of wheat flour, malted barley extracts, milk, salt, and sodium bicarbonate. Additionally, powdered milk has a white color while malted milk powder takes on a yellowish hue. Powdered milk can be substituted for malted milk powder as long as you add sugar or a sweetener, since powdered milk is unsweetened. However, malted milk powder does not make a good substitute for powdered milk because it contains additional ingredients and has a much sweeter taste.

Powdered Milk vs Evaporated Milk

Both powdered milk and evaporated milk are the product of evaporating fresh milk, but powdered milk is made by completely evaporating water from milk while evaporated milk is made by evaporating around 60 percent of the milk's water. Powdered milk is a solid product while evaporated milk still retains liquid properties. Additionally, evaporated milk has a slight caramel flavor because it's been slowly heated for an extended period of time, caramelizing the milk's natural sugars. Powdered milk can be mixed with an equal amount of water to create a substitute for evaporated milk, but evaporated milk cannot be used in place of milk powder.

Where Can I Buy Powdered Milk?

Look for powdered milk in your grocery store's baking aisle. It may be labeled as dehydrated milk or dried milk, and is sold in boxes, canisters, and bags.

Is Powdered Milk Healthy?

Powdered milk has the same nutrition as fresh milk, meaning it's a good source of vitamins A and D, calcium, and protein. However, according to Unlock Food, powdered skim milk is lower in fat and should not be given to children under the age of 2 years because it doesn't contain enough fat for healthy growth. Additionally, powdered nonfat milk can contain oxidized cholesterol that forms during the dehydration process. According to U.S. Dairy, the presence of oxidized cholesterol in powdered milk is listed on the label.

How to Store Powdered Milk

Powdered milk should be stored in a cool area, either with no access to sunlight or in an opaque container. Dry milk can absorb moisture, so it should be stored in an airtight container. Although the best-by date may indicate that you should consume your powdered milk within 18-24 months, the USDA says that powdered milk, like most other shelf-stable goods, will last indefinitely as long as its container isn't damaged or compromised.

Once you've opened the powdered milk's container, store it in an airtight plastic or metal container and keep it in the refrigerator. Powdered skim milk will last up to 3 months in the fridge, while powdered whole milk will last for a few weeks. You can also store opened, but not reconstituted powdered milk in an airtight container such as a zip-top bag for up to 3 years.

How to Reconstitute Powdered Milk

Reconstituting powdered milk is very easy — all you have to do is combine water and powdered milk, stir, and let sit in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Depending on how thick and flavorful you want your milk to be, you may want to use specific ratios, but the general ratio for reconstituting powdered milk is one part powdered milk to two parts water. To thicken it up, add more powdered milk, and for a thinner consistency, add more water.

Powdered Milk Substitutes

If you will be adding water to your recipe that uses powdered milk (think soups and certain baked goods), then it's okay to use liquid milk as a substitute. For every ¼ cup of powdered milk called for, use one cup of liquid milk. Because you're already using liquid milk, you won't need to add another liquid, such as water or juice, to reconstitute the powdered milk.

If your recipe calls for powdered milk that isn't reconstituted with water, you can use coconut milk powder, soy milk powder, rice powder, or cashew powder. If you're looking for a buttermilk powder substitute, it's better to use liquid buttermilk than a plain or non-dairy milk powder.


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