You can lactose-free milk and it’s a great way to prolong its shelf-life. You can freeze it in an airtight container, and store it in the freezer for up to 4 months or more. When it is thawed, the milk will appear to have a slightly grainy texture, but it's still safe to use or drink.
For lactose-intolerant individuals who still crave the rich flavors of cow's milk in their cooking, baking, or drinking, lactose-free cow’s cheese and milk are invaluable alternatives. It's important to note that lactose-free products, similar to regular dairy, have a limited shelf life once opened.
Read on to see my tips on freezing and defrosting lactose-free milk, along with expert tips to make the process more effective.
What Is Lactose-Free Milk?
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in cow's milk. For those who experience lactose intolerance, lactose-free milk has been developed as a viable alternative.
Unlike what the name suggests, lactose-free milk doesn't have lactose removed. Rather, an enzyme called lactase is added to break down the lactose, making it digestible for lactose-intolerant individuals.
Lactose-free milk serves as a one-to-one substitute for regular milk in recipes. It offers similar taste, texture, and nutritional profile.
Can You Freeze Lactose-Free Milk?
Yes, you can freeze lactose-free milk just like you can with regular or plant-based milk. While the nutritional content remains largely unchanged, the texture might differ after thawing.
It might appear slightly grainy or separated but remains safe for consumption.
Which Lactose-Free Milk Is Best For Freezing?
There are many lactose-free milk brands on the market, but skim and low-fat lactose-free milks are optimal for freezing.
Milk separation after thawing occurs due to fat distribution; lower-fat options result in less grainy texture post-thawing.
How To Freeze Lactose-Free Milk
Before freezing, check the milk is in good condition. Lactose-free milk often has a longer shelf life than regular milk.
To know if your milk is in good condition for freezing:
- Smell Test: Good milk has a neutral odor; sour smell indicates spoilage.
- Texture: Good milk should be smooth.
- Color: Yellow tint suggests staleness; avoid freezing it.
How to freeze your lactose-free milk:
- Transfer milk to an airtight container or keep in its original gallon container.
- Allow room for expansion during freezing.
- Label with the freezing date and remaining shelf life for future reference.
How Long Can You Keep Lactose-Free Milk In The Freezer?
Always refrigerate lactose-free milk. Unopened cartons can last a few days past their sell-by date when refrigerated—inspect before use.
In a freezer, lactose-free milk can last up to 4 months at temperatures below 0°F.
How To Defrost Lactose-Free Milk
Never try to speed up thawing by applying heat or leaving the milk at room temperature.
How to thaw lactose-free milk:
- Refrigerator Thawing: Most effective but slow; it takes several hours.
- Cold Water Thawing: Submerge the frozen milk container in cold water for faster thawing.
Always shake well or use a blender to improve the milk's texture before consumption.
How to Use Defrosted Lactose-Free Milk
Once you've defrosted your lactose-free milk, consume it within the same number of days it had left before its original expiration date. Hence, labeling the bottle with a note like '5 days to expire' is useful.
If you froze the milk 5 days before its expiration, aim to use it within 5 days post-thawing.
Since milk's texture changes upon defrosting, it may not be enjoyable for direct consumption or cereal. However, it works well in baking or cooking, where texture is less crucial.
Tips For Freezing and Defrosting Lactose-Free Milk
Freezing milk might seem intimidating if you've never done it, but it's an excellent way to extend its lifespan. Below are some tips for a successful freeze-thaw process:
1. Freeze As Quickly As Possible
The sooner you freeze the milk, the less the texture will be impacted. If your freezer has a 'fast freeze' feature, take advantage of it to minimize texture changes.
2. Exercise Caution When Freezing Gallon Jugs
If you bought lactose-free milk in bulk during a sale, you might be tempted to freeze the gallon jugs directly. While convenient, this method can lead to leaks due to milk expansion.
Remove about half a cup of milk before freezing, and wrap the cap with cling film to prevent spillage.
3. Add Heavy Cream To Defrosted Milk
To improve the texture of defrosted milk, consider mixing in some heavy cream. Blend 2 teaspoons of cream into 4 cups of thawed milk using a hand blender or small food processor.
Can you freeze lactose-free milk in cartons?
Freezing milk in paper cartons is not recommended. Instead, transfer the milk to a plastic gallon or airtight container. Although glass bottles claim to be freezer-safe, they can break due to milk expansion.
Can you freeze non-dairy lactose-free milk?
Some people are not only lactose intolerant but also allergic to cow's milk protein, leading to reactions like hives or itching. For these individuals, non-dairy options like almond or soy milk may be preferable.
You can freeze non-dairy lactose-free milk, but expect texture changes after thawing. It's advisable to reserve such milk for cooking or baking, where the texture is less of an issue.