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What is spoiled milk good for, and can you drink it?

Risks and beneficial uses of spoiled milk

Contrary to popular belief, spoiled milk may have a place in your next culinary pursuit. This article explains what spoiled milk is, whether it’s safe to drink, and several ways you can use it.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
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Spoiled milk: Risks and beneficial uses
Last updated on January 7, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on August 9, 2023.

Detecting a potent sour scent suggests your milk might be past its prime. Though consuming such milk can lead to foodborne illnesses, incorporating spoiled milk into certain recipes can help minimize food wastage.

Spoiled milk: Risks and beneficial uses

The unmistakable odor of spoiled milk can instantly dampen one’s hunger. However, before considering disposing of that entire carton, reconsider its potential use.

Contrary to common misconceptions, expired milk can be a valuable ingredient in culinary adventures. Moreover, utilizing spoiled milk for cooking can significantly cut down on food wastage.

Dive into this guide to understand what constitutes spoiled milk, its safety for consumption, and innovative ways to repurpose it.

In this article

What is spoiled milk?

Spoiled milk results from an overgrowth of bacteria that compromises milk quality, flavor, and texture.

Since the late 1800s, most commercially produced milk is pasteurized. The pasteurization process kills many of the most harmful strains of bacteria known to cause foodborne illness, including E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

However, pasteurization doesn’t eliminate all types of bacteria. Plus, once you open a milk carton, it’s exposed to additional environmental bacteria. Over time, these small bacterial communities can multiply and eventually cause your milk to spoil.

Signs your milk has spoiled

When the milk begins to spoil, it develops an unpleasant, rancid odor. The scent is hard to miss and gets stronger with time.

The taste also begins to change, as the natural sweetness of fresh milk is quickly replaced by a somewhat acidic or sour flavor.

With enough time, the texture and color of spoiled milk will also change. It may begin to develop a slimy, chunky texture and dingy, yellow color.

The rate at which milk spoils depends on many factors, including the number of spoilage bacteria present, the temperature at which the milk has been stored, and light exposure.

If you’re unsure whether your milk has spoiled, sniff it. If it doesn’t smell off, try a small sip before pouring a full glass or adding it to your cereal.

Summary: Milk spoils due to an overgrowth of bacteria that compromises its quality. You know your milk is spoiled if it has an unpleasant odor, taste, or texture changes.

Spoiled milk vs. sour milk

The terms spoiled and sour are often used interchangeably to describe milk that has gone bad, but there may be a subtle difference between the two — depending on who you ask.

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Spoiled milk usually refers to pasteurized milk that smells and tastes off due to the growth of bacteria that survived the pasteurization process. Most of these bacteria aren’t considered health-promoting and could make you sick.

On the other hand, sour milk often refers specifically to unpasteurized, raw milk that has begun to ferment naturally.

Much like spoiled milk, the fermentation of raw milk occurs due to various species of lactic acid-forming bacteria, a small percentage of which are considered probiotics and may offer minor health benefits.

That said, the potential benefits of raw milk don’t outweigh its risks. Consuming raw milk in any form — fresh or sour — is typically not recommended due to the high risk of foodborne illness.

Summary: Spoiled milk usually refers to pasteurized milk that has gone bad, while sour milk may refer to raw milk that has begun to ferment.

Risks of drinking spoiled milk

Most people are immediately turned off by the foul smell and taste of spoiled milk, which makes the decision about drinking it a relatively easy one.

However, drinking spoiled milk isn’t a good idea even if you can get past the unpleasant taste. It can cause food poisoning that may result in uncomfortable digestive symptoms, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

You don’t need to worry if you accidentally ingest a small sip of spoiled milk, but avoid drinking it in large — or even moderate — quantities.

Summary: Drinking spoiled milk can cause digestive distress, such as vomiting, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea.

Spoiled milk can still be helpful in the kitchen

Though you shouldn’t drink spoiled milk, it’s far from useless.

Suggested read: How long are hard-boiled eggs good for?

If your milk is very old and has started to curdle, become slimy, or grow mold, it’s best to throw it out. Yet, if it’s just a little off and slightly acidic, there are several ways to use it.

Try using slightly spoiled milk in one of the following culinary applications:

Additionally, you can add spoiled milk to homemade face masks or a bath to soften your skin. Still, you may want to mix it with essential oils or other fragrant ingredients if you find the smell overbearing.

Summary: Spoiled milk can replace buttermilk or sour cream in baked goods. It can also tenderize meats or add to soups, casseroles, or salad dressings. You can likewise use it in certain cosmetic applications to soften your skin.


Spoiled milk results from an overgrowth of bacteria that causes taste, smell, and texture changes.

Drinking it may make you sick, but cooking with it won’t, as long as it’s a little off.

Using your slightly spoiled milk innovatively can also help you reduce food waste.

The next time you notice that the milk in your fridge is starting to go bad, don’t throw it out right away. Instead, use it in pancakes, biscuits, or as a thickener for soups and stews.

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