Powdered milk is one of the most essential survival foods to have stockpiled in case of an emergency.
If you aren’t happy with the existing options for powdered milk or have a lot of excess milk on hand, you can make your own powdered milk with one of the three methods below.
Notes about DIY Powdered Milk
Before you get started, it’s really important that you know a few things about making powdered milk. Otherwise your powdered milk will probably go bad quickly, which kind of defeats the point of making it in the first place.
Only Use Pasteurized Milk
It’s not smart to use raw milk to make your powdered milk. There is simply too high a risk of bacteria growing during the drying process. Use pasteurized milk instead. The exception is if you have a freeze dryer; these are safer for raw milk.
Low Fat Is Better than Full-Fat
Fat doesn’t dry out like other liquids do. Even after the water content of the milk has been dried out, the fat will remain in the powdered milk. The fat will start to oxidize and eventually go rancid. The more fat there is in the initial milk, the faster the powdered milk will go bad.
If you only have full-fat milk, consider taking steps to remove the fat first. This is fairly easy to do with raw milk. You can even use the skimmed fat to make yummy kajmak cheese (something my Serbian in-laws do all the time).
If you have store-bought homogenized milk, you can use your freezer to separate the fat from the rest of the milk.
If you read the ingredients on powdered milk products, you’ll see that many of them include maltodextrin. Contrary to common belief, the maltodextrin is not added as a filler. Rather, it binds with the fats in the milk and helps dry them out. The result is a better product which lasts longer.
Because DIY powdered milk can go bad so quickly – especially if you used fatty milk or are storing it in a warm environment – it might be smart to add some maltodextrin to your milk before drying.
Based on various industry papers I read, maltodextrin should account for 3-15% of the final dry milk product. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) That means adding approximately 1-7 teaspoons of maltodextrin per gallon of milk. Add it to the milk before drying. (It can be found on Amazon here.)
*Fun fact: You can add maltodextrin to peanut butter to make peanut butter powder.
Don’t Dry Milk Which Is about to Go Bad
If you have milk which is about to go bad, you might want to dry it as a way of preserving it. Unfortunately, this is generally a bad idea. The milk might already have higher levels of harmful bacteria and these could multiply during the drying process. If you want to save milk which is about to expire, it’s safer to freeze it instead. (Learn how to freeze milk)
The Powder Must Be Completely Dry
For powdered milk to be shelf-stable, it must be completely dry. It should crack easily when you touch it. Likewise, no moisture should come out when you squeeze the milk.
Making Powdered Milk Probably Isn’t Worth It
While I’m a big advocate for DIY, making your own powdered milk probably isn’t worth the effort. It takes a very long time to dry milk into a powder and it can be pretty messy too. You’ll only get about 1-3tsp of milk powder per cup, so that’s a lot of effort for a little bit of milk powder.
Because there are so many good brands of emergency food available, you are probably better off just buying powdered milk instead of making your own.
The only time making your own powdered milk might make sense is if you have your own dairy cows or goats or if you bought milk in bulk because it was on sale. Even then, it usually makes more sense to use alternative methods of preserving milk.
Alternatives to DIY Powdered Milk
- DIY soy milk (soy beans are very easy to store long-term)
- Other DIY plant milks (such as oat milk, almond milk, etc.)
- Freezing milk
- Canning milk (read about canning)
- Making cheese or yogurt
Shelf Life of Homemade Powdered Milk
The shelf life of homemade milk powder will depend on how much fat is in the milk, how dry you got the milk, and whether you added maltodextrin. While some websites claim that DIY milk powder will last months, that hasn’t been my experience.
The fats in the milk (even if it is skim milk) will usually start to go rancid in about 4-6 weeks. If the milk powder is stored somewhere warm and humid, it will start to go rancid long before then. Ideally, you should keep the milk powder in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. You’ll know the milk powder has started going bad if it gets a sour smell or taste.
Read about how to store powdered milk here.
How to Make Powdered Milk At Home
There are three ways to make your own powdered milk. All of these take a long time and can get pretty messy. If you want to add maltodextrin to the milk, make sure you add it before drying out the milk.
Method 1: Powdered Milk with a Dehydrator
- Line your dehydrator trays with fruit-leather sheets
- Pour milk onto the trays. The less milk you put per tray, the faster the milk will dehydrate. Avoid putting more than ½ inch of milk per tray.
- Turn the dehydrator to the highest setting.
- Dehydrate on the highest setting for 1 hour.
- Reduce the heat and continue drying. The temperature should be no less than 135F.
- Continue dehydrating until the milk is completely dry and crumbles easily. It will probably take at least 10 hours.
- Put the dry milk into a blender or food processor to grind into a powder.
Read more about this in our Expert-Level Dehydrating Guide
Method 2: Powdered Milk with a Freeze Dryer
If you have a freezer dryer, you can make powdered milk which will last much longer than dehydrated milk powder. Below are the instructions.
- Put the trays in the freeze dryer.
- With the trays partly pulled out, pour the milk into the trays.
- Push the trays in, insert the insulator pad, and shut the door.
- Choose the “Liquid” setting and hit start.
- It will probably take 24-30 hours for the cycle to complete.
Read more about home freeze dryers here.
Method 3: Powdered Milk in the Oven
You can also make powdered milk in your oven. I don’t recommend this method because it takes more work, but it is an option if you don’t have a dehydrator.
- Start by removing as much water from the milk as possible. To do this, put the milk in a double boiler (or a pot inside a pot). Heat the double boiler for several hours or until it starts looking thick and creamy.
- Pour the thickened milk into a deep pan. The milk should be no more than ½ inch deep. You may need to use several pans.
- Preheat the oven to 140F. Put the pan of thickened milk into the oven.
- Turn the oven’s fan on. If you don’t have a fan, then leave the oven door slightly open to allow moisture to escape.
- Leave the milk in the oven until it starts forming a thick paste.
- When the milk turns into a paste, you can remove it from the oven and pour it into a new tray which is lined with parchment paper. This will prevent the milk from sticking to the tray as it dries out.
- Put the milk back into the oven and continue drying.
- When the milk is completely dry, let it cool before using a food processor or blender to grind it into a powder.
Do you make your own powdered milk? Share your tips in the comments section below.