How To Make Powdered Milk

Finding whole milk powder is a challenge in itself. There are more options than before but there are far more brands of nonfat and low-fat powdered milk out there than whole. Buttermilk can easily be dehydrated as well. For those that are lactose intolerant, this is a way for you to put back some powdered dairy.

Know when it is worth it and when it is not worth it to dehydrate your own powdered milk.

milk sunflower field jar

Dehydrating your own milk makes financial sense if you find a sale on milk or want whole milk and not non fat. Standard non fat powdered milk can be bought for a much lower price than the whole powdered milk you will find plus you can just watch out for sales at any grocery store.

I did some research on the cost of whole organic milk powder and conventional. The Certified Organic Milk Powder is the equivalent of paying $6.80 per gallon when reconstituted. The Peak non organic powdered milk added up to around $5 per gallon reconstituted.

That gives you some idea of the price point so you can determine if the work of dehydrating your own is worth it. Remember that there are packaging costs, too.

Hoosier Organic Whole Powdered Milk

Hoosier Organic Whole Powdered Milk

Peak Whole Powdered Milk

Peak Whole Powdered Milk

There are only so many hours in a day and one thing I have learned farming and doing things ourselves up here on the mountain is that you have to pick your battles. Growing potatoes, for example, took way too much labor when they were $10-$15 for 50 lbs at the grocery store. You often have to pick out the value added activities that offer you the biggest pay back.

If you have your own dairy animals or friends that have excess milk then that can also be a lucrative opportunity to dehydrate and put back some food. I recommend pasteurizing any dairy that you intend on dehydrating. Fresh milk can spoil rather quickly, especially during the hotter months of the year.

Expired Or About To Expire Milk and Cream

If you find a sale on milk that is about to expire then I recommend turning it into yogurt and drying that. Milk that is close to expiration or even a few days expired can be used to make yogurt. I do want to point out the distinction between non-organic and organic in terms of fresh shelf life.

raspberry yogurt

I have noticed that organic milk turns bad faster than regular milk. I think that part of this is the difference between pasteurization techniques. Lightly pasteurized milk do not keep like those that are pasteurized regularly or ultra-pasteurized.

Dehydrating milk products can cause a little bit of odor. I am typing this about 10 feet away from my Nesco and I can just slightly smell buttermilk. I am only using two trays at once which equals maybe 40 fluid oz of buttermilk.

This is a project you might want to set up in a back room if you are planning on entertaining. I have a small house so it was more noticeable for me than it may be for a lot of readers.

Food Dehydrator Method

Supplies:

fruit roll inserts dehydrator

  • Milk or Buttermilk. For this project, I used whole fat buttermilk.

It takes some time to dehydrate milk. This is not something you just do in 4 hours dry time with a food dehydrator. The more trays you fill, the longer it will take overall.

A lot of DIY types recommend only doing 2 trays at a time. That is not much. I would not try to do more than 4-5 at a time regardless. My Nesco will hold 12 trays but it would be a bad idea to completely load it up with a food as perishable as milk.

1. Turn dehydrator to 135 degrees F if you have a temp control.

2. Set a tray with a liner into the dehydrator and pour full of milk. Repeat the process for up to 4 – 5 trays.

dehydrator milk pouringmilk in dehydrator

3. Dry until totally brittle. One reason people recommend that you only use 2 trays the first time is so that you can learn how well your dehydrator does with a few trays and then adjust temps and get a better idea of how long it takes.

milk in dehydrator dry powdered

My dried whole fat buttermilk crumbled really easily. It tasted like a lot of the good quality powdered buttermilk I have bought. Bob’s Redmill Sweet Cream Powdered Buttermilk comes to mind.

4. At this point, you can powder the milk using a mortar and pestle or just break it up enough to get it in a bag.

Long Term Storage

Dump into a mylar pouch or use a vacuum food sealer and add a moisture absorber for long-term storage. Make sure to add a date with a Sharpie and rotate it out from your food supply.

In case you didn’t already know, any survival food with animal products is going to have less shelf life and be most at risk for spoilage. Keeping powdered milk at a moderate temperature increases shelf life. Keep out of sunlight and extreme temperatures to maximize shelf life.

Dehydrated Sour Cream

This is a delicious thing to have on hand and you can definitely make your own if you catch it on sale. Sour cream stays good a long time. If there is no mold on it then it is probably fine to dehydrate.

glass sour cream

Regular Cream

Like regular milk, unless it is ultra-pasteurized use caution dehydrating expired or about to expire cream. If it is well within the best by date then go ahead otherwise you should use culture and make it into sour cream before dehydrating.

You can use a standard plain yogurt to inoculate it, other sour creams that have active culture in it, or buy some starter like that below. Remember that you can keep a sour cream culture going for a while by inoculating a fresh batch with a few spoonfuls of a previous batch. I usually only do this with yogurt for a few batches before getting a fresh start.

Sour Cream Starter Culture

Sour Cream Starter Culture

Reconstituting

This is something that you can just do by taste. For flavoring very rich dishes, you may not want to use the same amount of liquid you would if you wanted a glass of milk to drink.

Shelf Life

Powdered dairy products can vary in shelf life. Part of the equation depends on storage conditions. A moderate or cool temperature helps your dairy keep longer. Exposure to light and heat are your enemy when it comes to food preservation.

Oven Method

You can use an oven to dehydrate milk and other dairy but you need to keep a close eye on it and check how hot your oven really burns. An aftermarket oven thermometer should make this easy. You just don’t want it to get so hot it can scorch.

oven kitchen

Use cookie sheets with sides and pour full of milk. Dry until brittle and powdery but not browned in any way. If it looks brown, this means your heat was set too high or you dried it for too long.

If your oven runs a little hot or if you want to help out the evaporation a little then you can leave your oven cracked open a bit.

Solar Oven

Some solar ovens may be used to dehydrate dairy products under good conditions. Results and time required will vary based on what type of solar oven you have. It might take a few attempts to get your desired results. I will say that you should wait until you know that you will have a good stretch of sunny weather so the dry time is not stretched out so much that your end product is spoiled.

At night, your oven is not going to be producing heat so that can be a challenge. You need to be able to get the dairy dried out while you have sunlight. If it doesn’t dry completely then finish it off in your regular oven.

I would also recommend dehydrating cultured dairy products, not fresh milk. These are less likely to turn bad or get bad bacteria if dry time is more extended.

Powdered Milk Uses

There are a lot of things you can do with powdered dairy products. Here are a few things I can think of that are relevant to those putting back food for the long term and those that just want some convenience food where they have some control over the ingredients.

1. Soup Mixes

Powdered milk can be used as a base for creamy soups, stews, and gravies. You can add some dried mashed potato flakes, veggies, and dried meat and have a very hearty entree. For additional convenience, you can vacuum seal your own dried blends.

food soup orange

It may take you some time to decide the ratio of milk, meat, and veggies that you like but once you do you can create survival food that is suited to you and your family’s dietary needs.

2. Baking

Having flour and yeast put back is great for prepping because you can make bread but that bread can have a better flavor and some extra calories if you have a little powdered milk, sour cream, or yogurt to put in it.

bread flour

Pancake mixes and other grain-based products can also benefit from the addition of some dairy during preparation.

3. Macaroni and Cheese Mix

I know that a lot of people put back Mac and Cheese but it is a lot cheaper to buy the noodles and then make your own cheese powder mixes that are very shelf stable.

A member of a prepping group I am part of on Facebook shared with the group how her whole family got extremely sick from eating Kraft Mac and Cheese past the expiration date. They had quite a bit of it stashed back. What they found out was that the newer recipe of Kraft is not as shelf stable, and the cheese powder had gone bad.

To make cheese sauce you need your choice of powdered cheese, powdered milk, yogurt, or sour cream, and butter powder (optional). This is not a bad idea for replacing those expensive small boxes in your everyday pantry either.

mac and cheese

Practice Your Method For Drying

I have mentioned a lot of different ways to dehydrate dairy products but since ovens and equipment like dehydrators vary in temperature and performance I definitely advise practicing with some small batches and learning how your equipment performs.

Spacing Out Your Drying

One way to space out your drying is to buy milk by the gallon and consume part of it and dehydrate the other. This can be more practical due to equipment limitations.

Two trays of buttermilk in my dehydrator were not near enough to dry out a half gallon of liquid so the other was used for cooking. If you are on top of it you can dry two batches in a 24 time period so I could have dehydrated 1/2 gallon of buttermilk plus a pint in a 24 hour period.

Do you have any favorite recipes using powdered dairy products? What method of drying have you found to have the best flavor when reconstituted for just drinking? Remember to check out my previous post on Prepping With Powdered Milk: The Best Powdered Milk Options for even more info on dairy options for survival food and your everyday pantry!


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Dehydrating your own milk makes financial sense if you find a sale on milk or want whole milk and not non-fat. Standard non-fat powdered milk can be bought for a much lower price than the whole powdered milk you will find. Here is how to go about making powdered milk!

  1. You can store powdered products like milk in Mason jars. Using your canning funnel, put dried mill pieces in the jar and press/crush down with a wooden spoon. Put an oxygen absorber in the jar and screw the lid on tight. Store in a cool, dark place.

    I use a Harvest Right freeze dryer, which means you can dry raw milk and preserve all of the enzymes. Just another option to dehydrator or oven.

    1. Ray, ive asked harvest right this question several times and have never even received a reply.
      do you have any idea of the power consumption that your harvest right freeze dryer uses ???
      if not then can you tell me the amp draw listed on any lables.
      the reason i ask is my wife and i live off the beaten path and run our electric items off inverters and batteries. thank you!

      1. I found this answer on the Harvest Right site. Perhaps they just put it up because when I wrote about freeze dryers I could not find much either. Thanks for reading. Hope this helps.

        From Harvest Right:

        Harvest Right has taken every precaution to make this appliance run as affordably as possible.

        Small and Standard

        Our small and standard freeze dryers use a standard 110 volt outlet.

        At peak, the freeze dryer draws about 16 amps, but on the average about 9 to 11 amps (990-1210 watts) of power per hour. A dedicated 20 amp circuit is recommended. Your freeze dryer will cost an estimated $1.25-$2.80 a day, depending on power costs in your area.

        Large

        Our large freeze dryer requires a 110 volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet (see image below).

        At peak, the large freeze dryer draws about 16 amps, but on the average about 10 amps (1500 watts) of power per hour. A dedicated 20 amp circuit is required. Your freeze dryer will cost an estimated $2.00-$3.00 a day, depending on power costs in your area.

  2. Thank you! This article comes to me about 3 days after I was thinking I should take on this project!! I have an older model gas stove/ oven that I can get the oven temp down to almost 120°. I’ve dried pureed blackberries, sliced beef and venison for jerky so far. Do you see where I am going with those 2 of three ingredients? Anyway, I was thinking of making my own dehydrated milk powder mainly because in not even close to happy with store bought powdered milk.. what has happened to this stuff since I was a kid? It’s just nasty… thank you again Samantha for your knowledge and passing it on.👍

    1. Part of the problem with powdered milk in the store is that it is non fat. Not sure of your age but I imagine years ago the milk powder was made of whole fat milk. Peak Milk powder and maybe Hoosier Farm are the only whole fat dried milks I am aware of that are commonly available. Thanks for reading and your kind comments. 🙂

  3. im going to try dehydrating milk in the oven at 150 degrees and see how it works, thanks Gaye, i didnt know you could do this in the oven. I have a dehydrator but i dont have to many of the solid trays needed and cant seem to find them online or anywhere else that fit my dehydrator.

    1. You’re very welcome! The only thing with an oven is just keeping a watch on it because ovens vary in performance and you don’t want it to brown and gain an off flavor. What type of dehydrator do you have that you cannot find solid trays for? I would be glad to see if I could find a source for you. Thanks for reading!

    1. Below is an excerpt from my previous post on powdered milk that explains how to make powdered milk stay good as long as possible. Also please check out USA Emergency Supply for guidelines on shelf life and storage. Generally speaking you can expect at least a couple years but there are things you can do to help increase the time. The main problem with the long term storage of milk is vitamins A and D will dissipate at a rate of about 20% every year under good storage conditions. It might still taste okay and you will get the calories, but the vitamins are just not stable. Keeping it under cool and dry conditions is essential to shelf life and decreasing the rate vitamins dissipate. Thank you for your question and readership. Sorry this was so long winded but storage life of this type of food relies a lot on your storage situation. Hope this helps!

      Increasing Shelf Life

      A lot of powdered milks come in cans that are sealed and then have a plastic lid. These are nice to have because they are very waterproof and protected against moisture. Some powdered milks now come in plastic pouches which are another way to ensure a long shelf life.

      If you catch a deal on powdered milk in boxes, it is best to take some steps to increase shelf life if you want it to be part of a very long term food supply. To do this, you will need to:

      Use a food sealer and have some moisture absorbers as well.
      Put powdered milk in your vacuum sealer bag and add your moisture absorber. Larger bags may be best with two absorbers depending on the size of the absorbers you have.
      Seal and label with date.

      Sealing up smaller amounts of powdered milk also means that you are opening smaller packages each time so there is less risk of spoilage. This can be a factor if your household is just two people or yourself. Opening up a pint of powdered milk powder is far different than opening up a gallon size bag and trying to keep it fresh and dry in a survival situation.

      Things happen like spills, bugs, moisture at times so losing a little portion of a small bag is not going to have the impact on your long term food supply that losing a 5 lbs container of powder milk would have.

  4. Nestle’s Nido brand powdered milk is made from whole milk. I’ve found the large cans at Save-a-Lot and the local Publix grocery stores and pick them up when on sale.

    I just opened a can that had an exp date of 3/2014 and it was still tasty for drinking/cereal use. Once opened, you do need to refrigerate and use within a short period of time. So the smaller size cans may be more convenient, just not the most frugal.

    1. Thank you for this! It is good to know about other whole milks and your experience using milk that is well past its expiration date. I get asked a lot about shelf life of various prepper foods and it is a complicated question because it depends so much on the conditions each person keeps it in!

  5. I bought 4- 29lb buckets of dehydrated milk which I have not opened. I figured when I open it I will reseal the rest in 7ml Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and desiccant pouches to keep it fresh. Can somebody with experience verify that I’m on the right track? Pretty new to this food stuff. I just bought a freeze dryer and read that I can freeze dry milk with it (something I’ve never even heard of before).

    1. I think you are on the right track with resealing in mylar with moisture absorbers and oxygen absorbers. You may find that this combo with vacuum sealing makes it cake up a little bit but that doesn’t mean you can’t break a chunk off and mix it with whatever you want. 29 lbs is a lot so after opening, you definitely want to do something to keep it fresh unless you have a really big family or group to feed. Also, keep in mind that Vitamins A & D break down over time regardless of how well you store your powdered milk. The calories and fat are still going to be there for you. If you have other good sources of these vitamins than the break down over time is not as concerning. Thanks for reading!

  6. I read the previous comment about using both moisture absorbers and oxygen absorbers. In the article, though, you only mentioned using moisture absorbers. Is that due to the ‘caking’ that you mentioned in your reply?

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