Do you immediately pour milk down the drain the second it starts to smell a little funky or because it passed the sell-by date? You’re not alone. Many of us grew up being told that sour milk could make us ill, and if you’ve ever sipped it by accident, that’s never any fun.
But it turns out that more than a few people in the food and beverage world dispute that sour milk is bad for you — and they say it can be a great addition in some classic dishes and baked goods.
Can you get sick from sour milk?
Despite the common belief that sour or “bad” milk will make you ill, that’s not necessarily the case as long as it’s pasteurized. In fact, slightly sour milk can be a great replacement for milk products in dishes. One of the most common substitutes is to use it in place of buttermilk, which can sometimes be a little tangy in flavor depending on the brand.
In addition, the reason people usually throw out their milk to begin with is the sell-by date that’s on the container. However, that’s more about peak freshness for grocery store marketing and indicates to grocers when unsold milk needs to be taken off the shelves; it’s not about whether or not milk is safe to drink.
What can you cook with it?
So, what can you make with that sour milk you have sitting around your house? Sour milk enthusiasts say that anything goes and that using it doesn’t make food taste sour; you won’t be able to tell the difference from fresher dairy products once food is cooked.
For starters, scientist and food waste expert Dana Gunders has a fun recipe for pancakes that calls for any form of milk, including sour milk if you have it on hand and don’t want to waste it. You can also use your sour milk mixed with a little salt to marinate chicken and pork to make your meat extra moist and flavorful, similar to if you used buttermilk. And if you want to start with a dish on the more tart side of the spectrum, something like a lemon cake can do the trick, too.
Regardless, the next time you’re tempted to dump that leftover milk all because of the sell-by date or a slightly off stench, give a recipe or two a try. You just might surprise yourself — and cook up some delicious food in the process.