Milk in Mexico: Why Mexican Milk is Different

Milk in Mexico is not kept in the refrigerator

Surfing the internet, I came across a Trip Advisor thread where American expats were discussing the milk in Mexico. The thread was called, Does Real Milk Exist in Mexico?

Here’s an excerpt from the thread:

Just wondering if you can get real cows milk, like the kind I’m used to in the US, anywhere in PDC or any part of Mexico.”

I’ve heard they have it at Sam’s and even Walmart in Cancun. I’ve never seen it at the local grocery stores.”

My experience is that it’s been a good time to give up lactose. You will be rewarded for your efforts by how good the ‘real’ thing tastes when you get home. Is there anyone out there who can prove me wrong or offer any suggestions/alternatives?”

You get the picture. It got me thinking that this could be an avenue where some clarification of some common misconceptions might be order:

Why is some milk in Mexico warm?

Unlike the milk in the United States, some Mexican milk is kept at room temperature in airtight and light-sealed cartons. You can find some American-style pasteurized milk in some nicer grocery stores or convenient stores, however for the most part throughout Mexico, milk is kept in the aisles in cartons.

Is this cow’s milk in Mexico?

A popular misconception is that this is not real cow’s milk. We can assure you that, yes, the room-temperature milk in Mexico is cow’s milk. Often Americans think that this is powdered milk mixed with water, and therefore this enables it to be shelved, and does not have to be refrigerated. However, this is not true.

Why doesn’t some milk in Mexico have to be refrigerated?

Some milk in Mexico is not pasteurized in the same way as in the United States. Pasteurization is heating a food product to remove any bacteria so that it lasts longer. Milk can be pasteurized at four different temperatures and time duration using four different techniques:



This pasteurization process takes the longest time, and the food product is boiled at very low heat to eradicate pathogenic bacteria. Milk is pasteurized at 145F (63C). This process takes 30 minutes.



This form of pasteurization uses a higher temperature to kill bacteria, and because of this it takes less time to pasteurize. Under this method, milk is pasteurized at 161F (72C). At this temperature, it only takes 15 seconds to pasteurize.



Ultrapasteurization involves superheating the milk to 280F (138C) for about 2 seconds. Due to the type of packaging, this milk must still be refrigerated, however it lasts in the refrigerator for for 2 to 3 months. After the package is opened however, bacteria in the air will cause milk to spoil, so you can expect it to last the typical week or two in the refrigerator.



This milk is superheated between 280F and 302F (138C to 150C) for only a second or two. The packaging for this milk is airtight and light-sealed which allows it to be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months. However, when the package is opened, bacteria in the air causes the milk to spoil in the typical week or two.


In the US and Canada, the milk is heated for 15-20 seconds at 161 – 167 degrees Fahrenheit (71.6C – 75C) by way of the High-Temperature-Short-Time Treatment. The boxed milk in Mexico is heated by way of the Ultra-High Temperature Pasteurization (UHT) method. This is why the milk is safe to keep at room temperature when it is in an airtight and light-sealed container.

How long does boxed milk in Mexico last?

Milk in Mexico which has been exposed to UHT Pasteurization can last in an airtight and light-sealed container on a shelf for 6 months without any need for refrigeration. When the container is opened, it is just like milk in the United States, where it must be refrigerated—and it generally lasts about a week or two.

Does boxed milk in Mexico taste different?

Pasteurization can affect the flavor of foods. Some Americans find that the milk tastes richer or creamier in Mexico than it does in the United States. This could be merely subjective, however, it could also be because Ultra-High Temperature Pasteurization (UHT) has been shown to change the flavor less than Low-Temperature-Long-Time Treatment (LTLT). UHT also damages the nutrient content less than LTLT. However, any changes in flavor are likely negligible.



*To learn more about Milk in Mexico, click here.

Interested in getting health insurance while living abroad? Get a free quote today by clicking below.

Comments (28)

  • Susy Randale

    Why are you spreading the udea that only UHT (tetrapak) milk is available in Mexico? Yes, tetrapak milk (or as I think of it, shelf milk) is available here and very convenient to keep on hand. And, yes, it must be refrigerated once opened. BUT, you fail to mention that regular pasteurized milk is available too in the refrigerator section of stores like Walmart, Soriana, and Mega ad well as in convenience stores like OXXO and 7 Eleven as well as most neighborhood abarrotes. I have not detected any eignificant difference in taste in 13 years of living in Mexico.

    • Raf Bracho

      Hello Susy,

      Thank you so much for commenting! We did not mean to imply that there is only UHT milk in Mexico, we were simply hoping to explain to Americans what UHT milk is. We have decided to amend this article to make that point clear. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  • Francis Dryden

    Really can’t help it if Mexico is so far ahead of Canada and the US in so many ways. I don’t buy the “carton milk” but I have friends that swear by it. Don’t see milk being drank down here like up north… as an example, I think I have only seen one person drinking milk in a restaurant.

    The milk is sold with a best before date like Canada and the grocers put the older milk in front just like Canadian grocers too… even if it’s dated… I check that carefully.

    By the way, although Mexican kids appear to drink far less milk than “North of the Borders” (NOB’s) they appear very healthy and have unusually nice teeth comparative to what I’ve seen.

  • JoAnn Jackson

    You can get pasteurized, refrigerated milk in Mexico…However, it is not homogenized so does not keep as long in the refrigerator like in the US.

  • michael

    Are people seriously so stupid, we need to explain milk to them.

    • Tyler

      People aren’t stupid because they need milk explain to them they just haven’t travelled enough to experience it for themselves. Your comment was very narrow minded and ignorant maybe you’re too stupid to write something longer and more informative but don’t go hate on people that do try to help

    • Ochoi Rex

      Really, Michael? No need to insult folks!

  • dogtags

    UHT milk, while not popular in the US, is the NORM in many other parts of the world, esp where refrigeration isn’t practical. UHT milk is VERY common throughout Europe. I personally consider it safer than fresh milk.

  • Pati

    I would like go mention that although milk comes in boxes here in Mexico, not all of it is 100% milk. Check the labels. Sone are from powdered milk mixed with water and some even have sugar added! Also, I took a lactology class in college and my professor mentioned it was common to see water and sugar being added to milk.
    I suggest drinking Parmalat or Santa Clara after learning frim the chemistry teacher that with only those brands was he able to produce cheese in his class. To me, they taste the same as US milk.

  • mark case

    Most of the milk in Mexico has Vegetable fat added. It usually states 85% milk. I only buy powdered entera milk.

    • Raf Bracho

      Really Mark! I’ll have to take a good look at the carton next time. Thanks for bringing this up!

    • Dan Guido

      The two most common brands of milk in Mexico don’t have any vegetable fat added. And you can’t sell milk with vegetable fat added as “Leche” in Mexico. You must specify in the lable “Producto Lácteo adicionado con grasa vegetal”. Otherwise you’d be breaking the law.

  • Kate Reust

    My favorite is to go out to a friends ranch for milking time – that stuff, straight from the cow – lasts weeks and weeks in the fridge AND gives all the goodstuff. Raw whole milk –
    But one observation is correct – milk consumption is far below the NOTB average. But at $10-12 pesos per liter I keep a box on hand in the cupboard for cooking, cereal and the occasional chocolate chip cookies
    It’s worth breaking your mental expectation and buying a box. YES they are different – you’ll find a brand that you love. And the lactose free bottled milk is fabulous and rich!

    • Raf Bracho

      Wow! We appreciate your thoughts Kate! Thank you for contributing to the discussion!

  • Will Imanse

    LaLa has recently come out with lactose free milk in plastic bottles. You find it in the fresh milk areas of the store. Apparently it is done by some type of filtering. I cannot taste any difference. But for people with lactose intolerance it is a nice addition. The milk can be purchased as whole milk, partially skimmed and skim. They also have versions with extra protein and calcium added.

    • Raf Bracho

      Good to know. Thank you for your input Will.

    • Louis-Marie Ste Croix

      Great info about milk in Mexico, thank you very much, very informative.

      Now you should do one about eggs in Mexico…

      • Raf Bracho

        We’ll look into it Louis-Marie! We appreciate the suggestion. 🙂

  • Randi Macdonald

    None of the “resorts” I’ve stayed in have homogonized milk. Its all the UHT milk. I can’t stand it so I don’t drink it when I’m here. I also freeze a container of half and half, put it in a small lunch box in my checked baggage for my coffee when I’m on vacation.

    • Raf Bracho

      Interesting Randi! Why don’t you like UHT milk? Do you notice a difference in flavor?

  • Barbro Zaniewicz

    We have UHT milk in Canada as well, so it is not any different here in Mexico. I buy the regular skimmed milk (square bottle, blue color) in any Mega, Oxxo, Kiosco, Wallmart, but could choose whole milk if I liked it (red label). There is also the lactose free bottle (round). As far as I am concerned, the mild here is exactly the same as at home. Tastes the same. I don’t drink UHT milk at home because I don’t like the taste of it. It is different. I don’t do resorts, so don’t know what they serve there. It would make sense that they might use the UHT milk as it is easy to store.

    • Raf Bracho

      Thanks for contributing your thoughts Barbro!

  • GER Hall

    We get most of our milk daily delivered , 2 milk cans tied to the saddle . Not only a fresh milk delivery but usually takes our boys for a ride as well !!

    • Raf Bracho

      Wow, that’s cool! Where do you live in Mexico?

  • Chonette Taylor

    I am from the UK but visiting Mexico, I always make my own yogurt in he UK using full fat fresh milk with great success make it weekly, my daughter here in Mexico only uses organic milk which UHT so I tried making the yogurt and came out fine but i does not have any whey just comes out creamy.
    I tried a test using fresh milk and the same results which made me think maybe it was also UHT.
    I have made yogurt in Brazil but there I got the milk from the cows fresh from the farm of my friends and that yogurt comes the same as the one I made in the UK.
    If anyone knows I would like too know what I might be doing wrong as I also use the strained yogurt for making cheese cakes and I know that Greek yogurt is strained.

    • Raf Bracho

      Hello Chonette, this is quite interesting! We had no idea that the difference in pasteurization could affect the making of yogurt. Please keep us posted! We hope this message finds you well.


Leave Comment