Milk and Honey was the duo's projected follow-up to Double Fantasy, though Lennon's death caused a temporary shelving of the project. It took Ono three years to be able to resume work to complete it. Ono's material largely comprises new recordings, which she undertook during the album's preparation in 1983, which give her songs a more commercial and contemporary edge. Conversely, Lennon's material, being rough takes and rehearsal recordings, has a more casual feeling.
The album title came from Ono, who explained that it referenced their journey to the USA, "the land of milk and honey". "But also, in the Scripture, the land of milk and honey is where you go after you die, as a promised land", Ono went on to say. "So it's very strange that I thought of that title. Almost scary – like someone up there told me to call the next album Milk and Honey." The cover is an alternate take from the same photo session that produced the front cover of Double Fantasy, though this time it appears in colour.
After a falling out with David Geffen, whose Geffen Records had initially released Double Fantasy, Ono moved future projects to Polydor Records, which initially released Milk and Honey. EMI, home of Lennon's entire recorded output—including that with The Beatles—acquired this and all Lennon releases in the late 1990s. Predictably, the reaction to Milk and Honey was less fanatical than the one that greeted Double Fantasy, but it was still well-received, peaking at #3 in the UK and #11 in the U.S., where it went gold. Jack Douglas, who had co-produced Double Fantasy with Lennon and Ono, also had input into the initial sessions for Milk and Honey, though Ono declined to credit him after their professional relationship soured following Lennon's death.
In 2001, Yoko Ono supervised the remastering of Milk and Honey for its CD reissue, adding three bonus tracks, including a 22-minute excerpt from Lennon's last interview in the late afternoon of 8 December 1980, hours before his death.