We explore how condensed milk and evaporated milk are different and all the delicious recipes you can make. A question you may have if you bake often is: What’s the key difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk? You may have both evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk in your pantry without knowing how they are different.
Essentially, you can’t interchange both ingredients because condensed milk has loads of sugar. You can use evaporated milk as a substitute for condensed milk by adding sugar. But the other way round can make your recipe too sweet.
You may be wondering:
What are all the things you can do with different versions of canned milk? Regardless of your culinary mastery, I’m here to clear up all of your simmering curiosity.
Evaporated Milk vs. Condensed Milk – The Difference
Evaporated milk is essentially unsweetened milk preserved in cans. Invented when refrigerators were a luxury, families found a way to preserve this calcium-loaded beverage for their children. To make evaporated milk, you have to slowly simmer fresh milk over low heat until 60% of the (naturally occurring) water evaporates. The remaining milk is creamier and thicker once you remove the top layer of water. Then, it is homogenized, sterilized, and packaged for commercial use.
The unsweetened nature of evaporated milk gives it different uses. It’s quite versatile and is used for savory dishes like creamy Mac and Cheese or sweeter recipes like decadent Tres Leches.
Sweetened condensed milk undergoes the same process as evaporated milk— you have to boil regular milk down to about half the amount to form a decadent, creamy product. However, you have to add a generous amount of granulated sugar to the evaporated milk to sweeten it. Eventually, it turns into sweetened condensed milk.
Condensed milk has widespread uses. Some of my favorite desserts like turtle bars, mocha latte fudge, and three-milk-cake require it. It’s also the ooey-gooey sprinkle on seven-layer magic bars, and the only ingredient used to create Dulce de Leche, which is essentially caramelized condensed milk. Bakers so love condensed milk that dairy-free vegan alternatives, like condensed coconut milk, also exist.
While I don’t recommend alternating one for the other, you can ‘do-it-yourself’ condensed milk when you’re in a hurry. Heat together 1½ cup of sugar and one can of store-bought evaporated milk until the sugar fully dissolves.
Both evaporated milk and condensed milk have a shelf life of at least one year. After opening cans of both products, keep them refrigerated and use within the next five days. One dish that uses both evaporated milk and condensed milk is the classic Tres Leches cake.
How to Substitute Condensed Milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk is another canned version of milk, but unlike evaporated milk, it has added sugar, making it ideal for dessert recipes. Sweetened condensed soy milk has periodically become available (produced in Brazil), but has never been popular in the U.S. market.
There are several sweet options to substitute condensed milk, both homemade and store-bought. Let’s explore.
Cream of Coconut
Cream of coconut works perfectly as a sweetened condensed milk alternative and can offer a tropical flavor to your desserts. You can substitute it for condensed milk using a 1:1 ratio. Do not confuse this for coconut cream as coconut cream is much sweeter and sold in separate cans. You can look for brands such as Coco Lopez, Coco Real, Roland, or Goya.
You can easily make this condensed milk alternative at home. Here’s what you need:
- A 13.5 oz coconut milk
- 1/4 cup sweetener of choice i.e., cane sugar or coconut sugar
All you have to do is cook the mixture in a saucepan for about 45 minutes as the milk condenses.
Once the milk starts to boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer rapidly. Try to stay nearby and stir frequently. Sometimes it might appear that the mixture is going to spill over. If this happens, remove the saucepan from the heat until so it cools just a bit. Alternatively, you can reduce the heat before putting the pot back on the stovetop. Continue simmering until the milky mixture reduces by about half and is quite dense – it should be 3/4 cup of liquid. Remove your pan from the stove and let it cool before adding it to any recipes.
Storing tip: You can keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6-7 days.
Evaporated Milk Substitutes
You can also refer to Evaporated milk as dehydrated milk. It is a canned milk shelf-stable product with 60% of the water removed. You can “re-hydrate” it with water to transform into a dairy milk equivalent. Though vegan evaporated milk isn’t a product, you will easily find it in stores. However, it’s quite easy to prepare, and the homemade version doesn’t require the canned versions’ complex processing! Here are some useful ways to substitute condensed milk in your recipes:
Thinned Coconut Milk
Allow a can of coconut milk to settle (about 30 minutes). You can remove the top layer of coconut cream to get skimmed coconut milk. Once you have the thinner liquid, you can easily substitute it for evaporated milk using a 1:1 ratio. Reserve the thick cream for later use as a cream substitute. It has more fat than other alternatives, but it should yield excellent results. Coconut milk has a distinct flavor that is ideal for desserts, baked goods, and savory dishes that require tropical flavors. However, the watery part of the canned coconut milk is less intense than the cream.
You can replicate evaporated milk by using either a powder or liquid milk alternative. The quickest option is using a higher ratio of “milk” powder to water. However, if you want minimal labor and effort, you evaporate rice or soy milk to substitute evaporated milk.
Non-dairy milk powders exist, but they are harder to find in stores. Luckily, they are widely available in online stores. You can also find the best price on finding the best powdered non-dairy milk. My favorite brands are NOW Foods Organic Powdered Milk and Silk Almond Milk.
Soy Milk Powder
Soy is another common and readily available powdered milk. You can find it at any mainstream grocers and buy in bulk to avail discounts. However, if you can’t find it locally, you can buy from popular brands online. These are my favorites: Fearn, Better Than Milk, NOW Foods.
Protip: Use equal parts of soy milk in recipes calling for milk powder.
Rice Milk Powder
While not as common as soymilk and almond milk powder, you can find it in some stores online. The two most popular brands are Growing Naturals and Better Than Milk. Since it’s free of dairy, soy, lactose, and gluten, it’s an excellent option for those with food allergies and intolerances.
Potato Milk Powder
Potato milk powder is a terrific option for soy intolerant people or those seeking milk alternatives. However, it isn’t as readily available as rice or soy milk powders. The primary brand available on the market is Vance’s Dairy-free Potato Milk Powder in chocolate and original.
Coconut Milk Powder
Coconut milk powder is an amazing substitute for evaporated milk powder. However, it isn’t entirely dairy-free as it has a small amount of casein added to enhance texture. If you can find a dairy-free alternative, use equal parts of coconut milk powder in recipes calling for evaporated milk powder.
You can grind cashews to use in place of milk powder in most recipes. Unlike some nuts, cashews powder quite easily and don’t turn into nut butter. Once powdered, cashews can blend nicely into recipes without leaving any residual grit (though you can sift out any nut chunks). Of course, cashew powder isn’t a suitable option for people with nut allergies. Keep in mind that the cashews add a little more fat to the recipe than other powdered milk products.
Most cooks know that you can whip up buttermilk in a jiffy by “souring” cow milk. Likewise, you can “sour” several milk alternatives to create a buttermilk alternative using a 1:1 ratio. Add one tablespoon of citrus juice or vinegar (you can use apple cider) to roughly 1 cup of non-dairy milk and let it simmer for about 5 minutes before adding it to the recipe.
It may or may not “curdle” or become thick like dairy milk, but homemade buttermilk substitute still serves its purpose in different recipes. You can use buttermilk when you need an acidic ingredient to activate baking soda or desire a certain flavor profile. By “souring” the milk with vinegar or citrus, you get similar results.
There aren’t many store-bought buttermilk substitutes available, but you can try this homemade variation.