Evaporated and Sweetened Condensed Milk Are Not the Same—Here's How They Differ and When to Use Each (2024)

We don't think of dairy products as pantry staples because they generally need to be refrigerated and have a short shelf life. There are two notable exceptions: evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Both are shelf-stable and canned, and both are sold in the baking section of the grocery store, often side by side, so they are easy to confuse. We talked to the experts about evaporated milk vs. condensed milk to learn how these two products are similar and what makes them different, plus whether you can substitute one for the other.

Evaporated and Sweetened Condensed Milk Are Not the Same—Here's How They Differ and When to Use Each (1)

What Is Evaporated Milk?

"Evaporated milk is a dairy product made by gently simmering regular milk, which removes [about] 60 percent of the water," says Isamar Leal, recipe developer and chef creative director at the Florida Education Institute. The result is a liquid with twice the milk fat (and twice the dry milk solids) of fresh milk, says Sébastien Canonne, MOF, pastry chef and founder of The French Pastry School in Chicago. Canonne says you can make a homemade substitute for evaporated milk by gently heating milk until it's reduced.

Taste and Texture

Due to the high content of milk fat and dry milk solids, evaporated milk is thicker and creamier than regular milk, says Leal. It also has light caramelized flavor and ivory color.

Uses

Evaporated milk can be used in both baking and cooking, where it provides richness, creaminess, and a mild "cooked" flavor without adding sweetness, says Leal. Because it is unsweetened, it works well for both sweet and savory dishes, from desserts (like pumpkin pie and flan) to soups, pasta sauces, and mashed potatoes, says Canonne. Also, "it can be used to enhance hot beverages, such as coffee and hot chocolate, and baking recipes like cakes and muffins," he says.

What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?

"Sweetened condensed milk is similar to evaporated milk, but [it has] sugar," says Canonne. It is made by heating regular milk until it's reduced by about one-third of its total weight, then mixed with sugar and rapidly cooled, he explains. It’s often simply called condensed milk.

Texture and Taste

Between the heating process and addition of sugar, sweetened condensed milk is thick, sweet, and dense, according to Canonne. It also has a light ivory tinge that may look more noticeable than the color of evaporated milk.

Uses

Since condensed milk is sweetened, it's primarily used in desserts, says Erin Cayaban, corporate pastry chef at TAO Group Hospitality. Examples include sweet sauces, glazes, custards, confections, chocolates, candies, and dessert fillings. The product is particularly useful for rich, dense treats that require a near-solid consistency, such as key lime pie or fudge, says Canonne. In fact, dulce de leche—a thick caramel-like sauce traditionally used in Latin cuisine. Sweetened condensed milk is also used in beverages around the world, as seen in Vietnamese iced coffee, Spanish café bombón, Mexican horchata, and Venezuelan chicha, says Leal.

Evaporated Milk vs. Condensed Milk

Although evaporated milk and condensed milk are both shelf-stable milk products that are produced in similar ways, they're not the same. The main distinction is the addition of sugar in condensed milk, which yields a different texture and flavor profile. As Leal explains: "Evaporated milk offers creaminess without sweetness and is suitable for savory dishes and some desserts. On the other hand, sweetened condensed milk is intensely sweet and used in desserts and sweet treats, thanks to its thick, syrupy texture."

Don't Substitute One for the Other

Substituting evaporated milk for condensed milk or condensed for evaporated is not recommended, according to Cayaban. When a recipe calls for evaporated or condensed milk, the other ingredients (and their measurements) have been chosen to work with that specific milk's texture and sweetness. Thus, using condensed milk in a recipe that requires evaporated milk will yield an overly sweet dish. Likewise, if you were to use evaporated milk when condensed milk is required, the final product would be too bland, says Cayaban. For best results, "follow the recipe's recommendation for the type of milk to ensure the desired taste and consistency," says Leal.

What Are the Best Substitutes for Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated and Sweetened Condensed Milk Are Not the Same—Here's How They Differ and When to Use Each (2024)

FAQs

Evaporated and Sweetened Condensed Milk Are Not the Same—Here's How They Differ and When to Use Each? ›

Both are concentrated, shelf-stable milk products that have been heated until at least 60 percent of their water content has evaporated. The main difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk is that evaporated milk is unsweetened while condensed milk is sweetened.

What is the difference between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk? ›

Condensed Milk. Although evaporated milk and condensed milk are both shelf-stable milk products that are produced in similar ways, they're not the same. The main distinction is the addition of sugar in condensed milk, which yields a different texture and flavor profile.

Why can t sweetened condensed milk be used interchangeably with evaporated milk? ›

These items are essentially the same with one big difference: no sugar is added to evaporated milk. Sweetened condensed milk also has 60% of the water removed, but contains 40% sugar. Due to the big flavor difference, they cannot be substituted for each other.

Is evaporated milk the same as condensed milk without sugar? ›

Here's another way to think of it: Condensed milk is evaporated milk with added sugar. Sweetened evaporated milk exists in the form of condensed milk, but there's no such thing as unsweetened condensed milk — that's just evaporated milk.

Is evaporated milk or condensed milk better for fudge? ›

Evaporated milk doesn't have sugar added. The sweetened condended milk is needed as no extra sugar is added to the fudge. If evaporated milk were used then the fudge would not be sweet enough and also would still be too soft unless the fudge is frozen.

Is there a big difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk? ›

Evaporated milk and condensed milk are both shelf-stable canned milks that are easily found at most grocery stores. The main difference is that condensed milk is very sweet, and evaporated milk is unsweetened.

Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk in a recipe? ›

Substitutions. While we don't recommend substituting condensed milk for evaporated milk or vice versa, you can make your own condensed milk when you're in a pinch. Simply heat together 1½ cups of sugar and one can of evaporated milk until the sugar has fully dissolved.

What is the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk quizlet? ›

Both condensed milk and evaporated milk are forms of concentrated milk in which approximately 60 percent of the water content has been removed, but that is where the similarities end. Sugar: Sweetened condensed milk is about 45 percent sugar, while evaporated milk is unsweetened.

What is a good substitute for sweetened condensed milk? ›

If you run out of sweetened condensed milk, simply substitute the same amount of evaporated milk for a one-to-one alternative. The consistency in the dish will be near the same, but the flavor will not taste as sweet. You can add sugar to the evaporated milk if you prefer to up the sweetness.

Can I substitute condensed milk for evaporated milk in fudge? ›

Sweetened condensed milk is thick and sweet and will give you the proper consistency for this fudge. Evaporated milk is much thinner, and if you use it by accident you will end up with hot fudge sauce, which is not what we're going for here!

Why use condensed milk in mac and cheese? ›

Start your cheese sauce by making a roux. Add 1/2 stick of butter to your sauce pan and melt. Add sweet condensed milk (1-2 tbsps) and combine with butter. This step is optional, but the sweetness helps balance the natural acidity from all of the cheese and ties all of the flavors together.

Is evaporated milk good in coffee? ›

On its own, evaporated milk is thick and creamy, making it an excellent replacement for half and half or creamer in your coffee or tea. You can also experiment with adding it to smoothies, milkshakes, soup, or pasta sauces, although you'll want to use less than you would with regular milk.

Does evaporated milk go bad? ›

And while milk might only last a week in the refrigerator, unopened evaporated milk that is properly stored can last up to two years. But how can you tell when it's gone bad? In short, by looking at it. If your milk has turned dark yellow or brown, don't use it.

What is the secret to great fudge? ›

Valuable tips for successful fudge
  • Don't stir during cooking. Fudge can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave. ...
  • Avoid crystallization. During cooking, sugar crystals can stick to the sides of the pan. ...
  • Let cool before beating. After being cooked, the sugar must crystallize again to create fudge. ...
  • Beat the mixture.

Which is better for pumpkin pie evaporated milk or sweetened condensed? ›

Sweetened condensed milk is thicker and contains added sugar, so you won't have to add extra sugar and the filling will be very rich. Evaporated milk is unsweetened and has a thinner consistency. This means that you will have to add some extra sugar and that your pie will have a lighter, airier filling.

Why is my condensed milk fudge grainy? ›

– There are a number of reasons why the fudge was grainy. It might be that you haven't dissolved all the sugar before boiling the fudge mixture. It could be that there just wasn't enough fluid or fat to enable the sugar to dissolve or it might even be that the fudge wasn't beaten long enough or hard enough.

What can I use if I don't have evaporated milk? ›

We have 6 different suggestions for evaporated milk substitutions.
  • Regular Milk (whole, 2% or skim) ...
  • Heavy Cream. ...
  • Half-and-Half. ...
  • Powdered Milk. ...
  • Regular Non-Dairy Milk (almond, oat, etc) ...
  • Coconut Milk.
Feb 28, 2023

What is the purpose of evaporated milk? ›

Evaporated milk is often used in much the same way that half-and-half is, in custards, cakes, shakes and candies like fudge. When you have a recipe that calls for milk and you don't have fresh milk, you'll be glad you've got that can of evaporated milk in the pantry. Grab it, shake it, open it and make a choice.

What can I use in place of sweetened condensed milk? ›

If dairy isn't an issue, heavy cream can substitute for condensed milk. But if you're avoiding dairy, the only thing that can sometimes substitute for condensed milk “as is” is full-fat coconut milk. However, full-fat coconut milk may not have the condensed milk consistency you're going for.

Can you turn evaporated milk into caramel? ›

Very related (Cajita is dulce de leche made with goat's milk), so the answer is yes, it can be done: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/46129/… The amount of sugar you add is up to you, it will take some experimentation to find the amount that is perfect for you. Too little, and you may see not enough caramelization.

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