Have you run out of evaporated milk and need it for a recipe? Read on to find out what you can use as a substitute for evaporated milk (including dairy-free and vegan options to replace evaporated milk)!
What is Evaporated Milk?
Evaporated milk is a dairy product that has been processed to remove a significant portion of its water content, resulting in a concentrated and creamy liquid. Evaporated milk is often used as a milk substitute in recipes, adding richness and creaminess to your cooking without the need for fresh milk. It’s a common ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes, including soups, sauces, baked goods, and desserts.
How is Evaporated Milk Made?
Evaporated milk starts with whole, 2%, 1%, or even skim milk and is made by evaporating the water from it (bet you didn’t see that coming!). Fresh milk is heated in a vacuum chamber, which reduces the pressure and lowers the boiling point of the liquid. The milk is gently heated and simmered under reduced pressure, causing a significant portion of the water, as much as 60%, to evaporate.
This slow and controlled evaporation process can take several hours, resulting in concentrated milk with a creamy consistency. The reduced water content also helps preserve the milk, allowing canned evaporated milk to have a shelf life of as much as two years.
Evaporated Milk Vs Condensed Milk. What is the Difference?
As confusing as this is, condensed milk is NOT evaporated milk. Sweetened condensed milk is a dairy product that is often confused with evaporated milk due to its similar appearance and packaging. The key difference between the two lies in their sweetness and sugar content.
Sweetened condensed milk is made by adding a significant amount of sugar to evaporated milk, resulting in a thick and sweet syrup-like liquid with a more caramelized flavor. In contrast, evaporated milk is unsweetened and has a creamy consistency.
Sweetened condensed milk is commonly used in dessert recipes, such as fudge, caramel, and pies, where its high sugar content contributes to the sweetness and texture of the final product. Evaporated milk, on the other hand, is primarily used as a milk substitute where it won’t add much sweetness to the recipe.
There are a lot fewer calories in evaporated milk. In fact, the difference in calories and sugar contained in 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk verses evaporated milk verses whole milk is quite stark per the chart below:
|Sweetened Condensed Milk
Can I substitute Sweetened Condensed Milk for Evaporated Milk?
We recommend against this. Your recipe calling for evaporated milk wasn’t written to contain the large amount of sugar that comes in sweetened condensed milk. If, however, the recipe calls for a large amount of added sugar, you could use condensed milk and cut the amount of sugar added. We would recommend starting the mixture with no added sugar and taste-testing it while adding sugar to get it right.
Can I substitute Evaporated Milk for Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Again, we don’t recommend it. You can try it, but the result won’t be as sweet as the recipe’s author intended. You will probably want to add in additional sweeteners unless you are looking for a lower-calorie version of the recipe.
Dairy-Based Evaporated Milk Substitutes
Milk (Whole, 2%, 1%, or Skim)
Why it’s a Good Substitute: Milk is a good substitute because most of us have it in the refrigerator. When you are halfway into a recipe and realize the can you thought was evaporated milk is actually condensed milk, you don’t have to head to the grocery store. Evaporated milk is, after all, made from milk.
How to Substitute: You can substitute milk for evaporated milk on a one-to-one ratio. If a recipe calls for one cup of evaporated milk, replace it with one cup of the desired milk. But the texture will be very different so in order to mimic evaporated milk’s text, here are two ways to thicken it.
Option 1: You can add a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch to achieve a similar consistency. Similarly, if you want to more closely mimic the richness of evaporated milk, consider adding a touch of butter to mimic the richness of evaporated milk. This can contribute to a fuller flavor in your recipes. We recommend just adding a little at a time and testing it.
Option 2: The second, and preferred, option is to make your own evaporated milk by evaporating water from milk. We mentioned above that evaporated milk is made with a 60% reduction in water. You can achieve this on the stove.
If you need 1 cup of evaporated milk, put 2 ½ cups of milk in a saucepan and boil it down to 1 cup. Don’t rush the process with a hard boil, but instead let it simmer. You won’t likely get the final amount quite right, but if you over-boil it just top it off with a bit of milk. We think this is the best substitute for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie and most other baked goods.
|Evaporated Milk Needed
|Starting Amount of Milk
|1/2 cup (4 ounces)
|10 ounces (1 1/2 cups)
|3/4 cup (6 ounces)
|16 ounces (2 cups)
|1 cup (8 ounces)
|20 ounces (2 1/2 cups)
|1 1/2 cups (12 ounces)
|32 ounces (4 cups)
|2 cups (16 ounces)
|40 ounces (5 cups)
Caloric Differences in the Substitution: Since it takes 20 ounces of boiled-down milk to get 1 cup of evaporated milk substitute, there isn’t a big difference in the caloric content of milk substitutes.
Half and Half
Why it’s a Good Substitute: Both evaporated milk and half and half have a creamy consistency, making them interchangeable in many recipes without significantly altering texture. Also, many of us keep half and half in the refrigerator as a coffee creamer, so it is often readily available as a substitute.
How to Substitute: To substitute half and half for evaporated milk, use a 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of evaporated milk, you can use 1 cup of half and half instead. This simple swap should maintain the desired creaminess in your recipe.
Caloric Differences in the Substitution: Calorically, half and half and evaporated milk are fairly similar, though as the chart shows half and half delivers a lot less sugar. This is a good option for those with diabetic concerns, but consider how the lower sugar amount may change the sweetness of your recipe. The following table highlights the nutritional content of 1 cup of half and half vs evaporated milk.
|Half and Half
Why it’s a Good Substitute: One of the primary reasons it makes a good substitute is the similar fat content. Both heavy cream and evaporated milk contain a high percentage of fat, which contributes to the smooth and luxurious mouthfeel in recipes. This similarity in fat content helps maintain the intended richness and consistency of a recipe.
How to Substitute: To make this substitution, you can replace evaporated milk with an equal amount of heavy cream in most recipes. Keep in mind that heavy cream is thicker and richer, so the final result may be creamier than if you had used evaporated milk.
If you’re aiming for a lighter texture, you can dilute the heavy cream with a bit of milk or water to achieve a closer consistency to evaporated milk. If you need 1 cup of evaporated milk, try ¾ cup of cream and ¼ cup of milk. If you want it even thinner, use ½ cup of cream and ½ cup of milk in effect making your own half and half.
Caloric Differences in the Substitution: If you’re watching your calorie intake, heavy cream is significantly higher in calories than evaporated milk, so it might not be the ideal substitution for those looking to reduce the calorie content of their dishes.
1 cup of heavy cream has 816 calories vs only 338 for evaporated milk. Even if you cut it with 2% milk as described above the cut version will have about 450 calories per cup.
Why it’s a Good Substitute: Powdered milk is a convenient pantry staple with a long shelf life, making it readily available for use at any time. Its versatility allows it to stand in for evaporated milk, whole or skim milk, or even buttermilk. Because it is powdered it is pretty easy to make it to the consistency you need for your recipe.
How to Substitute: Keep in mind that evaporated milk has 60% less water than normal milk, so simply read the directions on the powdered milk package and start with using 60% less water. If math isn’t your thing, multiply the amount listed by .40 to get the amount of milk required, or use this table:
|Water Listed on Package to Make Milk
|Water You Should Add to Make Evaporated Milk
|4 ounces (1/2 cup)
|6 ounces (3/4 cup)
|8 ounces (1 cup)
|1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons
|12 ounces (1 1/2 cup)
|1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoons
|16 ounces (2 cups)
If the homemade evaporated milk seems too thick, just add more water. If it is too thin add more powdered milk and only use the amount of created evaporated milk you need. You can optionally add a bit of butter to make it a bit richer. We like it with 2 tablespoons of butter for each ½ cup of water. Start light and experiment a bit.
Caloric Differences in the Substitution: Refer back to the caloric chart for milk as prepared powdered milk should be about the same unless you add the butter we discussed above.
Non-Dairy Substitutes for Evaporated Milk
Almond, Oat, Cashew, or Soy “Drinks”
Why These are Good Substitutes: The dairy industry has gone to great lengths to convince us that these drinks are not milk, so okay we will play along. They are, however, good substitutes for evaporated milk for people with lactose intolerance, a good vegan evaporated milk substitute, and are good options for people looking to trim a few calories from a recipe.
How to Substitute: If you don’t mind the thinner consistency, you can substitute any of these drinks for evaporated milk on a 1:1 basis. We recommend, however, that you follow the same recommendation we made for a milk substitute. Gently boil the drink down to remove about 50-60% of the water.
The key to using any of these is to consider what the flavor difference will do to your recipe. We think that almond milk is best suited for desserts like puddings and pies, adding a bit of nuttiness.
Oat milk, with its creamy texture, is a decent option for creamy soups and sauces. Soy milk, with its neutral flavor, works well in both sweet and savory recipes if you don’t want any new flavor added to it.
Caloric Differences in the Substitution: The non-dairy “milk” you can get at the grocery all have different caloric contents with 30, 60, and 100 calories per cup options being very typical. Once you boil off 60% of the water the caloric difference between these and evaporated milk should be about what we show in this chart:
|30 Cal Per Cup Non-Dairy “Milk”
|60 Cal Per Cup Non-Dairy “Milk”
|100 Cal Per Cup Non-Dairy “Milk”
Why it’s a Good Substitute: Coconut milk (not coconut drink) has a similar creamy texture and thickness as evaporated milk. It is a great vegan substitute for evaporated milk, and as we show below can help make a recipe more keto-friendly.
How to Substitute: You can use a one-to-one ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of evaporated milk, you can replace it with one cup of coconut milk.
We recommend using a full-fat variety of coconut milk to maintain the desired creaminess unless you are trying to keep the recipe’s calorie count down. This is, obviously, not a good substitute if you don’t want your recipe to have at least a mild taste of coconut.
Caloric Differences in the Substitution: Coconut milk is clearly more caloric than evaporated milk and has much less sugar. It also has more fat and less protein as the chart below shows. It’s a good option if you are trying to make a keto-friendly recipe. The following table highlights the nutritional content of 1 cup of coconut milk vs evaporated milk.
Substituting Evaporated Milk for Regular Milk
We have been focused on substitutes for evaporated milk, but you can also use evaporated milk as a substitute. If you run out of milk, you can simply turn to your pantry and open a can. If you are looking for a true milk substitute then just add water to the evaporated milk.
Remember, evaporated milk has 60% less water than milk, so simply replace that water. For each cup of evaporated milk add 1 ½ cups of water. You can also use straight evaporated milk instead of half and half in your coffee.
This wraps up our look at substitutes for evaporated milk. We hope you found an evaporated milk alternative you can use in a pinch or to modify your recipes, and as always happy cooking!