Evaporated Milk vs Condensed Milk: What’s the Difference?

And can they be used interchangeably?

June 22, 2022

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Condensed milk pouring in white bowl. Sweet vanilla sauce, condensed or evaporated milk, top view, copy space.

Photo by: Mizina/Getty Images

Mizina/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

You might have seen evaporated milk and condensed milk on the same shelf at the grocery store and rightly felt confused about which one to get. The canned milk products look similar, but their differences can greatly affect your recipe’s result. So, what exactly is the difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk? And can they be used interchangeably? Here, we distill the differences between these two types of milk in a can and share our favorite recipes highlighting these powerhouse pantry staples.

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Food Network Kitchen's Thai Iced Tea, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

Evaporated Milk vs Condensed Milk

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.

Evaporated milk is simply fresh milk that’s been heated until about 60 percent of its water content has evaporated. From here, the evaporated milk is homogenized, canned and heat sterilized. There are three different kinds of evaporated milk depending on the milk’s fat content: whole milk, low-fat and skim. Unopened cans of evaporated milk can keep for more than a year. But if you open a can and it’s dark yellow or brown (a light brown color is normal), smells bad or appears curdled, don’t use it. Evaporated milk can be subbed in for milk or half-and-half in savory and sweet recipes. To learn more about this pantry powerhouse, check out our evaporated milk primer.

Condensed milk is evaporated milk that typically has sweetener added, so much so that the terms ‘condensed milk’ and ‘sweetened condensed milk’ are used interchangeably. Sugar is added before canning; condensed milk is very sweet and contains about 40 to 45 percent sugar. Condensed milk is a kitchen staple around the world, including in Asia, where it’s used to sweeten drinks, as with Thai Iced Tea (pictured above), or snacks, such as this Hong Kong-Style Condensed Milk Toast; Latin America, where it stars in confections such as Tres Leches Cake; and in desserts across Europe and the U.S., such as fudge and no-churn ice cream. The thick, creamy and caramel-colored liquid adds sweetness and richness to all manner of desserts without the moisture content of regular milk. Think: pie filling, cake batter, bars, milkshakes and caramel sauces. Need further proof you need to stock your pantry with this sweet, liquid gold? Check out our sweetened condensed milk recipe guide.

Can I Use Evaporated Milk Instead of Condensed Milk?

Yes and no. For the most part, if you find yourself without condensed milk on hand, you can substitute an equal amount of evaporated milk. The consistency will be the same, but since evaporated milk is unsweetened, you’ll need to add sweetener to match the recipe’s intended flavor profile or to suit your personal preference. Take note, however, that since the sugar in condensed milk concentrates during the canning process, it inherently has a more caramelized taste. So, for recipes that lean toward more of a caramel flavor profile, such as tres leches cake, you’re better off using what the recipe calls for.

Recipes with Sweetened Condensed Milk

A standard can of sweetened condensed milk is 14 fluid ounces. Many recipes call for a full can, but if it doesn’t, you can transfer leftovers to an air-tight, resealable container and store it in the fridge for up to a month. Stir some into a cup of tea or coffee, dribble some over warm cobbler or add it to milkshakes for an extra pop of creamy sweetness. Or heat and reduce it slightly to make a one-ingredient caramel sauce that’s ace drizzled on ice cream or dolloped onto pound cake.

FNK MAGIC BARSFood Network KitchenFood NetworkUnsalted Butter, Graham Crackers, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Semisweet Chocolate Chips,Butterscotch or Peanut Butter Chips, Pecans, Sweetened Coconut,FNK MAGIC BARS Food Network Kitchen Food Network Unsalted Butter, Graham Crackers, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Semisweet Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch or Peanut Butter Chips, Pecans, Sweetened Coconut

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Proof that a can of condensed milk can steer sweet treats into extra-special territory are these aptly named magic bars. They come together in just 15 minutes and the combination of graham cracker crumbs and sweetened condensed milk creates an irresistible, ooey-gooey bottom layer.

Food Network Kitchen’s NoChurn Vanilla Ice Cream as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2015

Matt Armendariz, 2015

Thanks to a can of sweetened condensed milk, you don’t need any special equipment to make this ultra-creamy ice cream. It makes for a rich scoop as is, but lends itself to multiple add-ins, like berries or candies, too.

This is the receipe for Coquito

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

This traditional Puerto Rican beverage is typically served at Christmas and drinks like eggnog with a tropical, coconutty twist. It relies on both sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk to achieve its rich, creamy consistency.

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Photo by: Kang Kim

Kang Kim

A combination of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk anchor this traditional Latin American cake, which gets a flavor twist thanks to the addition of instant coffee swirled into the glossy homemade caramel sauce.

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Food Stylist: Brett Kurzweil

Photo by: James Wojcik Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin 917 751 2855

James Wojcik Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin 917 751 2855

This over-the-top banana split-inspired dessert wouldn’t be complete without a hearty drizzle of its signature sauce, made by whisking sweetened condensed milk, chocolate, peanut butter and whole milk in a saucepan till smooth. Be sure to serve the sauce warm.

Evaporated Milk Recipes

A standard can of evaporated milk contains 12 fluid ounces, and most recipes are developed to use an entire can. If you have leftover evaporated milk, transfer to a resealable, air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Use it in place of half-and-half in your morning cuppa or add a splash to dishes that would benefit from extra creaminess and body, such as smoothies, oatmeal, soups or savory sauces.

Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

When mixed with butter and shredded cheese, a can of evaporated milk helps create a thick-and-creamy sauce to enrobe noodles in this easy, one-pot mac and cheese recipe.

VinceCamillo_ApplesauceWaffles_H

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

If you find yourself craving pancakes or waffles only to discover you’re out of milk and eggs, evaporated milk handily stands in for both.

FROM THE PANTRY: CREAMY MUSHROOM PASTAFood Network KitchenBowtie Pasta, Evaporated Milk, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil, AllPurposeFlour, Dijon Mustard,Garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, Sweet Paprika, Jar Sliced Mushrooms, Sherry Vinegar orWhite Wine Vinegar, Dried Dill Weed, Dried Chives, or Dried Parsley,FROM THE PANTRY: CREAMY MUSHROOM PASTA Food Network Kitchen Bowtie Pasta, Evaporated Milk, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil, AllPurpose Flour, Dijon Mustard, Garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, Sweet Paprika, Jar Sliced Mushrooms, Sherry Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar, Dried Dill Weed, Dried Chives, or Dried Parsley

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

This back-pocket pasta dish relies on pantry staples like evaporated milk, canned sliced mushrooms, boxed chicken broth and Dijon mustard to turn a regular weeknight supper into a comfort food marvel.

FNK_DumpPumpkinPie_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Dump Pumpkin Pie, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

Even if you’re team crust, we promise you won’t miss it with this easy one-pan dessert. The creamy pumpkin filling owes its lushness to the addition of a can of evaporated milk and is nicely offset by a crunchy topping crafted with spice cake mix, graham crackers and pecans.

Milk Shake FV1.tif

Photo by: Paul Sirisalee

Paul Sirisalee

What do you get when you blend store-bought scoops with flavored syrup and evaporated milk? An extra-thick milkshake that’s so good, it rivals the restaurant menu item that inspired the recipe.

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