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.


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.


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.

The Difference Between Evaporated and Condensed Milk—and When to Use Each

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


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? ›

Evaporated milk is milk that has been heated so that about 60% of the water evaporates. It is then canned and can be used as you would half-and-half, since it is extra creamy! Condensed milk is made in a similar way, but sugar is added to it so that about 45% of its content is sugar.

What happens when you substitute condensed milk for 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.

Why sweetened condensed milk Cannot be used interchangeably with evaporated milk? ›

It's thicker and sweeter than evaporated milk, which means the two cannot be used interchangeably. It's typically used to make rich desserts, such as magic cookie bars, tres leches cakes or an easy caramel sauce. Just two tablespoons of condensed milk contain 18 grams of added sugar.

Is sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk better for coffee? ›

However, condensed milk has much more sugar in it. This is the reason why you get a sweet coffee when you add condensed milk to it. Evaporated milk does not make your coffee this sweet. It is more about neutralizing the coffee bitterness than making it acquire sweet taste.

Can I drink evaporated milk? ›

Evaporated milk may also be added to coffee or tea, or used as a substitute for heavy cream or half-and-half. You may even decide to drink it on its own, use it to prepare smoothies, or enjoy it with your favorite cereal, especially if you're trying to gain weight.

What is a good substitute for sweetened condensed milk? ›

Almond Milk and Sugar

For a substitute, simmer 2 cups of almond milk over low heat until the liquid reduces to 1 cup. (This is not a one-to-one alternative. You do need 2 cups of almond milk to make one cup of sweetened condensed milk.) To sweeten this up, you can add 2/3 cup of any type of sugar and mix.

What happens if I use sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in fudge? ›

Don't Substitute One for the Other

Thus, using condensed milk in a recipe that requires evaporated milk will yield an overly sweet dish.

Can I use evaporated milk instead of milk in mac and cheese? ›

While almost all of the variations I've tried have been worth eating (mac and cheese is like pizza in that even bad versions are at least edible), my favorite mac and cheese recipes use evaporated milk instead of regular milk or even cream.

Can you use evaporated milk instead of condensed milk for ice cream? ›

We recommend regular or powdered milk, but with a few tweaks, you can also use half-and-half, heavy cream, or non-dairy milk. While evaporated milk lacks the syrupy sweetness of the condensed version, you can use it as a substitute for condensed milk in a pinch.

Can you turn evaporated milk into sweetened condensed milk? ›

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.

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.

Can I use heavy cream instead of evaporated milk? ›

With its very similar consistency, 1 cup of heavy cream can replace 1 cup of evaporated milk in sweet and savory dishes. While the flavor will be blander than evaporated milk's unique caramelized tones, the texture will be noticeably richer.

What country uses sweetened condensed milk in coffee? ›

Even after refrigeration became readily available, sweetened condensed milk remained the traditional way to lighten and sweeten your coffee in many places, particularly Vietnam. It has a uniquely rich taste and smooth texture.

Which is healthier condensed milk or evaporated milk? ›

In summary, evaporated milk is unsweetened and has a similar nutritional value to regular milk, while sweetened condensed milk is very sweet and has a higher calorie count due to the added sugar.

Why do people put condensed milk in coffee? ›

Ever had Vietnamese iced coffee? If so, you know that the sweet, syrupy taste of condensed milk serves as the perfect counterpoint to the smokiness of dark-roast robusta coffee, creating a bold beverage that packs as much of a punch with flavor as it does with caffeine.

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.

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 do you use sweetened condensed milk for? ›

Sweetened-condensed milk is the perfect addition to all kinds of treats and recipes, from pies to fudge to tres leches cake. But in Vietnamese coffee culture, it has a much more important purpose – it's mixed into strong coffee to make delicious, traditional Vietnamese brew.

Is heavy cream and evaporated milk the same thing? ›

Evaporated Milk – With a similar consistency, you can use a 1-to-1 swap of evaporated milk for heavy cream in most sweet and savory dishes. Its flavor is richer with unique caramelized tones and is not a lower-fat option, but evaporated milk makes do in a pinch.

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