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Sweetened Condensed Milk vs. Evaporated Milk

Sweetened Condensed Milk vs. Evaporated MilkTwo of the most often confused ingredients in the kitchen are sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Their names are similar, and when you take into consideration the fact that sweetened condensed milk is frequently called “condensed milk,” the two products seem just about the same even though they are very different.

Sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk start out in much the same way, as concentrated milk that has been cooked in a high heat environment to remove most of the water naturally in the milk. To make evaporated milk, about 60% of the water in regular milk is cooked out . It is available in full-fat, non-fat and low-fat varieties, and will add some richness to a recipe if you use it in place of regular milk. It has about the same consistency as cream. Sweetened condensed milk, on the other hand, is much thicker than evaporated milk and is much sweeter, though it too starts with milk that has had some of the water cooked out of it. Approximately 40% of what is inside a can of sweetened condensed milk is sugar, which is why it has a sweet, caramelized taste, light brown color and a very thick consistency.

Sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are not interchangeable; one cannot be substituted for another. Flavor-wise, they are at opposite ends of the sweetness spectrum, and you can’t simply add sugar to evaporated milk to sweeten it up because the milk would have too be cooked with the sugar until it has condensed down significantly for that to even approximate sweetened condensed milk. Both evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk are shelf-stable and will last for a long time. I like to keep a can of each around so that I have it if a recipe unexpectedly calls for it and I don’t have to run to the store, trying to remember which product I have at home and which one I need.

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22 Comments
  • Debbie
    February 6, 2009

    My sister once used sweetened condensed milk instead of condensed milk in a potato dish for Thanksgiving. Yucky.

  • marguerite
    February 6, 2009

    I used to love sweetened condensed milk over hot white rice for breakfast or dessert!

  • Pat
    February 6, 2009

    Thank you for all the ‘bites’! What I have been wondering about lately, it seems a lot, is what would be the results in a recipe if I used 2% milk instead of condensed milk? I really do not care for the evaporated milk flavor.

  • Nicole
    February 6, 2009

    Pat – The recipe should still work, but regular milk is a bit watered down compared to evaporated/condensed milk. The end result will probably taste a bit less creamy, if you’re making pudding or something, and have a bit more of an open crumb, if you’re making a cake. I would try half and half if you want to try for the same type of texture, but really it shouldn’t make that big of a difference in most recipes.

  • June
    February 7, 2009

    Thank you for clearing this up. I always wondered!!!

  • Donna
    June 13, 2009

    Hi there, =) I just found your site and it looks awesome!..but I already have a question. (LOL) How, exactly, is Half & Half different from the Condensed (sweetened) Milk and the Evaporated milks… which you described above? You described the differences in those 2 perfectly I might add. TIA! =)
    Donna

  • Nicole
    June 14, 2009

    Donna – Thanks! Half-and-half is a mixture of milk and cream, so it has roughly the same consistency as milk but a higher fat content. It has not been condensed (had excess water removed to thicken it) nor is sugar added to it. It isn’t a substitute for either sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk.
    I hope that helps!

  • Ruth Mitchell
    August 4, 2009

    I know there is a recipe to make sweeten condensed milk form Cornation evaportated milk, but I have lost my recipe. Can you give me the instructions for making it.

    Thanks, Ruth

  • J Douw
    May 23, 2010

    My pudding recipe calls for 1 (14oz) can evaporated milk and 2 lb sugar. Could I substitute condensed milk? If so, how much would replace the original ingredients?
    Thank you!
    JD

  • sam
    September 2, 2010

    does condensed milk have to be cooked to use it in a recipe or can u use it right out of the can

  • destrif
    March 9, 2011

    Evaporated milk is usually stored in a sealed can and is usually thicker than the fresh milk. However, many people prefer buying evaporated milk as it can be stored for a longer time, and it doesn’t need refrigeration until the can is opened.

  • JC
    December 7, 2011

    If sweetened condensed milk is use in baking, does the end result need to be refrigerated? I make a brownie with a coconut center made with sweetened condensed milk. Thank you.

  • CM
    October 28, 2012

    I accidentally added sweetened condensed to a soup that called for evaporated milk…. Help! Can I add something that can counteract this taste? I have added regular milk and a little vinegar, any other ideas?

  • shay
    November 24, 2012

    My question about condensed milk or evaporated milk was answered just by reading comments here on your website…awesome !! Happy Holidays and may you all be blessed with Good Eats !!

  • Joanne
    November 29, 2012

    I accidentially picked up sweet condensed milk to make a Libby’s Pumpkin Pie which calls for evaporated milk, can I use the “sweet condensed milk” anyway?

  • Pat
    December 6, 2012

    Unfortuntely, the article did not answer my question. I have a very old recipe for Poppyseed Cake. A fold in the paper has eliminated some details, including “1 large can (looks like Carnation, looks like an M) “. Would this be evaporated or condensed, do you think? I need to make the cake today or tomorrow!

  • Nicole
    December 6, 2012

    Pat – If there is a lot of sugar in the recipe, it probably calls for evaporated milk. You might want to try a google search for a similar recipe just in case you find the one you’re looking for.

  • Deb
    January 19, 2013

    I have a scone recipe that calls for whipping cream. Can I substitute evaporated milk. I’m trying to lighten up the recipe.

  • Maegan
    February 12, 2014

    If s box cake calls for water, can I not use water but use half 2% mikkand half sweetened condense milk?? I’m looking at what will make it rich and moist. A devils food cake mix.

  • Nicole
    February 13, 2014

    Maegan – You should be able to use milk in place of water in a cake mix. You might want to try evaporated milk instead of sweetened condensed milk, because sweetened condensed milk has a lot of sugar and could throw off the flavor of the cake mix.

  • Jowdy
    July 15, 2014

    Can anyone tell me how to make condensed milk with evaporated milk and sugar?

  • […] into an ice cream maker. It has just three ingredients: milk, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. The sweetened condensed milk adds plenty of sweetness to the gelato and also helps to make the finished product a little richer. […]

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