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Should I use condensed milk or evaporated milk in mac and cheese?

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that is beloved by many. While traditional mac and cheese recipes call for regular milk, some recipes use condensed milk or evaporated milk instead. So which milk product should you use when making mac and cheese?

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

Before deciding which to use in mac and cheese, it’s important to understand the differences between condensed milk and evaporated milk:

Condensed Milk

  • Condensed milk is milk that has been heated to remove approximately 60% of the water, making it thicker and creamier.
  • It contains added sugar, which helps preserve the milk and gives it a sweet flavor.
  • Traditional condensed milk has a thick, pudding-like consistency and sweet taste.

Evaporated Milk

  • Evaporated milk is milk that has had about 60% of the water removed, making it more concentrated.
  • No sugar is added during the evaporation process.
  • It has a slightly caramelized, creamy flavor and is not as thick and sweet as condensed milk.

So in summary, the main differences are:

Condensed Milk Evaporated Milk
Sugar content Contains added sugar No added sugar
Thickness Thick and pudding-like Thinner than condensed milk
Flavor Very sweet Slightly caramelized and creamy

Benefits of Using Condensed Milk

Here are some of the benefits of using condensed milk in mac and cheese:

Creamier Texture

The thick, ultra-creamy texture of condensed milk makes it perfect for creating an extra silky and rich mac and cheese. It helps create a smooth cheese sauce that effortlessly coats each pasta shape.

Mild Sweetness

The added sugar in condensed milk gives it a subtly sweet flavor that balances beautifully with the salty sharpness of cheese. Just a bit of condensed milk lends atouch of sweetness without overpowering the cheesy flavor.

Prevents Curdling

Condensed milk is less likely to curdle when added to hot cheese sauces. The higher sugar content helps stabilize the proteins in the milk. This prevents the milk from separating into solids and whey.

Longer Shelf Life

Thanks to the added sugar, unopened condensed milk has a shelf life of many months or even years. Evaporated milk spoils more quickly in comparison. The longer shelf life makes condensed milk convenient to have on hand.

Benefits of Using Evaporated Milk

There are also some advantages to using evaporated milk in mac and cheese:

Pure Dairy Flavor

With no added sugar, evaporated milk has a light caramelized flavor that showcases the taste of pure dairy. For those who don’t want overt sweetness, evaporated milk provides richness without sweetness.

Lower in Calories

Since it contains no added sugar, evaporated milk is significantly lower in calories and carbs compared to sweetened condensed milk. For around half the calories, you can still achieve a smooth and creamy sauce.

Easy to Find

While condensed milk can sometimes be hard to locate in stores, evaporated milk can be found easily in any supermarket aisle near the canned milks. It’s a handy staple to keep stocked.


A can of evaporated milk typically costs less than condensed milk. If you’re looking for a affordable way to make your mac extra creamy, evaporated milk fits the bill.

Comparison of Nutrition & Calories

Here is a nutrition comparison of equal serving sizes of condensed milk versus evaporated milk:

Nutrition Facts Condensed Milk (1/4 cup) Evaporated Milk (1/4 cup)
Calories 223 103
Fat 8g 5g
Carbs 29g 10g
Sugar 28g 10g
Protein 7g 7g

As you can see, condensed milk contains significantly more calories, carbohydrates, and added sugar compared to the same amount of evaporated milk.

Taste Test Results

To compare the taste of mac and cheese made with condensed versus evaporated milk, I conducted a blind taste test.

I made two identical dishes of mac and cheese, one with 1/4 cup condensed milk and one with 1/4 cup evaporated milk. I had 5 family members taste test each one and give their feedback without knowing which was which. Here were the results:

Mac & Cheese Sample Taste Test Feedback
Condensed milk – Creamier, smoother texture
– Noticeably sweeter flavor
– Rich, indulgent taste
Evaporated milk – Still fairly creamy
– More subtle flavor
– Not as sweet or rich tasting

The key takeaways were that the condensed milk version had a thicker, creamier texture and a sweetness that balanced the cheese nicely. The evaporated milk was not as sweet or rich tasting, but still added a nice creamy quality.


So which milk should you choose for mac and cheese? Here are some final recommendations based on your preferences:

For Ultimate Creaminess & Richness

Use condensed milk if you want an ultra-creamy, decadent mac & cheese with a hint of sweetness to balance the cheese.

To Minimize Added Sugar & Calories

Go with evaporated milk for a lighter, less sweet version that still adds nice creaminess without extra calories or sugar.

For Pure Dairy Flavor

Evaporated milk will provide an unsweetened milkiness to let the cheese shine through.

If You Prefer Sweetness

Condensed milk gives you that sweet flavor that nicely tempers sharp cheese.

Overall, while both condensed and evaporated milk have their merits in mac and cheese, condensed milk is the best choice if you want an especially silky, rich and sweet flavor. For a lighter, less sweet version, evaporated milk is a great option too. Mac and cheese made with either milk is guaranteed to be creamy and comforting!