Condensed milk is a thick, sweetened milk product used in many recipes. It comes in two main varieties – sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Sweetened condensed milk has added sugar, while evaporated milk is unsweetened. Both have had about 60% of the water content removed, giving them a thick, creamy texture. If you don’t have condensed milk on hand, there are several handy substitutions you can use in baking and cooking. Here’s an overview of the most common options.
Evaporated milk makes an excellent 1:1 substitute for sweetened condensed milk. Since evaporated milk has no added sugar, you’ll need to compensate by adding sugar to taste. For every 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk called for, use 1 cup evaporated milk and stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar. The amount of sugar depends on how sweet you want the final dish to be.
Evaporated milk has a slightly cooked flavor that mimics the flavor of condensed milk well. The only difference is it won’t be as thick or saucy without the added sugar. It works wonderfully in desserts, baked goods, fudge, and candies.
Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk
For dairy-free or vegan recipes, condensed coconut milk makes a tasty substitute. To make it, combine equal parts canned coconut milk and sugar in a saucepan. Bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes so the mixture thickens up. Then let it cool completely before using.
The thick, luxurious texture of coconut milk mimics the richness of condensed milk nicely. Just keep in mind the flavor will be coconut-forward instead of having the distinctive dairy flavor. It works very well in desserts, puddings, curries, and Asian-inspired dishes.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de leche, also known as cajeta, is essentially caramel made from heated sweetened condensed milk. You can easily make it yourself by simmering an unopened can of condensed milk for 2-3 hours. As it cooks, the milk caramelizes into a thick, gooey caramel sauce with a subtle milky undertone.
You can use store-bought or homemade dulce de leche in place of condensed milk in many recipes. The caramel flavor pairs especially well with chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. Use it to make outrageously decadent desserts like dulce de leche cake, cookies, or ice cream.
Sweetened Cream Cheese
Here’s an out-of-the-box substitution if you can’t use dairy – sweetened cream cheese! Beat together 4 ounces of softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. The texture is not exactly the same, but the flavor profile is similar.
Sweetened cream cheese works very well in dessert recipes like cheesecake, fudge, frostings, fillings, and no-bake desserts. For best results, opt for full-fat brick cream cheese rather than the softly whipped kind. The firmer texture stands in better for condensed milk.
You can actually make an emergency batch of homemade condensed milk by blending ice cream in the blender. Vanilla ice cream works best, but any flavor will do. Blend it until completely smooth and creamy. For every 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk, substitute 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups ice cream puree.
The softened, blended ice cream takes on a texture very close to real condensed milk. Use it any time you’re in a pinch and need condensed milk for baking, fudge, caramel, etc. The hint of vanilla is an added bonus!
Milk and Butter
In a rush? Just mix together 1 cup whole milk with 1/3 cup butter. Bring the mixture to a simmer then let it cool slightly. The butter helps thicken and enrich the milk to more closely mimic condensed milk.
While not an exact match, milk and butter work great in a last-minute pinch. The dairy flavor is spot-on, making it ideal for cookies, bars, candies, and desserts. For every 1 cup condensed milk, substitute 1 cup milk-butter mixture. You can also add up to 1/2 cup sugar for extra sweetness if desired.
Reconstituted powdered milk is an easy pantry friendly substitute. To use, mix 1/4 cup powdered milk with 3/4 cup warm water. Then beat in 2 tablespoons soft butter and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth and uniform.
Make sure to use full-fat powdered milk for the richest flavor and texture. The concentrated milk solids help achieve a thick, creamy condensed milk consistency. Use it anywhere you need an emergency condensed milk substitute for baking or candy making.
Plain yogurt is an unsung hero when it comes to substituting condensed milk. Greek yogurt works best for its ultra-thick texture that mimics condensed milk well. For every 1 cup condensed milk, use 1 cup plain Greek yogurt whisked smooth. Add 1/4 cup sugar for sweetness if desired.
The tangy yogurt flavor mellows out when cooked, leaving behind a lovely creamy texture. Yogurt is wonderful in spice cakes, fruit desserts, fudge, and more. The natural acidity helps recipes balance out without over-sweetening things.
With so many handy options like evaporated milk, dulce de leche, ice cream and more, you can clearly survive without condensed milk in a pinch! Each substitution has its own unique pros and cons in terms of texture, flavor, and sweetness. But they all work quite well in place of real condensed milk for baking, candy, desserts, and other recipes. Some experimenting may be needed to adjust sugar and other ingredients with unsweetened substitutions. But the results are very rewarding when you need to avoid a late-night emergency store run for condensed milk.