What’s the Difference Between Evaporated and Condensed Milk?

You likely have both of these staples in your pantry, but how do they differ? Learn all about both types of canned milk—and secrets for using each one.

Glass jar with condensed milk or evaporated milk on blue rustic table.Julia Sudnitskaya/Shutterstock

It happens almost every Thanksgiving. I'm super excited to whip up one of my favorite pumpkin pie recipes, when I realize it's a can of condensed milk hiding in my pantry—not the evaporated milk I need. Frustrated, I go to the store, because even though they're similar in name, there's a stark difference between evaporated and condensed milk.

Luckily, it's easy to remember the difference. Read on to discover more about each type of milk and to learn if you can substitute condensed milk for evaporated milk—or vice versa.

What is evaporated milk?

Evaporated milk is just what it sounds like. It's milk that has gone through a cooking process to remove—or evaporate—over half of the water content. The resulting liquid is creamier and thicker than regular whole milk, making it the perfect addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Since most of the water is removed, evaporated milk also provides a concentrated, nutty flavor.

Keep evaporated milk on hand to mix into mac and cheese or to use in custard-based desserts. As far as nutritional value goes, full-fat evaporated milk has about 340 calories and 20 grams of fat per cup, making it a healthier replacement for heavy cream.

The shelf life of evaporated milk is also much longer than fresh milk. Expect a can to last in your pantry for six months to a year—depending on if you buy the full-fat or low-fat variety. Try it out with these extra-delicious evaporated milk recipes.

What is condensed milk?

Condensed milk is evaporated milk's sweeter cousin. Regular milk is cooked down to remove water—but lots of sugar is added, too. The end result is super thick and sweet. You'll find condensed milk on the ingredients list of many dessert recipes, including fudge, layered bars, and frozen pies. Have a can on hand? Don't miss our sweetest ways to use condensed milk.

From a nutritional standpoint, condensed milk is far from healthy, packing in nearly 1,000 calories and over 150 grams of sugar per cup. With all this added sugar, condensed milk tends to last in the pantry longer than other canned milks. When properly stored, it lasts for years before going bad. Speaking of sugar, learn about another perplexing food difference: What makes light and dark brown sugar different?

How can I substitute for canned milk?

It's pretty frustrating to get halfway through a recipe before realizing it calls for an ingredient you don't have on hand. Luckily, when it comes to evaporated and condensed milk, there are a few easy substitutions.

  • When you're out of evaporated milk: To mimic the taste and consistency of evaporated milk, simply boil fresh milk until it reduces in volume. For best results, use 2 percent or whole milk.
  • Can you substitute condensed milk for evaporated milk? In most recipes, you can—just be sure to add additional sugar. You'll want to add roughly 1 cup of sugar to each cup of evaporated milk, and heat the mixture in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Read on for more brilliant kitchen shortcuts you'll wish you'd always known.

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