The Best Substitutes For Evaporated Milk

Don't abandon your baking project. You probably have a good substitute in the fridge.

Oops, you did it again. Thumbing through a cookbook, your eyes land on a new and intriguing-sounding recipe that grabs your attention. You quickly glance over the ingredient list—eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, flour, etc., and mentally check each item off, excited that you have everything you need to get started. Off to the kitchen you go and, just like Mom taught, you prep your ingredients so as not to make an error: preheat the oven, measure the dry ingredients, separate the eggs, cube the butter, measure the…wait, measure the evaporated milk?? You can't even remember the last time you bought a can of evaporated milk. Rather than running to the store or abandoning your baking project, you do have options. There are several substitutes for evaporated milk.

evaporated milk
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What Is Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk is canned, highly concentrated, shelf-stable milk. To make the product, about 60 percent of the water is evaporated from cow's milk, after which the liquid is canned and sterilized with heat. Don't confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk, which is boiled down to remove some of the water content but also has had a lot of sugar added to it. Evaporated milk has no added sugar and can be used in both savory and sweet recipes.

The evaporation process makes the milk shelf-stable for months, sometimes even years. This high-protein, high-fat milk has a slightly toasted or caramelized flavor and is often used in homemade ice cream and cake frostings. Evaporated milk is also used to add a creamy texture in bisques and chowders.

When mixed with 1 ½ parts water, evaporated milk can be reconstituted into the proportional equivalent of regular milk. But you're attempting to do the opposite—you need to convert a dairy or non-dairy product into evaporated milk. Here's how you do that.

Substitute Regular Milk for Evaporated Milk

The milk you have in the refrigerator is the best substitute for evaporated milk because it can be concentrated, much like the product you find on grocery store shelves. To make your own evaporated milk, pour 2/3 more milk than called for in the recipe into a saucepan. Bring the milk to a simmer and gently reduce it until the desired amount is reached. Allow the mixture to cool before using.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, Carolyn O'Neil prefers this method of reducing regular milk to achieve a suitable substitute for evaporated milk because the saturated fat and total fat content should be similar. She further explains that when you substitute half and half or coconut milk for regular milk, you are not only increasing the total fat but the saturated fat content as well. Over consumption of saturated fats is linked to increased levels of blood cholesterol and a risk for cardiovascular disease.

Substitute Half-and-Half for Evaporated Milk

Half-and-half has less protein and more fat than evaporated milk, but you can substitute the same amount of half-and-half for evaporated milk in a recipe. You won't get the same note of caramelized flavor that you would from evaporated milk, but the creamy consistency makes this an excellent substitute.

Substitute Heavy Cream for Evaporated Milk

This thicker, much fattier dairy product will make the recipe turn out richer than if you had used evaporated milk or half-and-half, but it is still a good substitute. Use the same amount of cream as you would evaporated milk. Or, If you have both cream and regular milk on hand, thin the cream to make your own half and half. Whisk together equal parts of cream and milk and use the same amount called for in your recipe.

Substitute Non-Dairy Milk for Evaporated Milk

If you don't use dairy products, you can still create a variation of evaporated milk. In fact, some manufacturers make evaporated almond and coconut milks that you can buy from the store. Keep in mind that each type of non-dairy milk has a very different flavor and varies significantly in protein, carbohydrates, and fat content. This can affect how your recipe turns out.

Soy milk is nutritionally the closest to dairy milk and makes a good substitute when reduced by simmering on the stove in the same way. Nut milks can also be reduced and used, but may be more suitable for sweet dishes depending on the flavor of the milk.

Oat, rice, and flax milks can be reduced to use in a dish, but the end result will likely be thinner than other alternatives. Simmer and reduce by half, and then thicken these milks with the addition of corn starch if needed.

Coconut milk is much higher in fat and calories than other non-dairy milks. Because it is already thick, this ingredient does not require reducing on the stove. Use the same amount of coconut milk in the recipe as you would evaporated milk.

Substitute Powdered Milk for Evaporated Milk

You can actually rehydrate powdered milk into evaporated milk. Simply add 60 percent of the amount of water called for to reconstitute the product into regular milk, and there you have it—evaporated milk.

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