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

By Patricia S York
April 01, 2020
Credit: Kajakiki/Getty Images

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.

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. This process makes the milk shelf-stable for months, sometimes even years. Evaporated milk, a heavier tasting milk with a slightly toasted or caramelized flavor, is often used in homemade ice cream  and cake frostings.  When mixed with 1 ½ parts water, 1 part evaporated milk can be reconstituted into the proportional equivalent of regular milk.

Substitute Regular Milk for Evaporated Milk

The milk you have in the refrigerator is a good substitute for evaporated milk. For the best evaporated milk substitute, make your own: In a saucepan, pour 60 percent more milk than called for in the recipe, bring it to a simmer, and gently reduce it until the desired amount is reached. Cool the mixture before using.

Substitute Non-Dairy Milk for Evaporated Milk

If you don’t use dairy products you can still have evaporated milk. Simmer nut milk to reduce and concentrate the flavor and texture: when reduced by half, it is approximately the thickness of heavy cream. Whether it can be substituted for evaporated milk will depend to some extent on the dish, but in general, you should be able to use it.

Substitute Half and Half for Evaporated Milk

You can substitute the same amount of half-and-half for evaporated milk (i.e. one cup of half-and-half for one cup of evaporated milk). You won’t get the same note of caramelized flavor that you would from evaporated milk, but the creamy consistency of half-and-half mimics that of evaporated milk.

Substitute Heavy Cream for Evaporated Milk

This fattier liquid will make the recipe turn out richer than if you had used evaporated milk, but it is still a good substitute. If you have both cream and regular milk on hand, mix together half cream and half milk and use that as a substitute.

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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Don’t confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk, which is milk that has also been boiled down to remove some of the water content but has had a lot of sugar added to it.