Evaporated Milk Substitutes

Evaporated milk is a dairy product with about 60% of the water removed, leaving a concentrated, creamy liquid that’s versatile in both cooking and baking. Its reduced water content lends a richness to dishes without the added fat of cream, making it a staple for creating thick, luscious sauces, custards, and desserts. However, you might find yourself in a situation where you need a substitute, either due to dietary restrictions, personal preferences, or simply because your pantry is lacking this shelf-stable ingredient.

Fortunately, there are a variety of evaporated milk substitutes that can closely mimic its function in recipes. If you’re using it as a baking ingredient, the ideal substitute will maintain the desired texture and structure of your baked goods. In the realm of cooking, taste and creaminess are paramount, and your substitute should complement the flavor profile of your dish. From dairy alternatives like whole milk, half-and-half, and heavy cream, to non-dairy options such as coconut milk, there’s a substitute that can suit almost any requirement.

Understanding Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is a staple in many kitchens due to its versatility and extended shelf life. It’s integral in both sweet and savory recipes, offering a rich texture and flavor that can be pivotal to different dishes.

Basics of Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is a dairy product created by removing approximately 60% of the water content from fresh milk. The process concentrates the milk, increasing the fat content and nutritional density. What you’re left with is a canned product with a much longer shelf life than its liquid counterpart, able to be stored for months or even years. Evaporated milk emerged in the 19th century as a way for milk to be preserved without refrigeration.

Nutritional aspects to note:

  • Protein content remains high.
  • Certain vitamins and minerals are more concentrated.

Culinary Uses of Evaporated Milk

Your culinary endeavors may often call for evaporated milk, given its rich and slightly caramelized flavor. In baking, it’s a secret to moist cakes and sweet bread, and it’s a classic ingredient in classic pumpkin pie and tres leches cake. Evaporated milk also brings creaminess to soups, sauces, and casseroles without adding the extra fat that comes with cream or half-and-half.

Key Recipe Considerations:

  • Substitute in equal ratios for cream in most recipes.
  • Dilute with water to approximate the consistency of fresh milk.

Remember, when you’re cooking, evaporated milk can withstand high temperatures without curdling, making it a reliable dairy base for your recipes.

Dairy-Based Substitutes


When looking for a dairy-based substitute for evaporated milk, your goal is to find an ingredient that provides a similar creamy consistency without altering the taste of your dish too much. The fat content and reduction level in dairy products are key factors to consider.

Whole Milk and Its Variants

Whole milk is a suitable evaporated milk substitute due to its rich fat content. To replicate the thickness of evaporated milk, use double the volume of whole milk and simmer it until reduced by half. Variants of whole milk, such as 2% milk, 1% milk, or skim milk, can also be used; however, they present a less creamy consistency due to their lower fat content. Simmer your chosen variant much like you would whole milk to concentrate its flavor and texture.

  • Whole Milk: Simmer 2 cups to yield 1 cup of substitute
  • 2% Milk: Less creamy, simmer 2 cups to yield 1 cup of substitute
  • 1% or Skim Milk: Least creamy, simmer 2 cups to yield 1 cup of substitute

Cream Mixtures

A combination of milk and heavy cream can mimic evaporated milk’s creamy texture and rich flavor. Use a mixture of three parts milk to one part heavy cream for the best results. Half-and-half can also serve as a straightforward substitute without the need for reduction, providing a desirable creaminess to recipes.

Powdered and Condensed Milk

Powdered milk, which is just milk dehydrated, can be reconstituted with less water than directed to create a denser, creamier liquid resembling evaporated milk. For every cup of evaporated milk needed, mix 1.5 tablespoons of powdered milk with 1 cup of water. Be mindful not to confuse condensed milk with evaporated milk, as sweetened condensed milk has added sugar and is not interchangeable in savory dishes. However, unsweetened condensed milk can act as a direct substitute if available.

  • Powdered Milk: Mix 1.5 tablespoons with 1 cup of water for each cup of evaporated milk needed
  • Unsweetened Condensed Milk: Use as a 1:1 substitute (ensure it is unsweetened)

Non-Dairy Alternatives

Substitutes For Evaporated Milk - 5 Best Options

When considering non-dairy substitutes for evaporated milk, your primary concern may be to find an option that closely mimics the taste and texture without compromising on the culinary results. This section provides information about plant-based and specialized non-dairy alternatives that can be used in your cooking and baking endeavors.

Plant-Based Milks

Almond Milk: Typically low in calories and fat, almond milk can replace evaporated milk in recipes. Due to its slightly nutty taste, it may not be suitable for all dishes. For each cup of evaporated milk, you can use one cup of unsweetened almond milk.

NutrientPresence in Almond Milk
ProteinLower than dairy
VitaminsOften fortified
Neutral FlavorSlightly nutty

Soy Milk: Soy milk is a common substitute due to its higher protein content, closer to dairy milk. Use an equal amount to replace evaporated milk; its taste is more neutral, making it versatile for various recipes.

Rice Milk: With a naturally sweet flavor, rice milk is less allergenic — ideal for those intolerant to nuts and soy. However, it’s thinner in consistency and lighter in protein.

Oat Milk: Known for its creaminess and mild flavor, oat milk works well in savory and sweet dishes. Plus, its environmental footprint is relatively small compared to nut milks.

Coconut Milk: For a thicker, creamier texture, canned coconut milk can be an excellent dairy-free replacement, bearing a richer taste profile. It’s a popular choice in desserts and holds up well when simmered or baked.

NutrientPresence in Coconut Milk
VitaminsOften fortified
Neutral FlavorRich, slightly sweet

Specialty Non-Dairy Options

Lactose-Free Evaporated Milk: Specially formulated to be dairy-free, these products aim to provide a closer replacement for evaporated milk while being suitable for those with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy. They maintain a consistency and taste profile that’s akin to traditional evaporated milk.

Evaporated Coconut Milk: A concentrated form of coconut milk can act as a one-to-one substitute for evaporated milk, often found in a can. It captures the essence of coconut milk but with a reduced water content for a more concentrated flavor and creaminess.

By using the non-dairy alternatives suggested, you’ll be able to cater to dietary preferences and restrictions without sacrificing the quality and taste of your culinary creations. Each option presents its own set of benefits and taste profiles, allowing you to choose the best fit for your specific needs.

Homemade Evaporated Milk Solutions

How to Make Evaporated Milk | Bold Baking Basics

When you’re missing a can of evaporated milk in your pantry, you have a convenient option to make your own. Homemade evaporated milk is essentially milk reduced to about half its volume through a simple heating process.


  • Regular Milk


  1. Pour 2 ¼ cups of regular milk into a saucepan.
  2. Slowly bring the milk to a simmer, avoiding a full boil to prevent scorching.
  3. Keep the heat low and stir occasionally as the milk thickens.
  4. Once the volume is reduced by approximately 60%, you’ve achieved the desired consistency similar to that of commercial evaporated milk.

Remember that the quality and fat content of your homemade evaporated milk will naturally depend on the type of regular milk you start with.


  • Thickening Agent: Your homemade solution works well as a thickening ingredient in recipes ranging from soups to sauces and desserts.
  • Calories: Creating your own evaporated milk allows you to control the calorie content by choosing full-fat or low-fat milk according to your dietary needs.
  • Heating Process: Keep the heating gentle and consistent for the best texture, and avoid high heat to prevent altering the flavor.

By using this method, you’ll not only bypass a trip to the store but also ensure that your recipes have the rich, creamy texture that evaporated milk provides.

Practical Considerations

When choosing substitutes for evaporated milk, consider how sweetness and texture may be affected, the specific needs of your recipe, and any dietary restrictions you may have.

Adjusting for Sweetness and Texture

To match evaporated milk’s thick consistency and richness, you can create a mixture combining regular milk and a thickening agent like cornstarch. When substituting in sweet recipes, bear in mind that some alternatives might be lower in sugar than evaporated milk, so you may need to adjust the sweetness of your dish accordingly.

Application in Recipes

For savory dishes like mac and cheese or cheese sauce, use a mixture of heavy cream and whole milk as a substitute to achieve the desired creaminess without altering the taste significantly. In pies or other baked goods, consider using a half-and-half mixture of milk and heavy cream, being mindful that this may introduce more fat into your dish.

  • Heavy cream and milk mixture for mac and cheese: 50% heavy cream, 50% milk
  • Half-and-half mixture for pies: 50% heavy cream, 50% milk

Allergies and Dietary Restrictions

If you are vegan, allergic, or have a lactose intolerance, opt for dairy-free or lactose-free evaporated milk alternatives. Many stores offer soy, almond, or coconut-based substitutes that can be used in most recipes. Ensure you check the labels for any added sugars or flavors that may not be suitable for your needs.

Alternative TypeSuggested UseConsiderations
Soy-basedGeneral cooking and bakingNeutral flavor profile
Almond-basedDesserts and sweet dishesMay add a nutty flavor
Coconut-basedCurries and tropical dishesAdds a distinct coconut taste

Frequently Asked Questions

When substituting evaporated milk in recipes, consider the dish’s flavor profile and cooking method to ensure the best replacement is chosen.

What are some alternatives for evaporated milk when baking?

You can use a mixture of three parts whole milk to one part heavy cream to mimic evaporated milk’s richness. Alternatives like unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk can also work, but they may introduce a different flavor.

Can I use condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in recipes?

Yes, but since condensed milk is sweetened, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe accordingly to balance the sweetness.

In what ways can regular milk be used to replace evaporated milk?

You can simmer regular milk until it reduces by about 60% to replicate the consistency and flavor of evaporated milk.

How can I modify a Tres Leches cake recipe if I don’t have evaporated milk?

Use a mix of heavy cream and whole milk as a substitute in your Tres Leches cake to achieve the desired richness without evaporated milk.

What options do I have for an evaporated milk substitute in Mac and cheese?

For Mac and cheese, a half-and-half or a mix of milk and cream can provide the creamy texture that evaporated milk offers.

Is buttermilk a suitable alternative for evaporated milk in various recipes?

Buttermilk can be used as a replacement in recipes where tanginess is welcomed, but its thinner consistency will not provide the same creaminess as evaporated milk.

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us