How to Use Evaporated Milk in Cooking

Evaporated milk is a versatile pantry staple with a rich history in cooking and baking.

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Unlike its sweetened counterpart, condensed milk, evaporated milk is unsweetened milk that has been cooked down, allowing about 60% of its water content to evaporate.

The result is a denser, creamier product with a slightly caramelized flavor and a longer shelf life than regular milk.

Its shelf-stable nature ensures that you can keep it on hand for when you need to add a touch of creaminess to your dishes, without the worry of spoilage that accompanies fresh dairy products.

Evaporated milk being poured into a mixing bowl with flour and sugar, then stirred with a whisk

Incorporating evaporated milk into your recipes is straightforward and can elevate the texture and flavor profile of your food.

Whether you’re looking to enrich smoothies, coffee, creamy soups, or chowders, evaporated milk is an excellent choice.

Its ability to blend seamlessly into both sweet and savory recipes makes it a hardworking ingredient worthy of its place in your kitchen.

When using it as a substitute for fresh cream or milk, simply dilute it with an equal amount of water to achieve a traditional milk consistency or use it undiluted for a thicker, creamier result.

A can of evaporated milk sits on a kitchen counter next to a measuring cup and a mixing bowl. A recipe book is open to a page on how to use evaporated milk in cooking

Understanding Evaporated Milk

When you choose evaporated milk, you’re selecting a product that has undergone a precise process to concentrate its nutrients and flavor, offering versatility in cooking along with extended shelf life.

Production Process

Evaporated milk begins as regular cow’s milk, either whole or skim.

The milk is heated, allowing approximately 60% of the water content to evaporate, which thickens and concentrates the milk.

The milk is then homogenized, canned, and sterilized to keep it safe for consumption.

Unlike regular milk, this high-heat process gives evaporated milk a slightly caramelized flavor and color.

Nutritional Content

Evaporated milk is especially rich in protein, providing a higher concentration due to the removal of water.

It also retains much of the vitamin D and calcium found in regular milk, making it a nutritious choice. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Protein: Enhances the protein content of dishes.
  • Vitamin D: Fortified to support bone health.
  • Calcium: Essential for strong bones and teeth.

Storage and Shelf Life

Unopened, evaporated milk can be stored in a cool, dry place such as a pantry for months without spoiling, thanks to its sterilization process.

After opening, it should be transferred to a refrigerated environment in an airtight container, where it will last for several days.

Monitor the shelf life according to the manufacturer’s expiration date to ensure the milk proteins remain intact and the product safe to consume.

Evaporated Milk in the Kitchen

Evaporated milk is a versatile ingredient, providing both flavor and creamy richness to various dishes.

Versatility and Function

Evaporated milk can be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes. It’s a staple in the pantry that can enhance your cooking and baking experiences. Here’s how you can use it:

  • Cooking: Add evaporated milk to soups and sauces to create a smooth, rich texture without watering them down.
  • Baking: Use it for baked goods for increased moisture and a tender crumb.
  • Flavor: The slight caramelization of evaporated milk can enrich the flavor profile of your dishes.

Its reduced water content means that evaporated milk provides a creamier and richer outcome than regular milk.

Substituting Evaporated Milk

If you want to use evaporated milk as a substitute for regular milk, dilute it with water. The usual ratio is:

  • Mix 1 part evaporated milk to 1 part water for a result similar to regular milk.

For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, you’d mix 1/2 cup evaporated milk with 1/2 cup water. Here are specific use cases:

  • In Recipes: Use it undiluted for dishes that benefit from a creamier texture.
  • In Drinks: Sweeten your coffee or tea by adding it directly without dilution for a richer taste.

Cooking with Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is a highly versatile ingredient that can add a rich texture and creamy taste to a variety of dishes without the added sugars found in sweetened condensed milk.

Creamy Soups and Sauces

Incorporating evaporated milk into your soups and sauces enhances their creaminess without compromising on flavor.

When making a cheese sauce or Alfredo sauce, substitute evaporated milk for fresh milk or cream.

This will not only make your sauce richer but also cut down on the separation of fats that often happens with regular milk.

For a comforting Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, the addition of evaporated milk will create a velvety cheese sauce that melds together with the pasta perfectly.

  • Example Recipe: Classic Alfredo Sauce
    • Ingredients: Butter, Garlic, Parmesan cheese, Evaporated milk
    • Directions: Melt butter with garlic, stir in cheese until melted, add evaporated milk slowly until desired consistency is reached.

Baked Goods and Desserts

Evaporated milk provides moisture and binds ingredients together in baked goods and desserts.

Use it in recipes like tres leches cake to achieve a moist and spongey texture. Moreover, its subtle sweetness is a boon for pumpkin pie, yielding a filling that’s smooth and custardy.

When making cookies, replacing regular milk with evaporated milk results in a softer texture.

  • Sweet Baking Tip: For desserts that require a mild sweetness and creamy taste, such as tres leches or pumpkin pie, evaporated milk can be a secret weapon.

Savory Dishes

Your savory dishes, including casseroles and scalloped potatoes, benefit from evaporated milk’s lower water content.

It helps in creating a creamier texture without making your dish too watery. It’s perfect for mac and cheese and potatoes gratin.

Evaporated milk can withstand high cooking temperatures, making it ideal for thickening and adding richness.

  • Savory Cooking Tip: To prevent curdling, add evaporated milk to your dish towards the end of the cooking process and heat gently.

Specialty Recipes Using Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk being poured into a mixing bowl surrounded by ingredients like sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs

Evaporated milk adds a luxurious richness to dishes, transforming them into something extraordinary. Use it to create indulgent desserts and hearty comfort foods that deliver on both flavor and texture.

Homemade Tres Leches Cake


  • Sponge Cake
  • 1 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Condensed Milk

Prepare your sponge cake and while still warm, pierce it multiple times with a fork.

Mix evaporated milk, heavy cream, and condensed milk in a bowl.

Pour this tres leches mixture over the cake ensuring it soaks in completely. This will grant you a moist and flavorful cake with every delightful forkful.

Decadent Mac and Cheese


  • Elbow Macaroni
  • 2 cups Evaporated Milk
  • 3 cups Shredded Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni until al dente.

In another pot, heat evaporated milk but do not boil.

Gradually stir in shredded cheese until melted and season with salt and pepper.

Combine with the pasta for a creamy mac and cheese, where the evaporated milk enhances the dish’s overall creaminess and depth.

Rich and Creamy Desserts

Caramel Flan: Use evaporated milk in your custard base along with eggs and sugar, pour over caramelized sugar in a pan, and bake in a water bath until just set.

Fantasy Fudge: Mix evaporated milk with sugar and bring to a rolling boil, then add chocolate chips, stirring until smooth, and finish with marshmallow cream and vanilla.

Fudgy Brownies and Puddings: Replace regular milk with evaporated milk in your brownie mix for a fudgier texture. For puddings and custards, evaporated milk will provide a more intense creaminess compared to regular milk.

Substitutions and Homemade Alternatives

When cooking, you may find yourself without evaporated milk on hand. This section provides you with practical ways to create a homemade equivalent and explores readily available alternatives to evaporated milk, ensuring your dish remains delicious.

Making Evaporated Milk at Home

To create evaporated milk at your convenience, you can simmer regular milk on the stove until it reduces by approximately 60%. For every one and two-thirds cup of whole milk, you’ll yield about one cup of homemade evaporated milk.

This process takes around 25 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning the milk and to ensure even reduction.

Alternatives to Evaporated Milk

When you need a substitute for evaporated milk, various options are at your disposal:

  • Heavy Cream: Use heavy cream in a 1:1 ratio for a richer texture. For a less rich consistency, mix equal parts water and heavy cream.
  • Milk and Cornstarch: Combine fresh milk with a small amount of cornstarch to mimic the thickness and stability of evaporated milk’s milk proteins.
Heavy Cream1:1Use as is or dilute with water for a lighter option.
Milk & Cornstarch1 cup milk: 1 tbsp cornstarchWhisk together and use as an equal replacement.

Remember, while condensed milk might seem similar, it is sweetened and not an appropriate substitute for unsweetened evaporated milk unless your recipe specifically calls for added sugar.

The Science of Evaporated Milk in Cooking

A pot simmering on a stove, with a can of evaporated milk next to it. Steam rises from the pot as the milk is poured in

When you use evaporated milk in your cooking, you’re utilizing a concentrated milk product that has been subjected to heat to remove about 60% of its water content, resulting in a richer and creamier consistency ideal for enhancing the texture and flavor of various dishes.

Culinary Reactions and Homogenization

Evaporated milk undergoes homogenization, which is the process of breaking down fat molecules to prevent separation.

During the making of evaporated milk, the milk is heated at a low temperature and under low heat to simmer away its water content.

This controlled heating method not only concentrates the milk but also ensures the fat content remains evenly distributed.

  • Function: Homogenization makes evaporated milk less likely to curdle when added to acidic environments, improving its stability in cooking.
  • Culinary Benefit: The reduced water content means that your dishes will have a richer texture without the additional liquid volume, which is especially beneficial in concoctions like creamy sauces or soups.

Caramelization and Flavor Development

Utilizing evaporated milk can significantly contribute to the flavor profile of your dishes. Unlike condensed milk, which contains added sugar, evaporated milk imparts a distinct taste without additional sweetness.

  • Caramelized Flavor: When you heat evaporated milk, the reduced water content encourages a Maillard reaction, a hallmark of caramelization. Result: a subtle, caramelized flavor.
  • Richer Consistency: The heightened fat content, combined with the low moisture level, aids in the development of a richer and creamier consistency.

Health and Dietary Considerations

A chef pours evaporated milk into a pot while adding it to a creamy soup. Ingredients like vegetables and herbs are displayed nearby

When integrating evaporated milk into your diet, it’s important to weigh its nutritional benefits against your dietary needs. Evaporated milk is essentially milk with 60% of its water removed, resulting in a concentrated source of nutrients.

Nutrient Content:
One cup of evaporated milk delivers a robust amount of protein, essential for muscle repair and growth. It is also high in calcium and vitamin D, both vital for bone health.

Fat and Calories:
Consider the fat content in evaporated milk, which is higher per volume compared to regular milk due to the concentration process.

If you’re monitoring your calorie intake, be mindful that evaporated milk has nearly twice as many calories as whole milk.

Usage Tips:

  • For a lower-fat option, choose evaporated milk made from skim or low-fat milk.
  • If you’re adding it to sweet dishes, be aware that it doesn’t contain added sugar, despite its slightly caramelized flavor. Thus, you might need to adjust the sweetness of your recipe accordingly.


  • Keep unopened cartons of evaporated milk in a cool, dry place.
  • After opening, refrigeration is necessary to prevent spoilage, and it should be used within a few days.

Evaporated Milk in Drinks

Evaporated milk can transform your beverages by adding a rich, caramelized flavor and creaminess without watering them down. It’s an ideal ingredient when you’re aiming for a luxurious texture in your drinks.

Enhancing Coffee and Smoothies

Coffee: Introduce a spoonful of evaporated milk to your coffee to instantly impart a dense, creamy consistency and a subtly sweet, toasted taste.

It’s a perfect complement to both hot and iced coffee, and an excellent way to enrich your morning cup without the added sugar of many commercial creamers.

  • Recipe suggestion: Mix equal parts evaporated milk and water for a lighter version, or use it undiluted for maximum richness.

Smoothies: Use evaporated milk in your smoothies for an indulgent twist.

Its concentrated flavor and creamy texture boost the overall mouthfeel, making your smoothies more satisfying.

  • Tips:
    • Start with a small amount, as evaporated milk is dense and can overwhelm other flavors.
    • For fruit-based smoothies, the rich taste of evaporated milk pairs well with berries or tropical fruits.

Homemade Creamers

Creating your own creamers with evaporated milk lets you control the sweetness and flavors. You’ll enjoy the freshness of homemade creamer, with the added benefit that evaporated milk has a longer shelf life compared to fresh milk.

  • Base recipe: Combine equal parts water and evaporated milk as a foundation.
  • Customization:
    • Sweet: Add sugar or your preferred sweetener to taste.
    • Flavored: Infuse with vanilla, cocoa, or spices like cinnamon for a tailored twist.

Proper Use and Best Practices

Evaporated milk pouring into a saucepan, being stirred into a creamy sauce, and then being drizzled over a dish

Evaporated milk is a versatile ingredient that can enrich your dishes with a creamy texture and subtle sweetness. Proper handling and application are crucial for the best culinary results.

Cooking Temperatures and Techniques

When cooking with evaporated milk, gently heat it on low heat to avoid curdling.

Always simmer rather than boiling, as high temperatures can cause separation.

For creamy soups or sauces, add evaporated milk as the final step, heating through until just warm.

This technique ensures that the milk blends smoothly into your dish, enhancing the flavor without overpowering it.

  • Consistency-adjustment: For a richer texture, use evaporated milk as a one-to-one substitute for regular milk.
  • Caramelization: Introduce evaporated milk towards the end of caramel preparation to imbue a rich, caramelized flavor without scorching the milk solids.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Ensure your evaporated milk is within the expiration date to maintain quality.

Before use, check for any off odors or discoloration.

Always store opened containers in the refrigeration, and properly seal them to prevent spoilage.

If a recipe requires a smaller quantity, transfer what you need to a different container to avoid contamination.

Innovative Cooking Ideas

A pot of creamy soup simmers on the stove, with a can of evaporated milk next to it. A chef's knife and cutting board sit nearby, ready to slice vegetables for a savory dish

Evaporated milk is a highly versatile ingredient that can take your cooking and baking to new levels. It’s a concentrated form of milk that is shelf-stable, making it an excellent addition to your pantry staples. Here are some creative ways to use evaporated milk in your recipes:

  • Caramel Brownies: For a decadent twist, add evaporated milk to your caramel sauce when making brownies. It gives the caramel a rich and creamy texture that’s perfect for swirling into your batter before baking.
  • Instant Pot Mac and Cheese: Speed up your comfort food cooking by making mac and cheese in an Instant Pot. Use evaporated milk to create a velvety smooth cheese sauce – it’ll meld flawlessly with your pasta for a creamy, dreamy dish.
  • Enhanced Smoothies: Boost your breakfast with a smoothie that has more body and flavor. Blend in a splash of evaporated milk for a creamier texture without watering down the taste, as regular milk might.
  • Homemade Bread: When baking bread, swap out regular milk with evaporated milk to enrich the dough, yielding a softer and more tender loaf of bread.
  • Soups and Sauces: Evaporated milk is excellent for thickening soups and sauces. It can stand in for cream, yielding a lighter yet still creamy consistency.
Use CaseHow to Use Evaporated Milk
BakingSubstitute for regular milk to enrich flavor
SmoothiesAdd for creaminess without diluting taste
SoupsUse as a thickener instead of heavy cream
Pasta SauceCreate a base for creamy sauces in minutes

Remember, when cooking with evaporated milk, it’s a direct replacement for cream or milk in a 1:1 ratio, so it’s easy to incorporate into your favorite recipes.

Tips for Buying and Using Evaporated Milk

A can of evaporated milk sits on a kitchen counter next to a bowl of ingredients. A recipe book is open to a page with instructions on how to use the milk in cooking

Evaporated milk is a versatile, shelf-stable milk product that you can easily store in your pantry. Unlike regular milk, it has been sterilized at high temperatures, removing about 60% of its water content. Here’s how to buy and use it effectively:

Choosing Evaporated Milk:

  • Check the expiration date: Ensure that the evaporated milk is within its best-by date for optimal quality.
  • Type of milk: You can find evaporated milk made from whole or skim milk depending on your dietary preferences.

Using Evaporated Milk in Cooking:

  • Reconstitution: To substitute for fresh milk, mix equal parts water and evaporated milk.
  • Culinary versatility: Utilize it in both savory and sweet recipes. It’s excellent for adding creaminess to soups, sauces, and desserts.


  • Unopened cans can be stored in a cool, dry place until the marked expiration date.
  • Opened cans: Transfer leftovers to a sealed container and refrigerate, using within 5 days for best quality.

Storage and Handling of Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk poured from can into saucepan, used in cooking

When you open a can of evaporated milk, proper storage is crucial to maintain its freshness and prevent spoilage. Here’s how you can ensure your evaporated milk remains safe for cooking use:

Immediately after opening, transfer any unused evaporated milk into a clean, airtight container. This is important to avoid contamination and flavor loss. Store it in your refrigerator, which should be set to an ideal temperature range of 32°F to 40°F (0°C to 4°C). Position the container on a shelf rather than the door, as the temperature there is more stable.

Shelf Life:
The shelf life of refrigerated evaporated milk is typically up to 5 to 7 days. Beyond this period, the quality might diminish, and there’s a risk of spoilage. Always check for any off-smells or discoloration before use, as these are indicators that the milk should no longer be consumed.

Freezing Evaporated Milk:
For longer storage, freezing is an option. Pour the evaporated milk into a freezer-safe container, making sure to leave some space at the top for expansion. Seal it properly, label with the current date, and you can store it for up to 3 months. However, the texture might change upon thawing, which could affect the outcome in certain recipes.

Enhancing Traditional Recipes

Evaporated milk can elevate your traditional recipes, giving desserts a richer texture and comfort foods a creamier consistency.

Reinventing Classic Desserts

In baking, evaporated milk adds a decadent dimension. Substitute equal parts of evaporated milk for regular milk in recipes like pudding, pies, and custards. It imparts a luxurious creaminess without altering the sweetness.

  • Chocolate Pudding: Enhance with evaporated milk for a thicker, more indulgent treat.
  • Pumpkin Pie: Use evaporated milk for a silky-smooth filling.

Upgrading Comfort Foods

Evaporated milk can transform your favorite comfort foods, making them even more satisfying.

  • Casseroles: Add evaporated milk for a creamy texture without excess moisture.
  • Oatmeal: Stir in a splash for a richer morning meal.
  • Scallop Potatoes: Layer with evaporated milk for a lusciously creamy sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Evaporated milk is a versatile ingredient in cooking and baking, offering a richer consistency than regular milk. Here’s how you can effectively incorporate it into various dishes.

What can I substitute for regular milk with evaporated milk in baking?

For every cup of regular milk in baking recipes, you can substitute with equal parts of diluted evaporated milk by mixing half a cup of evaporated milk with half a cup of water.

How can evaporated milk be incorporated into chicken recipes?

Use evaporated milk as a base for creamy sauces or gravies in chicken dishes. It adds a rich texture and enhances flavor without curdling under heat like fresh milk.

What are some quick desserts that can be made using evaporated milk?

Evaporated milk works well in desserts such as fudge, pumpkin pie, and custards due to its creamy texture. Simply use as directed in your recipe for a rich and delectable dessert.

Does boiling evaporated milk affect its properties or uses in cooking?

Boiling evaporated milk may cause it to thicken further and develop a caramelized flavor, which can be desirable in certain recipes, like sauces and sweet dishes.

Can evaporated milk be used in mac and cheese, and why?

Yes, you can use evaporated milk in mac and cheese for a creamy, rich texture. It mixes well with cheese without curdling, making for a smooth and velvety sauce.

What adjustments should be made when using evaporated milk instead of regular milk in pasta dishes?

When replacing regular milk with evaporated milk in pasta dishes, dilute it with water to match the original milk consistency. This is unless the recipe calls for a thicker, creamier texture.

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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.
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