Substitute For Evaporated Milk

Many recipes call for the use of evaporated milk particularly for desserts such as donuts and puddings.

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If you don’t typically stock up on evaporated milk or you’ve searched your pantry only to discover that you have run out, you may now be in search of a substitute. 

You will be pleased to know that there are several available, many of which use ingredients that you are already likely to have inside your refrigerator or kitchen cupboards.

For those who are dairy-free or lactose intolerant, they may require a substitute that accommodates their dietary requirements. 

Below, we have identified a number of substitutes that can be used in replacement for evaporated milk.

Selecting one of these substitutes will allow you to salvage your recipe within a few simple steps, using ingredients that you will likely have readily available at home.

What is evaporated milk and what is it used for?

First, it helps to know exactly what it is that you are replacing. Evaporated milk is a liquid milk product that is sold in a can rather than a bottle.

It is similar to regular milk except around 60% of the water has been removed from it. This is done by heating regular milk so that it becomes more concentrated. The milk is then poured into a can which is then heated to get rid of any bacteria.

The process then results in the creation of a denser and creamer product which is often used in a range of cooking recipes. Evaporated milk also has an expected shelf life of around 15 months. 

Often used in beverages, evaporated milk adds body to smoothies and thickens coffees. It is also used in soups and savory sauces to enhance the richness of the flavor. For those with a sweet tooth, evaporated milk can be used to make ice creams, rice puddings, and pumpkin pie. 

Before choosing your evaporated milk substitute, there are several factors that you will need to consider. Of course, the most prominent is any dietary requirements that you or those who will be enjoying your dishes have.

Plant-based and dairy-free alternatives are becoming increasingly popular and many of the following substitutes can be made simply replacing regular milk with a dairy-free alternative if required. Also, consider the fat content and nutritional value of the substitute.

Some will have a much higher calorie content than others. There are also substitutes that contain a high amount of protein too. If you are looking for a healthy alternative, you may wish to avoid the substitutes that contain a lot of sugars and calories, instead opting for one that has more of a nutritional balance.

Finally, consider the taste of the product and how this may affect your recipe. While many substitutes have a subtle flavor that will not be hugely noticeable when added to your recipe, others will have a slightly more prominent flavor which may impact the outcome. 

Make your own

If you don’t have a can of evaporated milk readily available, it is possible to make a DIY version. It’s a straightforward process that simply requires the use of 2 ¼ cups of regular milk.

Pour these cups into a saucepan on medium heat. Allow it to boil until it reduces to a single cup.

Commercial evaporated milk is typically made following this method and while it often uses 2% milk you can use whole milk, skimmed milk, or 1% milk. This method can also cater to those who are dairy-free. 

Follow the same process but swap the regular milk for a dairy-free alternative. 

Powdered Milk

Should you happen to have powdered milk available, it can be used to create a nutritious substitute. This type of milk is made from evaporated regular milk that has been completely dehydrated, hence why it has a powdery texture.

While it can be added to recipes dry, to make a substitute that is pretty similar to evaporated milk you can mix a cup with 1 ½ cups of warm water; a little less than normal.

As a result, it will have the same thick consistency as evaporated milk. Ensure that it has been mixed thoroughly to get rid of any lumps of powder before adding it to your recipe. 

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is often used as a substitute for many dishes. As it has a higher fat content, it may not be the healthiest alternative but it shares a very similar thick consistency to evaporated milk.

It can be used as a replacement in soups and sauces as well as baking recipes too. Heavy cream also has a richer taste which may be noticeable in some recipes so it is worth bearing this in mind before adding it.

Ultimately, it provides an effective substitute for the majority of dishes that call for the use of evaporated milk. 

Half and Half 

Half and half is a mixture made from a combination of milk and cream used in equal quantities. Use the same amount as the recipe asks for evaporated milk.

It will have a thicker consistency and a slightly richer taste than evaporated milk, however, this replacement is likely to suffice when added to the majority of recipes. It also contains a high amount of fat and less protein.

So long as you have both ingredients on hand, this substitute can be made within a matter of seconds. In some recipes, you may need to use half and half combined with ¾ cups of whole milk. To determine whether this is necessary, you will need to check the requirements of your recipe. 

Sour Cream

Although sour cream may seem like an unusual substitute, it is often used as a replacement in a number of recipes that call for milk.

Due to the acidity of sour cream, it will add a creaminess to your baked dishes. It will typically need to be mixed with baking powder and added in equal parts according to the requirements of your recipe.

Not only does this make a good substitute for evaporated milk, but it can also be used for other varieties including buttermilk and whole milk. 

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a non-dairy substitute for evaporated milk which can be used in a 1:1 ratio. It has a thick texture, very much like that of evaporated milk.

Although this can be used as a replacement in many recipes, it is worth noting that coconut milk has an undoubtedly noticeable coconut flavor which may alter the taste of your recipe.

Before opting for this alternative, you should consider whether this change in taste is going to affect your final dish. If so, you may wish to opt for a substitute with a more neutral flavor. 

Oat Milk 

Another dairy-free alternative is oat milk and this is a substitute that can be used in the majority of recipes that call for evaporated milk.

If you intend to use this substitute you can either purchase it from your local shop or you can make a homemade version. Shop varieties tend to have a higher nutritional value, than oat milk that is made at home.

Should you decide to make your own, you simply need to combine a cup of oats with water and then blend it together.

Of course, the exact measurements will depend on the requirements of your recipe and the amount of evaporated milk that is needed.

Because oat milk has a thinner consistency than evaporated milk, it is likely that you will need to thicken it beforehand. This can be done by heating it or whipping it. In doing so, the oat milk will then likely arrive at the same consistency as evaporated milk. 

Soy Milk

Soy milk is a plant-based milk product that shares a similar nutritional value to evaporated milk.

You will need to simmer soy milk inside a pan and wait until it reduces by around 60%. This will create a substitute that is just like evaporated milk. 

3 cups of soy milk are the approximate equivalent to a single cup of evaporated milk once it has gone through the process of being heated.

It can be used in a range of dishes and although the taste isn’t the exact same as evaporated milk, once it has been added to your recipe, it is unlikely that you will notice a huge difference.

It is important to note that this may not be a viable replacement for those with particular allergies so it is worth considering this beforehand. 

Rice Milk

If you are allergic to regular milk or soy milk, you may wish to use rice milk as an alternative. Rice milk can easily be made from home using a combination of soaked rice and water.

It doesn’t share the same high fat content of milk, however, it can be used in most desserts and baking recipes.

You can heat the rice milk to decrease the water content so it is more like evaporated milk. Typically, rice milk does not share the same thick texture as evaporated milk so you may need to add alternative ingredients.

As a result, the rice milk will become thicker.  

You can also use sweetened condensed milk, milk powder, non dairy milk, and in certain instances whipping cream.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good substitute for evaporated milk?

If you’re all out of evaporated milk and can’t get to the store there are plenty of good substitutes that’ll get the job done. 

Check out the list below to find our favorite evaporated milk alternatives:

  • Rice milk - this option is great if you’re allergic to regular milk or soy milk. You can either purchase it in selected stores or make it yourself at home by beating a combination of soaked rice and water. Moreover, rice milk isn’t as high in fat and can still be used in most baking recipes and deserts. The only downside is it isn’t as thick as evaporated milk.

  • Heavy cream - this is a less healthy alternative as it has a higher fat content but heavy cream shares a similar thickness with evaporated milk which makes it a great substitute. It's a particularly good replacement in soups and sauces but can be used for baking too.
  • Powdered milk - this option is very similar to evaporated milk in that it has a lower water content than regular milk. Powdered milk is just regular milk that has been dehydrated until it’s completely dry. To replicate the consistency of evaporated milk, simply add water to powdered milk until you reach the desired thickness.
  • Make your own - you can easily make your own in minutes! All you need is 2 ¼ cups of regular milk, a saucepan and a stove. Just heat up the milk on the stove until it reduces down to a thicker consistency.

How do you make homemade evaporated milk?

It’s pretty easy to make homemade evaporated milk if you don’t have any, or you fancy making your own.

The process is fairly straightforward and requires minimal ingredients. All you need is 2 ¼ cups of regular milk and a stove.

Once you’ve got everything you need, pour the regular milk into a saucepan on a medium heat until it boils down to about 1 cup of milk.

You can use any milk you wish, even dairy alternatives such as almond milk and oat milk, among others.

Alternatively, if you have powdered milk at home, simply adding water until you reach the desired thickness will replicate evaporated milk perfectly.

What is the same as evaporated milk?

While they do have some differences, evaporated milk and condensed milk are pretty much the same product. 

Both milks contain concentrated cow’s milk that has up to 60% of its water content removed.

The only difference being the sugar content. Evaporated milk is generally unsweetened whereas condensed milk is sweetened which is why you’ll often find it in sweet baking recipes.

If you want to use evaporated milk instead of condensed milk you could so long as you make up for the lack of sweetness by adding sugar or other sweetener alternatives.

What’s the difference between evaporated milk and regular milk?

The main difference between evaporated milk and regular milk is the water content.

Regular milk typically contains around 85% water, whereas evaporated milk has up to 60% of its water content removed via an evaporation process, hence the name.

As a result of its lower water content, evaporated is also much thicker than regular milk. While it may not be as desirable as a nice cold drink, evaporated milk is great to have in the cupboard to use in cooking.

Lots of people in the US tend to have a few cans of evaporated milk in case they ever run out of milk because evaporated milk can be stored for much longer periods without going bad or the need for refrigeration.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many substitutes for evaporated milk available. While it is possible to make many of these replacements at home using simple ingredients that you will likely have at home, there are shop varieties available too.

Impressively, there are also several dairy-free and lactose-free alternatives available so those who have specific dietary requirements are not restricted on what they can use as a substitute in their recipe. 

Remember, that not all of these substitutes share the same consistency, flavor, and texture as evaporated milk however, it is likely that they will be very similar.

As evaporated milk is a thicker product, you may need to add some thickening ingredients to the product depending on the alternative that you opt for to ensure that you arrive at the same texture.

Ultimately, the alternatives that we have mentioned above can be used in practically any dish or recipe that originally calls for the use of evaporated milk, and while there may be a slight change in the flavor and consistency, in most cases, this is unlikely to be hugely noticeable.

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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.
Cassie Marshall
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