Can you imagine fall without pumpkin pie? Neither can I. The sweet, smooth, spicy deliciousness is something I just can’t pass up.
As soon as it turns October 1, I am ready to make the first pumpkin pie of the season. The issue is that my pantry is not ready to make my favorite pie.
What do you do when you don’t have evaporated milk in your cabinet? Read on to find some quick, easy evaporated milk substitutes.
Evaporated Milk Explained
What is evaporated milk? Essentially it is milk that has had around 60% of the water taken out.
You may have heard it called unsweetened condensed milk. This is because it is the same thing as sweetened condensed milk, just without the added sugar.
Evaporated milk is found in a can and sits in the baking aisle at your grocery store, as it is a shelf-stable product. I always find it by the pie filling.
Pumpkin itself has a high percentage of water. Thus, if regular milk is used in pumpkin pie, the pie would become a runny mess and not set up.
Because the water has been removed from evaporated milk, it works great to thicken the pumpkin.
Notes: these substitutions are specific to pumpkin pie, many will need a thickening agent such as corn starch or other starch thickeners if being used in soups or other foods.
Pumpkin Pie Basics
Pumpkin pie is a dessert typically associated with fall: specifically holidays. An American Thanksgiving is not complete without pumpkin pie, but it is also popular at Christmastime.
American folk tales say the pumpkin pie tradition started with the first Thanksgiving. This could be a valid fact since the pilgrims supposedly brought pumpkins over from Europe.
When it was first introduced, traditional pumpkin pies were sweetened with molasses. Over the years, due to the availability of sweeteners, it is now more commonly sweetened with sugar.
Typically, pumpkin pie is not complete without some sort of topping. I love to make homemade whipped cream with some heavy cream sweetened with powdered sugar to make it even more decadent.
Best Evaporated Milk Substitutions for Pumpkin Pie
If you are in a pinch and need a quick substitute for evaporated milk, I have included several below. There are also some vegan-friendly options that may come in handy as well.
Homemade Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk only comes in a can right? Wrong. You can easily make your own evaporated milk at home, although it will take you some time and won’t be the quickest substitution.
Pour 3 ¼ cups of regular milk into a saucepan and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. After the 25 minutes have passed, your milk should be a creamy color with only 1 ½ cups of liquid remaining.
You may have to strain the milk to remove any skin that has formed. This will substitute for a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk that your pumpkin pie recipe is calling for.
Your homemade evaporated milk will last up to 5 days refrigerated in an air-tight container.
Coconut milk can be one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest evaporated milk replacers for pumpkin pie.
All you need to do is use a 12-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk to replace a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk. It is that simple.
The coconut milk will also add a light flavor and combined with the pumpkin pie spice that flavor is out of this world. You might even want to try it with a graham cracker crust for something extra.
Heavy cream can make a suitable replacement for evaporated milk, and the best part is you likely have it on hand. If you don’t, I am sure you know where to find it in the grocery store.
If using this option, mix 6 ounces of heavy cream and 6 ounces of water in a mixing bowl, as it is a creamy milk product. This will replace a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk for your pumpkin pie filling.
Because of the heavy cream’s thickness, it does a great job setting up the pumpkin puree in the final product creating that creamy texture we all love.
Of all the non-dairy milk options, soy milk is the most similar to regular milk making it the best evaporated milk replacer. The flavor is also the closest to the real thing, so you might only notice a few small changes to the pumpkin taste.
The process is the same as making homemade evaporated milk, but the end result will be a vegan option for your homemade pumpkin pie if using vegan pie dough.
Take 3 ¼ cups of soy milk and simmer and stir for 25 minutes until reduced to about ⅓ of the original amount. You should have about 1 ½ cups left, which will work to substitute for a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk.
Almond milk can also work as a substitute and may be something you have on hand. Again, this can be a suitable vegan option if you used a vegan recipe for the pie shell.
In a saucepan, pour 3 ½ cups of almond milk and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Your total liquid remaining should be around 1 ¼- 1 ½ cups after you’re done and will work to substitute for a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk in your pumpkin filling.
You may also try additional dairy-free substitutes such as oat milk or rice milk if you are using this method.
If none of these substitutions seem attractive to you, the good news is there is another easy solution.
Milk isn’t a 1:1 substitution because of the higher water content, but it is easy to adjust with an extra step added compared to your mother’s recipe.
Instead of heating to evaporate some of the water content, you can combine 1 ½ cups skim milk with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. This will thicken the nonfat milk so that it can be used in place of a can of evaporated milk.
The corn starch will allow the pie filling to set up without having to remove the water out of the skim milk. Regular and reduced fat milks will work with this method as well.
If you are using skim milk to cut calories, I might suggest a crustless pumpkin pie recipe to pair with this evaporated milk alternative.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened condensed milk is not necessarily an evaporated milk substitute, because, well, it is sweetened. Duh.
If you do choose to use this, however, it can compete with even the best pumpkin pie recipe.
This caramelized version of milk you get out of a can of sweetened condensed milk will be too sweet if you just put it into your normal pie recipe in place of evaporated milk.
What you can do if you happen to have this on hand is just use a different recipe that replaces the sugar in the pumpkin pie filling with the sweetened condensed milk. I have included an easy recipe below:
In a large bowl, mix 15-ounces of canned pumpkin or 1 ¾ cups roasted fresh pumpkin, a can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 eggs (room temperature works best), and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. You may add vanilla extract if you choose.
Pour into a graham cracker or unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until firm. Cool on a pie rack.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!