If you were planning on making a recipe that called for sweetened condensed milk, and discovered you don't have any, you have options. Alternatively, if you are on a dairy-free diet, have a lactose intolerance, or need a low carb option, you have choices as well.
Here we will discuss several different substitutions you can use if you don’t have sweetened condensed milk. These alternatives will get your kitchen back up and running in no time.
What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Sweetened condensed milk has been a kitchen staple for many years. Eagle Brand and Nestle Carnation are known as the most popular brands, however you can also find it under generic store brands.
Sweetened condensed milk is shelf stable product comprised of concentrated milk that has had roughly 60% of the water content removed through evaporation. It is then sweetened by adding sugar and then canned.
It is a thick, rich, and slightly caramel colored liquid that is super sweet.
If a label indicates that the product is condensed milk, that means that it is sweetened condensed milk.
Sweetened Condensed Milk Uses
It is most commonly used in a variety of dessert recipes, from baked goods to custard-like desserts including pies, homemade ice cream, and pudding. It makes a deliciously sweet topping on things like fresh berries too.
Some people also like to use sweetened condensed milk in drinks like coffee and tea.
When heated correctly, it will transform into dulce de leche.
Best Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitutes
There are not many options where you can replace sweetened condensed milk with another ingredient. As you might imagine, there are quite a few dairy products that can be transformed into something that resembles sweetened condensed milk. There are, however, several ingredients you can mix together to create a mixture that will work as an alternative.
1. Evaporated Milk
You might just have a can or two of evaporated milk in your pantry.
It has the same amount of water content removed as does sweetened condensed milk, thus it has a similar thick and creamy consistency. For it to be a suitable replacement, however, you must dissolve a fair amount of sugar into the milk.
The most simple homemade sweetened condensed milk recipe is take a can (15 oz) of evaporated milk, 1 ½ cups sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. The vanilla is added purely for additional richness and flavor.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, whisk while heating over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and all ingredients are combined. Simmer for a few minutes and then cool. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
You may store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a few weeks.
This mixture can be used as a 1:1 replacement for sweetened condensed milk.
2. Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk
Yes, you read that right: sweetened condensed coconut milk. This product is designed to be a dairy-free alternative to sweetened condensed milk. It is the easiest vegan substitute you can use. Plus, it has a creamy texture comparable to regular sweetened condensed milk.
It is nearly identical to the real thing and considered to be the best option for a dairy-free sweetened condensed milk. The results of your final product will be very similar with just an added coconut flavor. The main drawback here is that you may have to order it online because you may not be able to find it at your local grocery store.
It can be used as a 1:1 replacement for sweetened condensed milk.
3. Dehydrated Milk
If you happen to have dehydrated milk on hand, you're in luck. Either full fat or nonfat dry milk powder will work.
If you recall, sweetened condensed milk is just evaporated milk combined with a lot of sugar. You may also recall that evaporated milk is just milk that has had 60% of the moisture content removed.
To transform dehydrated milk into an evaporated milk equivalent, simply add 60% of the recommended amount of water.
Then, to further transform this mixture into a perfectly decent sweetened condensed milk alternative, combine 15-ounces of this mixture with 1 ½ cups sugar. Gently heat to dissolve the sugar and cool before using.
This mixture can be used as a 1:1 replacement for sweetened condensed milk.
4. Heavy Cream
Because heavy cream is already thick, it doesn’t take as long to reach the desired consistency as regular evaporated milk.
It is super easy to find and usually found in most refrigerators in the United States.
All you need to do is take one cup of heavy cream and combine it with ¼ cup of sugar. This will replace one cup of sweetened condensed milk in your recipe.
If you want to, you may refrigerate up until the expiration date on your heavy cream before using.
Possibly the most common ingredient in American households is milk. A fresh milk substitute will work, but it will take time. A full fat cow’s milk-based substitute can be a sweetened condensed milk alternative as long as a few other ingredients and heat are utilized.
To make a mixture that is suitable as a substitute, combine 1 ½ cups milk and ½ cup sugar in a saucepan. Simmer the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. Turn the heat down to low and keep stirring. This will help some of the water content to evaporate.
Once the mixture has reduced by about a half you may stir in 2 tablespoons butter and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract for added richness and color. This mixture is equivalent to one can of sweetened condensed milk.
This substitute will be very similar to the real thing. The good news is your taste testers most likely won’t even know the difference in your final product. You may store this in the fridge. Its shelf-life will match the expiration date on your milk.
6. Cream of Coconut
You can purchase cream of coconut in a can. It may be more difficult to find than standard coconut milk or coconut cream, but may actually be found in the Hispanic foods section.
Do not confuse it with coconut cream as they are not the same thing! Coconut cream is the cream that rises to the top when coconut milk is made. Cream of coconut is a sweetened version of coconut cream.
This can be a great alternative to sweetened condensed milk due to the sweetness and the thick consistency. You also do not have to do any conversion as 1 cup of cream of coconut can be used in place of 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk.
7. Coconut Milk
Another option you may choose to use is coconut milk. Canned coconut milk will work just fine, but I would highly suggest using full-fat coconut milk.
Just heat a can of full-fat coconut milk on the stovetop and add ¼ cup of sugar. You will need to whisk it until boiling and then let it simmer for around 30 minutes until it reaches a thicker consistency.
Coconut milk will not have as strong of a flavor as the cream of coconut. Store in the fridge in an airtight container if not using immediately.
8. Non-Dairy Milk
Other than the coconut milk options above, there are plenty of other vegan milks that may work.
Oat milk has been rising in popularity over the last few years. If you are an oat milk consumer, this alternative might be up your alley.
You may also use your favorite cow's milk alternatives such as almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk for this recipe.
Place 1 cup oat milk, ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and one teaspoon vanilla into a bowl that is microwave-safe. Whisk all ingredients together, breaking up lumps. Microwave and stir in between each minute until thick. Once you have attained your desired thickness, mix in 1 tablespoon vegan butter (like Earth Balance) to make it extra creamy.
You have made a substitute for one can of sweetened condensed milk that can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container or used immediately after cooling.
For all of the mixtures above, it is recommended that you use white sugar, however other sweeteners and sugar substitutes can work. Depending on what you choose, the color and flavor will be slightly different.
Pretty much everyone has regular white sugar on hand. Because of the high amounts needed to mimic the sweetness, you will most likely need to dissolve over low or medium-low heat.
To add a more rich caramel flavor, brown sugar can be a great substitute for white sugar.
Since you are heating the mixture, the larger granules of raw sugar will dissolve just like regular sugar. The darker color and rich flavor will create an option that will taste great.
Because honey is much sweeter than sugar, you will need to add a smaller amount. Also, because of the thick viscosity, it will help create a nice thick liquid.
Another delicious natural sugar, maple syrup can be used. Since maple syrup is roughly one third water and two thirds sugar, your homemade version will need to be heated even longer to reduce your sweetened condensed milk substitute down to the appropriate moisture content.
A suitable low-carb option for those on keto or watching their blood sugar is a heavy cream combination with artificial sweeteners.
Combine 1 ½ cups heavy cream, ¼ cup xylitol, ¼ cup erythritol, and 3 tablespoons butter and heat on the stove. Simmer over low heat and stir for 30 minutes until slightly reduced. Liquid will thicken after it cools.
Use immediately or chill in an airtight container until ready to use for a longer shelf life. It will be good until your heavy cream’s expiration date.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!