When you need the very best sweetened condensed milk substitute to use in a cooking or baking recipe, look no further than this handy guide! You're sure to have plenty of great alternatives on hand to round out your dish without skipping a beat!
This super sweet staple ingredient has many great alternatives to use when you've accidentally run out!
Sweetened condensed milk is the go-to ingredient for some of the best sweet treats around! This thick creamy milk variation is so tasty that some people even like to sneak a little taste before adding it to their recipe.
Without sweetened condensed milk we wouldn’t be able to indulge in some of the most decadent desserts around the world. Hello, FUDGE! So, obviously, leaving it out of a recipe is simply not an option.
- What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?
- What is Sweetened Condensed Milk Used for?
- The Best Substitutes for Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1. DIY Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 2. Heavy Cream + Sugar
- 3. Evaporated Milk
- 4. Powdered Milk
- 5. Canned Coconut Milk
- 6. Coconut Cream
- 7. Cream of Coconut
- 8. Almond Sugar + Milk
- 9. Milk Alternatives
- 🥛 Our Favorite Recipes Using Sweetened Condensed Milk!
- 📋 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
There are instances where even the most delicious of ingredients may not be available or an option. In this case, don’t skip dessert – just find a tasty alternative!
What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?
While we have easy access to refrigerators today that keep our milk from spoiling, that was not always the case. Therefore, the need for milk products that could be kept fresh without refrigeration was needed. Enter sweetened condensed milk.
This new milk product was created in the mid-1800s to extend the shelf life of milk.
Condensed milk is regular cow’s milk that has been slowly heated to eliminate some of the water. By eliminating the water, usually by up to 60%, the milk becomes more stable so it can be canned.
This creates a milk product that won’t spoil (as easily as fresh milk).
In addition to the heating process, condensed milk is then combined with sugar. The addition of sugar helps to further preserve the milk. Especially when it is sealed in a can.
What is Sweetened Condensed Milk Used for?
While the creation of sweetened condensed milk was originally to find a milk product that wouldn’t spoil, this delicious dairy product is now used in many delicious dishes worldwide.
In Thailand, sweetened condensed milk is added to brewed coffee or tea to make a creamy sweet drink. In Mexico, it is the base for rich rice pudding. In the United States, it is a popular base for pies, cakes, and other sweet treats.
One of the most popular uses for sweetened condensed milk is to make rich creamy caramel(s)!
The Best Substitutes for Sweetened Condensed Milk
The need for a substitute always varies. Sometimes it is because of health reasons and sometimes simply because you ran out or can’t find the needed ingredient.
Even though this dairy product provides the necessary balance of sweetness and smooth creaminess to many treats, it is still a dairy product. Therefore, if you are lactose intolerant or vegan you may find yourself in need of a substitute.
Whether you need a dairy-free substitute, or you just forgot to pick up some sweetened condensed milk, these substitutes will give you a similar sweet treat!
1. DIY Sweetened Condensed Milk
If you have regular old milk and sugar on hand, you can make your own sweetened condensed milk right at home. Whole milk works best for this, but whatever milk you have on hand will do.
Add 1 ½ cups of whole milk with ½ cup of heavy cream to a saucepan. Simmer over low heat until it reduces to half the amount (1 cup of milk, about 30 minutes).
Turn the burner off and stir in ⅔ cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
Your homemade sweetened condensed milk will cook down much more easily (without scorching the milk) if you can combine some heavy cream. Use ½ cup heavy cream with 1 ½ cup whole milk for best results.
Let the sweetened milk cool and then use in 1:1 exchange for any recipe.
You can also do this with almond milk and other dairy-free kinds of milk!
2. Heavy Cream + Sugar
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of heating the milk to reduce it, use heavy cream instead. Heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream) already has a thick consistency like sweetened condensed milk.
Simply mix 1 cup of heavy cream with ¼ cup of sugar to get a creamy rich alternative. You can use this as a 1:1 exchange for sweetened condensed milk in any recipe.
3. Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is another milk variation that will not spoil easily and has a long shelf life. This is because it is made in a similar way to sweetened condensed milk.
With a similar consistency to sweetened condensed milk, it works well as a simple substitution in any recipe. The only thing missing is the sweetness. Therefore, you may want to add a bit of sugar to get the desired flavor.
Use evaporated milk in an easy 1:1 substitution for sweetened condensed milk in any recipe. If you want to add sugar, begin with one tablespoon, and add more as needed.
4. Powdered Milk
Like sweetened condensed milk, powdered milk is another shelf-stable milk product. It is probably less popular to have on hand though (unless you have food storage).
If you do have powdered milk on hand, it is an easy substitute for sweetened condensed milk. Simply use less water to rehydrate it. This will result in thick milk that resembles the texture of sweetened condensed milk.
Mix ⅓ cup of powdered milk with ⅓ cup of hot water.
Powdered milk will lack the rich flavor of sweetened condensed milk, so consider adding 2 tablespoons of butter and a pinch of sugar.
Use the rehydrated powdered milk in a 1:1 substitution for sweetened condensed milk.
5. Canned Coconut Milk
For this substitute you need to use canned coconut milk, not the coconut milk that comes in a carton. The coconut milk that comes in a carton (light coconut milk) is primarily water; therefore, it will not provide the creamy base needed for this substitute.
Look for canned coconut milk, preferably the regular full-fat version. While full-fat coconut milk has a nice rich creamy base, to begin with, it does need to be thickened a bit before it can be used. It also needs a touch of sweetness.
Mix a 13.5 ounce can of full-fat coconut milk with a ¼ cup of sugar in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
Once it has thickened, remove it from the heat, and let it cool. Use in a 1:1 exchange for sweetened condensed milk.
6. Coconut Cream
If you are looking for an easy non-dairy substitute for sweetened condensed milk, this is your best option. While coconut milk is made from 1 part of coconut meat to 2 parts of water, coconut cream is 4 parts of coconut meat to 1 part of water.
The extra thick coconut meat gives coconut cream the desired thick and creamy texture of sweetened condensed milk, without any additional cooking. However, it will still be slightly less sweet.
Therefore, if you want you can add a ¼ cup of sugar.
Use this in a 1:1 exchange for sweetened condensed milk to make any treat vegan friendly.
7. Cream of Coconut
This is one of those substitutes that is unlikely to just have on hand; however, if you do – then it can work.
Cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been pre-mixed with sugar. It is quite sweet, and the texture is slightly thinner than plain coconut cream.
If you were planning on making pina coladas, then you may have some on hand though! It is a great choice for some recipes.
Use cream of coconut in a 1:1 exchange for sweetened condensed milk. Consider omitting some of the additional sugar in the recipe to balance out the sweetness of the cream of coconut.
8. Almond Sugar + Milk
While coconut milk and cream provide a wonderful creamy base, many people do not like the taste of coconut. If you want to avoid the distinct taste of coconut, while still having a dairy-free alternative, use almond milk.
On its own, almond milk is too thin for a direct substitute. You can use it to make homemade dairy-free sweetened condensed milk though.
Place 2 cups of almond milk in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until the volume is reduced in half (leaving you with 1 cup of milk). Turn the heat off and pour in ⅔ cup of white sugar while the milk is still warm. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar.
Let the almond milk and sugar mixture cool. Then stir and use in a 1:1 exchange for sweetened condensed milk.
9. Milk Alternatives
You can make your own dairy-free sweetened condensed milk with any other non-dairy milk of your choice. Macadamia, cashew, and hemp milk are all good choices.
The main thing with any milk alternative is to remember that it may change the overall taste of your recipe slightly. Therefore, choose a milk substitute that will pair well with the other ingredients.
Some substitutes depend greatly on the purpose of the ingredient is in a recipe. The great thing about sweetened condensed milk is that you can use any of these substitutes in any recipe! Simply choose the option that works best for you.
🥛 Our Favorite Recipes Using Sweetened Condensed Milk!
Do you have a favorite already in this list, or did you try one of these sweetened condensed milk substitutes for the first time? Be sure to share your experiences with us in the comments below to help future readers!
Do you love a recipe you tried? Please leave a 5-star 🌟rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
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Best Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute: DIY Sweetened Condensed Milk (+More Great Alternatives!)
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- vanilla bean (optional - or use vanilla paste, extract, cinnamon stick, or a splash of pure maple syrup)
- Add 1 ½ cups of whole milk plus ½ cup of heavy cream to a saucepan. Simmer, stirring frequently, over low heat until it reduces to about half the amount. This usually takes about 30 minutes. *If using vanilla bean or cinnamon stick, add them to the milk mixture while you bring it to a simmer.1 ½ cups whole milk, ½ cup heavy cream, vanilla bean
- Remove from heat and stir in ⅔ cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. *If using vanilla paste, vanilla extract, or pure maple syrup add them to the heated milk mixture with the sugar and salt.¾ cup sugar, 1 pinch salt, vanilla bean
- Allow to cool before storing or using in a recipe.
- Yields 1 ¼ cups sweetened condensed milk.
- Each serving is for 1 ounce (8 fluid ounces per US cup).
- Use heat-safe sugarless alternative to make this recipe sugar-free. We like stevia and swerve.
- Store in an airtight jar or container in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze with an inch gap for expansion for up to 3 months.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!