Culinary LifestyleKitchen Basics

Substitutes for Condensed Milk: Tasty, Simple and Easy Substitutes

Sweetened condensed milk, a kitchen darling known for its creamy texture and sugary sweetness, adds a touch of magic to everything from decadent fudge and layered bars to brownies and cakes. But what happens when you’re in the middle of your baking extravaganza and realize you don’t have this versatile ingredient on hand? Don’t panic! There are plenty of excellent substitutes for sweetened condensed milk.

Not to be confused with simple evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk is created by cooking down regular milk and adding sugar, resulting in a thick, syrupy liquid boasting a distinctive sweetness and luxuriously creamy texture.

Substitutes for Condensed Milk

Let’s explore those delicious substitutes! Sweetened condensed milk, while convenient and tasty, has plenty of worthy stand-ins.

Dairy-Free Alternatives

Many delicious options exist for those looking for a dairy-free alternative for their next baking project. Here’s how to find the perfect substitute:

  • Coconut milk: Full-fat canned coconut milk often mimics the consistency of sweetened condensed milk. For a sweeter version, simmer it down with sugar. It’s a fantastic dairy-free choice with a subtly tropical hint, perfect in many recipes.
  • Evaporated milk: You can transform plain evaporated milk into a reasonable substitute by adding sugar. While it won’t be as thick and sweet as the original, this pantry staple works in a pinch.
  • DIY Solutions: Feeling adventurous? With just a bit of effort, you can create your own sweetened condensed milk substitute. Combine milk powder, sugar, and water, then cook the mixture until thick.

Other Substitutes for Sweetened Condensed Milk

Here’s a deeper look at additional options when you’re missing that can of sweetened condensed milk:

Canned Cream of Coconut

Cream of coconut is a fantastic substitute for sweetened condensed milk if you love a subtle tropical flavor. It’s dairy-free and can often be used in a cup-for-cup swap, mirroring the thick consistency and richness in many recipes.

Coconut Milk

For a less intense coconut flavor, a can of full-fat coconut milk can do the trick! Whisk it with sugar in a saucepan, bring it just below boiling, and then let it simmer for several minutes until it thickens. Once cooled, it’ll have a creamy consistency with a hint of coconut flavor. Remember, coconut cream and coconut milk are subtly different and will yield slightly varied results.

Other Substitutes

  • Evaporated milk: While not as sweet or thick as sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk can substitute in a cup-for-cup ratio. Add sugar to the recipe for extra sweetness to compensate for its lack of caramelized flavor and thinner consistency.
  • Heavy cream and sugar: When this staple bakery cabinet duo is paired up, it’s possible to mimic the thick consistency of condensed milk. Reduce heavy cream by volume while cooking and add your own sugar to taste.
  • Powdered milk: Adding powdered milk to your shopping list could come in handy, especially while traveling. Powdered milk substitutes well by rehydrating it with hot water. For a similar consistency, you can add butter for fat content and sugar to bring in the sweetness. It works well for cheesecakes, cookies, custard, and pies. Just be aware that this substitution will impact the sugar level of your final product compared to store-bought sweetened condensed milk.

Nut Milk and Cashews

For a healthy and often vegan or sugar-free substitute for baking, consider using nut milk and cashews, especially if you have coconut allergies! Blend soaked cashews (preferably overnight) with maple syrup, a touch of sea salt, and your favorite nut milk (like almond milk) for added creaminess. For a touch of warmth, add a splash of vanilla extract. Simmer this mixture over medium heat, constantly stirring to prevent burning, until it reaches the desired thickness. This offers a lower calorie option than traditional condensed milk, but keep in mind its distinct earthy taste. The naturally sweetened advantage is that you get to control the amount of sugar used.

Plant-Based Milks

Rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk can work as substitutes if heavily simmered down and combined with sugar. Consider these options if you have nut allergies or prefer milder flavors. The final consistency won’t be as thick as traditional condensed milk, but they are workable for some recipes.

A Few Notes Regarding Plant-Based Milks:

  • These plant-based milks are generally thinner than their dairy counterparts. Significant reduction and added sweetener are necessary.
  • Each milk imparts a subtly different flavor profile. Soy is more neutral, while others have a distinct nuttiness or grain-like sweetness.
  • Using these as substitutes might require more tweaking of a recipe compared to other options.

Comparison Table

Substitute NameProsConsBest Uses
Coconut-Based: Canned Cream of Coconut, Full-fat Coconut MilkDairy-free, tropical flavor, versatileCan be overly sweet, distinct coconut tasteFudge, pies, layered bars, dairy-free desserts
Neutral Milk-Based: Evaporated Milk + Sugar Powdered Milk + SugarConvenient, neutral flavorLess sweet, thinner consistency, requires added sugarNeutral-flavored recipes, cheesecakes, cookies, cakes, custards
Heavy Cream + SugarRich flavor, customizable sweetnessHigh in fat, less stable for long cookingFrostings, fillings, where richness is key
Nut-Based: Nut Milk + CashewsVegan, sugar-adjustable, healthy optionCan be time-consuming, nutty flavorCheesecakes, custards, dairy-free desserts
Plant-Based Milks: Rice Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Oat MilkDairy-free, widely availableVery thin, require heavy reduction and added sugar, subtle flavor differencesRecipes where some sweetness is expected, and where substitutes won’t be a primary structural element

Choosing the Right Substitute

Finding the perfect replacement for sweetened condensed milk isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Consider these factors when making your selection:

  • Flavor Impact: Some substitutes, like coconut milk, have distinctive flavors that might not be suitable for every recipe. Others, like evaporated milk with sugar, offer a more neutral base.
  • Dietary Needs: Whether you’re looking for a dairy-free, vegan, or sugar-controlled option, there are substitutes that fit your needs! Coconut-based options are great for dairy-free, while nut milks and cashews allow for customization in sweetness levels.
  • Desired Sweetness and Consistency: Evaporated milk with sugar gets close to the sweetness of sweetened condensed milk, but some substitutes might be thinner. Consider thickening techniques for those recipes where a luxurious viscosity is key.

Microwave Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute

Need a quick fix when you run out of condensed milk? Your microwave can come to the rescue!  Here’s how to create a simple substitute:

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together milk and sugar. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat in intervals of 1-2 minutes. It’s important to heat gradually to prevent burning.  After each interval, give the mixture a stir. The magic happens when it becomes bubbly with a bit of froth on top. Once you see this, remove the bowl and allow it to cool completely in the fridge. During cooling time, it will thicken, taking on a consistency slightly resembling the canned version.

While this hack may not fully replicate the caramelized flavor and richness of traditional sweetened condensed milk, it’s a lifesaver when you need a quick solution for your baking needs.

READ: Substitutes for Dark Soy Sauce

Stovetop Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute

For a substitute that gets a little closer to the flavor of the real deal, try this stovetop method:

In a saucepan, whisk together milk and sugar. Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Reduce the temperature to prevent a full boil, and instead, let the mixture simmer gently on low. Reduce it for several minutes, stirring regularly, until it thickens and takes on a slightly darker hue. Once thickened, remove it from the heat and let it cool completely in the fridge.

Remember, patience is key on the stovetop!

Tips and Best Practices

For the best possible outcome when using substitutes, keep these tips in mind:

Adjusting Recipes

Sweetened condensed milk contributes a specific sweetness and consistency. You may need to adjust sugar quantities in your recipe, particularly if using unsweetened substitutes like plain evaporated milk. Similarly, cooking times might need tweaking if the substitute doesn’t thicken quite as much.

Potential Flavor or Consistency Differences

Be mindful of subtle flavor differences with substitutes and how they might work with your chosen recipe. Coconut milk might be perfect for tropical treats but less ideal in a classic cheesecake. Always be aware that even with careful adjustments, there might be slight textural variations depending on the substitute.

Best Uses for Each Substitute

  • Coconut-based options shine in fudges, pies, and many desserts where their flavor complements the recipe.
  • Evaporated milk with sugar works well in recipes where consistency and neutral flavor are key.
  • Nut-based substitutes are fantastic for cheesecakes and custards, allowing for customization of sweetness.

With a bit of experimentation and consideration of these tips, you’ll navigate the world of condensed milk substitutes with confidence!

READ: Substitutes for Mint


Even with the best substitute, sometimes things can go a little astray. Here’s how to handle some potential challenges:

  • Overly Thin Consistency: If your substitute seems too runny, don’t despair. Try simmering it gently for a little longer to encourage further reduction and thickening. A small amount of cornstarch whisked in can also be a lifesaver in a pinch.
  • Dealing with Separation or Curdling: This issue can be more common with dairy-free options. To minimize the risk, ensure your ingredients are at room temperature before mixing. Gentle heating and constant whisking can also prevent curdling. If separation occurs, a quick blitz in a blender can sometimes help re-emulsify the mixture.

Nutrition Facts for Substitutes

Condensed Milk


Coconut Milk Substitute

Notes: Calorie and fat content will be higher than regular coconut milk due to simmering and reduction.


Evaporated Milk Substitute

Carbohydrates~12g (includes added sugar)

Heavy Cream and Sugar

Notes: Heavily dependent on the amount of sugar used and the final reduced consistency.


Powdered Milk Substitute


Nut Milk and Cashews

Notes: Highly variable based on the type of nut milk, amount of sweetener, and overall thickness. Offers a potentially healthier option due to customizable sweetness.


Health Considerations

Switching out sweetened condensed milk can offer some health benefits depending on your chosen substitute. Many alternatives are lower in overall sugar – a boon for those watching their sugar intake. Dairy-free options like coconut milk or nut-based substitutes are essential if you have a lactose intolerance or are following a vegan diet. However, be mindful that some substitutes might have higher fat levels (coconut milk) or different nutritional profiles than traditional condensed milk. It’s always best to read product labels and compare the nutritional information of your chosen substitute alongside the original ingredient to make informed dietary decisions.

READ: How to Substitute Maple Syrup for Sugar

When NOT to Substitute Condensed Milk

While substitutes open up possibilities, sometimes sticking to the classic is the best bet. In certain recipes, sweetened condensed milk plays a crucial role that can be challenging to replicate perfectly. Here are a few more examples where substitutes might not yield the desired results:

  • Traditional Caramels: These rely heavily on the specific milk solids and sugar content of sweetened condensed milk in their chemical reactions for that signature texture and flavor.
  • Dulce de Leche: This slow-cooked caramel directly uses sweetened condensed milk as its base. The long simmer time is crucial for its unique flavor and consistency.
  • Certain No-bake Cheesecakes: Some recipes lean heavily on the thick, creamy texture of sweetened condensed milk for structure. Substitutes might not set up as firmly, leading to a softer consistency.
  • Recipes Demanding Specific Sweetness: Sweetened condensed milk is, well, extremely sweet! If a recipe is calibrated for that specific sweetness level, using a substitute can throw off the taste.


Sweetened condensed milk, while delicious and versatile, isn’t always essential. Whether you find yourself without a can, have dietary restrictions, or simply want to try something different, an array of fantastic substitutes can save the day. By considering your recipe, flavor preferences, and health goals, you’ll easily find the perfect alternative for your baking adventures. Remember, a little experimentation goes a long way in mastering the art of delicious substitution!


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use regular milk instead of sweetened condensed milk?

Unfortunately, regular milk won’t provide the same thick sweetness. Consider DIY methods with powdered milk, or opt for evaporated milk and add sugar.

Do substitutes work in all recipes?

Most substitutes perform beautifully, but some recipes (like classic caramels) rely heavily on the specific properties of sweetened condensed milk.

Which substitute is the healthiest?

This depends on your dietary needs. Nut milk substitutes offer control over sweetness, while coconut milk options are dairy-free. Refer to nutritional labels for comparisons.

What can be used instead of condensed milk?

Many substitutes exist if you’re out of condensed milk or looking for a dairy-free alternative.  Heavy cream with sugar, a can of full-fat coconut milk, or homemade versions are all excellent options with varying results in consistency and flavor.

Can I use milk powder instead of condensed milk?

Yes! Milk powder can act as a substitute for condensed milk. It works especially well in recipes like cakes, muffins,  and puddings. Reconstitute the powder with water, but use a little less water than usual to achieve a thicker texture. The addition of sugar is often necessary, and melted butter can help mimic the fat content of condensed milk, creating a softer result if the recipe calls for it.

Can you make condensed milk at home?

Absolutely!  Homemade condensed milk is surprisingly simple. Here’s the basic process:

  1. Begin cooking the ingredients: Combine milk, sugar, and a pinch of baking soda (to prevent curdling) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer: Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring frequently. This step can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on the desired thickness.
  3. Check the color and consistency: The mixture will gradually darken and become noticeably thicker. Once it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready to be removed from the heat.
  4. Store: Allow it to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container and storing it in the refrigerator.

What is the same as sweetened condensed milk?

While evaporated milk is made from similar ingredients, it’s the sweetener that sets sweetened condensed milk apart. Sugar is added during the canning process, resulting in a product with a distinct sticky sweetness and approximately 40 to 45 percent sugar content.

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Whisk & Nibble is a blog devoted to all things related to food - from sharing recipes for meals and drinks to highlighting the latest dessert trends and culinary lifestyle content. Visitors can find ideas and inspiration for all eating occasions while enjoying engaging writing about food culture. Whisk & Nibble aims to bring readers together over the shared joy of cooking and dining.

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