Extra Helpings: Condensed vs. Evaporated?


I’m going to be baking on my own for the first time (!) this holiday season and I’m a little freaked out. What’s the difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk? Can I use them interchangeably?

No!!! They’re NOT interchangeable. Mama made that mistake when I was preparing bar cookies for a baking contest. I’ll condense this story (I know, I know…) needless to say, my chance of winning evaporated (you just knew that was coming, didn’t you?).

Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

Seriously, you really can’t swap one for the other. Sweetened condensed milk is made when 60% of the water is removed from whole milk and then sugar is added. It has a caramel flavor and a thick, syrupy consistency and is a light tan color. Use it in baking or as a topping for cookies, pancakes, waffles… or in your coffee like they do in Latin America!

Because there’s already sugar in the condensed milk, you usually don’t add additional sugar to the recipe. When you combine sweetened condensed milk with acidic fruit juice, like limes or lemons, it thickens without heating so you can use it as a filling for pudding or pies (like Key Lime Pie). 

Sweetened condensed milk comes in cans so, if you don’t open the can, you can keep it for up to 6 months. If you have some leftover, cover the can with either plastic wrap or a plastic lid and refrigerate. Then be sure to use it within 5 days.

Evaporated milk is made when 60% of the water is removed from fresh canned milk. Unlike sweetened condensed milk, it doesn’t contain sugar. But, evaporated milk also tastes caramelized, with a smooth, creamy consistency, and isn’t as white as regular milk.

Carnation Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is used in sweet and savory recipes. Use it for baking, as a pudding and pie filling or in ice cream recipes. It can be used in place of cream or milk. It makes great whipped cream and adds richness to mashed potatoes, soups or milk-based sauces.

Back in the day, evaporated milk, was considered the safe alternative to regular milk, and was shipped and used in places that didn’t have access to fresh milk or refrigeration (it is shelf-stable for about 15 months). When equal parts of evaporated milk and water are mixed, it contains the same nutrition as fresh milk.

If you are counting calories you can also find low-fat and fat-free sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. (But then why would you? After all, it’s the holidays!)

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posted under Extra Helpings

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: mamashighstrung@gmail.com