What Are the Best Substitutes for Evaporated Milk?

There are several readily-available ingredients you can use instead of evaporated milk.

We've all be there: You're halfway through a recipe and you realize you don't have a key ingredient. While reading the recipe through and getting all the ingredients out before you start is a good measure you can take to avoid this misstep, sometimes life gets in the way. So, if you find yourself without an ingredient, what's the best course of action? Do you just skip the ingredient you don't have and hope for the best, or do you improvise and swap in a different ingredient? If the ingredient that you are out of is evaporated milk, you're in luck. There are a few alternatives you can use as evaporated milk substitutes, so there's no need to make a run to the store.

What Is Evaporated Milk?

This shelf-stable product comes from unsweetened milk (regular dairy milk), which manufacturers simmer low and slow as the water evaporates (hence the name), ultimately removing about 60 percent of the milk's water content. Further processing involves homogenization and sterilization, giving the product a lengthy shelf life (12-15 months). That being said, once it's been opened, it should be used within five days and kept in the fridge.

Bryan Gardner

When Is It Used?

Evaporated milk is a useful ingredient in recipes that benefit from a thick, creamy dairy product. For example, it gives this Pumpkin Custard a silky texture, this Cuatro Leches Cake even more creaminess, and this Chocolate Blender Frosting the quickest prep you could imagine. What's more, its usage extends beyond sweet applications—because it's unsweetened, you can use evaporated milk to lend its characteristic creaminess to dishes like Slow-Cooker Queso.

No Evaporated Milk? That's Not a Problem

If you forgot to grab a can of evaporated milk at the grocery store, you have a few other milk options. First, if you have regular milk on hand and some time to spare, you can create your own evaporated milk simply by simmering it (be sure to keep the temperature low enough to avoid scalding) until you've reduced it by about 60 percent. You can do the same with alternative (non-dairy) milks if that's what's available to you (this is also a great option for those with allergies or following special diets).

Alternatively, if you happen to have powdered milk on hand, this is also a suitable alternative (and faster since you won't need to wait for any evaporation on the stovetop). When preparing it, only mix the powder with about 60 percent of the amount of water called for in the instructions, creating a thicker-than-usual powdered milk substitute.

Lastly, if you're a coffee drinker and have heavy cream or half-and-half in the fridge, these thicker-than-regular-milk options will also work in place of evaporated milk (simply a 1:1 ratio, so no need to reduce these products on the stovetop).

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