What Is Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk keeps for more than a year on the shelf and can stand in for milk or half-and-half in sweet and savory recipes. What more can you ask of a can?

October 06, 2021
Preparing cupcakes


Preparing cupcakes

Photo by: mikroman6/Getty Images

mikroman6/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

Evaporated milk starts out as fresh milk and is heated to drive off more than half of the water. Add water and use it as milk or pour it straight out of the can and use it as half-and-half. Creamy, rich and perfect for baking, custards, soups and even ice cream.

What Is Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk is fresh milk that has been heated so that around 60% of the water content evaporates. After it’s evaporated, it’s homogenized, canned and then goes through a heat sterilization treatment that is part of the canning process. A standard can of evaporated milk is 12 fluid ounces, and most recipes are developed to use an entire can.

Old opener open to metallic can on the table in the kitchen. Canned food. Condensed milk. Healthy eating and lifestyle.


Old opener open to metallic can on the table in the kitchen. Canned food. Condensed milk. Healthy eating and lifestyle.

Photo by: FotoDuets/Getty Images

FotoDuets/Getty Images

Evaporated milk comes in three varieties based on the amount of fat: whole milk, low-fat and skim. The benefit of evaporated milk is shelf-life: canned milk can remain stable for up to two years for peak flavor, and maybe longer. If you open a can of evaporated milk and it is dark yellow or brown, don’t use it. Same goes for milk that smells bad or is curdled.

Is Evaporated Milk a Good Subsitute for Regular Milk?

Evaporated milk became available in the mid 1800’s and was initially created to stand in for fresh milk when none was available. It’s not unusual for people to keep a can or two in the pantry in case of power outages.

To use evaporated milk as a subsitute for fresh milk, add one and a half cans of water to each can of evaporated milk.

Diluted evaporated milk is a good substitute for milk in coffee, hot chocolate and cooked cereal like cream of wheat or oatmeal. If you drink a glass of diluted evaporated milk with chocolate chip cookies you will notice a difference, but it's still chocolate chip cookies and milk!

How to Use Evaporated Milk In a Recipe

Evaporated milk is often used in much the same way that half-and-half is, in custards, cakes, shakes and candies like fudge. When you have a recipe that calls for milk and you don't have fresh milk, you'll be glad you've got that can of evaporated milk in the pantry. Grab it, shake it, open it and make a choice. You can dilute it and add the measured amount called for or you can use it undiluted and it will add extra richness to whatever you're making. When a recipe expicitly calls for evaporated milk you should use it undiluted, right out of the can.

Instant Pot Dulce de Leche

A super-fast way to make dulce de leche in a multi-cooker. And no stirring necessary. If you don't have an Instant Pot you can accomplish the same thing with a saucepan, just be sure to keep an eye on the water level in the pan.


Evaporated Milk Versus Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk is just that, milk. Condensed milk is sweetened — evaporated milk with about 6 ounces of sugar per can, which is slightly caramelized for a subtle deeper flavor. Be careful what can you use — they're not interchangeable! Mac and cheese accidently made with sweetened condensed is not what you want to show up to a potluck with. Sweetened condensed milk is also what dulce de leche is made from when it’s heated at a low temperature for an extended period of time.

How to Make Evaporated Milk

If you run out of evaporated milk, you can make your own in less than half an hour. Put milk in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer, not a boil. If you have a quart of milk, you should simmer it until it reaches the volume is about 12-14 ounces.

What Is a Substitute for Evaporated Milk?

Half-and-half is your best go-to as a substitute for evaporated milk. If you have heavy cream (or whipping cream) and milk, mix of 1/4 cup cream and 3/4 cup milk. You can use it in any recipe that calls for evaporated milk. The best vegan substitute for evaporated milk is coconut milk. Other milks can be used, but they don’t have the fat content that coconut milk has.

Try These Recipes With Evaporated Milk

Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero 
Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver ,Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero 
Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver


Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver ,Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver

Photo by: Anna Williams

Anna Williams

You might recognize this use! Evaporated milk is found in many pumpkn pie recipes.

This chowder is chockful of many fresh ingredients native to Peru. Bringing it to your table will transport you to South America.

The three milks in Tres Leches Cake: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream are combined and poured over the cake to completely soak it. This recipe is then frosted with another — dulce de leche.

This is the receipe for Coquito

This is the receipe for Coquito

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

This waffle recipe is made from 100% pantry ingredients. No eggs — just evaporated milk in a can and applesauce from a jar. It’s a great breakfast for kid's sleepover parties.

This Puerto Rican holiday-time drink can be boozy or not. The nutmeg and cinnamon add a cozy warmth.

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