Here’s a substitute for a can of sweetened condensed milk that verges on healthy and includes zero nonfat dry milk powder OR evaporated milk, unlike most other homemade sweetened condensed milk recipes out there. (Why I don’t trust nonfat dry milk powder much…) I’ll tell you the ingredients of sweetened condensed milk so it tastes just right! Homemade sweetened condensed milk is easier to make than you think.
What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Typically this canned delight is made so that you can have milk when fresh isn’t available. It’s condensed and sweetened so that it lasts longer. One recipe I use this sweetened condensed milk substitute in every Christmas is homemade Irish Cream.
There is also unsweetened condensed milk… they are NOT the same thing. That’s evaporated.
Sweetened condensed milk works well if you want a more creamy texture than plain old milk provides. I prefer making it at home to avoid unneeded preservatives and BPA from the lining of a can.
Ok, I know this is a post about making your own condensed milk…but sometimes you want to have a can on hand for short notice. Nothing wrong with that, just check your ingredients. I found an organic option at Thrive Market. They’ll deliver straight to your door (and give you 15% off your first order!) so give it a shot if you like to keep some handy.Print
Whether you’re trying to avoid processed foods but want to make a favorite dessert recipe or you are just out of condensed milk, here’s a substitute that everyone has ingredients for and anyone with a little patience can pull off.
- Mix sugar and milk together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stirring often, bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. As soon as steam starts lifting off the milk, lower the heat even further, and when the sugar is entirely dissolved, put the heat as low as it can go. A simmer burner is great for this.
- The goal is to reduce the quantity in the pot (which is now about 1 3/4 cups) by approximately half. It takes about 2 hours at very low heat to reduce to one cup of liquid. You could speed it up a bit if you watch carefully and stir often. I preferred the freedom to wander the house doing other tasks, and thus allowed my process to take quite some time.
- Once reduced to your satisfaction, whisk in the butter and vanilla. The recipe is equivalent to just less than one whole can of brand name sweetened condensed milk. (One can = 14 ounces,
which is 2 ounces shy of 2 cups.by weight, oops! The can is equal to 1 1/4 cups liquid. Substitute tables for homemade condensed milk vary from 1 1/4 cups all the way to 2 cups. Use your judgment!)
Depending on what final product your sweetened condensed milk will be used in, you will probably need to allow the mixture to cool considerably before using.
One other option for a homemade sweetened condensed milk is to add 1/2 or 2/3 cup unrefined sugar to a can of evaporated milk (like this or this). You may need to heat to fully dissolve. However, you still have to deal with the unhealthy can lining and whatever over-processing makes the milk shelf stable. Plus the whole point is using real ingredients, yeah?
- Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
- Calories: 104
- Sugar: 15.3g
- Sodium: 39mg
- Fat: 4.7g
- Saturated Fat: 2.9g
- Carbohydrates: 15g
- Fiber: 0g
- Protein: 1.2g
- Cholesterol: 13mg
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Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute
I went through allllll the 200+ comments for you to save you a little time – if you’re looking for how others have done the recipe, including slow cooker adaptations, dairy-free, alternative sweeteners, and even how long you can store it, I made it all nice and pretty for you:
Homemade Condensed Milk Substitute FAQs
There are some questions in the comments section that I can help with:
Can you substitute honey?
I haven’t tried it, but if you do, use only 3/8-1/2 cup honey since honey is sweeter than sugar.
RELATED: How to bake with honey.
What about just using cream instead of milk?
Again, haven’t tried it myself, but I don’t see how it could hurt! You’d probably end up with super rich milk, since even though the fat content is higher, you’d still want to reduce it to one cup.
Can I use 2% milk?
There is obviously less fat content in the 2% so it may (or may not) take longer to thicken up, but it should work out in the end. Why whole milk? (Actually, I drink raw milk, but that’s another story entirely)
Is there a dairy-free version?
Yes! I finally found one – a dairy-free sweetened condensed milk that uses coconut milk and looks wonderful. This helpful article gets a bit science-geeky about the whole process and also includes dairy-free.
Possibly a more hands-off method:
One commenter uses a slow cooker, on low all day with the lid slightly ajar to allow for evaporation. Whisk every so often to mix up and prevent possible scalding, since a lot of slow cookers tend to run pretty high in the long run. She says it lasts up to 4 months in the refrigerator and she can just scoop out the amount she needs!
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