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
Healthy Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipe (NO Dry Milk or Other Cans!)
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 5 mins
- Yield: 1 1/4 cups 1x
- Category: condiment
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.
- 1 1/2 c. whole milk
- 1/2 or 2/3 c. unrefined sugar (organic cane sugar or sucanat depending on your final goal for the condensed milk)
- 3 Tbs. butter
- 1 tsp. homemade vanilla or vanilla extract
- 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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RELATED: Why is butter better than margarine? & other superb homemade foods recipes
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!
68 thoughts on “Healthy Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute (Starting with Real Milk!)”
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Do you know if this recipe would work with Lactose Free Whole Milk? It is actually really difficult to find Coconut milk (and when we can find it, its super pricey) where we live, and the whole family is lactose intolerant, so we have a steady stream of Lactose Free Milk at home….
I’ve never tried lactose-free milk – I suppose it depends on how different it is from cow’s milk, but Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs (the link for the dairy-free) tested quite a number of dairy-free milks, and I believe they all worked, so that would give me hope if I were you! 🙂 katie
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Katie-I have used this recipe. It works and it is delicious!!!! 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful resources!!! Sherra
I’m in the process of trying your two hour on LO unattended approach but am having no success … the steam rose as expected initially but then stopped, producing the film on top, with no reduction after two hours … so I’ve begun stiring, and with it, each time there is a release of steam, followed by the creation of the additional film … no dark discoloration or discernable thickening.
Any ideas from anyone?
This recipe was a Godsend! Finally I can make a tres leches cake without having to rely on crappy industrial SCM. I did find after trying it once that the butter and vanilla were completely unnecessary. I use raw grassfed milk (which of course isn’t totally raw after I’ve reduced it, but I keep the heat minimal to keep it as close to raw as possible) and it tastes just like the “real” thing with just the milk and sugar. Maybe because my milk has a lot of butterfat already. Anyway, so glad to have this recipe.
I’m thinking a crock pot would be the thing once you’ve done the initial sugar melting.
Do you think the condensed milk could be made in a crockpot? I always burn stuff on the stove no matter how low I make it.
I did it and posted about it 3 comments before yours.
Hi, i have a stupid question, can i use granulated sugar instead of unrefined sugar? Or even a sugar substitute??
Granulated sugar should work just the same as cane sugar, JM.
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I made this in a large oval crockpot with 5c whole milk and 2c sugar (technically evaporated cane juice). I left the lid off and started it on high until it was steaming, then set it to low. it took 16-18 hours to get down to 3 1/2 c (I got impatient and called it done at 3 3/4 or so but after cooling it was still a bit too runny). I was nervous near the end that I would have caramel since it was so dark, but it tasted perfect, so I’m chalking up the caramel color to using evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar.
Thanks for the recipe to start with!
i made it using milk that i prepared myself using a very creamy full fat milk powder that we find here in kuwait. I used regular white sugar…the result was perfect! i used it in making chocolate ice cream without ice cream maker… luv this recipe…
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Lovely!! But i prefer the taste without the vanilla. Thanks
I made this for the first time about 2 weeks ago and fell in LOVE with it! I had such a hard time finding a recipe for sweetened condensed milk using raw farm milk. As you know, most recipes call for powdered milk. (we make our powdered milk in our food dehydrator) I couldn’t imagine EVER using anything but fresh raw milk. That being said, I have since made this numerous times, doubling the recipe and I left out the butter and vanilla. I keep this in a pint mason jar in my fridge for my morning coffee. YUMMY! I originally used this recipe to make homemade Nutella and it was SO good! Thank you for the recipe and the beautiful blog!
That’s fantastic, Erin, thank you so much! (& welcome!) 🙂 Katie
Could this be made in a crockpot either by putting the milk directly in the crockpot or by putting the milk into a container and placing the container in the crockpot?
I’ve never tried it! ??? 🙂 Katie
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The recipe looks great, two questions though: do you know how long it can be kept? And Will the recipe yield the same results if doubled or trebled/ OR should I just do several smaller batches?
I’d like to make make up a full mason jar to keep on hand in the fridge.
You know, I’ve only ever made it and used it right away BUT I have a hunch that it would keep a long time – maybe a month at least, maybe even 6 mos., because of all the sugar content. But I’m only guessing!
Same thing with a larger batch; you’d just have to try it. Sorry I’m so little help!
Hi, your recipe looks perfect for my organic chocolate icing. However, I was wondering whether or not I could leave out the sugar to make unsweetened condensed milk? Would that work?
Jess…I’m sure the milk would condense…I wonder how it would taste? Let me know if you try it! 🙂 Katie
Yet another thing to not about this recipe: it is not exactly equivent to a can of condensed milk. I tried making fudge with this and it never got hard. I believe that this condensed milk is too liquid and therefore one must use less than what a normal recipe calls for. I’m so disapponited.
I just tried to make this today, with beet sugar, which happens to be the normal sugar here where I live (in Austria). It totally failed, didn’t get thick at all, just kept boiling away. Please put a note to use CANE SUGAR ONLY, because otherwise it’s a waste of time and money.
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I have been using sweetened condensed milk to make mayonnaise my whole life. Other than a dessert now and then, I think that is the only thing I regularly use it for.
My question is: I would be using organic cane sugar, so do I use 1/2 cup or 2/3 to make it taste like Eagle Brand.
I’m guessing the higher amount, but I never did a side-by-side taste test. Sorry I missed your comment for so many days! Enjoy! 🙂 Katie
I just made this today and it’s DELICIOUS! Absolutely better than any store-bought brand–even the one’s that say ‘organic’. The best part is that it’s just about effortless.
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Mine never thickened! It cooked down to much less than I started with but it was still thin several hours later and barely any left in the pan! Any ideas? I used raw milk and half organic cane sugar and half sucanat. The only thing is my burners are quite hot even on the lowest setting, could that have been the problem?
I’m not sure what to tell you…sounds like it should have been okay – this stuff doesn’t get quite as practically solid as standard condensed milk, just thick. ??? Katie
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I don’t know of it is in any of the previous comments, but, could I sub coconut milk and coconut oil for the milk and butter?
Dairy free is not one I’ve tried…I wonder if just using coconut cream would make more sense, since that’s basically condensed coconut milk with fat? 🙂 Katie
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Sorry, but I don´t think Xylitol, Stevia and other non-sugar sweeteners would work. I haven´t tried it and I won´t as I am really persuaded milk won´t thicken. It´s the sugar that makes that.
shoulda known to check your site first 🙂 why was i even googling? haha! buuuuut, i was looking to see if i could substitue honey for the sugar. guess i’ll give it a try and let you know.
My condensed milk ended up being lumpy and brown:( It’s not creamy colored and smooth like canned condensed milk. It doesn’t taste burnt though. What did I do wrong?
Since it doesn’t taste burnt (always a good start!), I’m guessing you cooked it a little too long and ended up with dulce de leche (google it) – I bet it tastes wonderful! 🙂 Katie
I make what ends up being 1 Gal in the Crock Pot. I start it out early in the morning with the lid slightly ajar, I use a wire whip and check it often, on low heat. Some Crock Pots have a simmer setting now. It take a long time and differs to get it reduced to the 1Gal. amount once it is there if I have a lot of candy making or baking I will put it in an air tight container and leave in the refrigerator. When I need it I will set out on the counter for a few hrs to get to room temp. so it will be easy to shake and be sure the sugar has not settled back out. If it has you can put it in a pan and reheat or put the air tight container in a pan of boiling water and then shake or mix being causes not to get burnt. If I have left over and do not need it for a long time or I am making it ahead say in the Summer I will put it in vacuum bags and freeze it, Just measure it out in the amount I know I am going to use in my candy making and freeze. It will keep years frozen, At least I have kept and used it for 3 so far. A few made there way to the bottom of the freezer and I found them when I moved so I gave them a try, made a great frozen Banana cream pie.
Some cheats you can use sugar substitution so that it is sugar free. I will often make new flavors by replacing 1qt of the milk with 1qt of flavored coffee creamer. I like french vanilla, Amaretto, and Cinnamon, Hazelnut, I think you can get the idea. Have fun try new things, make new things. If you fail try again, it is how we learn and improve on things. I have made several new flavors of candy and pie just by making my own Sweetened Condensed Milk!
hi, thank you for this wonderful recipe. I just tried it in a microwave, and it worked very well! I got the milk-sugar mixture to a boil, then lowered the microwave power, I wasn’t really keeping track but I think it was about half an hour all together.
what is unrefined sugar,m and ca i use normal sugar in place of it
Unrefined sugar is also called sucanat, rapadura, or jaggery – but white sugar is fine.
Katie, I need your help! What am I doing wrong? I tried making this again for the second time. I used raw milk and turbinado sugar. The first time the sugar didn’t want to dissolve. So, the 2nd time I figured maybe it was because the raw sugar was so much thicker…so this time I blended a small bit of the milk in the food processor with the sugar. In either case, both times my final product ended up lumpy. I saw one reply that might have been a similar effect…I think he described it as curds. What causes this? What am I doing wrong? I’m attempting to use the condensed milk to make cuban flan. I like it to be soooper smooth, so the curdy/lumpiness is totally throwing my flan off 🙁 Please help! Thank you, and I love your site!!
Hmmm…I don’t even think I used raw milk for this recipe, but if I were you, I’d try two things:
1. pasteurize the milk first, then add the sugar.
2. try smaller grain sugar – turbinado isn’t especially healthy, so just use white sugar for this recipe and hopefully you won’t have curds!
good luck! 🙂 Katie
My goat milk is raw. I have my own dairy goats so producing it is very cheap and frankly, I have it comingout of my ears. When you cook the milk for 2 hours, trust me, it is thoroughly pasteurized! I found that my SCM is thinner than the store bought variety, but it doesn’t bother me and it makes the coffee creamer delicious without being “too much.” It is most certainly not lumpy…I agree, use fine grain white sugar, and watch your temperature. Cook it just high enough that it still bubbles, but keep it pretty low.
I follow your blog and was so happy that when I Googled “homemade sweetened condensed milk” this post was the second result. I am going to try this with iced coffee for this summer. Thanks!
Great substitution suggestion. For a faster option, I place 12 ounces of evaporated milk in a saucepan along with 1/2 cup sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Stir well, then heat over medium low till it boils, then stir another 5-8 minutes until thickened and slightly reduced.
wanted to let you know that I made the condensed milk recipe, per your recipe. It turned out great. I like it better than the store bought, not as sweet? I never wanted to make the recipes with powdered milk. This will be my go to recipe now. ??thank you so much. ?
I just made this it’s awesome!
I was so excited to find this! I have been trying to replace coffee creamer and all the recipes that are sweet enough for my hubby seem to call for sweetened condensed milk.
Mine didn’t set up though! =( It reduced in about 2 hours and then the butter was added. It’s not even set up after a few hours in the fridge. I’m still going to try it in my recipe, but the thickness is what makes that work as a good sub for creamer.
Thoughts on how I screwed up?
Well, it doesn’t get incredibly thick like gelatin…I say see how it goes with hubs and troubleshoot if the creamer is a fail. 😉 Katie
I made this with my goat’s milk and it was wonderful. I too wanted to make homemade coffee creamer and was out of store bought SWC. My goat milk is very sweet already though, much more so than cow’s milk…very tasty! Thanks for this recipe. Next time I am going to leave out the butter 🙂
I have been looking for a non cow milk sweetened condensed milk and I cant find it anywhere! I so happy I found this I am going to try with Goat Milk
Do you have any suggestions/recommendations?
I wish I could help! I’ve never used goat’s milk, but I hope it works in this recipe for you. If it does, do come on back and let me know and I can update the post for other non-cow-milk folks. Thanks! 🙂 Katie