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Yes! Finally a healthy version of sweetened condensed milk that doesn't use dry milk as an ingredient! You've got to try this and take your recipes up a notch!

Healthy Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute (Starting with Real Milk!)

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. 

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipe

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.

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Healthy Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipe (NO Dry Milk or Other Cans!)

  • Author: Katie Kimball
  • 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.



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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Nutrition Info


  • 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:

Get the Recipe WITH All The Notes!

Homemade Condensed Milk Substitute FAQs

Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute

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.

homemade sweetened condensed milk

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!

Will you make sweetened condensed milk?
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Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

70 thoughts on “Healthy Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute (Starting with Real Milk!)”

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  2. You never mentioned if you take the reduced milk off heat before adding butter and vanilla. Is there any issues if the pan is still on the burner when adding?

  3. This sounds wonderful! I am interested in trying the crock pot method, but I have a couple of questions….. First, should I heat the ingredients on the stove top, making sure the sugar has melted before pouring into the crock pot? Second, can this be frozen in 1 cup portions? What a great way to have this ingredient on hand at a moments notice! Unable to rate this until I’ve made it, but can’t wait to try it.

    1. Freezing will be no problem, Judy, especially if you’re cooking/baking with it after thawing as it will probably separate a bit. I’ve never done it in the slow cooker so I’m not sure how to answer your question on that though! ๐Ÿ™‚ katie

  4. I made this to use to make the caramel to go in salted caramel shortbread (similar to millionaires shortbread but with added coarse sea salt). It worked perfectly! Best caramel I ever made. Set perfectly, tasted amazing! I’ll never buy a can of sweetened condensed milk again. I’ve got another batch reducing on the stove now so I can made a nonalcoholic Irish cream. I intensely dislike the taste of anything out of a can. I know the can is not “tin” but things in cans always seem to have a “tinny” taste. Thanks so much for this recipe!

  5. hai katie..i tried this recipe it went all well but after cooling also its still bit runny why is that so..any suggestions..thanks

  6. I think that I’d be inclined to use something like Xyla instead of sugar in this. I’m trying to stay away from refined sugars. Maybe even use Goat Milk, it’s easier to digest.

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  8. I’ve done this using skimmed milk with this recipe beforebefore, and I wonder, can I make a more fully low fat version using artificial sweetener and low-fat butter?

    Also, with the normal recipe, how long can you refrigerate, and how long can you freeze it for?

    1. Leah,

      The recipe might work with artificial sweetener and low fat butter (you’d have to try it out) but I wouldn’t recommend it. The point of making your own is to avoid artificial ingredients. I’d stick to the full fat, real version.

      This can be refrigerated up to a month. Freezing generally preserves food up to a year.

  9. This works well. I used it in chocolate pie it’s better than store can milk .. I will never buy anymore from the store.. Thank you

  10. I generally just substitute straight cream for condensed milk. The lack of extra sweetening is usually an improvement. I’ll have to try throwing in a bit of vanilla

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  12. Thank you for this awesome money saving recipe. I’m using organic whole llk and organic sugar. I added butter and vanilla the first time I made it but I noticed it became darker in color due to vanilla. Next time I made it I omitted both butter and vanilla and it tasted just like it should, pure homemade sweetened condensed milk. Now, this did not yield a cup 8oz) but rather a mere 5-6 ounces, depending on time cooking. I did used a heavy bottomed pot and whisked every 10 minutes until it started to separate, then I cooked a little longer (say, 10 more minutes or so) and it turned into sweetened condensed milk.

    My tip would be to quickly transfer into a co Rainer from which you can easily use a spatula to get the most of it. Unless you of course use it immediately. In which case you can leave it ok n the pot.

    I’m gonna suggest this recipe to everyone instead of that powdered milk one out there.

    Once again, thank you and happy cooking.

  13. If I put the finished milk in a canning jar, can I put it in a pot of simmering water to make a Caramel sauce?

  14. Not sure what went wrong. I tried this yesterday (1 1/2 c. whole organic milk w/ 2/3 c. organic cane sugar) and followed the directions completely. The end result was not a thick enough product. I needed this for a key lime pie I made late in the afternoon. The end result was a runny pie. Really sad since I used all fresh/best ingredients (incl. my own chicken eggs). Could the problem be that I needed more sugar to thicken to a dense enough consistency or should I have chilled it in the frig for a while….I waited till it was fully cooled on the counter before adding it to the yolks to mix.

    I appreciate any help in solving this mystery. I can’t stand using pre-made products if I don’t have to. thanks!

    1. Hi Mindy,
      So sorry to hear about your pie! It’s the length of cooking that makes it thicker – so you probably just needed to cook longer. The time suggested could be affected by the size of your pot, heat from your stove, etc. You just have to keep cooking it off until it looks thick enough, and then you know it’s done!
      Hope it works like a charm next time – Katie

  15. I recently made it with coconut milk and it was real easy. I combined 1 can of coconut milk with about 3 tbsp. of maple syrup. I simmered it down in a similar way you did. The recipe I used had a neat idea for measuring when it has reduced by 1/2. In the beginning, put a wooden craft stick in and then pull it out and make a mark with a sharpie on it. Then you can continue to put it in throughout the simmer to see when it is half way. We used it on 7layer bars and it turned out really well.

  16. I applaud the admin for both her creativity and effort. However, from a nutritional point / or healthier choice, I think it’s redundant. Fresh mill boil for 2hours even with low heat still kills / modify the live nutrients in the milk n same goes for d organic sugar. Anything that requires prolong heat, imho, just defeats the purpose of being organic or fresh coz d idea behind that concept is nutrient retention n chemical reduction/exclusion. At most one can perhaps hinge on the threshold of it being less chemical ladened, ie, preservatives free compared to store bought ones.
    For me unless it’s a case of ran out of stock … r for creativity streak, i’ll just buy the darn thing…lol ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Made this, sort of, in my slow cooker the other day. 9 cups of milk, 3 cups of sugar (3:1 seems to be the ratio) and let it simmer at about 200 degrees for 4 or 5 hours with lid slightly ajar. It developed a film from time to time but I just scooped it out. Reduced by about half. It’s pretty darn good even though I forgot the last step of putting the butter and vanilla in it. I make home made coffee creamer so I hope it lasts for months like the author states. A mason jar and a half of evaporated milk is going to last a while ๐Ÿ™‚ (Creamer: 1 part evaporated milk, 1 part regular milk, and extract to taste – home made vanilla or hazelnut extract). Thanks!

  18. thank you so much for this recipe. It’s the only one I’ve found that uses regular milk and it turns out great.

  19. I might have missed this in the comments – but isn’t 8 oz one cup? So therefore, a can of 14 of sweetened condensed milk is then 1 3/4 cup?

    Just checking… I’m not so cook at cooking…

  20. I like what you are teaching. However, we have had times when we were so poor that having some dry milk to use in baking since we couldn’t afford fresh milk, was very helpful. Thus, though we like fresh and healthy, I will not put down something that gets people through hard times. It feels awful to not even have the money for a gallon of milk.

  21. Well condensed milk is milk with water removed from the milk. That’s the difference, so when you make homemade condensed milk and want water in it then you may use the milk but when you add condensed milk into coffee then you get the milk without most of the water plus the sugar.

    In my culture we drink coffee with condensed milk all the time, and I just looked up what the difference is between regular milk and condensed milk. Hence the name condensed.

  22. So I made this had some interesting results. I doubled the recipe and I ended up with 10 oz. It wasnt super creamy though. It started separating and I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be happening. I kept stirring and after 5 minutes it got thick. I did not expect that after an hour on a simmer burner so I called it done. It’s still good, just wondering if you’ve had a similar experience.

  23. I know it’s not as healthy, but has anyone ever made the condensed milk with sweetener instead of sugar, honey, molasses, etc? Each cut of sugar and carbs is a bonus for me, despite my sweet tooth. ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Thank you so much for this! My mom is very lactose intolerant, and has to skip out on the fudge and the Brazilian chocolate balls that my boyfriend makes for family gatherings because they require sweetened condensed milk.

    The substitutions I made were simply: 2% Lactose-free milk and Earth Balance vegan butter in place of the milk and butter. It took a little over 2 hours, but I was attentive and had the heat at medium-low, so it may take longer. Since it had to cook longer, the sugar cooked a bit more and I ended up with a more caramel color and flavor, but no complaints there, it’s still delicious!

  25. I’ve tried this on the stove, and in the crock pot a few times with various results. Sometimes it turns out great. Super yummy! On the stove one time though it seemed to separate. I had little flecks in and they didn’t really blend back in. In the crockpot yesterday, I kept getting a film on the top of my milk (which might have been what happened the time I got flecks in it on the stove and I may have not realized there was a film and just stirred it on the way by). Any thoughts on either of these?

    1. Sonya,
      Not sure about the little flecks (scalding on the bottom?) but I do get a film when my milk for making yogurt gets really hot…so maybe the slow cooker is just too high? Strange that it acts differently at times though…maybe the age of the milk makes a difference, but I’m just guessing! ๐Ÿ™‚ Katie

    1. Lesa,
      You can read all about it here:
      There are some potential risks. It may not be awful, but it’s not a very unprocessed food, so for folks who want whole foods, it just doesn’t fit. Also, with all that sugar, you might want the fat in whole milk to slow down the insulin rush. ๐Ÿ™‚ Katie

  26. Susan Riehl, check out this post:

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  28. Sharon, Cookie Society

    Hi Katie, I can see you put this here a long time ago – but maybe you will still see my question. I’m so thrilled to find your recipe. I share a similar philosophy. I call it “authentic food”. I’ve just tried to make this sweetened condensed milk but it has curdled. Truly, it wasn’t boiling – but was it still too hot? What could be the problem? I’m going to try again… lower heat… fingers crossed!

    1. Hi Sharon!
      I do see questions on old posts, but I let some (including yours) get buried this month. ๐Ÿ™ Sorry about that! I’m still here!

      Curdling is a surprise! Did anything get into your batch, like a vinegar-based something-or-other or some cultured milk like yogurt? That’s the only reason I can think of that milk should curdle instead of simmer or thicken with sugar. So strange! Or maybe you added the vanilla before cooking instead of after?

      I hope your second attempt went better – nobody likes wasting food! ๐Ÿ™

      I love your “authentic food” phrase – welcome to Kitchen Stewardship!
      ๐Ÿ™‚ Katie

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    1. Dani,
      Touche. That’s very true – much less dangerous for you than canned condensed milk, but not health food at all. Sometimes I’m a bit liberal with the “healthy” because I want people looking for healthy alternatives to find my site!

      You might appreciate this post on white sugar:
      and the related series.

      Thanks for keeping me real! ๐Ÿ™‚ Katie

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