The Best Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitutes to Use in a Pinch

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Ever been in the middle of a baking project and realized you're flat out of sweetened condensed milk? Here are all the substitutes you need to know, including homemade condensed milk.

Sweetened condensed milk is one of the most versatile ingredients you have stashed away in your pantry. From using it in decadent fudge or layered bars to mixing it into cake or brownie batter, sweetened condensed milk has certainly earned its place as a baking staple.

But what do you do if you’ve run out of sweetened condensed milk, or you need a dairy-free alternative? Thankfully, there are some options for condensed milk substitutes to get you back to your recipe in no time.

What is sweetened condensed milk?

First things first, what exactly is sweetened condensed milk? Really, it’s just as the name suggests. Similar to evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk is a canned milk that has been cooked down, removing some of the milk’s water content along the way. At the same time, plenty of sugar is added to the mix, resulting in a thick, sweet liquid. It adds delicious flavor and luscious creaminess to a huge variety of recipes.

How to Make Sweetened Condensed Milk

If you’ve run out of sweetened condensed milk, but have everything else your recipe calls for, there may be no need to head to the store. You can make a worthy substitute in a pinch.

Because it’s essentially a boiled-down version of milk, you can make homemade sweetened condensed milk.

Microwave Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute

To make condensed milk in the microwave, simply whisk ½ cup milk and 1/3 cup sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl, and then pop the bowl in the microwave to heat for 1-2 minutes at a time. Heat the mixture in intervals until it becomes bubbly, with a bit of froth, and then allow it to cool in the fridge. With cooling time, it will thicken to a consistency similar to the canned version. This hack may not result in the same caramelized flavor or richness, but it can certainly work if you’re in a bind and need a quick solution.

Stovetop Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute

You can make a sweetened condensed milk substitute on the stovetop as well. In a saucepan, whisk together 2 cups milk and 1 cup sugar. Heat the mixture on medium to allow the sugar to dissolve. Reduce the temperature just before the milk begins to boil, and then leave it to simmer on low. Simmer the mixture until the milk reduces, which will take about 35 minutes. Once reduced, allow the mixture to cool, and then place it in the fridge to thicken.

Other Substitutes for Sweetened Condensed Milk

Canned Cream of Coconut

Cream of coconut is a great substitute for sweetened condensed milk, leaving you with a hint of tropical flavor. It’s dairy-free and can be substituted cup for cup. The thick consistency of cream of coconut closely resembles sweetened condensed milk, allowing for similar richness in many recipes.

Coconut Milk

Simmering a can of full-fat coconut milk with ¼ cup of sugar will result in another great dairy-free substitute for sweetened condensed milk. Whisk the coconut milk and sugar in a saucepan, bring the mixture to just below boiling and then allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture often until it thickens, and then allow it to cool. This will result in a nice, creamy consistency with only a hint of coconut flavor.

Evaporated Milk

Because sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are very similar, evaporated milk can serve as a substitute. You won’t get the same sweet, caramelized flavor with it, but the consistency will be similar when using a cup for cup substitution. Just add a bit more sugar in your recipe to make up for the lack of sweetness, if desired.

The Best Recipes to Make with Sweetened Condensed Milk
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Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a previous bakery owner and former event planner. Now, a freelance writer and editor focused on food and beverage, lifestyle, travel and parties, she brings her years of experience and industry knowledge to readers across a variety of platforms.