Sweetened Condensed Milk in white bowl in front of cookies.
Helpful Tips

What To Substitute for Sweetened Condensed Milk

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When it comes to sweet treats and desserts, few ingredients compare to the sweetness and creaminess of sweetened condensed milk. Whether baking brownies, making a key lime pie or just adding some sweetness to your morning coffee, it’s important to know what to substitute for sweetened condensed milk when you run out or are trying to be more health-conscious.

Sweetened condensed milk dripping from a spoon into a clear bowl.
Sweetened condensed milk. Photo credit: Yayimages.

From evaporated milk to oat milk, this article will walk you through the best substitutes for sweetened condensed milk so you can get back to baking quickly. Whether you’re wanting a healthier alternative or accommodating dietary restrictions, there are several great options.

Why sweetened condensed milk — and sweetened condensed milk substitutes — are necessary

It will change a recipe completely if you leave out sweetened condensed milk. Here are a few reasons why you need it:

  • It binds ingredients together with its gooey consistency.
  • Sweetened condensed milk provides creaminess without the excess moisture you get when adding regular milk.
  • It cooks without curdling.

Common sweetened condensed milk substitutes

When using a substitute for sweetened condensed milk, keep in mind that it may change the sweetness or the thickness of the baked good. Having the actual ingredient a recipe calls for is ideal, but when you run out, or need a substitute for dietary reasons, these alternatives are great choices.

Heavy cream and sugar

Heavy cream in clear pitcher.
Heavy cream. Photo credit: Yayimages.

Heavy cream has the thickness of sweetened condensed milk without the sweetness. 1 cup of heavy cream combined with ¼ cup of sugar will replace 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla

Evaporated milk has a similar thick and creamy consistency to sweetened condensed milk without the sugar. Combine a 15-ounce can of evaporated milk, 1 ½ cups of sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract in a saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then let the mixture cool. It will continue to thicken as it cools. This mixture can be used as a cup-for-cup replacement for sweetened condensed milk.

Coconut milk and sugar

Full-fat coconut milk combined with sugar will have a creamy consistency like sweetened condensed milk but will add a slight coconut flavor to your baked good. It is best to use it when the coconut flavor will complement the main flavor of your dish. Heat a can of full-fat coconut milk in a saucepan on the stove and ¼ cup of sugar. Whisk the mixture until it boils, and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has thickened. Remove from the heat and let it cool. It can be used as a cup-for-cup substitute for sweetened condensed milk.

“A great substitute is coconut milk! Make sure to use the full-fat coconut milk from the can and drain the water. Because of its high-fat content, it works beautifully. It may not be as sweet as traditional condensed milk but, it makes a delicious addition!”

— Shelby, Fit as a Mama Bear

Coconut cream

Coconut cream can be used as a cup-for-cup replacement for sweetened condensed milk without any additional cooking. It will be less sweet, though. You can add ¼ cup of sugar to make it sweeter. 

Powdered milk, water, butter and sugar

Powdered milk combined with less water than normally used will result in a thick milk that has a similar consistency to sweetened condensed milk. Mix ⅓ cup of powdered milk with ⅓ cup of hot water. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and a pinch of sugar for richer flavor. This combination can be used as a cup-for-cup substitute for sweetened condensed milk.

Milk, sugar, butter and vanilla

Whole milk works best, but nonfat or reduced-fat milk will also work. Combine 1 ½ cups milk and ½ cup of sugar in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring to help some of the water evaporate. After the mixture has reduced to about half of the amount — which will take about 30 minutes, stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. This mixture can be used as a cup-for-cup replacement for sweetened condensed milk. 

Almond milk and sugar

Jar of milk next to white bowl of almonds.
Almond milk. Photo credit: Yayimages.

To use almond milk as a substitute for sweetened condensed milk, simmer 2 cups of almond milk in a saucepan over low heat until the mixture is reduced by about half. Remove the pan from the burner and add ⅔ cup of sugar while the milk is still warm. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture cool before using. Almond milk and sugar can be used as a cup-for-cup substitute for sweetened condensed milk.

Oat milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and butter

Another dairy-free alternative is oat milk. Combine one cup of oat milk, ½ cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk the ingredients together to remove any lumps. Microwave for 1 minute at a time until the mixture has reached the desired thickness. Then stir in 1 tablespoon of butter for added creaminess. This mixture works as a cup-for-cup replacement for sweetened condensed milk.

Final thoughts

While having the exact ingredients a recipe calls for is ideal, substitutes for sweetened condensed milk can work well too. Make sure to follow all the directions for how to use the substitutes above carefully, and keep in mind that the thickness and sweetness may be slightly different than when using sweetened condensed milk. 

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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