Pantry Staples: Evaporated and Condensed Milk


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There are some essentials that are a good idea to keep in your pantry, you never know when you are going to need them. And as they are shelf-stable they can stay there for ages, ready to be pressed into service at any time. Evaporated milk and condensed milk are two such items, but don’t confuse the two!


Traditional Vietnamese Coffee

Traditional Vietnamese Coffee


Both evaporated and condensed milk are simply concentrated versions of milk made by heating raw milk until around sixty percent of the water has evaporated. It is then then homogenized, sterilized and canned. With condensed milk, sugar is added before canning. Lots of it. In fact condensed milk is round 45% sugar and is often referred to as ‘sweetened condensed milk’, as sort of an aide memoire since you don’t want to confuse the two products! Sweetened condensed milk is almost exclusively used for desserts, it is what you will reach for when making Key Lime pie, puddings and quick ice creams, like the magic little vanilla ice cream recipe at the bottom of this post. And of course condensed milk is a necessity when making Vietnamese coffee which would probably go pretty nicely with that ice cream and a slice of this strangely compelling condensed milk cake.




Evaporated milk on the other hand is primarily used for more savory applications, to impart a creamy texture in soups, casseroles and sauces and is often used instead of cream, or whipping cream. It is also the main ingredient in kulfi, the delicious South Asian frozen dairy dessert. We love this easy home recipe for a pistachio-cardamom version.

It is also a first-choice coffee lightener for many, due to its creamy texture and lower caloric count. One major reason you might choose evaporated milk over cream is the caloric and fat content: a cup of 35% whipping cream has 809 calories and 85g of fat, whereas the same amount of evaporated milk has 338 calories and 19g of fat. Plus there is also evaporated 2% milk, which weighs in at 270 calories and 5g of fat. For years, campers have packed a can of evaporated milk in their RVs or backpacks, as it requires no refrigeration until after opening. After that it keeps well in the fridge for about 4-5 days.


mango kulfi with pistachios

mango kulfi with pistachios


Both evaporated and condensed milk have their own unique flavour profiles due to their time being heated. Evaporated milk doesn’t taste exactly like milk or cream, but it is rich and even a little sweet, making it a first choice for some people who actually prefer to use it for their coffee or tea. Condensed milk has an even more pronounced caramel flavour, and of course is very sweet, so not suitable for savoury applications.




Whether you find yourself one morning without cream for your coffee, or have a last minute desire to make Key Lime pie for tonight’s supper, it’s nice to know you have these little helpers on duty in your pantry, awaiting the call.


Magic Vanilla Ice Cream

makes 1 litre

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 vanilla bean, split


Heat condensed milk and vanilla bean in a double boiler over medium heat for ten minutes. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean and scrape out seeds, returning them to the pot. Let cool. Whip the whipping cream until double in volume. Whisk the whipped cream into the cooled vanilla/condensed milk. Pour into two 500 ml containers and freeze for 3 hours.

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