Evaporated Milk vs. Condensed Milk: What's the Difference?

Find out if condensed milk and evaporated milk are really interchangeable.

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It's a question many aspiring bakers want to know: What's the difference between condensed milk vs. evaporated milk? You may have both milk products in your pantry without realizing that each one is used in different contexts. Regardless of your milk mastery, we're here to clear up the confusion.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is unsweetened milk that has been preserved in cans. It was invented when refrigerators were a luxury and families had to find a way to preserve the calcium-loaded beverage for their children. Today it is a pantry staple for several sweet and savory recipes.

To make evaporated milk, fresh milk is slowly simmered over low heat until approximately 60% of the (naturally occurring) water is removed. The milk becomes creamier and thicker once the water has, well, evaporated. It is then homogenized, sterilized, and packaged for commercial sale.

How to Use

The unsweetened nature of evaporated milk makes it versatile for savory dishes like decadent mac and cheese and some sweeter recipes like sweet potato pie, which is a more savory dessert. Keep in mind that evaporated milk has some inherent sweetness from the milk, but it is not nearly as sweet as condensed milk.

Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk starts with the same process as evaporated milk—regular milk is boiled down to about half the amount to create a decadent, creamy product. However, a generous amount of sugar is added to the evaporated milk to sweeten it, which turns it into condensed milk.

How to Use

Condensed milk is most commonly used in indulgent desserts like turtle bars, mocha latte fudge, and toasted coconut key lime pie. It's also the single ingredient used to make Dulce de Leche, which is simply caramelized condensed milk. Condensed milk is so beloved by bakers that dairy-free alternatives, like condensed coconut milk, now exist too.


While we don't recommend substituting condensed milk for evaporated milk or vice versa, you can make your own condensed milk when you're in a pinch. Simply heat together 1½ cups of sugar and one can of evaporated milk until the sugar has fully dissolved.

Shelf Life

Both evaporated milk and condensed milk typically have a shelf life of at least one year. After opening cans of evaporated and condensed milk, keep them refrigerated and use them within five days.

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