What’s the Difference between Evaporated and Condensed Milk?

Ok it’s pretty common to see full cream, half fat, slim milk. But here in Asia, we’ve got a couple more options: Evaporated and Condensed Milk. Used in drinks and in cooking, these milk forms offer a great variety of options and of course, taste.

Both condensed milk and evaporated milk are forms of concentrated milk in which approximately 60 percent of the water content has been removed. The major difference that sets these two canned milk products apart is sugar content; sweetened condensed milk, as the name implies, is always sweetened, while evaporated milk is unsweetened.

Condensed milk is referred to as both condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk; the names are synonymous. This shelf-stable product is a form of concentrated milk in which about 60 percent of the water content has been removed, after which sugar is added before canning. Condensed milk contains 40 to 45 percent sugar. It’s rich and thick, with a caramel color and a super-sweet flavor. You won’t see any products labeled as unsweetened condensed milk, since that’s essentially evaporated milk.

Condensed milk can be found in kitchens around the world, from the U.S. to Europe to Latin America to Asia. Sweetened condensed milk is commonly used in baked goods and desserts — like pie, pudding, ice cream — and as a sweetener in coffee and tea.

Similar to condensed milk, and as the name implies, evaporated milk is also made by heating milk until about 60 percent of its water content has evaporated. It is then homogenized, packaged, and sterilized. The result is a dense, creamy, ultra-concentrated milk that can be canned and stored for several months. The high heat used in processing also adds a slightly caramelized flavor and darker color than regular milk.

There are skim, low-fat, and whole milk varieties of evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is used in dishes that seek a creamy texture, but not necessarily any added sweetness. It’s used in both sweet and savory recipes.

Even though these are both shelf-stable, concentrated forms of milk and have some similarities, evaporated and condensed milk cannot be used interchangeably. For you home cooks, substituting one product for the other would either result in a very bland dish (if evaporated milk is used in place of condensed milk) or a dish that’s way too sweet (if condensed milk is used in place of evaporated milk).

The sugar in condensed milk becomes concentrated, adding a caramelized flavor during processing, so it’s not quite the same as combining evaporated milk with sugar. In other words, since sugar in sweetened condensed milk is cooked down and caramelized, merely adding sugar to evaporated milk would be an insufficient substitute. A sugary dilemma.

Check out my related post: Milo, Ovaltine or Horlicks? The Malted Milk Wars

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  1. You can also make an eggnog like drink using both evaporated and condensed milks… and brandy, of course… but that’s an entirely different discussion 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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