You’re finally trying your hand at New Orleans-style beignets. But as you’re making the dough, you realize you’re all out of evaporated milk. Uh-oh. Don’t panic, your sugar-coated dreams are still within reach. It’s actually really easy to make your own evaporated milk: Simmer 60 percent more milk than the recipe calls for until it’s reduced to the amount you need (2¼ cups regular milk will give you about 1 cup evaporated). But if you’re also out of milk or you don’t consume dairy, odds are you already have another solid substitute at home.
Need an Evaporated Milk Substitute? We Have 6
What Is Evaporated Milk?
One taste and it’ll be clear why evaporated milk is so great to cook and bake with. Evaporated milk is milk that’s been reduced. This process causes a good amount of its water content to evaporate, resulting in a creamy, heavier, concentrated milk with a mildly sweet, toasty flavor. It’s a bit thicker than regular milk, making it a great addition to creamy pasta dishes, chowders and soups and a whole slew of sweets. (But it’s not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk, which is also rich, thick and sweet, but loaded with added sugar.)
Is Evaporated Milk Healthy?
Despite its sweet taste and creamy consistency, evaporated milk isn’t too far off from fresh or powdered milk health-wise. Evaporated milk doesn’t contain any additional ingredients, except for a few preservatives that make it shelf-stable for six months or more—that’s way longer than fresh milk. Because evaporated milk is concentrated and contains less water, it has slightly higher percentages of fat and carbs and more calories. A ½ cup of whole milk contains about 74 calories, 4 grams fat and 6 grams carbs. The same amount of evaporated milk will set you back 169 calories, 10 grams fat and 13 grams carbs. In terms of vitamins and minerals like calcium though, evaporated milk takes the cake, with a third of your daily calcium in every ½ cup. Many brands add vitamins D and A to evaporated milk as well. Fat-free evaporated milk is a great way to thicken sauces and soups without adding too many extra calories.
Besides making your own evaporated milk by reducing regular milk (the closest substitute there is), here are five more substitutes for evaporated milk to use in a pinch.
Substitutes for Evaporated Milk
1. Whole Milk and Half-and-Half
Regular milk is thinner than evaporated milk. Half-and-half, made from whole milk and light cream, is a bit thicker. Combine them and you’ve got a worthy substitute. You can also use half-and-half all by itself in instances where a little extra decadence and richness would be welcome, like in chowder or alfredo sauce. Substitute 1 cup evaporated milk with ¾ cup whole milk and ¼ cup half-and-half.
2. Heavy Cream
Like half-and-half but even more so, heavy cream is thicker and creamier than evaporated milk. Use your discretion based on what you’re making to decide if you should use the heavy cream as is or if it should be diluted first. Substitute for evaporated milk in equal parts in recipes that will benefit from extra richness. If you’re worried it’ll be too creamy, add one part milk. Then substitute evaporated milk for this mixture at a 1:1 ratio.
3. Non-Dairy Milk
Soy, oat, almond, rice, flax, hemp—they’re all invited to the party. Simmering and reducing non-dairy milk evaporates its water content, just like cow’s milk. Cooking off the water leads to a thicker final product. There are also dairy-free evaporated milks, cooking milks and lactose-free evaporated milks that don’t require any simmering at all. Simmer 2¼ cups non-dairy milk on the stove until it’s reduced to 1 cup. Regardless of how much you need, starting with about 60 percent more than that amount is a good rule of thumb.
4. Coconut Milk
It’s also a non-dairy milk, but notably fattier and thicker than nut milks and soy milk. As long as it’s full-fat coconut milk, it can be substituted for evaporated milk in equal parts without any simmering. Just know that its coconut flavor might come through in the final product, so use this in recipes where the flavor will fit, like black bean soup or creamy cilantro-lime chicken. Substitute for evaporated milk 1:1.
5. Powdered Milk
If you actually have this in your kitchen (or doomsday shelter), you already know you can rehydrate it with water to turn it into regular milk. If you cut back on the dilution, you’ll end up with a thicker, creamier result that’s a worthy stand-in for evaporated milk. Add about 60 percent of the water the powdered milk calls for, so it’s thicker and richer. Then substitute this mixture for evaporated milk in equal parts.
The Pros and Cons of Using Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk isn’t “good” or “bad,” it’s just best for certain dishes and situations. The pantry staple is great for:
- Making sauces, soups, pastas, smoothies, coffee and savory dishes rich and creamy without adding as much fat as cream.
- Thickening everything from pie filling to custard to oatmeal.
- Using in desserts for extra moisture, sweetness and depth without adding extra sugar.
- Substituting for regular milk 1:1 in most recipes whenever you’re out—it needs to be diluted to be consumed straight like regular milk, but dilution isn’t necessary for cooking and baking.
On the other hand, there are a few downsides to evaporated milk, but none that a carton of regular or non-dairy milk can’t fix:
- If you want to drink it straight like you would regular milk, it requires watering down in a 50/50 ratio (meaning for 1 cup of milk, you’d combine ½ cup evaporated milk and ½ cup water).
- It doesn’t always work as a substitute for regular milk in baking recipes because its concentrated sugars, fats and proteins can create overly-thick or dense desserts.
Ready to cook? Here are some of our favorite recipes that use evaporated milk.
1. Crock-pot Corn Chowder
It’s time to put all that summer produce to good use. And you only need nine ingredients to do it.
2. Easy Creamy Homemade Mac And Cheese
This comfort food queen is only 15 minutes away. And it’s loaded butter, American and cheddar cheese.
3. Skinny Shrimp Alfredo Pasta Bake
You won’t believe that there isn’t a single drop of cream in this sauce—but we won’t blame you if you add some either.
4. Skinny Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Your go-to cure-all, from scratch. (And did we mention the carrots, celery, garlic and egg noodles?)
5. One-pot Creamy Chicken And Rice
Dinner in 30 minutes? Don’t mind if we do. Your kids won’t mind the peas and carrots thanks to the decadent garlic-thyme broth and cheddar cheese.
6. Chorizo Queso
Meet your go-to dish for every party, barbecue and game day. Think butter, cream cheese, sharp cheddar and lots of crumbled chorizo. We’ll bring the tortilla chips.
8. New Orleans-style Beignets
Any day can feel like Mardi Gras with these heavenly squares of fried dough. Have them with a café au lait and boom, you’re on Bourbon Street.
9. The Best Tres Leches Cake
It’s as simple as it is scrumptious. Traditionally, this Latin yellow cake is soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream.
10. Mom’s Easy Homemade Fudge
A boardwalk treat that you can whip up at home with only seven ingredients. Feel free to go ham with the marshmallows and pecans.