Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk – The Complete Guide

Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk - The Complete Guide

If you are like most shoppers, then trying to differentiate between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk may be somewhat of a challenge. They both come in liquid form, and the cans are almost identical. Telling them apart can take a bit of learning if you don’t bake that often. Luckily there are a few ways to tell them apart. Below is a guide you can follow to help you identify which type of recipes call for which type of milk.

The Difference is Sugar

Sweetened condensed milk is exactly that – sweet. Evaporated milk, on the other hand, is unsweetened. Because of this, mixing up the two styles can pose a threat to any recipe. Both types, however, have about 60% of the water removed, so it’s important to pay attention to the labels at the store. If your recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk that means it needs extra sugar to make it taste right (usually used for pies and sweet baked goods) and evaporated milk is used more for cooking non-dessert items.

History of Condensed Milk

For both products, most of the water has been removed. The only real difference between them is that the sweetened condensed milk has sugar added to it right before it’s canned. The sweetened condensed milk contains roughly 40-45 percent sugar. Its rich and thick with a slight caramel color with a super sweet flavor.

Why is there no unsweetened condensed milk at the store? Essentially it is evaporated milk, and thus it doesn’t need a different label. Like the sweeter version, both products are available for purchase in just about any country around the world.

Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk - The Complete Guide

Uses for Condensed Milk

Outside of baked goods, sweetened condensed milk can be used for making ice cream and even homemade coffee creamer! You can use it for pudding or more commonly pies. You can even add it to tea if you’d like.

Evaporated milk is used primarily for recipes that call for creamy texture but not a sweet flavor. Varieties of the product include skim, low-fat, or whole milk versions.

How Evaporated Milk is Made

To make evaporated milk, you first have to heat it up. This takes a little time, but once approximately 60 percent of the water has evaporated, the milk is then homogenized. After that process has been completed, the milk is then packaged in little metal cans. The product is then sterilized. Due to the high heat used to create it, evaporated milk has a slightly caramelized flavor and is darker in color than regular milk.

Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk - The Complete Guide

Can They Be Substituted?

Unfortunately, sweetened condensed milk can’t be substituted for evaporated milk and vice versa. Doing so would only leave you with a very bland tasting dessert dish or a super rich tasting recipe that isn’t supposed to be sweet. The two just can’t be substituted interchangeably.


Sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk have a multitude of uses. If you do more baking than cooking, you’ll want to have a few cans of sweetened condensed milk on hand in your kitchen cupboard. That way you won’t have to make a special trip to the store to buy some for a last-minute recipe. If you do more cooking than baking, you will probably want to have some evaporated milk on hand. Most recipes don’t call for condensed milk when it comes to making lunches and dinners, but it’s always good to have both types of canned milk on hand. You never know when you might have a use for them. One such example is if you run out of that gallon of milk in your refrigerator. You can pop open a can of evaporated milk and use that for drinking. All you need to do is add a little water to it. If it tastes too bitter, add a little bit of sugar to it, and it will taste more like regular milk. Don’t forget to refrigerate it after you open the can though otherwise, it will go bad as it sits out on the counter.

No matter what recipe you’re planning on following, just be sure to read the labels on the cans carefully. Also be sure to double check your ingredients list and your recipes will turn out just fine.