If you need a substitute for evaporated milk, there are easy swaps almost guaranteed to be sitting in your refrigerator right now. There's no need for a special trip to the grocery store for just one thing.

By Sheena Chihak
Updated September 14, 2020
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Evaporated milk is often called for in custards, tres leches cake, silky sauces like this hot fudge sauce, and pie recipes such as a classic pumpkin pie. You can find it in the baking aisle next to other pantry staples. Because it's so readily available, it's possible you never considered just what evaporated milk is. If you pause for a minute to think about the name, you can pretty easily deduce what evaporated milk is and how it's made. Canned evaporated milk is cow's milk that has been cooked down to reduce its water content by 60%. After evaporation, the result is a thicker milk product with a slightly caramelized flavor that's hard to duplicate. That uniqueness can leave you asking, "what can I substitute for evaporated milk that will offer a similar result?" This list offers ideas of what you can substitute for evaporated milk in a pinch that will yield tasty results.

Can of evaporated milk and a spoon and bowl on a wooden surface
Credit: Sheena Chihak

Substitutes for Evaporated Milk

These substitutions will work in most recipes (including the most asked about substitute for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie), though the flavor will differ using the straight one-to-one swaps at the top of the list.

For 1 cup of evaporated milk substitute:

  • 1 cup whole milk or 2% milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 cup homemade evaporated milk
    • To make your own evaporated milk, heat 2¼ cups of whatever milk is in your fridge (2% is commonly used) over medium-high heat until just boiling and reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Continue to cook and stir about 25 minutes until it cooks down to 1 cup. Use as called for in your recipe.
    • Test Kitchen Tip: Stir your homemade evaporated milk frequently to avoid a skin forming on top. And if some milk gets cooked on your pan, soak it right away for the easiest cleanup.

Vegan Substitutes for Evaporated Milk

If you need a vegan or dairy-free substitute for evaporated milk, simply adjust the ideas mentioned above to use your favorite soymilk, nut milk, oat milk, or other nondairy milk.

Get Our Emergency Substitutions Chart

Evaporated Milk Vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk come in similar size cans and are usually found next to each other on grocery store shelves. These items are essentially the same with one big difference: no sugar is added to evaporated milk. Sweetened condensed milk also has 60% of the water removed, but contains 40% sugar. Due to the big flavor difference, they cannot be substituted for each other. Always double-check which can you grabbed off the grocery store shelf to be sure it's the ingredient you're looking for.

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