Best Substitutes for Sweetened Condensed Milk

sweetened condensed milk

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Sweetened condensed milk is a dairy product created by removing water from cow’s milk (either whole or skim milk will work), then boiling, reducing, and pasteurizing the milk. After this process, sugar is added. Combining these two ingredients establishes a creamy, sweet flavor because the heavy moisture from the milk is evaporated.

This final sweetened condensed milk product—whether made at home or purchased at a grocery store—generates an enriched, dairy dessert liquid that you can pour into coffee or use to bake tres leches cake, ice cream, pie, and caramel. Typically, condensed milk will make any food creamy and not set it into a solid-state.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Nutrition Facts

When comparing sweetened condensed milk to its substitutes, nutrition information is important to know. Here is what you can expect from a 1/2 cup serving (100 ml) of sweetened condensed milk’s nutrition as provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 3g
  • Sodium: 45mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 22g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Calcium: 99.9mg
  • Cholesterol: 9.9mg 

You should eat sweetened condensed milk in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting your sugar intake to no more than 10% of your total daily calories, which is about 200 calories or 12 teaspoons (48 grams).

It is important to note that the American Heart Association recommends a smaller serving size. They recommend that males limit sugar to 9 teaspoons (36 grams) a day and women limit sugar to 6 teaspoons (25 grams).

Why Use a Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute?

There are a number of reasons why you might need a substitute for sweetened condensed milk. For instance, some people have dairy allergies and need to find an alternative. Cow’s milk is one of the most widespread food allergens in infants and children. According to the Journal of Food Science and Technology, 2.2% to 3.5% of infants are allergic to cow’s milk.

Likewise, anyone with lactose intolerance could experience gastrointestinal distress when consuming sweetened condensed milk. Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in cow's milk and lactose intolerance occurs in 15% to 75% of adults. Typically, lactose intolerance can occur because of a primary deficiency of lactase or due to secondary inadequacy due to a condition like celiac disease or irritable bowel disease (IBD).

People who follow a vegan style of eating typically choose to avoid consuming all animal products. Meanwhile, those who follow a vegetarian type of eating plan may consume some dairy products or may choose not to. If you do not want to include animal products into your diet, you would avoid condensed milk, too.

Finally, if you do not have access to grocery stores that sell pre-made sweetened condensed milk and you cannot make your own because of the lack of cow’s milk availability, you will need a substitute.  

What to Look for in a Substitute

Sweetened condensed milk adds moisture, flavor, and tenderness to baking. You cannot simply substitute any liquid for this type of milk because an alternative needs to be both sweet and thick. If the substitute is not, you can ruin both the taste and look of the dish.

Best Substitutes for Sweetened Condensed Milk

There are a number of potential substitutions for sweetened condensed milk. What's more, some options are appropriate for those who are lactose intolerant.

Almond Milk and Sugar

For a substitute, simmer 2 cups of almond milk over low heat until the liquid reduces to 1 cup. (This is not a one-to-one alternative. You do need 2 cups of almond milk to make one cup of sweetened condensed milk.) To sweeten this up, you can add 2/3 cup of any type of sugar and mix. The 2 cups of almond milk adds a thickness and sugary flavor; however, the final dish when using almond milk will not be as rich in flavor and texture.

In a serving size, almond milk has 1.5 grams of total lipid fats and fatty acids compared to 5 grams in sweetened condensed milk, and almond milk contains 109.9 fewer calories.

Evaporated Milk

If you run out of sweetened condensed milk, simply substitute the same amount of evaporated milk for a one-to-one alternative. The consistency in the dish will be near the same, but the flavor will not taste as sweet. You can add sugar to the evaporated milk if you prefer to up the sweetness.

Coconut Milk

For those following a plant-based or dairy-free diet, you can substitute a 13.5-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk and 1/4 cup of sugar for a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. Whisk the two ingredients together and simmer for half an hour. Then stir the liquid until it thickens. Even though the dish’s flavor changes to add a slight taste of coconut, you still get the creamy texture that sweetened condensed milk offers.

Coconut milk also contains a variety of nutrients. Some notable ones include magnesium and potassium, which are important to muscle and heart health.

Powdered Milk

To substitute a 100-milliliter serving of sweetened condensed milk, you can mix 1/3 cup of powdered milk with 1/3 cup of hot water. Powdered milk is a shelf-stable powder and is used in a wide range of dairy applications.

The dish will not be as bold in flavor because of the lack of fat. You can add 2 tablespoons of butter to the mixture if that helps you reach your preferred creamy consistency. 

A Word From Verywell

When out of sweetened condensed milk or you have taken dairy out of your diet, you can whip up your favorite treats by using a number of substitutes. You can also turn a recipe into a plant-based dish that provides a similar finished taste and texture.

If you have no dietary restrictions that prevent you from consuming sweetened condensed milk, you can use the food in a nutrient-dense, balanced diet as long as you add it to recipes in moderation.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jouki M, Jafari S, Jouki A, Khazaei N. Characterization of functional sweetened condensed milk formulated with flavoring and sugar substituteFood Sci Nutr. 2021;9(9):5119-5130. doi:10.1002/fsn3.2477

  2. USDA. Sweetened condensed milk.

  3. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Cut down on added sugars.

  4. American Heart Association. How much sugar is too much?

  5. Vanga SK, Raghavan V. How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milkJ Food Sci Technol. 2018;55(1):10-20. doi:10.1007/s13197-017-2915-y

  6. Today's Dietitian. Spotlight on lactose-free dairy.

  7. USDA. Almond milk cooking, almond.

  8. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Potassium.

  9. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium.

  10. American Dairy Products Institute. Nonfat dried milk and skim milk powder—all the same or different?

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."