What's the Difference Between Milk & Evaporated Milk?

By Dana Poblete

Milk is a staple in many kitchens. To be sure it's always on hand, it's a good idea to keep some evaporated milk in the pantry. The only real difference is the water content—evaporated milk has half its water removed through a vacuum procedure before it's homogenized, sterilized, and packaged. In the United States, it's usually canned and doesn't need to be refrigerated if unopened.

Bottle and glass of milk
credit: fotoedu/iStock/GettyImages
Bottle and glass of milk

Cooking With Evaporated Milk

If a recipe calls for 1 cup regular whole milk, simply use 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup water as a substitution. The texture, taste, and quality of the finished product will be the same.

Evaporated milk even has at least one advantage over regular milk—its viscosity is denser, and so evaporated milk can be whipped into peaks, like heavy cream. This technique is easier and quicker if the milk is well-chilled first.

Evaporated Milk Substitutes

In recipes that include evaporated milk as an ingredient, you can substitute powdered whole milk mixed with equal parts water. Heavy cream can also replace equal amounts of evaporated milk in most recipes.

To convert regular whole milk to evaporated milk, simmer it slowly until the volume is reduced by half.

Measuring and Storing

A 12-ounce can of evaporated milk equals 1 2/3 cups. A 5-ounce tin is equivalent to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons.

Unopened evaporated milk lasts around six months in the cupboard and should have a use-by date printed on the can. Once opened, the milk lasts up to one week in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Cover the top with foil and store it away from strongly flavored or scented foods to prevent absorption of unwanted tastes.

Label Confusion

Evaporated milk is sometimes referred to as condensed milk, especially in British recipes. Although the term is appropriate since the original volume of the milk is reduced by half, it often confuses American cooks. Sweetened condensed milk is a frequently used ingredient in sweets and desserts, and it's not the same as evaporated milk as it has extremely high sugar content. Evaporated milk has no sugar in it.

Fun Facts

Sweetened evaporated milk was patented by Gail Borden in 1856, and in 1892, his company introduced plain evaporated milk. This was a boon to the milk industry because refrigeration and refrigerated transport were not yet invented. Evaporated milk was carried by prospectors during the Yukon Gold Rush.