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Understand the difference between evaporated and sweetened condensed milk

Evaporated and sweetened condensed milk

As the holiday baking gets underway, many recipes will call for evaporated or sweetened condensed milk. You won’t find this milk in the refrigerated section, but rather this shelf-stable milk is typically in the baking aisle. Have you ever thought about how these two milks are made?

Both evaporated and sweetened condensed milk are made by heating fresh milk until about 60 percent of the water content has been removed. Then, it’s homogenized before packaging in cans and going through a heat sterilization process that allows it to be safely stored on the shelves. Homogenization is the process of reducing the fat globules to very small particles and distributing it evenly throughout the milk. Most all milks go through this process so that there is not a layer of cream at the top. With so much water content removed, evaporated milk is rich and creamy with a concentrated level of nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D. It’s less likely to curdle when heated so it works well in cream soups, macaroni and cheese, and puddings. Use evaporated fat-free milk, when possible, to avoid saturated fats.

Sweetened condensed milk (also known simply as condensed milk) is evaporated milk but with 40 to 45 percent added sugar. It’s thicker and sweeter than evaporated milk, which means the two cannot be used interchangeably. It’s typically used to make rich desserts, such as magic cookie bars, tres leches cakes or an easy caramel sauce. Just two tablespoons of condensed milk contain 18 grams of added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends adult women get no more than 25 grams and men no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day. Use condensed milk sparingly.


Source: USDA Food Data Central

About the Author


Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.