Evaporated milk is a high-protein, creamy milk product used in many recipes.
It is made by heating regular milk to remove about 60% of the water, creating a concentrated and slightly caramelized version of milk.
It is often used in baking, desserts, soups and sauces or even added to coffee, tea and smoothies for extra richness.
However, there are several reasons why you might need a replacement. Some people don’t tolerate it well due to its lactose content, while others may simply dislike the flavor.
Luckily, there are many dairy and non-dairy alternatives you can use.
This article presents 12 of the best substitutes for evaporated milk.
First, there are many reasons why you may need an alternative to evaporated milk.
Some of these include:
- Taste or missing ingredient: Some people do not like the taste of evaporated milk, while others may simply have run out.
- Lactose intolerance: Approximately 70% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant. This means that they are unable to digest the sugar in milk properly, causing uncomfortable stomach symptoms (, , ).
- Milk allergy: Between 2–7% of children and up to 0.5% of adults have a milk allergy. As all milk products contain milk proteins, a non-dairy alternative is more suitable (, , ).
- Vegan or ovo-vegetarian diet: Some people choose to avoid animal products (including milk) for health, animal welfare, environmental or religious reasons. A plant-based milk substitute is a suitable alternative (, , ).
- Calories: Depending on whether you want to lose or gain weight, evaporated milk can be substituted with a higher or lower calorie alternative (, , ).
- Reducing protein intake: Evaporated milk is high in protein, with 17 grams per cup (240 ml). Some people on special therapeutic diets may require another option for a lower protein intake (, 11).
Below are 12 replacement options you can use instead.
There are a number of good dairy options for replacing evaporated milk, including regular milk, lactose-free milk, cream, half and half and powdered milk.
Evaporated milk can be substituted with normal milk as a lighter alternative.
One cup of whole milk (240 ml) contains 146 calories, 13 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein. Additionally, milk contains 28% of the RDI for calcium and 26% of the RDI for riboflavin (12).
In comparison, 1 cup of evaporated milk contains 338 calories, 25 grams of carbs, 19 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein. It is also higher in calcium, containing 66% of the RDI (13).
As milk has a higher water content than evaporated milk, it is thinner and not as sweet.
If using milk as a substitute in sauces, you may need to use something to thicken it, such as flour or cornflour. In baking, you may need more dry ingredients and a bit more sugar to achieve the same flavor and texture.
However, if you have simply run out of evaporated milk, it is very easy to make it from regular milk at home.
To make 1 cup (240 ml) of evaporated milk:
- Heat 2 1/4 cups (540 ml) of regular milk in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Let it come to a gentle boil while stirring continuously.
- After 10 minutes, or once the milk has reduced in volume by a bit more than half, take it off the heat.
It can be used like regular evaporated milk and is nutritionally similar.
Additionally, if you are lactose intolerant you can use lactose-free milk. This milk has the enzyme lactase added to break down the sugars that people with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting.
Summary Milk is lower in calories and fat, and can be used as a substitute in some recipes. You can also make your own evaporated milk from regular milk by heating it on the stove to evaporate the water. Lactose-free milk is a suitable replacement, as well.
Substituting with cream adds richness to a dish.
Cream can be used as a replacement for evaporated milk in sauces, soups, pie fillings, baking, casseroles, frozen desserts and custards at a 1:1 ratio.
As cream is much higher in fat than evaporated milk, it is both thicker and contains more calories.
One cup of cream (240 ml) contains 821 calories, 7 grams of carbs, 88 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein (14).
Due to the high calorie content, cream is a good alternative for people trying to increase their calorie intake. However, it may not be the best option for people trying to lose weight.
Summary Cream is a thicker, richer alternative to evaporated milk and can be used in most recipes. It is much higher in calories and fat.
3. Half and Half
Half and half is a mixture of 50% milk and 50% cream blended together. Its texture is a little thicker than that of evaporated milk.
It is commonly used in coffee, but it can also be used in any recipe that calls for cream or evaporated milk.
Nutritionally, it is similar to evaporated milk, but is lower in carbs and higher in fat (15).
In one cup (240 ml) of half and half there are 315 calories, 10 grams of carbs, 28 grams of fat and 7.2 grams of protein. It contains 25% of the RDI for calcium and 21% of the RDI for vitamin B2 (15).
In most recipes, evaporated milk and half and half can be exchanged in a 1:1 ratio.
Summary Half and half is made from 50% milk and 50% cream blended together. It is higher in fat and lower in protein and sugar than evaporated milk. It can be used in most of the same recipes.
4. Powdered Milk
Powdered milk is milk that has been dehydrated until it’s completely dry (16).
Like evaporated milk, it is made to extend the shelf life of milk.
It can be made back into milk by adding water. However, it may be added dry to some recipes, such as cookies and pancakes.
To use powdered milk in place of evaporated milk, you can simply reduce the amount of water you would normally add. This will result in a thicker product that you can use like evaporated milk.
You may need to experiment a little to get the consistency right as different brands need different amounts of water.
Nutritionally, it will be almost similar to evaporated milk, depending on how much powder you use.
Summary Powdered milk is regular milk that has been dehydrated until completely dry. To use it in place of evaporated milk, use more powder or less water when reconstituting.
There are plenty of plant-based products that can be used in place of evaporated milk, such as soy, rice, nut, oat, flax, hemp, quinoa and coconut milk.
5. Soy Milk
Soy milk was first used in China over 2,000 years ago ().
It is made by soaking dried soybeans, grinding them in water and then filtering out the larger parts to leave a product that looks a lot like dairy milk.
Of all the plant-based milks, soy comes nutritionally closest to normal milk in terms of calories, protein content and digestibility. Calcium, other vitamins and minerals are usually added to commercial varieties (17, 18).
One cup of soy milk (240 ml) contains 109 calories, 8.4 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein. This is about one-third of the calories found in evaporated milk and under half the protein (13, 17).
Soy milk can be heated, and the water content reduced to use it like evaporated milk. The taste is slightly different, but in most recipes you won’t notice. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes alike.
However, keep in mind that up to 14% of children with a dairy allergy are also allergic to soy.
Some people may wish to avoid soy due to other concerns such as the use of genetically modified crops (, ).
Summary Soy milk is a mixture of soaked, crushed and filtered soybeans with water. You can reduce its water content through heating and use it like regular evaporated milk.
6. Rice Milk
Rice milk is made by soaking rice and grinding it with water to create a milk-like product.
It can be used by people who are intolerant or allergic to cow's milk and soy.
Nutritionally, it is much lower in fat and protein than evaporated milk. One cup (240 ml) contains 113 calories, 22 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of fat and less than 1 gram of protein ().
However, because rice milk has a high glycemic index (GI), it may be the dairy-free substitute that spikes blood sugar the most ().
Like with regular milk, the water content of rice milk can be reduced through heating. It can then be used in place of evaporated milk in recipes.
However, the resulting product will not be as thick as evaporated milk, so you may want to add cornstarch or another thickening ingredient.
The sweet taste of rice milk makes it especially useful in desserts and baking.
Summary Rice milk is made by soaking and blending rice and water. It is lower in calories, fat and protein than evaporated milk but is also high GI. It can be reduced over heat and used as a substitute.
7. Nut Milks
Nut milks include products like almond, cashew and hazelnut milk. They are made by grinding nuts with water and filtering it to create a milk-like drink.
Nutritionally, they tend to be very low in calories and in protein, which can be beneficial if you want to reduce your calorie intake ().
For example, 1 cup (240 ml) of almond milk contains 39 calories, 1.5 grams of carbs, 2.8 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of protein. This is almost one-tenth of the calories found in evaporated milk.
Additionally, almond milk contains added calcium, vitamin D and E. However, evaporated milk has more calcium, providing 66% of the RDI compared to 52% in almond milk ().
Almond milk is suitable for sweet dishes, whereas cashew milk can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.
Like regular milk, you can heat a nut milk to reduce the water content. This creates an evaporated milk substitute, though it won’t be quite as thick as regular evaporated milk.
If you have nut allergies, these milks are not suitable to use.
Summary Nut milks are much lower in calories and protein than evaporated milk. You can reduce them to use as a substitute in most recipes. They are not suitable for people with nut allergies.
8. Oat Milk
Oat milk is made by blending oats with water. You can make it yourself at home or buy ready-made versions.
It is one of the few alternatives containing dietary fiber, providing 2 grams per cup (240ml). It is often fortified with iron, calcium and vitamin D, though note that homemade versions don’t contain these additional nutrients (24).
Oat milk is rich in beta-glucans, which have been linked to health benefits including improved digestion, reduced blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol (, ).
1 cup (240 ml) provides 125 calories, 16.5 grams of carbs, 3.7 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of protein. It also contains 30% of the RDI for calcium, which is lower than evaporated milk but similar to regular milk (24).
Oat milk can be used in most recipes that use evaporated milk. You may need to thicken or sweeten it to achieve the same consistency and flavor as evaporated milk.
Summary Oat milk is made from blended water and oats. It is one of the few substitutes for evaporated milk that contains fiber. It can be reduced and used in place of evaporated milk in most recipes.
9. Flax Milk
Flax milk is made commercially by blending flaxseed oil with water.
Alternatively, homemade versions can be made by blending flax seeds with water.
Commercial varieties are very low in calories and contain no protein. They are high in calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus (26).
One cup of commercial flax milk (240 ml) contains 50 calories, 7 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of fat and no protein (26).
In addition, flax milk is rich in omega-3 fats, which are linked to reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. For example, one brand contains 1,200 mg per serving, which is more than double the RDI (26, , , 29).
Its flavor is one of the most neutral of the non-dairy alternatives and comes the closest to regular milk.
Additionally, it can be heated to reduce water in the same way as regular milk. You may need to thicken or sweeten it further to achieve the same flavor and properties as evaporated milk.
Summary Flax milk is made from flax oil and is low in calories and protein. It has a neutral flavor and can be reduced to use in place of evaporated milk.
10. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is made from blending the seeds of the hemp plant with water. Hemp is a variety of cannabis.
Although the milk is made from hemp, it is not associated with marijuana. It is legal and does not contain any THC, which is a psychoactive compound in some cannabis plants.
The nutritional profile of hemp milk differs considerably from brand to brand. One cup (240 ml) contains between 83–140 calories, 4.5–20 grams of carbohydrate, up to 1 gram of fiber, 5–7 grams of fat and up to 3.8 grams of protein (30, 31).
Just like other plant milks, hemp milk can be heated and reduced to be used in place of evaporated milk.
It tastes slightly sweet and has a more watery texture than some of the other alternatives, so you may want to thicken it with cornstarch or another thickening ingredient.
Summary Hemp milk is a blend of hemp seeds and water. It is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and can be reduced by heating to be used like evaporated milk.
11. Quinoa Milk
Quinoa milk is a relative newcomer to the dairy-free milk market, but it shows promise.
It is made by soaking or cooking quinoa and blending it with water. Some recipe sites have also had success making it at home.
In 1 cup (240 ml) of a commercial variety there are 67 calories, 12 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein. It is lower in calories, fat and protein than evaporated milk.
In terms of taste, studies so far have shown a similar acceptance as for rice milk. If you are used to drinking plant-based milks, you may find it more palatable than those who aren’t (34).
Because it is already a bit thicker than regular milk, it may be used in some recipes without reducing or thickening it ().
If making quinoa milk yourself, you can make it thicker by using less liquid when blending the quinoa with water.
Summary Quinoa milk is a relatively new milk alternative. It can be bought or made at home from cooked quinoa blended with water. It is low in calories and is fortified with calcium.
12. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a high-calorie, flavorful addition to many recipes and makes an excellent alternative to evaporated milk.
It comes from the meat of freshly grated coconuts and is commonly used in Southeast Asian, South American and Caribbean cuisines.
As it is already thick, it does not need to be reduced before being used as a replacement for evaporated milk, and can be used at a 1:1 ratio.
It is a rich source of iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese and zinc. However, it is also very high in calories and fat (36).
Additionally, coconut milk contains lauric acid, which may promote brain development, support the immune system and keep blood vessels healthy. It is also high in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant and important for skin health ().
However, it does have a distinctive coconut flavor, so when substituting consider the effect on the overall taste of the recipe. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Summary Coconut milk is a rich, flavorful ingredient that has a similar thickness as evaporated milk. It is rich in nutrients but also very high in calories and fat. It adds a distinctive coconut flavor to foods.
While all of these options are good alternatives for evaporated milk, there are some points to consider when choosing:
- Calorie content: There is a big difference in calorie content between the alternatives. If you are watching your weight, coconut milk or cream are not ideal options.
- Protein content: Evaporated milk contains 17 grams of protein per cup (240 ml), while most plant-based options contain far fewer. If you are trying to increase your protein intake, a dairy or soy alternative is best (13).
- Allergies: If you have allergies, be mindful that cow, soy and nut milks are all allergenic. Also pay attention to additives in commercial milk varieties if you have intolerances or sensitivities.
- Sugar: Many dairy alternatives are flavored or have added sugars. When substituting for evaporated milk, choose unsweetened varieties. If you need to sweeten the recipe, you can add a sweetener later in the process.
- Taste: Some substitutes, like coconut milk, may affect the flavor of the dish significantly.
- Cooking methods: Substitutes may not always behave the way you expect in a recipe. Sometimes it takes some experimenting to find the best substitute.
- Nutrient content: Commercial producers of plant milks add calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients to their products. Homemade versions will not contain these nutrients in the same amounts ().
- New products: There are always new products being developed, and the plant-based milk alternative market is growing. Some upcoming varieties may include lupine and tiger nut milk (, 18).
Unless you are using evaporated milk often, many of the nutritional differences probably won’t have a big impact on your diet. Nevertheless, it’s useful to keep these factors in mind.
Summary When choosing a substitute, know that the nutritional and taste profile may be quite different from evaporated milk. Some alternatives may not work as well in certain recipes.
Evaporated milk is a nutritious, useful product often used in everyday recipes.
However, there are many good alternatives for people who can’t consume dairy products, may be following a certain diet or simply don’t have evaporated milk on hand.
For many substitutes you will need to reduce the water content through heating to get a similar thickness to evaporated milk. You may also need to use a thickening ingredient.
The right choice depends on your individual health, goals, tastes and preferences.