If you have read a book of recipes, chances are you’ve come across condensed or evaporated milk (or both) more than once while browsing for something new and delicious to cook. If you don’t quite know what either ingredient is—or how they should be used—you’re not alone! Many people wonder about the difference between these two kinds of milk, and how they should—and shouldn’t—be used in recipes. The following guide will tell you what you need to know about the difference between condensed and evaporated milk.
What Are They?
First, the basics. Both types of milk are concentrated milk, which means liquid milk which has been boiled to the point where a significant amount of water, usually about 60%, evaporates into the air. This is primarily done for two purposes: it gives the concentrated milk a much longer shelf life than regular milk, and because water has been removed from the liquid, it becomes thicker and can be used in recipes where thicker milk is needed.
Evaporated milk is concentrated milk which comes in several different forms: low-fat, skim, and whole milk.
Condensed milk is also known as sweetened condensed milk, due to the fact that sugar is added to condensed milk before it is boiled. The boiled sugar gives the milk a particular sweetness. A significant amount of sugar is added to condensed milk–most brands have a 40% sugar content, making it a very rich, sweet product. Condensed milk is usually used in various desserts, such as ice creams, pies, puddings, and it can also be used as a sweetener in drinks.
Can They Be Used Interchangeably?
Sometimes, but it’s not necessarily commended. You can technically use evaporated milk in a recipe where condensed milk is called for in order to make something sweet; but it will taste bland due to the fact that condensed milk has sugar added. You can add sugar to the recipe to capture some of that sweetness, but the sugar in condensed milk actually has a caramelization flavor due to the milk being boiled, which means that regular sugar added to evaporated milk will not give it the same taste as condensed milk.
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However, you shouldn’t use condensed milk in a recipe where evaporated milk was called for, because condensed milk is significantly sweeter than evaporated milk and this can make the recipe taste completely different. Imagine adding milk with heaping spoons of sugar to a savory recipe—it would not taste very pleasant.
How Long Do They Last?
Unlike regular milk, both condensed and evaporated milk has a fairly long shelf life. Most types of evaporated and condensed milk can be stored for several months, as long as the can is not punctured and they are kept in a cool dry place. You should always double check any evaporated milk or condensed milk cans before purchase, and never store them in an area where they might be overheated or accidentally damaged.