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What is Evaporated Milk ?

Evaporated milk is an ingredient known to many as ‘unsweetened condensed milk’. This is a dairy product where almost 60% of the water has been evaporated. A great substitute for condensed milk if you’d prefer something less sweet and not as thick in texture. But why use evaporated milk instead? What dishes can you make with this canned shelved milk? 

evaporated milk

A short Introduction

Evaporated milk is canned liquid milk that is shelf-stable (it can last for 15 months) and can be used as a milk, condensed milk, or sometimes even cream replacement. It is homogenized whole milk or skimmed milk, simmered in gentle heat till around 60% of the milk has evaporated. These are then sealed in cans, after canning these are then sterilized at 240*F to 250*F to kill any bacteria.

Known to many countries as ‘unsweetened condensed milk’ or milk without the added sugar. Invented in 1885 to preserve milk during the trans-Atlantic voyages. Considered a luxury for many but became commercialized, with lower prices around the 1920’s and 1930’s, where some babies fed on evaporated milk and milk formula. Now used by many for coffee and tea, dessert toppings, made into normal milk, and other sweet and savory dishes. What is this slightly thickened milk used for? Some make savory dishes like evaporated milk mac and cheese, evaporated milk fudge, a simple dessert made of a few ingredients, even everyday breakfasts like frittatas, pastas for an extra sweetness, commonly found in many baked goods like pies and cakes. This pantry staple is great to add in dishes that need milk but with a little sweetness.

evaporated milk

What are the differences to other milk?

  • Evaporated milk to regular milk, Evaporated milk is essentially milk that has been cooked till it’s a bit thick and loses a certain amount of water. For example, diluted evaporated milk can be used to make milk that you can drink or add into recipes that call for milk. But for milk to be used as an evaporated milk substitute, it has to be thickened by adding more milk powder or simmered till around ½ of the liquids are left.
  • Evaporated milk vs condensed milk, while these two products are similar in the way that it’s made, it differs in consistency. Condensed milk has the additional sugar added that makes it sweeter and thicker. The added sugar also acts as a natural preservative making it last longer unrefrigerated. Depending on which recipe or dish to try, you might need the thicker (condensed milk) option more to keep the dish stabilized, or the liquid-y (evaporated milk) as a milk substitute or dishes that need more moisture. 
  • Evaporated milk vs heavy cream, these are two entirely different products. Evaporated milk has some of the water removed, whereas heavy cream is made from the cream that has separated from milk during the milk production process. Evaporated milk can be left on the shelves at room temperature while heavy cream needs to be refrigerated and lasts only for a few weeks. Heavy cream is fattier which makes it more stable to use as whipping cream, but this also means that it has more fats and calories.

Evaporated milk substitute

Can’t find evaporated milk or don’t have it on hand? Here are some alternatives you can use:

  • Milk, use normal milk as a thinner and less sweet alternative. Simmer a cup of milk, stirring continuously, and when it reduces (evaporates) to almost half, let it cook before using. You can also do these for the milk alternative options like coconut, soy, rice, oats, almonds, and others.
  • Powdered milk, dehydrate powdered milk normally and simmer similarly to the normal milk option. This might not taste as rich as the regular milk or evaporated milk.
  • Heavy Cream, use a one to one ratio, but it might be a bit thicker in consistency when using for sauces, soups, and other frozen desserts.
  • Half and half, this is essentially half cream and half milk mixed together.
evaporated milk

Does evaporated milk go bad?

  • It lasts almost a year unopened at room temperature. Usually you can find it’s best by date / expiration date to make sure. While you can still use after a few months after the date, the quality will diminish a bit over time.
  • Once opened, it should be refrigerated and placed in an airtight container and not in the same can. Leaving it in may cause the metal from the opened lining to be transferred into the food contents. The refrigerated milk can last for a few weeks to a month.
  • You can also keep them frozen, making milk ice cubes, then place them in a freezer bag to keep. Use these for your glass of coffee milk tea. These can last for a month.

The sweetened milk for every Filipino Christmas

In the Philippines, there’s always a need for condensed milk and evaporated milk (called ‘Evaporada’ or ‘Evap’) used individually or together, hooking you with that sweet and creamy mix of flavors to layer on top of fruit salads, make leche flan and many more. These are especially popular nearing Christmas or the New Years where almost every Carnation Evaporated milk or any other brand of evap will be out of.

In the Philippines, we have a habit of looking for desserts after the main meal, as a ‘panghimagas’ or something to wash away or balance the salty and savory dish that’s still lingering on the palate. Here are some Evaporated milk recipes to try out:

  • Ube cake (Ube condensed milk cake), a delectable purple yam cake popular not only for it’s aesthetically pleasing pop of color but how delightfully delicious it is.
  • Ginataang Halo-halo, a classic Filipino dish made of purple yam, taro, sweet potatoes, tapioca pearls, langka(jackfruit), saba banana, bilo bilo balls, crushed ice and a sweet creamy coconut milk-sauce. A summer treat that anyone who can go to the Philippines must try. But if you want to make it at home, you can find the recipe here.
  • Chicken Pastel, a savory snack similar to a pie, made creamier with a rich cream mix, cheese, aromatics, spices, chicken or your choice of meat, and colorful veggies.
  • Binangka Recipe, are Filipino sesame bread balls made of simple ingredients like milk, flour, baking powder, sugar, butter, oil, and sesame seeds.
  • Ube Biko with Custard Flan, a delicious combination of 2 traditional dishes, an ube flavored glutinous rice cake, and a tasty caramel flan. What could be better than this?
evaporated milk
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