Most of the information below on how to substitute condensed milk for dairy-free diets is excerpted from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. However, I’ve also added product reviews and a few fun recipes that are here on the website.
Tips to Substitute Condensed Milk in its Various Forms
Most quick cooks know that buttermilk can be whipped up in a jiffy by “souring” regular milk. Likewise, milk alternatives can be “soured” to produce a buttermilk alternative that can be substituted for the real thing using a 1:1 ratio. Simply add roughly 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider, white, etc.) to 1 cup of non-dairy milk and let it sit for about 5 minutes before adding it to your recipe.
It may or may not “curdle” like dairy milk, but homemade dairy-free buttermilk alternative still serves it’s purpose in recipes. Buttermilk is often used when acidic ingredient is needed to activate baking soda, when a certain flavor profile is desired, or when a slightly thicker milk alternative suits the recipe. By “souring” the milk with citrus or vinegar, the same or similar end result is produced.
At this time, there aren’t any store-bought buttermilk substitutes available, but I have included a couple of homemade variations here as well as in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook …
- Baseline Buttermilk Alternative
- The Best Brown Soda Bread + Dairy-Free Buttermilk Tips
- Tofu Buttermilk Alternative
Evaporated Milk Subs
Evaporated milk, also referred to as dehydrated milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed. It can be “re-hydrated” with water to make a dairy milk equivalent. Though dairy-free or vegan evaporated milk isn’t something you will easily find in stores, it is relatively easy to make, and your homemade version won’t require the processing of the canned versions! Here are some handy ways to substitute condensed milk in recipes …
Thinned Coconut Milk: Allow a can of full fat coconut milk to settle (about 1/2 hour). The coconut cream will rise to the top and can easily be skimmed off. The thinner liquid can be substituted using a 1:1 ratio for evaporated milk. Reserve the thick cream to use as a cream substutite. This is a bit higher in fat than the other alternatives, but should yield excellent results. Coconut milk does have a distinct flavor that is best for desserts, baked goods, or savory dishes that work well with a coconut vibe. However, the watery part of the coconut milk is much less intense than the cream, allowing it to slip in undetected when your recipe has a bold flavor profile.
Milk Alternative-Based: Evaporated Milk can be simulated fairly well by using either a liquid or powder milk alternative. The quickest option is a higher ratio of “milk” powder to water, but minimal labor is involved in evaporating rice or soymilk to substitute condensed milk. Try one of the recipes below for an easy evaporated milk substitute right from your pantry! …
- Easy Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk from Rice Milk, Soy Milk, or Nut Milk
- Instant Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk Substitute from Powder
Sweetened Condensed Milk Subs
Sweetened Condensed Milk is another reduced and canned version of milk, but unlike evaporated milk, it has sugar cooked in, making it a delight for dessert recipes. Sweetened Condensed Soy Milk seems to periodically become available (it’s produced in Brazil), but has never really taken off in the U.S. market. But have no fear, there are some other sweet options to substitute condensed milk, both store-bought and homemade …
Cream of Coconut: Cream of Coconut works well as a sweetened condensed milk alternative, and can offer a wonderful tropical flavor to your desserts. Substitute it for sweetened condensed milk using a 1:1 ratio. Do not confuse this with Coconut Cream, Cream of Coconut is much sweeter, and sold in separate cans. Look for brands such as Coco Lopez, Roland, Coco Real, or Goya.
Sweetened Condensed Milk Alternative: My favorite way to make sweetened condensed “milk” is using coconut milk. It makes an amazing substitute. The recipe for that one can be found in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook, but I’ve included some other great homemade option in the recipe tab below.
- Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk that’s Just Like Eagle Brand
- Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Soymilk
- Instant Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk Alternative
- Sweetened Condensed Milk I
- Sweetened Condensed Milk III
Non-dairy milk powders do exist, but they can be harder to find in stores. Fortunately, they are widely available online, where I recommend purchasing them for the most options and the best price. I’ve included links below to help you easily find the powdered non-dairy milk that will work best for you, and my favorite homemade option in a pinch. For more tips on how to substitute milk powder in recipes, see the dairy substitutes section in Go Dairy Free.
Soy Milk Powder: This is the most common and readily available dairy-free powdered milk. It can be found at some mainstream grocers, and at times in bulk. But, if all else fails, you can easily purchase soy milk powder online. The following brands are quite popular: Better Than Milk, Fearn, and Now Foods.
Use equal parts soy milk powder in recipes calling for milk powder.
Rice Milk Powder: While not as common as soymilk powder, rice milk powder can be found in some stores, or fairly easily online. The two most common brands are Better Than Milk and Growing Naturals. Since it is free of dairy, lactose, soy, and gluten, rice milk may be an excellent option for many food allergies and intolerances.
Use equal parts rice milk powder in recipes calling for milk powder.
Potato Milk Powder: Potato milk powder can be an excellent option for those who are soy intolerant, or who are just seeking another milk alternative options, but it isn’t as readily available as soy or rice milk powders. The primary brand on the market is Vance’s DariFree Potato Milk Powder in both chocolate and original.
Use equal parts potato milk powder in recipes calling for milk powder.
Coconut Milk Powder: Coconut milk powder would be an amazing substitute for dairy milk powder if it weren’t for one little added ingredient, caseinate (milk protein). Most brands of coconut milk powder have a very small amount of casein added for texture, and it can be near impossible to find one that is 100% dairy-free. I’ve heard rumors of one or two brands that happen to be vegan in Asian markets – if you find one, be sure to email the brand, so that I can share it!
If you can find a dairy-free one, use equal parts coconut milk powder in recipes calling for milk powder.
Cashew Powder: In a pinch, I grind cashews to use in place of milk powder in recipes. Unlike some nuts, cashews powder easily, rather than turning immediately into nut butter. Once powdered, cashews blend nicely into recipes without any residual grit (though you may want to sift out any nut chunks!). This isn’t a good option for those who have nut alleriges, and keep in mind that the cashews will add a little more fat to the recipe than other milk powders, which could slightly effect the outcome.