How to Substitute Condensed Milk (Buttermilk, Evaporated, Sweetened, Powdered)


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.

How to Substitute Condensed Milk: Dairy-Free Options for Buttermilk, Powdered Milk, Evaporated Milk, and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Tips to Substitute Condensed Milk in its Various Forms

Buttermilk Subs

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 …

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! …

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 CoconutCream 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.

Powdered Milk

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.

For more condensed milk recipes and tips from my kitchen, see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. Heather Skrzypiec on

    If you are using the thinned coconut milk for evaporated milk and you reserve the cream, how long is the cream and milk good for?

    • You don’t want to reserve the cream. Shake / mix it, then use it. Or you can just use the full-fat can of coconut milk in the recipe. It will turn out great. Any leftover coconut milk usually lasts about a week in my opinion. But I can’t say for sure what the shelf-life is.

  2. Jello
    Have you heard about coconut cloud…they make a non dairy coconut creamer …can that be used as a coconut milk powder?

  3. Hi Alisa, yesterday I tried to make a key lime pie with Nature’s Charm sweetened condensed coconut milk (11.25 oz can) and although the pie tasted good the key lime part absorbed into the graham cracker crust, making the bottom of the pie wet/runny. This has never happened, in the past, when I have baked with regular sweetened condensed milk. The only thing I can think of is that I used the entire can, the watery and thick parts. Should I have just used the thickened part? If so, then I would be using quite a bit less than what the recipe calls for. Any thoughts as to what happened?

    • Hi Leyza, I’ve never used the store-bought version, only homemade. I haven’t had this problem with homemade. If you have a copy of my book, Go Dairy Free, there is a Key Lime Pie recipe in the Pie chapter and three different sweetened condensed milk recipes in the milk alternative recipe chapter. Those are the ones that I use. You should have been able to use the whole can and it shouldn’t have separated into watery and thick parts (coconut milk does this, but sweetened condensed should be a fully cooked and emulsified product). It sounds like that might not have been a good batch!

      • Yes, with a homemade version (there’s actually a key lime pie recipe in my book, Go Dairy Free, with a homemade sweetened condensed milk). I have not used a store-bought one. They are pricey!

  4. Hi Alisa, Your book is fantastic. It has been so helpful with being allergic to milk. What is the difference between condensed milk and buttermilk? They both seem to be made the same way. Thank you in advance.

    • Thanks Sue! Buttermilk is soured milk while Evaporated Milk is milk that is cooked down (not soured). The former isn’t cooked either. Buttermilk is used for tenderizing or in combination with baking soda for a better rise in baked goods. Evaporated milk is used when a denser, less watery milk is needed.

  5. Native Forest Coconut Milk Powder is casein free. I have a casein allergy and love this stuff in my coffee and for baking.

  6. Can you use lactose free whole milk to make evaporated milk. I am wanting to use this in pumpkin pie. I am not always fond of the coconut flavor and do not care for rice or almond milk.

  7. I made a 3 milk cake for my sister and totally forgot she is lactose intolerant! She said nothing, just ate the cake and loved it…paid for it later…yikes! I am so hurt that I did not remember something so important as that. I am searching all over for lactose free ” condensed and evaporated ” milk in the can. Can you help me find out where I can find them? I find that a lot of replacement milks change the flavor and consistency of the final outcome of the cake. I need help!

    • Hi Marissa, these types of products really aren’t available but are easy to make at home! There is one sweetened condensed coconut milk that I’ve seen online (not widely available yet), but it is much simpler and less expensive to just whip it up.

  8. Alisa,
    My Vegan daughter is coming home for the XMAS break, and I’m looking for a Vegan substitute for evaporated milk to add to a corn chowder recipe. The evaporated milk stirred in at the end adds a wonderful creaminess to the soup, but I’m afraid that the coconut milk discussed here will overpower the mild corn flavoring of the chowder. Any suggestions?
    Larry in Rochester, NY

    • Hi Larry, if you use light coconut milk (in the can, not milk beverage), it should have the right consistency and shouldn’t overpower. Coconut goes surprisingly well with corn (used a lot in Caribbean cuisine) and may even heighten the corns sweetness. You can alternately make a light cashew cream, but in this case, I think the coconut milk would be better.

    • Shelley Whiffen on

      The best mix I have had for this is 1/4 coconut milk 3/4 almond milk. Tastes as good as dairy in chowder.

  9. I have found Dairy Free-Vegan Coconut Milk Powder! It’s Native Forest brand (trademark of Edward & Sons Trading Co.) Ingredients are Coconut Milk, Tapioca Syrup, and Sugar Esters. Loving it so far!

  10. I have a 100% freeze dried coconut milk that I use in my CocoCacao – unsweetened decadence.

    This ingredient is hard to get, and not inexpensive, but if there is interest, I could look at making some available to you via my website.

  11. Hi,
    I was searching for a milk/casein free coconut milk powder and came across one by eternally herbal (found it on amazon). I checked with the company and the ingredients are ” 95% organic coconut milk, organic maltodextrin, a vegetable protein, rice extract, calcium phosphate and sodium carbonate.” A few more ingredients than I like to see but no milk. I know you asked people to email if they found a coconut milk powder that was milk free. This is the first I’ve found so far.

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