We all plan for the big hits when transitioning to a dairy-free diet. We know that cheese is a big hurdle, and finding dairy-free ice cream is a must. But unexpected things always pop up, like classic recipes that call for ingredients like evaporated milk. Luckily, there are easy options, such as this homemade dairy-free evaporated milk substitute.
Evaporated milk is milk with more than half the water simmered off. Yes, it really is that basic. It’s just concentrated milk. You can do the same thing at home, but dairy-free and vegan-friendly, with the tips and recipe below.
Easy Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk from Rice Milk, Soy Milk, or Nut Milk
With a recipe like this, there are always questions. Here’s my little FAQ for making your own dairy-free evaporated milk substitute.
Which Milk Beverage is Best to Use?
In reality, the best ones are the ones with no additives, or minimal additives. Additives can cause curdling or make the beverage less appealing when evaporated. Nonetheless, most ordinary brands seem to work find. I’ve tested this with rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk beverages. But see my note below about quicker options if you are thinking about using coconut milk beverage.
But I do not recommend using a milk beverage with added protein. Some have naturally occurring protein which is great! But when I’ve tried cooking brands that have added protein concentrates, like pea protein, they don’t work well.
Help, My Milk Beverage Curdled!
Some milk beverages will “curdle” or separate if heated too much. If this happens, you can usually let it cool slightly, and blend it in your blender until smooth again.
Oops! I Cooked it Down Too Much!
If you accidentally steam off too much, just whisk in a little milk beverage (from the carton) to bring it up to 1 1/2 cups.
I Don’t Have Time. Is There a Quicker Option?
There are actually a few very quick options!
- My favorite quick substitute, is just to use canned lite coconut milk (NOT coconut milk beverage) in place of evaporated milk. One can contains about 1 3/4 cup. It’s nature’s version of evaporated milk. (Tip: Thai Kitchen now has a resealable, multi-serve package of lite coconut milk)
- There are a few brands of dairy-free evaporated milk that you can buy online and keep on hand. The most popular one is Nature’s Charm. But they cost much more than my first suggestion, and are essentially the same thing.
- You can make my Instant Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk Recipe.
But if you don’t have any of the ingredients on hand for the above options, or you want to make a specific type of dairy-free evaporated milk substitute, then this is your recipe. And don’t worry, it doesn’t require much hands on time at all, so you can prep or clean other things in the kitchen as it simmers!
Special Diet Notes: Easy Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk
Depending on the ingredient you use, this recipe can be dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, sugar-free, coconut-free, vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, pale, and / or keto-friendly.
- 3¾ cup unsweetened dairy-free rice milk, soymilk, or nut milk
- Pour the milk beverage into a saucepan, and place it over medium-low heat.
- Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the milk beverage reduces to 1½ cups, about 30 minutes (see Time Note below). You want it to simmer, and steam, but do not bring it to a boil.
- Store the dairy-free evaporated milk substitute in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It can be frozen into cubes if needed later.
Have you tried using lactaid milk?
We are dairy-free, so no. I imagine it would work just fine. It’s simply regular milk with the sugar (lactose) broken down.
I’m so glad I found this site, having lactose intolerance and whey allergy. May I ask a question? Can I use hemp milk to make evaporated milk? If not, I’ll try coconut milk.
I’ve made great pumpkin pies using only firm silken tofu smoothed with an immersion blender. My husband claims to “hate” tofu, but loves pumpkin pies made with it.
So sorry for my delay. In theory, yes. But many milk alternatives won’t cook down to a nice, thicker consistency. It really varies by brand, product, type, etc. If you are thinking about coconut milk, just buy light canned coconut milk – it is equivalent to evaporated coconut milk – no need to cook it down! If you really want to use hemp, I would make it fresh for the best consistency. You can make the hemp creamer in this recipe without anything else (just the hemp seeds and water) to use as an evaporated milk substitute – https://www.godairyfree.org/recipes/maple-hemp-milk-recipe I hope that helps!
I cannot have dairy, soy or coconut. For making fudge or pumpkin pie would doing this with almond milk work. I have gotten sick from rice milk too.
It’s been a while since I’ve made this and don’t recall if I tested with almond milk. It should probably work, but might depend on the brand. You can use my instant nut milk recipe, and cook it down a bit, which will ensure richer results -> https://www.godairyfree.org/recipes/homemade-nut-milk
Bonnie, Have you tried Ripple Brand Pea Milk? It has protein like soy milk, but without the dairy, soy and coconut in it.
As noted above, I don’t recommend using milks with added protein. Pea protein milks, like Ripple, are simply protein and oil emulsions. They can thicken oddly. I’ve tested it several times in recipes and sauces. But, their half and half might work well as a direct sub for evaporated milk. So that’s a good brand to mention!
Would I be able to do this with Oat or hazelnut milk? Thanks!
I don’t want to make guarantees since I haven’t tried them, but in theory, it should work.
Hello! Thank you for this post! How liberating! 🙂 Can I make this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator? If so, how long do I have to use it? I want to make cinnamon rolls next weekend and have all the ingredients ready ahead of time 😉 Thank you!
Yes, it should keep for a week. Another quick option that should work well in cinnamon rolls is simply to use lite canned coconut milk. You will get about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups in one can.
do I need to cook it down if I’m putting it in the crockpot? I’m making gluten free mac n’ cheese and was gonna use almond milk. It calls for 4 c. evaporated milk. I just need to avoid caseine.
Yes, it will have too much liquid otherwise. You can alternatively use lite coconut milk (not milk beverage) and thin as needed.
How long does it take to process?
It can vary (ie I live in a higher altitude/dry climate, so there is high evaporation), but I find about 30 minutes.
Hi. I am working on freeing my fudge from lactose, and I basically have two options for subbing the evaporated milk: boil down some almond or rice milk as suggested above, or try canned coconut milk. Have you ever tried to make fudge with either of those options? If I used coconut milk, I’m not sure whether to use the thicker milk from the can, the thinner milk, or mix them together and use that… Thoughts?
Hi Rachel, yes! I make fudge with canned coconut milk all the time! I typically use full-fat coconut milk. You might be able to use one light can, one full-fat can, but I haven’t tried that. It would really depend on the recipe, too. If you are worried about coconut flavor, just add a touch more vanilla.
This recipe or aseptic coconut milk.
When Connie said her grand daughter was just diagnosed with nickel allergy and said she can’t have any canned foods, canned coconut milk is out of the question. In fact coconut and all products made with coconut (like shredded coconut, canned coconut milk, boxed and refrigerated coconut milk, coconut yogurt, coconut water, etc….) are to be avoided on a nickel free diet that her grand daughter has to be on because of a nickel allergy.
Ah yes, luckily, this recipe isn’t canned 🙂 And they do now sell “canned” coconut milk in small aseptic packages. Why would coconut need to be avoided on a nickel-free diet? I edited for Allergic Living for a decade – we covered all types of allergies – and I’ve never heard of a correlation between coconut and nickel. Can you provide some details, I would love to learn more!
I see why it is a confusing topic now. Here is a good discussion on it -> https://nickelfoodallergy.com/what-about-coconut-and-nickel/
My grand daughter was recently diagnosed with a “nickel’ allergy. We cannot use canned foods. My question is……….what can we use as evaporated milk to make a pumpkin pie…..(using a fresh pumpkin). thank you
I am aware this is a few years old but carnation has evaporated milk in cartons.
Unfortunately, Carnation does not make an evaporated dairy-free milk. They used to make an Almond Cooking Milk in North America, which was a bit like evaporated milk, but it has been discontinued. In the UK, they make a sweetened condensed vegan milk, but don’t have an evaporated milk. There are a couple small brands of coconut evaporated milk in the U.S., but they are a bit pricey and often seasonal in terms of store availability.
Can this be made ahead of time and refrigerated?
I am making my own creme brûlée coffee creamer using evaporated milk but I’m lactose intolerant. The recipe calls for 12oz can of evaporated milk and 1/2 cup of brown sugar and bring to a boil. Can I use Vanilla Almond milk instead?
I would use evaporated dairy-free milk or light canned coconut milk for a cheater option. A carton milk beverage is too thin for most recipes that call for evaporated milk, I’ve found.
Alisa, thank you for your recipe with very detailed instructions. I want to ask a question about the lite canned coconut milk you mentioned several times. Do you mean it can be used ounce for ounce as evaporated milk? And secondly, I don’t want my spinach casserole to taste like coconut. Please advise.
Hi Sallie, yes, you can use it 1:1 or evaporated milk. I don’t personally find that lite canned coconut milk strongly affects the flavor. I have made dishes with it, and people haven’t detected it. It’s milder in taste than regular coconut milk. The dairy-free evaporated milks sold on the market are essentially lite coconut milk repackaged. Keep in mind, cooking down any milk beverage will make it taste more intense. For example, almond milk cooked down will have a stronger almond flavor, soy milk cooked down will have a stronger soy flavor. Sometimes it’s just about pairing the best flavor with your dish. I find that lite coconut milk tends to pair well with the most things (not a big fan of almond in savory dishes!), and I have used it to make a spinach casserole. Tofu is also delicious with spinach casserole. You could puree some soft silken tofu with water to get the right consistency. Tofu has slight cheesy underpinnings in the taste.
Alisa – I tried making custard with Almond milk and it came out grainy and just terrible. Are you sure that you can make a sufficient evap milk substiture for things like pumpkin pie and have it come out properly?
Hi Marie, grainy – now that is an odd result! I’m thinking it must be related to the brand you were using. As for pumpkin pie, I don’t ever recommend recipes using evaporated milk. Rather, I would use light or full fat coconut milk – and no, it doesn’t taste like coconut! See my popular pie recipe here: http://www.godairyfree.org/ask-alisa/ask-alisa-do-you-have-a-good-pumpkin-pie-recipe-that-is-milk-free-and-soy-free. Also, see the book, Go Dairy Free, for all recommended evaporated milk subs.
Can you use pure almond milk?
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How long does this take, roughly?
It usually takes me about 30 minutes.
Can you do this with a nutmilk?