Canned milk is a strange thing. On one hand, you know it's some form of the dairy drink you're familiar with, and on the other hand, it's milk in a can. It only gets weirder when you get to the grocery store and realize there's two different types of condensed milks. Like what? But don't go crying over spilled milk! Let's understand sweetened condensed milk vs evaporated milk.


water, tea, milk
Alex Frank

Sweetened Condensed Milk was invented in the mid-1800's by Gail Borden, an American entrepreneur intent on solving the problem of safely preserving milk. At the time, there was no way to refrigerate or preserve dairy products. Fresh milk would often spoil quickly, making demand for it high. With the growing populations of urban cities, there literally wasn't enough milk to go around.

In response to this, much of the milk being sold in the United States was "swill milk," a disgusting bluish liquid collected from cows kept in unclean stables. Dairy men would dilute swill milk with water, and add plaster, flour, starch, or molasses to make it look like real milk. This caused a scandal as millions became sick from drinking this gross product (Like seriously - health violation much?).

Inspired by the prevalence of swill milk, Borden came up with a way to sterilize and store milk. His "canned milk" was patented in 1856, and is what we know as Sweetened Condensed Milk today. Years later, Borden stopped adding sugar in his condensation process, creating Evaporated Milk.

A Dairy Dilemna

milk, yogurt, cream, dairy, sweet, dairy product, milkshake
Aakanksha Joshi

Basically, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are the same thing, except one has added sugar. Both are concentrated milk, where roughly 60% of the water has been evaporated, leaving a canned glob of thick milk behind. However, don't start thinking these milks are exactly the same, as there are some pretty important differences between them when you're cooking.

Evaporated Milk

Elizabeth Vana

Evaporated milk is made by boiling regular cow's milk until 60% of the water content has heated away. It comes in skim, low-fat, and whole milk variations, thought most cans of evaporated milk you'll find in the store are derived from whole milk. Evaporated milk has a thick consistency with a slightly more caramel flavor than regular milk, due being heated to the evaporating process.

Cans will store well for about six months, and can be used in a variety of different recipes. However, evaporated milk is best used for dishes that are more savory and creamy, where added sugar is not welcome. It's awesome for cream-based soups and casseroles, like this 5-ingredient broccoli cheddar soup.

#Spoontip: Evaporated milk can easily be converted to regular milk in a pinch. Just mix 1 part evaporated milk with 1 and 1/4 parts water.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Elizabeth Vana

Sweetened Condensed Milk is Evaporated Milk's sweeter older sister. Called both Condensed Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk, this saccharine product is thick and tastes almost too sweet. Containing about 40-45% sugar, it'll satisfy your sweet tooth and then some.

Sweetened Condensed Milk is perfect for desserts, though it can be added to lots of different foods for a sugary punch. However, if you've got your heart set on dessert, Sweetened Condensed Milk is the secret ingredient in this amazing no-churn ice cream.

Elizabeth Vana

The debate of Sweetened Condensed Milk vs Evaporated Milk has finally been settled. Next time you're perusing the grocery store aisles, stop and grab a can. Both are cheap, store well, and might just be the star of your next recipe.