Have you ever noticed how expensive sweetened condensed milk is? Here, I’ll show you how to make homemade sweetened condensed milk. There’s even a dairy-free option, and it’s all so easy!
Sweetened condensed milk is the nectar of the gods. It’s something about that combination of milk and lightly caramelized sugar that just sends me.
One of two essential ingredients in my favorite no-churn homemade ice cream, it’s actually relatively expensive to buy ready-made. I usually find it in my local grocery store for at least $3.50 for 14 ounces. 😳
Lately, my kids have been asking me to make a homemade Starbucks-style Frappuccino drink. They spend their onw money on things like that, and it’s not cheap! One of the cheapest ways to make a café-style drink like that at home is with my homemade sweetened condensed milk.
You can even make it with unrefined sugars, and even dairy free. Say what?!
We’re going to make it three ways: from fresh whole milk, from evaporated milk, and dairy-free from canned coconut milk. I used granulated sugar, but you can use unrefined sugars if that’s your preference (see the ingredient lists for suggestions).
Keep in mind that, if you use maple syrup, it will take longer to reduce as maple syrup has a very high liquid content. In the photo above, the variety in the foreground is made with evaporated milk (my favorite kind, as it’s by far the easiest).
All it takes is simmering a mixture of your chosen milk, sugar and a pinch of salt over medium heat until it thickens. To prevent anything from burning on the bottom of the pan, whisk occasionally.
It will go from thickened to burnt rather quickly, so keep an eye on things. The variation made with whole milk is the one I rarely make. It develops curds as you cook the milk and it thickens before it turns particularly amber in color.
The evaporated milk variety and the dairy free variety are my favorites. They’re the easiest in preparation, and even my favorite in taste, texture and usefulness.
For my dairy-free friends, today’s recipe is especially important. Lately, I have seen dairy free sweetend condensed milk for sale, but I’m afraid to even look at the price tag.
Keep in mind that the dairy-free variety never really turns any more amber in color. Even though the sugars begin to caramelize, the canned coconut milk is just.so.white. Use it to make my recipe for Really Nice Dairy Free Fudge.
Of course, you can also use regular whole milk, but as you heat the mixture it will develop curds that must be skimmed off, and it will take a significantly longer time to reduce and thicken. The end result is certainly worth it, though! Without it, how would we make homemade Gluten Free Red Cherry Licorice?
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar (can be replaced with 1 1/4 cups (420 g) maple syrup, or 1 cup (336 g) honey)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
The three lists of ingredients (Whole-, Evaporated-, and Dairy-Free- Sweetened Condensed Milks) above are alternatives. Choose the ingredient list that best suits your needs, place all 3 of the ingredients in that list in a medium-size heavy bottom saucepan, and whisk to combine well. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
Whole Sweetened Condensed Milk. Only the whole milk variety will begin to develop curds that accumulate on the top of the liquid. Skim those off and discard them. Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by about 5/8 (more than half, less than three-quarters) and has begun to thicken (about 1 hour). Place a sieve over the top of a heat-safe container, and pour the sweetened condensed milk through the sieve to remove any dark, caramelized bits. Allow to cool completely before covering tightly and storing in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 4 weeks.
Evaporated Sweetened Condensed Milk. This variety is significantly easier to work with, as it will not develop curds and will thicken much more quickly. Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by about 1/2 and has begun to thicken (about 30 minutes). Place a sieve over the top of a heat-safe container, and pour the sweetened condensed milk through the sieve to remove any dark, caramelized bits. Allow to cool completely before covering tightly and storing in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 4 weeks.
Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk. This variety is perhaps the easiest to work with, as it will not develop curds and thickens very quickly. Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by about 1/2 and has begun to thicken (about 12 minutes). Transfer to a heat-safe container until cooled completely. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 4 weeks.
Originally published on the blog in 2014. Recipe unchanged, method tweaked slightly, video and most photos new.