What is Evaporated Milk?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Evaporated milk comes in canned form, and is evaporated due to the process of removing water from the milk. It is much thicker than ordinary milk you’d buy at a grocery store. This method of storing milk became popular because the cans of milk could keep far longer than fresh milk, and didn’t require refrigeration until after they were opened. About 60% of the water is removed from evaporated milk, accounting for its thickness.

Evaporated milk is exposed to high heat to reduce its water content and then preserved in a can.
Evaporated milk is exposed to high heat to reduce its water content and then preserved in a can.

This product is made by exposing fresh milk to high heat so water essentially evaporates. The end result is a dense, high calorie milk that is usually fortified with vitamins A & D, just like fresh milk. Yet because of the evaporation process, the concentrated milk you get when you buy a can of evaporated milk has a higher concentration of vitamin content. You can water down the milk if you intend to serve it as regular milk, by adding equal amounts of water and milk. This will lower calorie content and vitamin distribution. You may also find low fat versions of this beverage on the market.

Pumpkin pie recipes sometimes require evaporated milk.
Pumpkin pie recipes sometimes require evaporated milk.

Dairy farmers developed evaporated milk over 100 years ago. The company Borden was first on the market with condensed milk, to which sugar was added to produce a very sweet product. The main difference between evaporated and condensed milk in the US is that no sugar is added to the evaporated form. It is merely whole milk from which water has been removed. This is not the case in other countries, where you’ll find many brands of evaporated milk that contain sugar.

Evaporated milk is much thicker than ordinary milk.
Evaporated milk is much thicker than ordinary milk.

Sugar acts as an excellent preservative, extending the life of condensed milk, but it’s important to note this distinction between condensed and evaporated milk, especially when you are baking. While some recipes call specifically for condensed milk, like quick fudge recipes, other recipes, like many for pumpkin pie require evaporated milk. You can’t substitute one of the other unless you want to add or take away from the total sugar in your end product.

Some people like to use evaporated milk for sauces. It can be a good substitute for cream, slightly lowering overall calorie content, and some people enjoy adding it to coffee or tea. Some argue that milk from cans has a metallic taste. Still, if you need milk around but lack refrigeration, as in the case of emergencies where you might lose power, evaporated milk is an excellent choice. Do note that if you lack refrigeration, you cannot keep the milk out without spoiling it.

Once the can is opened, you should follow the same basic rules for the shelf life of fresh milk. If you do reconstitute the milk to serve at a meal, in an emergency, or while camping, any milk left over should be thrown out since it will spoil easily. If you have access to a fridge, merely cover the leftover milk, where it will store in the fridge for about three to four days without spoiling.

Evaporated milk can be used to make fudge.
Evaporated milk can be used to make fudge.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Thanks for this excellent article. I have never used evaporated milk, but a friend recently gave me a can of it. She mentioned that I could stretch it by mixing with water. I was wondering what the ratio was of water to evaporated milk and this article answered my question.


Is it correct that the milk has more than 27 vitamins and minerals? If yes, what are they?


This article really answered my question! I was low on money and only had some evaporated milk. My daughter wanted hamburger helper and since the directions call for milk and I didn't have any I needed to know if I could substitute evaporated. Now since I know the difference I probably will use evaporated when there is no regular milk in the house. Thanks so much! Twan/North Augusta SC


Wanting to know why carrageenan is listed in the canned milk that we use.


in response to anon22100, who used evaporated milk and found it "overly sweet", most likely you were using condensed milk, which is also evaporated but had additional sugar added.


Uh, yes! If you have lumps, your milk is bad. Evaporated milk pours smoothly without lumps.


so,what is the answer to the question, how far past expiration date is milk safe to use? It has a caramel color. please post answer.


So is evaporated milk o.k. slightly past expiration date? And what if it has some lumps at the bottom of can,is it bad? Thanks!


Thank you for this article! I am diabetic and made a sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving using Splenda instead of the brown sugar. The recipe called for evaporated milk and when I ate it I could not believe how overly sweet it was - I became fearful that I had just ingested a huge amount of real sugar from the evaporated milk - thank goodness for your article - now I know the milk is safe in that form. I also now know to stay clear of condensed milk! Thank you again. Denise/Lago Vista TX


Is evaporated milk harmful to your body if used after expiration date: such as in a pumpkin pie?


Is evaporated milk okay if it has some lumps in it? The can did say shake well before opening and I am assuming I didn't shake it thoroughly enough. But I have used in in fish chowder and am concerned for its safety. Everything smells fine so maybe I am worrying needlessly. Thanks. JP

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