Evaporated Milk 101 | Creative Ways to Use Evaporated Milk

Heidi Harkopf, MS, RD| View Author Bio

I know, evaporated milk seems so old fashioned! Perhaps you have used it once or twice for a recipe, and very likely that recipe was pumpkin pie. But read on to learn about the versatility of this pantry staple and it might just make it onto your next grocery list.


The discovery of evaporating and canning milk began in the early 1800s as a result of the French government offering a prize to those who could discover ways to preserve food for the army. Shortly after, the technique of sterilizing by steam under pressure was further refined in the United States to the benefit of our own armed forces. In the 1920s consumers also became interested in the convenience of evaporated milk and recipes featuring evaporated milk began to be developed.

Evaporated Milk vs. Condensed Milk

Both evaporated milk and condensed milk come from milk with about 60% of its water removed. However, the two are not interchangeable because condensed milk has sugar added. Because of its sweetness, condensed milk is mostly used with baked goods, sweets and beverages (like Vietnamese coffee). Evaporated milk works well in savory dishes.

How To Use Evaporated Milk

As Fluid Milk

If you are short on fresh milk (for example, you missed the news that a snow storm was coming), simply dilute evaporated milk in a 1:1 ratio with water. Many countries in the world still rely on this method when fresh milk is not readily available. However, in the United States, most consumers would prefer evaporated milk’s toasty flavor as an ingredient in recipes, rather than as a beverage.

As a Cream Substitute

You can often substitute evaporated milk in recipes calling for cream. For example, it would work well in mashed potatoes and cream-based soups. Or if you have struggled to keep homemade cheese sauces consistently smooth, evaporated milk will help you hit the mark every time. To see how well it works in cheese sauces try this ultra-creamy stove top Mac & Cheese and this restaurant worthy cheese dip.

In International Recipes

Explore recipes from the many cultures around the world that have incorporated evaporated milk into their traditional recipes such as Tres Leche cake and Coquito.

If you find that your recipe doesn’t use the entire can, just be sure to store the leftovers in a non-metal container that can be sealed and enjoy a splash in your coffee or black tea.

If you would like to try my family’s favorite tortellini recipe, you are in luck because the secret recipe is being shared now. And the star ingredient is evaporated milk!

Creamy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto:

Serves 4

1 (12 oz) bag frozen cheese tortellini
1 ½ cups frozen peas
2 tsp butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
7 oz evaporated milk
1 tbsp cold water
1 ½ tsp cornstarch
Dash salt
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
3 oz (or several slices) of prosciutto, chopped

1. Boil tortellini and frozen peas in salted water according to tortellini package instructions (generally 3-5 minutes). Drain.

2. During the time the tortellini is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan and sauté the garlic for 15 seconds. Add evaporated milk and bring to a simmer over low heat.

3. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth, then slowly add to milk. Cook until slightly thickened and season with a dash of salt.

4. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese. Combined the sauce with the tortellini and peas, stir in the prosciutto. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

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