You know you love the stuff. We all do. The sticky-sweet taste of sweetened condensed milk makes just about everything better. But what happens when you just don't have any on-hand? Make your own using our simple substitutes. We're even sharing a sweetened condensed milk recipe so you can DIY your own!

Sweetened condensed milk on a counter, from Shelf Cooking

There are so many delicious baked recipes to enjoy this time of year! And so many of them call for the ooey, gooey, yummy ingredient known as sweetened condensed milk.

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So, what is sweetened, condensed milk? Furthermore, what do you do when you run out of the good stuff? Never fear! You can swap in these handy dandy substitutes OR go the DIY direction to make your own with our recipe below!


Sweetened condensed milk is really pretty simple when you break it down. It's “condensed cow's milk” that has had most of the water removed from it. Then, it's “sweetened” using added sugar to make it extra delicious. No wonder it's so good.

Sweetened condensed milk is used for everything from making candy to brownies, frostings, and more. People even use it to sweeten tea and coffee!

It's important to note that sweetened condensed milk is not like evaporated milk (which is essentially unsweetened condensed milk).


Spoon with sweetened condensed milk, from Shelf Cooking

So, knowing what makes sweetened condensed milk so unique, it makes sense why you'll need some unique options! That way, you can substitute as needed with any of these tried-and-true substitutions:

  • Cream of CoconutDon't confuse this with coconut cream. Cream of coconut comes in cans and is much sweeter. You can substitute it in at a 1:1 ratio for a great sweetened condensed milk option.
  • Evaporated Milk Combine one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk with 3/4 cup sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Then let cool slightly before using it in a recipe.
  • Coconut MilkAllow a can of coconut milk to sit for 30 minutes and then skim the fat off the top. Then you can use the thinned liquid combined with 3/4 cup sugar to make a sweetened condensed milk alternative.

We love the cream of coconut option personally because it has the same effect in a dish as sweetened condensed milk with a tropical flair. (We're definitely in favor of any quick trip to the tropics!)


Sweetened condensed milk with pancakes, from Shelf Cooking

Have half a can leftover of sweetened condensed milk? Don't dump it out! There are lots of things that you can do to use it up:

  • Pour Over Ice Cream – Mmmmm…. Doesn't this sound amazing? The combination of cold, creamy ice cream and sweet and amazing sweetened condensed milk. Excuse us while we wipe the drool.
  • Improve a Soda – Add a little splash to your Diet Coke or Dr. Pepper for a creamy delicious extra.
  • Add It to a Sweet Treat – Make up a quick box of brownies and then drizzle your leftover condensed milk to take them to next level UH-MAZING.
  • Top a Shaved Ice – Sweetened condensed milk is something shaved ice aficionados use all the time in Hawaii. Simply drizzle it over the top of your shaved ice and enjoy your very own Hawaiian-style shaved ice.
  • Overnight Oats – Make our yummy overnight oats and add your sweetened condensed milk as the sweetener.

Pro Tip: If you don't want to use up that leftover can just yet, good news! You can store sweetened condensed milk in the fridge for up to a month if you transfer it to a sealed container.


If you want to try your hand at making your own batch of sweetened condensed milk, you can use this super simple recipe that keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Sweetened condensed milk on a counter, from

Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipe

Whip up this simple substitute for sweetened condensed milk using regular milk and sugar. It's sooooooo good!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Ingredient
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cups


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar


  • Add milk and sugar to a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar.
  • Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Let it simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or until the mixture reduces to 1 ⅓ cup.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Use immediately or transfer to an air-tight storage container to chill for up to 1 week.
Keyword delicious

This is a super easy and cost-effective way to avoid paying the high prices at the grocery store for sweetened condensed milk. Man, that stuff is spendy, especially during the baking season (if you can even find it)!

Can you think of other ways to use up sweetened condensed milk? Leave a comment below and share with us your suggestions.

Image with text that reads "how to make sweetened condensed milk" from Shelf Cooking

Looking for other ways to substitute common ingredients?

Stay sweet!