Sweetened condensed milk has been manufactured in the US since 1853, and it became downright beloved during WWI and WWII with soldiers who received it in packages from home. This comfort food traveled well and was easy to consume.
Condensed milk is a thick milk product usually sold in cans. It’s made by heating whole milk until 60% of the water is removed. That’s why it’s sometimes also called “evaporated milk.” You can find unsweetened condensed milk labeled as evaporated milk, but sweetened condensed milk is more common in baking.
But what about dairy-free condensed milk? Is there a plant-based beverage option you can use? Here, we help you find the best dairy-free replacements for condensed milk.
Whether you’re vegan or focusing on more plant-based foods, you probably know that anything cow’s milk can do, plant-based milk can do just as well. But when it comes plant-based, ready-to-use condensed milks, they’re not super easy to find.
Fortunately, you can make dairy-free condensed milk using coconut, soy, oat, or a variety of nut milks right in your kitchen.
Each of the recipes below will produce a dairy-free substitute for traditional sweetened condensed milk. They’ll all yield a liquid that’s dense enough and sweet enough to do the job. If you want to make condensed milk that isn’t sweetened, just leave out the sweeteners.
The condensed milk alternatives below recommend cooling before use, because recipes assume condensed milk is at room temperature when using. Any extra milk can be stored in a sealed container in your fridge for about a week.
Many vegan bakers agree that the easiest and tastiest dairy-free alternative to condensed milk is made with coconut milk. Since thickness is part of what you’re looking for, it’s helpful that full-fat coconut milk is already quite dense.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
Making coconut condensed milk is very simple:
In some recipes, you’ll really taste the coconut, and in others, there’ll just be a hint. Please note that using thin coconut milk or coconut water as a base won’t work. Use only full fat coconut milk from a can to achieve that creamy consistency associated with condensed milk.
The easiest way to make soy-based condensed milk is using soy milk powder. There are a few more ingredients in this one, but it doesn’t take as long to make. Here’s what you need:
Once you have your ingredients, follow this recipe to make your dairy-free condensed milk:
The consistency at this point will seem too thin to work as condensed milk, but it thickens into the right density when it cools. You should get about 1 ½ cups from this recipe.
This dairy-free condensed milk recipe actually does start with a ready-to-drink nut milk, such as Pacific Foods Cashew Unsweetened Original. Adding whole, soaked nuts will help bring it to the right consistency.
Here are the ingredients:
To create this dairy-free condensed milk, do the following:
Note that the consistency of this recipe stays fairly stable as it cools, but it could thicken a little.
This recipe is just like the cashew recipe above, except you’ll use soaked almonds and Pacific Foods Organic Unsweetened Almond Original nut milk. In the almond version, we prefer the maple syrup sweetener to agave nectar, but it’s up to you.
Use the following ingredients:
Follow these steps to make this non-dairy condensed milk:
Oatmilk is currently the undisputed darling of plant-based milks. The taste is similar to cow’s milk but with a slightly sweeter flavor. This makes it a great option for a dairy-free condensed milk alternative.
Making sweetened condensed oat milk is pretty easy. Just follow these steps:
This is a fun recipe to experiment with. In future batches, try a different sugar or play with the amount of vanilla to get it just right.
If dairy isn’t an issue, heavy cream can substitute for condensed milk. But if you’re avoiding dairy, the only thing that can sometimes substitute for condensed milk “as is” is full-fat coconut milk. However, full-fat coconut milk may not have the condensed milk consistency you’re going for.
The recipes in this post have been tested and are known to behave like sweetened condensed milk in recipes. They’re your best bet for a dairy-free condensed milk.
Any of the five plant-based condensed milk recipes above can be used instead of condensed milk in a cake recipe. When deciding which one to use, consider all of the ingredients and the primary flavors in the cake.
If you want an earthier quality, go with a nut or oat-based condensed milk substitute. If you want a lighter, sweeter cake, consider using coconut-based condensed milk.
Yes! Coconuts are plants. No matter how smooth and creamy coconut products are, they’re not dairy. That includes full-fat coconut from a can.
Baking is a science, much like being in a chemistry lab. Just because two things are equally sweet or have roughly the same consistency doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll behave similarly in a recipe.
While honey is a good sweetener to use in a dairy-free condensed milk recipe, honey is not an appropriate substitute for sweetened condensed milk. Both are thick substances, but honey can have a water or crystallized consistency. It won’t yield the same results as a dairy-free condensed milk.
While there’s nothing easier than opening a can, it’s fairly simple to make a delicious plant-based condensed milk featured for all your cooking and baking needs. You’ll love the taste of your baked goods and other recipes with these dairy-free substitutes.
At Pacific Foods, we have a wide variety of delicious, plant-based beverages to help you meet your dairy-free goals. Whether you need a creamer for your coffee or are baking your family dessert, we have an organic beverage to delight your tastebuds. Find your perfect plant-based option by shopping our products today.