Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk for milk? (How to)

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk for milk?” and will discuss the alternatives for milk.

Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk for milk?

Yes, you can substitute condensed milk for whole milk in some recipes, but due to the high added sugar and low water content in condensed milk, using whole milk may not always be the best choice as a substitute.

Sweetened condensed milk is created by sugar introduction to whole milk, followed by the removal of water, which reduces the milk’s volume to about half of its original amount. This concentrated blend is then packaged in cans or other containers without undergoing sterilization, as the sugar added serves as a natural preservative. (1)

What is the composition of sweetened condensed milk?

Sweetened condensed milk must meet specific composition standards, including a minimum requirement of 8% milk fat and a minimum of 28% milk solids. To ensure its quality, an appropriate quantity of sugar is incorporated into the product to prevent spoilage while avoiding sugar crystallization defects.

Sweetened condensed milk typically contains over 71% total solids, with the majority being sucrose, comprising about 40–45%. This high sugar concentration results in a nearly saturated aqueous solution, accounting for approximately 63–64% of the mixture.

Consequently, it leads to significantly increased osmotic pressure, reaching around 23 MPa, and a considerably reduced water activity level of 0.83. These factors effectively hinder the growth of most microorganisms, except for a few osmophilic yeasts and certain bacteria.

As a result, sweetened condensed milk, adequately protected against post-processing microbial contamination, maintains microbiological stability during storage at ambient temperatures. (1, 2)

What are the components of milk?

While the composition of milk is known to be influenced by various factors such as the animal’s species, lactation stage, and genetics, it can also be subject to changes due to environmental conditions and dietary factors. On average, milk comprises approximately 87% water, 4%-5% lactose, 3% protein, 3%-4% fat, 0.8% minerals, and 0.1% vitamins.

When comparing milk from different species, cow’s milk stands out with the lowest fat content, second only to human milk in protein content. In contrast, evaporated milk exhibits a more concentrated composition, with the following analysis: 6.5% protein, 7.5% fat, 9.8% carbohydrates, 1.4% minerals (ash), 0.24% calcium, and 0.19% phosphorus. (3, 4)

Why might sweetened condensed milk be preferred?

Sweetened condensed milk, with its high sucrose content exceeding 40% and its thick, jam-like consistency, finds various uses in culinary applications. Historically, it was consumed as a drink when diluted with water, though this practice is no longer common.

Presently, one of its primary uses is as a sweetener and whitener for coffee or tea. In many countries, it is also employed in combination with cocoa or other milk modifiers to create homemade beverages. An emerging trend is its utilization in sweet dessert recipes such as ice cream, cakes, and cookies.

Notably, in the Latin American region, it plays a central role in the creation of Dulce de Leche, The specific applications of sweetened condensed milk can vary significantly from one country to another and even between different geographical regions, reflecting traditional culinary customs and preferences. (1)

Is evaporated milk a better option than whole milk?

Yes, evaporated milk is a better option. Generally, evaporated milk is unsweetened and undergoes heat sterilization, while sweetened condensed milk is made with sugar as a preservative and is not heat sterilized.

As a result, you can replace them in equivalent quantities without significant alterations, as any difference in sugar content can be compensated for by adding sugar. (2)

How do milk components affect your health?

Incorporating whole cow’s milk, with its natural fat content, into your regular diet offers a range of health benefits, which include Whole milk is a rich source of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are vital for maintaining strong bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Thanks to its high protein content, whole milk aids in muscle growth and repair. This makes it especially advantageous for individuals engaged in physical activities or those looking to build muscle mass. Whole milk contains oligosaccharides that serve as nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria in the colon.

This promotes a healthy intestinal microbiota, leading to improved digestive health. The generous vitamin B complex present in whole milk supports optimal neurological function, contributing to cognitive health and nerve function.

Whole milk contains amino acids with potential anti-hypertensive properties, suggesting it may play a role in helping to regulate high blood pressure. Furthermore, whole milk serves as a natural source of vitamins A, E, K, and D, all of which are found in the milk fat. In contrast, skim milk lacks these essential nutrients due to the fat-removal process during skimming. (3, 5)


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk for milk?” and discussed the alternatives for milk.

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SHARMA, Prateek; PATEL, Hasmukh; PATEL, Ashok. Evaporated and sweetened condensed milks. Dairy processing and quality assurance, p. 310-332, 2015.


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Silva, A. R. A., Silva, M. M. N., & Ribeiro, B. D.  Health Issues and Technological Aspects of Plant-based Alternative Milk. Food Research International, 108972. 2020.