Have you ever eaten a big spoonful straight from a can of sweetened condensed milk?
Did you feel just a twinge of guilt afterwards?
“This is not supposed to be eaten on its own, but its just too good to stop!” you probably thought to yourself.
Well, ease your anxieties, because you are not alone. We agree – S.C.M. is a thing of beauty. And it should most definitely be put to good use more often.
But purchasing loads of those little 14-ounce cans is not your only option. Did you know that you can make your own sweetened condensed treat at home?
What is condensed milk anyway?
You might be wondering what, exactly, is in that sticky, milky syrup?
Surprisingly, it’s much simpler than you’d think! S.C.M. is nothing more than sugar and milk.
Sweetened condensed is not to be confused with evaporated– which has no added sugar. The two are most definitely not the same!
The mixture in question is cooked until about 60% of the water content has been removed, which is what makes it so thick and smooth.
Can alternative ingredients be used?
For the dairy-free or the sweetener-leery, alternatives are available. Almond, coconut, or even rice milk will work just fine, though you should know that they will impart a slightly different flavor.
Honey and maple are not recommended substitutions for sugar, as they will overpower any other flavor. But Splenda, stevia, or erythritol will make a fine treat.
Milk Jam, Dulce de Leche, and Confiture de Lait
This darker, caramel-y cousin is known around the world by a variety of names. Just like S.C.M., it is made of cooked milk and sugar.
But the addition of baking soda sets off a tasty chemical reaction. By alkalizing the mixture, it promotes a Maillard reaction between the proteins and sugars, resulting in more complexity of flavor and a deep brown hue. The final result is also a bit thicker, more like the texture of jam.
Don’t try to achieve this result with the non-dairy or sugar-free alternative ingredients listed above though, as the chemical interactions just won’t be the same.
Instead, try using the dairy of different animals to provide a varied flavor. Goat or sheep’s milk is commonly used to enhance this delicate treat.
- 4 cups milk (whole goat, sheep, almond, coconut, or rice)
- 2 cups sugar or alternative sweetener
- Mix together the milk and sugar in a medium pot, or in a crockpot.
- Turn burner on low or slow cooker on high, and stir regularly until the sugar is dissolved.
- Cook with the lid off until reduced by half. On the stovetop, this will take about 1 1/2 hours. Stir every 10-15 minutes for the first 45 minutes, then every five minutes until finished. In the slow cooker this will take 7-8 hours, without any need for stirring.
- Pour the finished product into a pint-sized glass jar and store in the fridge. It will thicken up as it cools.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step One: Mix It Up
Mix the milk and sugar together in a medium pot or in a crockpot. If cooking over the stove, the process will take about an hour and a half – but it will require vigilance to avoid burning! Using the crockpot might take significantly longer, but the decreased risk is well worth the added time.
Step Two: Cook and Stir
It is important to stir your ingredients in the early stages of cooking to ensure that the sugar dissolves. If cooking over the stovetop, keep the flame on low. If using a crockpot, crank the heat up to high. Stir regularly until all of the sugar has dissolved.
Step Three: Cook and Cook (and Stir Some More)
Let it cook slowly. Have patience – this takes time! It is probably tempting to turn up the heat in hopes of getting things done more quickly. But if it gets too hot, it will curdle. Low and slow is the way to go.
Make sure you don’t use a lid – nope, not even on that crockpot. You’ve got to let all that steam escape, or else it will never condense. Let it cook until it has reduced by about half. It might seem like it is still runny at this point, but trust me – once it cools, it will thicken up a lot!
Step Four: Chill
Pour the final product into a pint-sized glass jar or storage container and refrigerate. Your fresh treat will last about two weeks in the fridge (that is, if you don’t eat it all at once).
Variation: Milk Jam
If you’d prefer the thicker, darker flavor of confiture de lait, simply whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda after step two, once things begin to simmer. The mixture will foam up immediately, so it is best to use a large pot and cook over the stovetop, rather than in the crockpot.
Whisk vigorously until the foam subsides, and continue cooking slowly over low heat, picking up with Step Three above.
- Don’t rush! Let your ingredients reduce slowly, or else you just might ruin a beautiful thing.
- Experiment. Test out different types of milk and sweeteners. Not only does this make the recipe suitable for the allergy-prone, it opens the doors to dozens of various flavors as well. Just remember, if attempting to make a dulce de leche, dairy (whether from a cow, sheep or goat) and sugar are vital players for the necessary chemical reactions to occur.
- Experiment some more. Try adding in a few cardamom pods, a bag of tea, some dried rose petals, a vanilla bean, or other ingredients with your simmering milk and sugar to vary the flavor at that stage. These spices can then be strained out when transferring the milk to jars, when using either the slow cooker or stovetop method. The varieties that you’re able to make are endless!
- Eat it up! Remember, you are working with fresh dairy here. This is not the ultra-pasteurized product that comes in the can. Make sure you eat it up within two weeks, before it goes bad. Really though, it’s so delicious, I’m not sure how that could ever be a problem…
How To Eat It
Looking for something besides just gobbling it up with a spoon?
Here are some ideas and suggestions for enjoying your gooey treat:
- Slather it on toast
- Stir into coffee or tea, hot or iced. My favorite summer specialty is an iced S.C.M. latte!
- Fold with juice and whipped cream, then freeze to make a simple semifreddo.
Give this tasty concoction a try today. I promise, you won’t regret it. Not even the three large spoonfuls you will eat as soon as it’s cool, or the slice of zucchini bread dripping with it, or the iced tea sweetened with it…
Trust me, I speak from experience.
I’ve just eaten all of this batch in fact, and I feel no guilt. Maybe a bit of a tummyache, but not a twinge of remorse.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy condensed milk, or confiture de lait? Let me know in the comments! And enjoy!
Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.
27 thoughts on “Smooth and Creamy: Make Your Own Sweetened Condensed Milk”
I’ve always used tinned condensed milk for making sweets such as coconut ice and fudge. I had no idea how simple it was to make your own and I’ll be sure to try this technique out next time I’m making gift items. I’m certain it tastes a whole lot nicer too!
As I was reading this I thought that it would be great to use in making toffee (caramel) – then I saw that missbishi had a similar idea. I’ll definitely try this for toffee and fudge. I might try adding mint flavoring and make mint creams.
I think that’s how toffee is made in a lot of parts of the world (at least that’s how my grandmother always made them, with condensed milk). I’m really curious if fudge would turn good with this recipe for sweetened condensed milk.
Now I really need to try this as it sounds absolutely terrific. While I don’t really have much access to farm fresh milk, I will have to look around for just that as I want to try this recipe for myself. I can see me spreading it on bread for a tasty snack or dripping it on top of a cake or something that I’ve baked. I’m practically drooling over the stuff already, which is probably the fault of the article writer who described things so well.
I’m a big fan of condensed milk, I’m the guy who likes to eat it all when my mom is cooking a dessert, lol. And as you’ve said the guilt is always there.
I had no idea how it was done, and now that I know the process going to the store and buying it seems pretty dumb since the process is extremely easy, without mentioning that it will be homemade, and in my opinion homemade things are the best.
In the other hand, I’m not a real fan about Milk Jam or dulces de leche, even if in my country you can find a large variety of them, it’s still not my thing, but I guess that it’s a good thing to also know the process of it.
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I have actually made my own condensed milk in the past when I didn’t have a can available for a recipe. However, I never considered using different ingredients for a more complex flavor. This is a really exciting recipe. That dulce de leche looks amazing on zucchini bread. I’m sure it’s equally good on regular toast as a replacement for jelly at breakfast time. Gonna whip this up sometime!
Mmm absolutely, it makes a lovely toast topping!
Hi everybody, it’s Arunava.
I am pretty amazed to see how simple it is to make Condensed milk. Thank you for the tips. I will try this at home. We have always used condensed milk for making different sweets and it has also been used to make tea also. Condensed milk makes desserts taste better and it has remained a family favorite for ever. As a child, I loved to eating condensed milk directly from the can when mom was not around.
Oh my goodness, this makes me SO SO SO HAPPY!! The creamer available for Passover (that follows the laws of Passover regarding leavened ingredients) is less than tasty. I don’t enjoy my coffee during that time. And… not drink coffee? That isn’t an option. So I choke it down. I’m a flavored creamer snob. So, with a little more research for proper ingredients that I could use, this could become my new Passover (and all year round, why not?) creamer! Thank you!
Wow, I didn’t realize that there was a Passover restriction on creamer! I’m glad that this can make for a good alternative!
I didn’t know that you could make your own sweetened condensed milk. I have had to run to the store in the middle of baking to get some because I thought I had some and didn’t. Now I can just make my own! Awesome, thanks for sharing!
I had no idea this was so easy to make from scratch! I must try it and these variations. I am always the one eating a spoonful of this stuff whenever the family is baking and messing up everyone’s recipe. I’d love to try some of these options, they look delicious!
Oh, my. That’s just … sinful. The last thing I need is to find more ways to use this confection, ha ha.
This is really great though. Those little cans get expensive! I also hate to waste it if there is any left when making smaller recipes. With this, I can make as much as I need.
I’m also thrilled to see that I can make it with Stevia, since I’m trying to watch carbs. Thanks!
I actually came out here looking for a recipe for condensed milk recipe thanks to having tried out a semifreddo recipe from elsewhere on this site! Quite exciting that you list it under recommended uses. 🙂 I used it straight out of a tin from the shop but was wondering if I could come up with a less sweet version. I figure that the sugar in it has a lot to do with building the texture, but I’ve been wondering if it’s okay to experiment with the quantity of it that goes in. You’ve mentioned experimenting with types of sweeteners but not how much. I’m really curious about this.
Hi Psanch! For the homemade sweetened condensed milk, you can definitely experiment with less sugar or with sugar substitutes. In Milk Jam, the sugar is pertinent to the texture (it is part of the protein caramelization reaction that gives it both its color and flavor), but in SCM it primarily just adds sweetness. The SCM texture is a result of evaporating the water content out of milk (think evaporated milk with sweetener!).
This will however affect the texture of your semifreddo if you use homemade SCM with less sugar. The sugar lowers the freezing point which allows the semifreddo to stay soft when frozen. If you hope to make a slightly less sweet semifreddo, I would recommend cutting back no more than 20% of the sugar.
This is why Foodal is now my best friend! I never had any idea you could make S.C.M. yourself. It has gotten quite pricey per can around here, so I only buy it on occasion. It costs literally almost $2 a can. However, if I can make it myself, I can use it to make tons of scrumptious recipes I have that call for it! I think my favorite thing to do with it is to fold it into whipped cream and make sort of a soft-set, quick overnight ice cream without having to use an ice cream maker or any fancy equipment. My significant other likes a drizzle on his cereal in addition to regular milk. He thinks it makes the taste of the cereal pop much more than just a teaspoon of straight sugar.
I’ve never tried SCM on my cereal, but that sounds delicious! I think I know what I’m having for breakfast this morning….
This definitely looks like an alternative to those people who like using condensed milk for pretty much anything they can. I definitely will copy this down and share it with my mom so she can have fun making her desserts with it, she will love it a lot! Thank you for sharing this.
I know somebody who absolutely loves this stuff and talks about it all the time. I’m going to bookmark this, so I can share it with her later (I’m also going to post a link to it for a lady I know on a forum.. she’ll love it).
With the holidays coming, I figured it was time to start practicing on this. I’ll be needing some for holiday baking. Try it in your pumpkin pie … but shhh, don’t tell … it’s a secret. 😉
Oh, I’ve never tried it in pumpkin pie but that sounds absolutely delicious! I just might need to give it a try!
Well, that didn’t work and i am not sure what I did wrong! I used powdered goats milk with Monk Fruit for my sweetener. 4 c goats milk to 2 cups Monk Fruit in a crockpot on high. It cooked for about 8.5 hours. It did not condense and it separated. I had blended my sweetener into the goats milk the night before so that all I had to do was place it in the crockpot before heading to work. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Sorry your substitutions didn’t work for you, Louise! This recipe calls for whole milk (cow, goat, or otherwise) and we haven’t tried it with a powdered substitute, or with monk fruit sweetener specifically. Chances are that the water to fat ratio was off, and a powdered substitute likely won’t condense the same way as a homogenized dairy product.
Hi, thank you for the nice recipe. I tried 4 cups of fresh goat milk that we buy from a local farmer, with 1/4 cup of agave syrup, and after cooking about 6 hours on a large crockpot on high, the milk formed a skin on top and it didn’t thicken much. I did mix it at the beginning. It’s definitely drinkable but not spreadable. Did I make a mistake by using the syrup? Any tips for making it thicker?
Hi, Lina! The fresh goat’s milk sounds amazing from your local farmer!
Based on the information you gave us, I would say there are two potential problems. First, you did not add enough sweetener. Second, you did not cook the mixture enough for it to reduce adequately.
Sweetened condensed milk’s thick, luscious texture relies on a high level of sugar and a long cooking time to evaporate the liquid. In our recipe, we have a total of 2 cups sugar. I would definitely increase the agave syrup to this amount, or close to this amount. Our recipe also recommends cooking the mixture in the slow cooker for 7-8 hours. 6 hours may have been too little of a time.
If the mixture is still too runny even after these changes, I’d suggest cooking the mixture in a pot and reducing it on the stovetop. The stovetop will provide a much stronger, more direct heat applied to the mixture. Be sure to follow all of our instructions in the recipe and Cooking by the Numbers to prevent burning on the stovetop!
Let us know if you decide to make it again – and if these tips were helpful!
Does anyone know if this can be pressure-canned?
We haven’t tested it ourselves, but I have heard of home canners who do this.
I have developed an allergy to cow’s milk but love goat’s milk. We have a family tradition of making lemon iced box pie… basically lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk and eggs with a meringue on top and a cookie crust. I despaired of making this again but I am definitely going to try making this now with condensed goats milk.