Everything You Need To Know About Using Condensed Milk

This is a sticky, sweet, and super delicious can of milk!

IMAGE Riell Santos

Sweet, sticky, and creamy, sweetened condensed milk is one of our favorite kitchen staples. This is not just an ingredient for leche flan. This is also the ingredient that gives your sweet-style spaghetti and your Vietnamese coffee its sweetness and the essential ingredient in pastillas, brigadieros or condensed milk truffles, and yema

Sweetened condensed milk is exactly that: milk with sugar that is cooked until the mixture has thickened.    

Commonly shortened to just "condensed milk", it should be noted that this abbreviation can be confusing to some people. This milk product is still frequently confused with another milk product: evaporated milk. Both of these are essentially "condensed" and "evaporated" milk, but the big and main difference between these two kinds of milk is really the sugar. The sugar is what gives this sweetened condensed milk its signature flavor, it's signature consistency, and it's signature color. A little caramelization from both the sugar and the milk solids is what makes this ingredient even more irresistible than plain evaporated milk. 


For all the ways you can use condensed milk, it's actually quite simple to use in recipes. Learn how you can use this sticky, sweet, and super delicious can of milk in both your cooking and baking recipes:  

Photo by Bianca Laxamana
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1 Know if you need to chill it.

First things first: do you chill that can or don't you? It really depends on your recipe! If you're making a ref cake like a mango float, homemade cheese ice cream, or a simple buko pandan dessert, you want all your ingredients to be chilled, and this includes the condensed milk.


Why is this so important? When ingredients are all moderately the same temperature, it makes it easier to mix together and not have one ingredient seize or clump up by the sudden change in temperature. 

So, when you plan to make your famous no-bake dessert recipe that everyone is eagerly waiting to eat after dinner, give yourself an easier time and chill your ingredients before starting. 

Photo by Static Flickr

2 Use it like sugar.

For cooking and baking, the sweetness and the milkiness of this unique caramelized milk is really its lure. The dishes that need a little sweetness can be sweetened with sugar but there is a difference in flavor that just can't be matched when you use condensed milk. 

Would we love the leche flan as much as we do if it were made with plain sugar? Will your homemade ice cream be as creamy as it is if you used sugar? Tres leche cakes would not be tres leches cake without all three kinds of milk! It's moments like these where you value the condensed milk in the recipe. 

It's the same for cooking. Take the Jollibee-style Spaghetti recipe. Anyone can add sugar to their spaghetti sauce and make it sweet, but only after tasting this version will you realize just how important it is to use the right ingredient to give it that taste. The sweet flavors of this spaghetti is what made you fall in love with it as a kid and makes you nostalgic for it as an adult. 


To use it when baking cakes and cupcakes that use butter, you need to add it in when it will mix well with the other ingredients. The best time to add it in is at any of these stages: when you add the liquid, after the other ingredients such as cream cheese have been creamed and softened, or right before you add the flour mixture. This is because while condensed milk is your sweetener and acts like sugar, it doesn't mix well with butter. This can make your batter look like it has curdled. Avoid that and add it in during these times.      

To add it to savory dishes you're cooking, add it in to taste or mix it in with the other milky ingredients so you can give it a taste and tweak the sweetness before adding it to the rest of the dish. 

Photo by Peak PX

3 Use it in your coffee. 

Any coffee fan will know that the creamy stuff on the bottom of their cup when they order a Vietnamese coffee will be sweetened condensed milk. That and the super nutty coffee beans that the Asian country produces can be one of a coffee lover's most delicious pairings. If you have never tried it, it's simple to do: 

  1. 1. Use a Vietnamese coffee drip if you have it or a regular coffee drip with a filter. 
  2. 2. Add your preferred amount of ground coffee. 
  3. 3. Place on top of a glass or mug with about 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk in the bottom (or to taste). 
  4. 4. Pour the hot water and make your drip coffee as normal. 
  5. 5. Stir and enjoy! 

Photo by Riell Santos

4 Use it to make homemade dulce de leche

When you have exhausted all the ways you can use condensed milk, why not make some dulce de leche? This dark and gooey spread that's common in Latin America is basically sweetened condensed milk simmered and cooked until the sugar has caramelized and the mixture has thickened. The result is an intense caramel flavor that's creamy. 

You can spread this on hot pandesal, sandwich it between alfajoresadd it to nutty tarts, top off a cheesecake, or use it for your banoffee pie the next time you crave it and there's no coffee place nearby to supply you your fix. 



Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here!


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