Whether you're trying to perfect a vegan dessert recipe or you want to make yourself the perfect Thai coffee, there are some things where only condensed or evaporated milk will do.
So what exactly is evaporated milk, and how is it different from condensed milk? Can either be made with a plant-based milk substitute? Read on to find out.
What Is Evaporated Milk And Can It Be Vegan?
Evaporated milk is milk with less water; quite literally exactly what the name implies.
By allowing milk to simmer overheat and removing much of the water content, you are left with a thicker and creamier tasting liquid.
Dairy-free evaporated milk follows the same process. Whether you prefer coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, or even hemp milk, they will all thicken through the same evaporation process. If you do prefer soy milk, side effects are something you should always have in mind.
What Is The Difference Between Evaporated Milk and Condensed Milk?
I fell in love with condensed milk in Thailand when I found a vegan place and had my first proper Thai iced coffee. Sawasdee krab! It was amazing.
Condensed milk is just evaporated milk but sweetened. You can use whatever you like, but the most common and (IMHO) delicious options are syrup or vanilla extract with a few choice spices such as star anise or cinnamon.
Best Homemade Vegan Recipe
Making vegan evaporated milk at home using your favorite milk substitute is easy but the cook time tends to be on the heavier side. Expect the process to take the best part of around two hours.
I would advise having other things to keep you busy but while in the kitchen in order to check on the milk fairly frequently to whisk it.
The fundamentals of making vegan evaporated milk are that you want to reduce the milk by about 60%. So with that percentage in mind, work out how much milk you want to use.
- Pour your plant-based milk into the saucepan and bring it to a bubbling simmer while whisking to make sure it doesn't stick or burn. You do not want to boil it.
- You'll notice a thick bubbled foam at first if you're doing it right, but that will soon settle down and be replaced by tiny simmering bubbles as the milk thickens.
- You'll know it's almost ready when the color deepens to a rich caramel (or perhaps not, depending on the type of milk you use, I used almond milk, and it did).
- A quick note that while most non-dairy should be sufficient to go through the process of evaporation, I would raise a slight concern over coconut (which might be too thick if you leave the cream in and too thin without) and rice milk (which might be too thin).
If you do try either of these, let us know how it goes in the comments below.
#1 Alternative: Nestle's Carnation Vegan Milk
It is exciting news for the vegan community to hear that the poster child for evaporated milk Carnation released a plant-based alternative.
This shows how big the demand for such a product is and how hungry these companies are to court the vegan dollar.
That said, I do not and never will consider Nestle to be a vegan brand. Ethically Nestle is a genuinely horrid company, and they treat actual humans with as little care as they do animals.
If this is news to you, do your research and make up your mind.
Other Alternatives To Evaporated Milk
If you don't have the time to be sweating over a saucepan for two hours, then there are other vegan evaporated options.
My recommendation is Nature's Greatest Evaporate Coconut Milk because I'm too scared to evaporate coconut milk myself, especially when someone else does it better.
If you've got a bit more of a sweet tooth, you could try Jus' Amazon Condensed Almond Milk, which I have used personally to make a heavenly vegan pumpkin pie.
Do you have an alternative to using evaporated milk? Do you have your own secret recipe you’d be willing to share? Let us know in the comments below.