Whether you stick to a vegan diet, suffer from lactose intolerance, or have a milk allergy, dairy products are surely not for you. While there are many obvious replacements for common dairy items such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, substituting for lesser-used products like evaporated milk can be a tougher task!
The good news is, there are actually plenty of ways you can make those recipes that call for evaporated milk vegan friendly. Non dairy milks and plant based milk products are some of the best vegan substitutes for evaporated milk, and we’ve gathered together our handful of top favorites!
We’ll cover the details of each as well as how and when to make the most of each alternative. At the end of the day, the best vegan substitute for evaporated milk will likely be the one that you have on hand in your kitchen, so take a peek through your fridge and pantry, then follow us for everything else you need to know!
What is Evaporated Milk?
Traditional evaporated milk is, as its moniker would lead one to believe, regular milk which has been evaporated. By heating the milk and cooking off excess water--typically around 60% of the total makeup--the milk turns into a thicker, richer, more flavorful version of itself.
Evaporated dairy milk is typically packed in cans, rendering it shelf stable for a year or more. You may also see shelf stable milk products such as evaporated milk packed in cartons like Tetra Pak.
Are There Different Types of Evaporated Milk?
There are several iterations of evaporated milk out there and their most important distinction from one another comes down to fat content. Evaporated milk comes in whole milk, reduced fat, and fat free versions, each of which has a different texture and resultant effect on the recipe it is added to.
Important Note! Though they go through a similar process, evaporated milk is not the same as condensed milk. Look towards the end of our article for more info on the differences between these two, and if you’ve arrived here in search of a vegan substitute for the latter, check out our 7 Best Vegan Condensed Milk Substitutes!
What is Evaporated Milk Used For?
The creamy texture and concentrated flavor of evaporated milk make it perfect for use in sweet and savory dishes alike. You may see evaporated milk featured in the ingredients list of your favorite casseroles, creamy soups, cheesy sauces, and dessert recipes like custard and pumpkin pie.
Top 6 Vegan Substitutes for Evaporated Milk
When it comes to replacing evaporated milk in your vegan cooking and baking recipes, we came up with six different options that will do the trick:
- Store Bought Vegan Evaporated Milk Products
- Slow Cooker Vegan Evaporated Milk
- Canned Coconut Milk
- Almond Milk, or Other Nut Milk
- Other Plant Based Milks
- Vegan Powdered Milk
Please be sure to make a careful note of which type of evaporated milk your recipe calls for when selecting one of the above non dairy substitutes as a stand in. Making a substitute for whole milk based evaporated milk will call for a thicker liquid alternative, as opposed to low or non fat versions.
1. Store Bought Vegan Evaporated Milk Products
Gotta love that in today’s modern world, you need not do more than check your local grocery store to likely find a suitable, ready made, dairy free evaporated milk!
We’ve encountered versions that are made from all different varieties of plant milks including evaporated coconut milk, evaporated oat milk, and evaporated almond milk.
You will of course pay a premium for the convenience of these types of products, but despite this, we think it’s worth keeping a can or two of store bought vegan evaporated milk on hand if you find yourself making a few different recipes that call for the stuff.
How to Substitute
- Store bought vegan evaporated milk
This is the easiest swap in the book! As much traditional evaporated milk as your recipe calls for, go ahead and use an equal amount of whatever vegan choice you have purchased.
Be sure to reference the label though to ensure your particular brand is not advising a different ratio or conversion.
2. Slow Cooker Vegan Evaporated Milk
Ok, ok, it’s fairly straightforward that you can purchase a solid vegan version of evaporated milk from your supermarket, but did you know you can make your own evaporated milk in your slow cooker?
Our Slow Cooker Vegan Evaporated Milk recipe calls for just 2 ingredients and takes only about 90 minutes of hands-off cook time. You can use any type of powdered plant based milk you like, but some of our favorites for this application are powdered soy milk and powdered oat milk.
Don’t have a slow cooker or prefer not to use it this time around? Don't worry, we have another option for using non dairy milk powder as a vegan substitute towards the end of this list.
How to Substitute
- Plant based milk powder, of your choice
To make a quantity of homemade evaporated milk that is comparable to your standard 12-ounce store bought can, combine 1⅓ cups of water with ¾ cup of plant based milk powder in your slow cooker. Follow the full recipe instructions, then use your vegan evaporated milk to replace an equal amount of regular evaporated milk in any recipe.
3. Canned Coconut Milk
Pay close attention here because not just any can of coconut milk will work as a stand in for evaporated milk.
The key here is to use lite coconut milk. This type of coconut milk does have a lower fat content than regular coconut milk, but it still boasts enough of those lipids to yield a consistency that is amazingly similar to that of typical evaporated cow’s milk. Using full fat coconut milk or coconut cream is unlikely to go well as these products are simply too thick and rich to take the place of evaporated milk in a recipe.
Lite coconut milk is a great alternative to use in sweets and richly flavored soups or casseroles, just consider your dish's overall flavor profile before mixing it in. Coconut milk tastes like-- well, coconut--so if you need a vegan substitute for evaporated milk that has a more neutral flavor, best reach for one of the other options.
How to Substitute
- Lite (sometimes “light”) canned coconut milk
Before using your coconut milk, dump the entire contents of the can into a bowl and whisk or stir until the product takes on a cohesive and creamy consistency. From here, you can use the coconut milk to replace evaporated milk when your recipe calls for it, in an equal 1:1 ratio!
4. Almond Milk, or Other Nut Milk
If hearing how coconut milk makes for such a wonderful evaporated milk alternative has got you wondering “Hmm, can I substitute almond milk for evaporated milk?”, the answer is a resounding yes!
Due to their moderate fat content, nuts of many different types yield some of the best dairy free milk products on the market. The extra good news here, however, is that the fats found in nut milks are predominantly monounsaturated fats, meaning these choices are far healthier for you.
You can opt for almond milk, cashew milk, and macadamia milk among others. Some of these nut milks have strong or distinct flavors, so choose wisely by taking into account the other ingredients and flavors in your recipe!
How to Substitute
- Nut milk of your choice (such as almond milk, cashew milk, macadamia milk, or hazelnut milk)
Whatever the quantity of evaporated milk your recipe calls for, measure twice the amount of nut milk into a medium sized saucepan. Simmer the nut milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it is reduced by about half.
Be sure not to cover your saucepan as it simmers, as this will prevent the excess moisture from evaporating!
5. Other Plant Based Milks
It’s no secret that aside from coconut milk and nut milks, there is a wide world of other dairy free milk options out there to enjoy. You can use just about any other plant based milk as a vegan evaporated milk substitute. Conveniently, the process is the same for these plant milks:
- Soy Milk
- Rice Milk
- Oat Milk
- Flax Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Quinoa Milk
Of course, the resultant evaporated milk from each of these plant milks will have some taste and texture characteristics that differ from one another. Rice and oat milk tend to produce a more mildly flavored evaporated milk which does well in sweet dishes, while flax and hemp milk are more assertive and would benefit from being incorporated in a dish that has other strong flavors.
The choice is entirely dependent on your particular taste buds as well as the needs of whatever recipe is at hand.
How to Substitute
- Plant based milk of your choice
Measure out about 2½ times as much plant milk as evaporated milk your recipe calls for. For example, if your recipe needs 12-ounces of traditional evaporated milk, start with 30-ounces of plant milk.
Heat the milk at a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid concentration is reduced by about 60%. You should end up with 12-ounces of homemade evaporated milk here.
6. Vegan Powdered Milk
Powdered milk is an amazingly versatile ingredient for the fact that you are in full control of how much water is added! Vegan milk powders such as rice milk powder and unsweetened soy powder are among the best options for turning into an evaporated milk substitute, but you are certainly welcome to give things a shot with other powders like oat powder or almond powder.
Whichever powdered milk option you reach for, be sure to keep it in a sealed, airtight container between uses. This stuff is amazing for the fact that it has a long shelf life, however it is extremely moisture sensitive.
How to Substitute
- Plant based milk powder of your choice, such as rice milk or soy milk powder
- Boiling water
- Vegan butter
To produce an amount equal to a standard 12-ounce can of evaporated milk, combine the following in a blender: ½ cup + 2 tablespoons milk powder, ¾ cup boiling water, and 1 tablespoon vegan butter. Blend until well combined. Be very careful when removing the lid, allowing any accumulated steam to escape before doing so!.
Tips for a Successful Vegan Evaporated Milk Substitute
No matter which route you choose when seeking a vegan substitute for evaporated milk, there are a few tips and tricks which will help your alternative meet with greater success.
Choose Your Plant Milk Wisely.
Be sure to use an unsweetened plant based milk as the basis of your vegan evaporated milk, as regular evaporated milk itself does not contain any added sugar.
Double check ingredient list on your dairy free milk or powdered milk to be aware of any flavorings or added ingredients that may impact your recipe. Many store bought plant milks are flavored with vanilla, which may complement a dessert recipe nicely, but would be less ideal in a savory application!
Cool it Down.
Once your homemade vegan evaporated milk is done simmering, be sure to cool it to room temperature before adding to your recipe unless the recipe specifically instructs to warm the evaporated milk.
Skim the Surface.
As it cooks, your plant milk may develop a film or a skin on the surface. You can use a slotted spoon to skim this from the surface, or you could pour the entire mixture through a fine mesh strainer before cooling.
Despite your best efforts, your evaporated milk alternative may come out with a texture that isn’t quite what you’re looking for. If your mixture becomes too thin, you could add a bit of cornstarch slurry or xanthan gum to thicken things up.
If it cooks too much and becomes too thick, simply whisk in a bit more of the plant milk itself, or plain water, until it takes on the perfect evaporated milk-like consistency.
Vegan Evaporated Milk Substitute FAQs
Can You Use Homemade Plant Milk to Make Evaporated Milk?
Yes! Making your own plant milk is an excellent--not to mention more economical–starting point for a vegan evaporated milk substitute. Our recipe for Homemade Almond Milk couldn’t be easier, just be sure to leave out the sweetener if you would like the option of using your evaporated milk in savory dishes as well.
What’s the Difference Between Evaporated Milk and Condensed Milk?
As promised, it's time to discuss how these two canned dairy products stack up to one another.
While both of these products are cooked until about 60% of the water steams away, condensed milk has a significant amount of sugar added to it before canning. In fact, about 45% of a can of evaporated milk is pure sugar! This gives condensed milk a much sweeter taste, obviously, as well as a thicker, more syrupy texture as compared to evaporated milk.
What Can I Use Instead of Evaporated Milk in Pumpkin Pie?
You can use any of the above to replace the evaporated milk that your favorite pumpkin pie recipe calls for, but Canned Coconut Milk (option 3) and Vegan Powdered Milk (option 6) happen to be among our favorites for creamy desserts.
Is Coconut Evaporated Milk Vegan?
Typically, yes! Always check the ingredients label to be sure it does not contain any questionable ingredients but generally speaking, these types of products are intentionally crafted to be vegan friendly.
Best Vegan Evaporated Milk Substitutes: The Takeaway
When it comes to making a suitable vegan substitute for evaporated milks, plant based milks are here to save the day! You can use soy, nut, flax, and other non dairy milks as well as powdered versions of these products.
If you prefer to make your own, give our Slow Cooker Vegan Evaporated Milk recipe a shot! Or, if you prefer the easy road, simply snag one of those ready made evaporated milk options from your supermarket or health food store.