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Monday, December 5, 2016

Making sweetened, condensed milk

I was making a half-batch of 7-layer Dream Bars, on Saturday afternoon. One of the ingredients is sweetened, condensed milk. I have never bought that stuff. It just seems oddly expensive for what it is, a cup and a half of milk, cooked with a little sugar, with some butter added. In the store, this concoction sells for $1.50 to $2.00. I just can't bring myself to spend that much for about 50 cents of ingredients. (Your costs may differ from mine.)

When I've needed this product for baking recipes, I've always made my own. There are two common methods for making sweetened condensed milk. One uses powdered milk, and the other (which I make) uses liquid milk. Neither method is complicated. The powdered milk method takes minutes to make. The liquid milk method takes a little over an hour of intermittent attention.

Among the merits of making your own sweetened, condensed milk is the ability to make this with any type of milk, including soy or almond, and just the amount that a recipe may need.

7-layer Dream Bars are yummy, but rich and not super cheap, so I usually just make a half-batch. In addition, making my own SCM, for a half-batch bars, is super handy. Buying a can would give me twice as much as I need.

I wanted to pass on this recipe during the holiday baking season. So, here it is.

Homemade sweetened, condensed milk

1  1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer over MED. Reduce heat to low and very gently simmer for about 1 to 1  1/2 hours, or until it has reduced by half. Stir every 5-10 minutes, to prevent scorching.

After 1 hour, begin measuring, every 10 minutes. Pour the milk/sugar into the measuring cup that was used to measure the milk at the beginning of this recipe. When the concoction has reduced to just over 1 cup, stir in the butter and vanilla.

If the milk and sugar are over-reduced by measurement, add water to the correct level. The final amount should be about 1  1/4 cups of liquid.

Allow to cool before using in recipes.

That's it. Nothing special. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.


  1. I had never thought about making sweeten condensed milk, but then again I only use a can about once a year. For me, not worrying about scorching milk for an hour or more is worth the extra money. Also, I haven't bought whole milk in years, so that would be an extra purchase. But if some evening, I don't want to go to the store and I want to bake a something with sweetened condensed milk using skim milk, do you think adding more butter would do the trick?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Oh yes, you can make this with skim milk, too. It's not as rich, but it still condenses the milk. I've done this with almond milk, which is already on the light side (90 cals per cup). And I don't add extra butter. It works fine in baking.

      You might also like a recipe using powdered milk. Those recipes are near instant, using a mixer to blend together boiling water, butter, sugar, vanilla and powdered milk. No risk of scorching at all. But I do have to say, with a heavy-bottomed saucepan, the risk of scorching is pretty slim, if cooking this on LOW. But I get your concern.

      Have a great day, live and learn!

  2. Interesting! I Have seen recipes for this before but have never tried them as I very rarely use sweetened condensed milk. Can't remember the last time, actually. However, I do always just replace evaporated milk with whole milk in recipes (fudge, for instance), and have had no issues.

    1. Hi Cat,
      I've never bought evaporated milk. When I've seen recipes calling for it, I either find a different recipe, or I do as you do, and just use whole milk. (I think my pumpkin pie recipe calls for evaporated milk, but I just use whatever milk I have on hand.)

      I've never tried making the 7-layer bars with just sweetened milk. The condensing makes the milk thicker, so that might be required, or else the graham cracker crumbs would become gummy.

      Anyway, this does work well, if you ever have a recipe that requires the sweetened, condensed milk.

      Have a great day, Cat!

  3. Thank you! some of my little slips of paper have gone missing.
    I need a better system. :)

    1. Hi Patti,
      I've been working on a better system for a long time! I'm right there with you. But I'm glad to help by supplying you with a recipe you'd lost.

      Have a great day, Patti!

  4. Thanks for the recipe! I hadn't thought of making sweetened condensed milk.

    I use sweetened condensed milk for a cake that my family calls Heath Cake. It is not a cheap cake to make, and it's requested every year by my oldest son and now his girlfriend for their birthdays. I will try making my own sweetened condensed milk the next time I make the cake. That will help cut the costs a little.

    I thought of you over the weekend! I was perusing some of the shops in Berlin, OH. One was selling soap labeled as hand-poured cocoa butter soap. It seemed to be bars made from melt and pour soap base with added essential oils. There was tea tree, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, and orange. The shop owner didn't have her soap packaged, but had tied a piece of twine around each bar to attach a tag marked 'hand-poured cocoa butter soap' and the scent, and had each scent in a separate basket. She was selling the soap for $8.00 a bar or 2 bars for $15.00. The bars looked similar in size to your handcrafted soap. And she was selling a lot of them! So, your soaps are definitely very nice gifts for your recipients. Especially with all of the other nice items in your spa baskets. :) I'll bet you could start a little business out of your home making gift baskets. With your creative packaging, I think they would really sell. Of course, I guess that would require a lot of time. Lol. An idea though, you definitely have flair for creating beautiful gifts!

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi Angie,
      I hope this works as well for you as it does for me! I misread what you called the cake. I thought you said "health" cake, and well, if it begins with sweetened condensed milk, um, I can only wonder what else could be in it, that would make it "healthy".

      Oh wow! I need to start selling soap! $8 per bar. I think I could enjoy doing that. Thanks for telling me about it. Is Berlin the Amish community? What a fun day trip!

      Have a lovely evening, Angie!

  5. Thank you for the recipe and great tips!!

    I would never imagine turning inexpensive nonfat dry milk into expensive sweet condensed milk!! Is there a reason why you made the liquid version instead of adding dry milk and the other ingredients directly into the recipe? I don't usually make desserts, and often stop at any attempt when I read a recipe calls for canned sweet condensed milk, as you said too expensive. Thanks for this recipe, now I see more desserts in our future!


    1. Hi YHF,
      liquid milk is actually cheaper for me than powdered. And whole milk is the same price as lower fat milk, for me. If I had an inexpensive source of powdered milk, then I'd be using that sort of recipe. That's all. Glad to add a recipe to your file!

      Have a great day, YHF!


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