The Real Difference Between Milk And Evaporated Milk

If you've ever been confused by the varieties of milk out there, you're not alone. Whether it's made from soybeans, almonds, oats, or coconuts, milk has proved to us that it's anything but a singular product. On that note, what's the difference between regular milk and evaporated milk?

The breakdown is simple when it comes to your average jug of milk versus evaporated milk. Evaporated milk's definition is all in the name. The milk has been heated until more than half of its water content has evaporated away, and after the evaporation process has wrapped up, you're left with a thick, almost syrupy texture (via The Kitchn). 

Here's the kicker: Evaporated milk is rich, and has a slightly different flavor than a glass of cold, cow-based milk. However, evaporated milk has not been sweetened — unlike its well-known, sugary cousin, condensed milk. The latter was invented in 1856 by Gail Borden, who was looking for ways to produce a milk product that wouldn't spoil quickly, according to The New York Times. It's important to note that when this canned, creamy milk was invented, cold, unpasteurized milk often contained bacteria and even parasites. In other words, a milk alternative was probably seen as a godsend by many families (via Smithsonian Mag).

The use of evaporated milk

Today, we're no longer as horrified by the contents of everyday milk (though many are questioning the health benefits of dairy). That doesn't mean evaporated milk is obsolete. The consistency of evaporated milk makes it a welcome addition to many recipes. It can add a velvety touch to mac and cheese. It can be used as an easy thickening agent for cream-based soups. And of course, it's an indulgent addition to pie fillings, fudges, and even milkshakes (via MyRecipes). Unlike sweetened condensed milk, cooking with evaporated milk will allow you to control just how sweet your dish tastes. 

But if you're looking to soothe a sweet-tooth craving, you can opt for sweetened condensed milk, which is so caramelized and rich, you'll possibly want to spoon some straight from the can. Sweetened condensed milk (or lechera in Spanish), is especially popular in Latin American desserts, from soft flan to Brazilian brigadeiro — a truffle made with condensed milk and dipped in sprinkles. Let's be real: normal, un-evaporated milk could never hold up in these amazing dishes (via Mitú).