Need evaporated milk for a favorite holiday recipe, but living the dairy-free life? No sweat – making your own dairy-free evaporated milk at home is super easy!
The holidays can be tough when you have food allergies/intolerances. For me, the toughest part isn’t always the obvious struggles – no safe food options, stress about cross-contamination, being “that girl” that brings her own meals/snacks and sits in the corner scarfing them down, etc.
It’s the substitution game.
Holidays generally mean traditional family dishes and recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. Those recipes, more often than not, call for ingredients that were once standard pantry staples in all homes, are processed beyond belief, and generally very full of gluten/dairy/YouNameTheAllergen. You know the stuff: cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, oleo, shortening, and on and on. Finding good substitutions can be a toughie!
The one thing that had me stressed and annoyed about facing another dairy-free Thanksgiving was evaporated milk. It’s a key ingredient in my most favorite pie – pumpkin! – and in Anthony’s Nana’s famous sweet potato casserole.
Luckily, there’s a very easy work around!
But first, let’s discuss the differences between the two types of canned milk that are often found in holiday recipes (and yes, they are different!):
Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk
What’s the difference between the two? Just sugar, really.
Evaporated milk is milk that has been boiled down to remove some of the water content.
Sweetened condensed milk is milk that has been boiled down to remove some of the water content, and has had (a lot of) sugar added to it. Think of it as the milk version of simple syrup.
They’ve both had water evaporated off or have been condensed – toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe – but one has an added ingredient, making it a little thicker, stickier, and a heck of a lot richer.
For the purposes of today’s post/recipe, we’re focusing on a dairy-free evaporated milk alternative, but I’m working on getting a dairy-free sweetened condensed milk recipe juuuuust right, and, of course, as soon as it is perfected I promise to share it with you!
As you may have guessed, making evaporated milk is as easy as heating your dairy-free milk of choice over low heat until it reduces by half. Yes, that’s it. And great news – milk alternatives don’t tend to scald as easily as dairy milk, so you don’t have to be quite as diligent about checking on the exact temperature and getting an intense arm workout from the non-stop whisking. There is whisking involved (womp), but only occasional, not constant, so I consider that a win.
This process does take a little bit of time, though – about 20-25 minutes – so if you know you’ll be needing a few “cans” worth for your holiday feasts, be sure to make a larger batch. Once cooled and covered, the evaporated milk should stay fresh in your refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Feel free to use your milk alternative of choice, but do be aware that some have stronger tastes than others, which may come through a bit in your recipes. For example, coconut milk has a very strong flavor, rice milk is pretty muted in flavor, and almond milk is somewhere in the middle. Also be sure to use the unsweetened milk alternatives if you can, and the less additives and ingredients the better!
Dairy-free pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole, here I come!
- 3 cups unsweetened dairy-free milk (I prefer almond milk)
- Add dairy-free milk to a medium sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a gentle boil.
- Decrease the heat to low, and allow the milk to simmer, whisking occasionally, until it is reduced by half, about 20-25 minutes.
- Remove the milk from the heat and transfer to a jar and allow it to cool to room temperature. Cover it, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days or use immediately.