How to Make Sweetened Condensed Milk at Home

May  6, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Stephanie Le from I Am a Food Blog introduces us to the perfect addition to toast and coffee -- and it only calls for two ingredients. 

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I have fond childhood memories of sitting at our round kitchen table, my feet swinging and my body positively dancing with the joy of eating fluffy, thick white bread toasted to a golden brown and drizzled with thick, sweetened condensed milk. It wasn't something my mom let my brother and me eat for breakfast, but sometimes we'd have it on a random afternoon as a treat. We never knew when it'd be a toast date, but our afternoons were a lot sweeter with a cup of milk and milky toast. 

More: Toast with condensed milk may be an afternoon treat, but tahini toast is perfect for breakfast.

It's quite easy to hop out to the store and buy a can of sweetened condensed milk, but I prefer to make my own. It takes a couple of (mostly hands-off) hours, after which you have a jar of simple, creamy sweetness. 

You can use this sweetened condensed milk in almost anything. It might seem like condensed milk is used almost exclusively in baking, but my favorite uses are fairly simple. I especially like stirring a bit into my coffee in the morning for a quick and easy take on Vietnamese cafe sua da. (Instead of adding two things -- sugar and milk -- to my coffee, I only need to add one! Anything that makes my mornings a little smoother is a bonus.) And of course, condensed milk is excellent on a thick, fluffy slice of buttered golden toast.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

Makes just under 1 cup

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, if desired

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together the milk and sugar. Take note of where the milk reaches on the side of the pan. 

Heat up the milk and sugar mixture over medium heat until it’s just steaming, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. 

When the mixture has reduced by about half, stir in the vanilla extract. Let it cool completely. 

As it cools, the milk with thicken. Pour the condensed milk into a clean, dry airtight container (I like to use a glass jar) and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

This homemade version won't be nearly as thick as canned sweetened condensed milk, but it does have the same sweet, milky flavor. The vanilla is optional: it adds an extra hint of creaminess, but isn't absolutely necessary.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by Stephanie Le

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Whatever
  • amylou61
  • Heidi Vaught
    Heidi Vaught
  • Andrea Morandin
    Andrea Morandin
  • paujos
Obsessed with food, photography, good design, potatoes and noodles. Recipes and ramblings at My first book, Easy Gourmet is coming out September 2nd, 2014 and is available for preorder on Amazon!


Whatever April 26, 2020
Does this have to sit for 2 weeks? Or can we use it overnight or once it cools?
cpc April 27, 2020
you misunderstood the instructions. After you make it, it can be stored for up-to two weeks. That didn't mean you have to wait 2 weeks to use it.
Whatever April 27, 2020
Ok that makes a lot more sense, thank you for the help!
amylou61 March 9, 2015
I'd like to know if this can be made with honey or maple syrup in place of the sugar?
stephanie L. March 9, 2015
I haven't tried with honey or maple, so I can't really give you a definitive answer but I'm thinking that the color and texture would be quite different. Let me know if you give it a try!
Suzan December 7, 2019
Hi Stephanie. I am doing a low carb meal plan. And a good friend is diabetic. I have a killer fudge recipe and we both love chocolate. I know this is probably not thick enough. Have you seen any recipes for sugar free sweetened condensed milk that might work? Btw, there is a keto friendly sweetener made in New Orleans called Swerve. It comes in granulated, brown sugar, and confectioners sugar. They are amazing!!!!! I hope you may have an answer for me. Happy holidays and an amazing new year ahead to you and yours!

cpc April 27, 2020
I've used coconut sugar and it worked fine but the color was brownish.
Jbeargrr December 20, 2020
Suzan, I'm also diabetic. I've tried Swerve, and it's not bad, but if you concentrated to monk fruit part of if in the process of condensing the milk, it might become a very pronounced off taste. Or not, I'm guessing.
I use my own blend of erythritol and monkfruit, which is what Swerve is, but a little less monkfruit.
I wonder if erythritol by itself might work better for this.
In baking, I use far less erythritol to get the right sweetness level, but in coffee and other liquids, it seems to take more. I have no idea why. I would try making condensed milk with about half the erythritol you'd use of sugar. If it's not sweet enough by the time the milk's reduced, you can add more and cook a little longer to make sure it's dissolved.
It's possible it might make in less thick. It does make my homemade yogurt less thick.
Shandi September 24, 2021
Hi! I use agave instead of sugar in our house. You can get powdered agave to sub for sugar when you’re worried about the liquid affecting your wet/dry balance or for things like this. It works great and is low on the glycemic index.
Heidi V. March 9, 2015
My mom makes a yellow cake, puts lots of holes in it, then pours condensed milk and cream of coconut on it, and of course whipped cream on top just for fun. I have modernized her recipe so that I make the cake, whipped cream, and with this recipe the condensed milk from scratch. Any ideas on how to make coconut cream from scratch??? If I could make this entire recipe without the use of weird synthetic ingredients I could eat a lot more of this cake with a lot less guilt :)
morgan October 16, 2017
I dont know the full details, when I visited the Cook Island it was mentioned that you scrape the flesh from the halved coconut gather it in cheesecloth and squeeze the liquid out from it. I had some fresh made and it was truly delious
Andrea M. March 9, 2015
Here,south of the border,we do the condensed milk out of :
1 cup of powdered milk
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
Warm the water,add the sugar and mix until it dissolves and mix in the powdered milk. It gets the same thickness as the bought one,not at the beginning,but as it sits
janet April 14, 2021
That looks like my recipe exceptmine also calls for butter or butter flavored crisco,
paujos February 4, 2015
I want to know what brand name the pan is. I love it!
cpc January 20, 2015
I used nonfat milk and the flavour is fantastic! I can't believe I ever bought that gloppy stuff in a can. This tastes much better.
AntoniaJames October 14, 2014
One of the best uses ever for sweetened condensed milk is in Bircher muesli, in its original form -- a larger fruit to oats ratio, and no yogurt or other milk. The sweetened condensed milk works so well with the mild bite of a slightly tart autumn apple and the generous amount of lemon juice in this version, which hews closely to the original: ;o)
alireza September 5, 2014
Thanks alot, in my country folks aint use such things, i was wonder if i can find something in web.
Shuber W. August 4, 2014
Thanks. Gonna try this. Store bought has WAY too much sugar. Toxic levels of sugar. Ruins everything.
Jen P. July 28, 2014
Would it be possible to make this in a crock pot in a water bath?
alia July 27, 2014
could this be done with nut milks for those with dairy allergy? any comment please
stephanie L. July 28, 2014
I haven't made it with a nut milk, but I do know someone who successfully has. You can check it out here:
Lina C. July 25, 2014
Many no churn homemade ice cream recipes call for sweetened condensed milk. Could this be used in the same way, to make homemade, no ice-cream maker ice cream? Would it likely need more sugar/thickening?
stephanie L. July 25, 2014
You would need quite a bit more sugar - I toned the sugar down for this recipe, as a result, it's not as thick as commercial sweetened condensed milk.
Bunny May 12, 2014
Thanks Stephanie. It does - I guess I'll have to stick with the canned stuff for pies. But I'll try yours as a topping for toast.
Bunny May 12, 2014
Stephanie, you said the home made version doesn't get as thick as the canned, which is what I use to make key lime pie. Have you ever tried using the home made version as the base for anything like that? Also, do you think it would get thicker if you cooked it longer? Or would it just become dulce de leche?
stephanie L. May 12, 2014
I haven't used it in recipes - I have the feeling it wouldn't have the body that you're looking for. Also, I toned down the sweetness a bit, so it wouldn't have the same sugar content either. If you keep cooking it down, it will thicken up, but it depends on how low your heat can go - too high and it may turn into dulce de leche if you don't keep an eye on it. Hope that helps!
Andrea M. May 12, 2014
It's much easier to mix 1 cup of powdered milk,3/4 cup of sugar and 1/4cup of water in the food processor,and it becomes as thick as the bought one
Can't L. May 11, 2014
I can vouch for the addition of cardamom. I made Tres Leches cake today, and although I used store bought condensed milk, I added crushed cardamom seeds to it. It was simply amazing and made so much difference!!
Sofia May 10, 2014
Keep cooking and cooking and cooking and you've got dulce de leche. Delicious on toast, less so in coffee.
Shikha K. May 8, 2014
Amazing idea - can't wait to try this at home. I love condensed milk on toast and even plain haha. I'm that weirdo who will use a can of milk for a recipe and then take a spoon and scoop the rest out and eat it as is!
Cynthia C. May 7, 2014
AMAZING. Yayayay love this, Steph -- can't wait to try this at home sometime.
Erika C. May 7, 2014
Love Love this! Go Stephanie!