Sticky, sweet, and oh-so versatile, sweetened condensed milk is a must have pantry item. Whether you’re livening up your morning cup of coffee or preparing a rich Tres Leches Cake, we are here to give you a crash course on all the great ways to incorporate sweetened condensed milk into your meals and recipes.
What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Sweetened condensed milk is exactly what the name implies: it is milk that has been sweetened and reduced, or condensed, into a thick, pourable liquid. Sweetened condensed milk is a labor intensive ingredient to make. Typically, granulated white sugar is added to whole milk and then cooked low and slow until most of the water evaporates from the milk. To save yourself at least an hour at the stove, you can buy sweetened condensed milk in cans at your local grocery store.
History of Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened condensed milk was developed due to food storage issues in the 19th century. In the early 1800s, without the aid of electric refrigeration, milk did not last very long before it spoiled. Boiling and sweetening the milk extended its shelf life and made it usable for a longer period of time. Gail Borden Jr. is credited with commercializing sweetened condensed milk in the United States and for implementing strict hygienic guidelines for the farmers who sold their milk to Borden. These practices ensured a safe product for consumers.
What’s the Best Way to Use Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Sweetened condensed milk is essential for making a variety of delicious desserts and confections. As previously mentioned, we love stirring a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk into our hot coffee to add instant creaminess and sweetness. For desserts, nothing tastes better than Dulce de Leche, which is made by cooking sweetened condensed milk until the milk solids caramelize into a rich, thick, caramel that is perfect for spreading over cakes, brownies, or ice cream.
One easy way to make dulce de leche is to add dollops of it to a pan of unbaked brownies. As the brownies cook, the sweetened condensed milk caramelizes to create a rich, caramel bite packed with toffee-like flavor. Use our recipe for Better Boxed Brownies to see how it’s done.
Buying and Storing Sweetened Condensed Milk
As mentioned, sweetened condensed milk can be found at nearly any grocery store. In the can, it will last for years. Once opened, we recommend keeping it in an airtight container (not in the original container) in the refrigerator for a week.