So what actually is condensed milk?

Condensed milk is simply regular cow’s milk with the water removed and significant amounts of sugar added to sweeten it, until the ratio of sugar to milk is close to 50/50. The milk is heated to around 190 degrees Fahrenheit so some of the water content evaporates, leaving a thicker, more viscous liquid. (A similar product, evaporated milk, is often referred to as unsweetened condensed milk. Sweetened condensed milk and condensed milk are now interchangeably used terms to describe the same product.)

Condensed milk was created primarily as a way to extend the shelf life of milk, since the cans are easy to store and transport. It first came on the market in the United States in the late 1850s and was popular as a field ration for Union soldiers in the Civil War because of its high calorie count. Nowadays, condensed milk is a popular dessert ingredient and is often used in Asian countries as a substitute for milk in coffee and tea, and sometimes as a substitute for jam on toast.

In the US, sweetened condensed milk comes in full-fat, low-fat, and fat-free varieties. Sweetened condensed milk is also often made into dulce de leche, and caramelizes evenly over medium heat. The sweet, sticky goo makes a great base for candies and fudge because the sugar crystals in condensed milk won’t crystallize and harden.

It’s time to check your cupboards and pull out that can of condensed milk you’ve had on the shelf for as long as you can remember. Don’t hesitate to try out one of these 7 recipes for some tasty treats that wouldn’t be half as good without their condensed milk base.

1. Coconut Flan

Chowhound

A tropical-inspired flan that’s flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, rm, and coconut milk. You can make individual flans in ramekins or serve as one large flan and cut into slices. Get our Coconut Flan recipe.

2. Key Lime Pie

Honest And Tasty

Key lime pie is primarily condensed milk flavored with fresh lime juice, lime zest, and combined with egg yolks. The graham cracker crust adds a contrasting crunch, and you can substitute any kind of cookie crust you’re in the mood for. Get the recipe.

3. Vietnamese Coffee Ice Pops

Chowhound

A highly caffeinated treat, coffee ice pops are made with cream, sweetened condensed milk, and some very strong coffee — use your favorite brand, but make sure that it’s a strong, dark roast. Get our Vietnamese Coffee Ice Pops recipe.

4. Tres Leches Cake

Chowhound

A cake that makes use of every type of milk, tres leches cake contains condensed milk, evaporated milk, and coconut milk. The cake is baked and then soaked in a mixture of the three milks, then frosted with a heavy whipped cream and topped with flaked, toasted coconut. Get our Tres Leches Cake recipe.

5. Brigadeiro

What's Gaby Cooking

A Brazilian chocolate bonbon, brigadeiro are made into small balls of sweetened condensed milk combined with cocoa powder, then rolled in different toppings, like sprinkles, shredded coconut, or anything else you can think of. Get the recipe.

6. Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

Chowhound

A salty, sweet fudge is simple and a great choice for a last-minute dessert. Miniature marshmallows, peanut butter, and bittersweet chocolate chips are combined with sweetened condensed milk for a decadent treat. Get our Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge recipe.

7. Boris Portnoy’s Pumpkin Pie

Chowhound

The walnut and brown sugar topping, and the unusual blend of spices, differentiates this pumpkin pie from the rest. Cinnamon, cloves, coriander, juniper berries, Sichuan peppercorns, cardamom, ginger, lemon, and orange peel make for a particularly complex mix of spices. Get our Boris Portnoy’s Pumpkin Pie recipe.

— Head photo illustration by Chowhound, using: Pixabay/Pixabay.

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