Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

When I was a kid, my mom always kept a stash of canned milk in her pantry—the evaporated variety for Hong Kong-style milk tea. One time she bought a can of sweetened condensed milk by accident, and that was when I discovered the magic of this dense, creamy, rich elixir. Suddenly my boring milk tea was on steroids, but in a very good way. By the time I was a professional pastry chef, I’d come up with all kinds of reasons to use sweetened condensed milk in my recipes—from fudge sauce and ice cream to cheesecake bars. It adds a velvety richness and glossiness like no other canned or fresh dairy, which is why sweetened condensed milk is so popular around the world. In South America, it’s used in tres leche cake, crispy corn flake clusters (a cousin to Rice Krispy Treats), Brazilian lemonade, and the ubiquitous dulce de leche. There’s leche flan in the Philippines and Hello Dolly (or seven-layer) bars in the U.S. Sweetened condensed milk can also be used as a great short-cut ingredient, such as in Nik Sharma’s Indian cashew sweets. Check out these 16 sweetened condensed milk recipes and discover all the tasty ways you can use this liquid gold ingredient.

Dulce de Leche

Serious Eats / Mateja Zvirotic Andrijanic

To get a deep rich flavor and gorgeously thick, eat-it-by-the-spoonful consistency, we simply drop an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot of water and let it simmer undisturbed for a few hours. Easy peasy!

Milk Creams (Indian Cashew Sweets)

Serious Eats / Nik Sharma

This favorite cashew-based sweet is often a highlight during holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Diwali. Nik’s ingenious recipe streamlines the process by using sweetened condensed in place of whole milk and sugar, which considerably cuts down the cooking time. Once the taffy-like “dough” is cooked to the proper consistency, you can press it into silicone molds of various shapes and sizes.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Leave it to Stella to come up with a recipe for homemade sweetened condensed milk that can be used interchangeably with the store-bought variety. No shade to the canned variety, but making it from scratch allows you to control the dairy, sugar, and heat, as well as customize the flavoring. Its lighter, fresher and less sweet taste shines in her butternut pumpkin pie recipe.

Fifteens (Northern Irish Digestive Biscuits and Marshmallows With Cherries)

Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

If you’re really into sweets, then this Northern Ireland specialty will be right up your alley. Sweetened condensed milk is the secret sauce that binds together 15 digestive biscuits, 15 glacé cherries, and 15 marshmallows (hence the name) into this chewy, no-bake treat.

Leche Flan (Filipino Baked Custard)

Serious Eats / Rezel Kealoha

Sweetened condensed milk adds to the creaminess and density of this ultra-rich baked custard that’s a Filipino dessert mainstay. It can be served on its own or cut into pieces and layered into halo-halo, a classic Filipino shaved ice dessert.

Vegan Key Lime Pie

Serious Eats / Debbie Wee

Here, a magic combination of silken tofu and sweetened condensed coconut milk provides the creamy base, while a cornstarch-thickened custard replaces the eggs in this bright vegan interpretation of the Floridian classic.

The Best Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Toasted coconut and sweetened condensed milk give these macaroons a deeper, coco-nuttier flavor and chewier texture. Whipped egg whites also help make them lighter on the inside and crispier on the outside. If you aren’t overly concerned about your macaroons having the iconic white and brown look, try swapping out the sweetened condensed milk with dulce de leche for a superior texture and flavor.

Jus Alpukat (Indonesian Avocado-Coffee Shake)

Serious Eats / Daniel Gritzer

This delightfully rich and creamy shake combines nutrient-dense avocado with a hit of caffeine from strongly brewed coffee, as well as sweetened condensed milk. Consider this a healthy-ish breakfast shake…or, with a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup, an after-dinner dessert.

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

The flavor of this ice cream is floral, bitter, rich, and creamy like real Vietnamese coffee. Sweetened condensed milk gives it a nice milky finish and a smooth, almost glossy texture.

Bocaditos de Corn Flakes y Leche Condensada (Corn Flake Clusters)

Serious Eats / Maria del Mar Cuadra

These no-bake crispy cornflake clusters made with sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and butter are the Rice Krispy Treats of South America (minus the store-bought marshmallows). Caramelized sugar adds nuance and complexity.

Hello Dolly Bars

Serious Eats / Carrie Vasios

They’re known as “seven-layer bars” in the South and sold as “Hello Dolly bars” at Magnolia Bakery in NYC. But whatever you call them, this gooey, magical combination of chocolate chips, pecans, and shredded coconut bound in sweetened condensed milk and baked on a graham cracker crust is irresistible. Feel free to use different flavors of chocolate chips or switch up the nuts. I personally like adding dried cranberries or cherries for a bit of tartness.

Tres Leches Cake

Serious Eats / Maria del Mar Cuadra

Some iteration of this ubiquitous dessert exists throughout Latin America—sponge cake liberally bathed in three types of milk, with sweetened condensed and evaporated being the constants. Maria finishes hers off with a cream cheese-enriched whipped cream.

10-Minute Lime Cracker Pie

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

If baking isn’t your thing but dessert is, have we got a recipe for you! Behold, a four-ingredient icebox “pie” that doesn’t even require stepping foot inside a kitchen (except to put it in the fridge) and will give the best pumpkin or sweet potato pie a run for its money.

Thai Tea Ice Cream

Serious Eats / Max Falkowitz

Unless you live in a location blessed with a plethora of Asian dessert and ice cream shops—like I do in the San Francisco Bay Area—making your own Thai tea ice cream is pretty much the only way to ensure your ice cream will truly taste like Thai iced tea. To complete the experience, a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk over the top is a must.

Thai Tea Cake with Condensed Milk Custard Sauce

Serious Eats / Leela Punyaratabandhu

Though far from traditional, this dessert is an inspired take on the classic flavors of Thai tea—complete with a healthy drizzle of creamy custard sauce made with sweetened condensed milk.

Brazilian Lemonade (With Limes and Condensed Milk)

Serious Eats / Dave Katz

Excellent with a shot of Cachaça, this richer, sweeter Brazilian version of lemonade is made with fresh lime or lemon juice and sweetened condensed milk. Just envision slowly sipping it while lounging under an umbrella on Ipanema Beach.

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