If you, like me, somehow always seem to have a stash of sweetened condensed milk in the back of cupboard, it might be time to finally use it up. I’ve always kept at least a couple cans on hand, just in case of emergency, which in the past 18 months has expanded to a good half-dozen, thanks to the milk shortages last year. (As a coffee fanatic who loves cream in my coffee, but hates powdered creamer, I really don’t want to be without a good source of coffee creamer.)
Sweetened condensed milk is a fantastic, shelf-stable source of dairy, but it doesn’t last forever. Although the initial impulse is to use it in your coffee — which is always an acceptable use — there are also a number of other ways you can put that can to use, many of which are both easy and satisfying to make.
Here are some of our favourite ways.
I discovered this recipe for peanut bars a few years ago and it’s been a standard ever since. These bars call for only five ingredients — butter, peanut butter, peanuts, sweetened condensed milk, and marshmallows — and don’t require any cooking. The taste is similar to a PayDay candy bar, one that combines the heft of peanuts and peanut butter, as well as the silky smoothness of marshmallow and condensed milk.
Making these peanut bars is similar to how you make Rice Krispies treats, with a sticky, marshmallow-based sauce that binds the base ingredient together. To make them, combine 1 ½ tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 cup of peanut butter in a saucepan. You’ll want to use natural peanut butter, as the regular stuff will make this too greasy. Over medium heat, stir this mixture together until it is smooth, then add in a can of sweetened condensed milk and 2 cups of mini marshmallows. Cook over medium heat for about another three minutes, then remove from heat.
Add in a pound of unsalted roasted peanuts, stir until it is well-blended, then press the mixture into a 9×9 pan lined with plastic wrap. The mixture will be sticky, and you’ll want to work fast, before it gets too cool. Refrigerate until firm, then cut into small squares.
The hardest part will be not eating the entire batch all at once. If you can manage that, put them in an airtight container between wax or parchment paper, which you can keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Vietnamese iced coffee
Sweetened condensed milk is a fantastic addition to any mug of coffee — but it’s especially lovely when used to make Vietnamese iced coffee. To make it the traditional way, pour a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk into the bottom of a cup, place a stainless-steel coffee filter directly on top of the cup, add in coffee powder, then pour in hot water, so the coffee drips directly in. If you don’t have a stainless-steel filter, you can simply make strong coffee and pour that into the cup containing the condensed milk. (The important part is that the coffee is hot and strong, so it blends well with the milk.)
Next, add in water and ice, for a thick, iced coffee. For a little bit of a switch-up, you can also use a chicory and coffee blend, such as Café du Monde’s. If you’ve got just a small amount of condensed milk left in the can, you can also just say, “Screw it,” and Aeropress your coffee directly into the can.
Or for another change of pace, add corn milk to your iced coffee. Corn milk is made by blending one can of creamed corn with one can of sweetened condensed milk, then straining it, for a taste that is reminiscent of the milk leftover from your bowl of Corn Pops, only richer.
Caramel sauce (both vegan and non-vegan)
If you’re craving caramel sauce, guess what? You can easily make some by placing a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot of simmering water for three hours. You’ll want to use a can with a sealed lid, rather than one with a pull tab, and you’ll need to remove the label and ensure the can is covered with water at all times, but as far as caramel-making methods go, this is the simplest one you’ll find.
Depending on how you like your caramel, you can either make a light sauce (by simmering for less time), or you can make a thicker, darker caramel sauce (by leaving it in a little longer). To make this process even easier, you can also use a pressure cooker or a crockpot.
However, did you know that you can also use this technique to make vegan caramel? Just do the same thing using a can of sweetened condensed coconut milk, which will yield a dairy-free caramel reminiscent of a Girl Scout Samoas cookie.
Fudge (without a thermometer)
Fudge is always a good choice for holidays and special gatherings. However, if you, like so many of us, are short on time, you really don’t want to spend your precious moments of free time making a labour-intensive dessert.
However, there are ways to make fudge that don’t require a lot of effort or specialised equipment, such as this recipe by Lifehacker’s own senior food editor, Claire Lower.
This fudge recipe requires a can of sweetened condensed milk, a 340 gram bag of semisweet chocolate chips, salt, and vanilla. That’s it. Put the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in a bowl, add in ½ teaspoon of salt, then microwave the mixture in 30-second intervals, stirring after each time.
Once the chips are completely melted, stir in a teaspoon of vanilla, transfer the mixture to a pan lined with parchment or wax paper, and let it cool. Once it’s firm, you’ll cut the fudge into pieces, taste at least a few squares for quality control purposes, and store the rest in an airtight container.
Did you know you can make truffles using only two ingredients? Cocoa powder and a can of sweetened condensed milk — that’s all ya need. Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until you see bubbles form. Next, pour the hot milk into a bowl, to which you’ll slowly add 1 cup of cocoa, making sure to sift out any clumps and stirring until it looks like brownie batter.
Place the mixture in the fridge until it firms up. Once it’s ready, roll the mixture into small balls (about 2 tablespoons worth for each one), then lightly dust with more cocoa powder. The mixture is really sticky, so to keep everything from sticking to the spoon, I recommend spritzing it with a little bit of cooking oil.
An alternative is to press the mixture into a pan lined with plastic wrap, let it chill, then cut it into small squares, which you then dust with a light coating of cocoa powder.
If you feel like getting REALLY fancy, you can even make three-ingredient white chocolate truffles. Wild, I know, but this will add in a little extra variety to satisfy all of your chocolate needs.
To make these, melt 450 grams of white chocolate with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk; stir in 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and let the mixture chill in the fridge until firm (about 3 hours).
Finally, one at a time, roll about 2 tablespoons worth into a small ball, dip the truffle into a bowl of melted white chocolate, and top with whatever else suits your fancy, such as shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or sprinkles.
Soft-serve ice cream
If you are in the mood for a lighter, fruitier ice cream, you can easily make soft serve ice cream using just frozen fruit and sweetened condensed milk. Combine 1 ½ cups of frozen fruit (any kind will do) with ¾ cups of sweetened condensed milk in a food processor. Add in ½ teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt, and blend the mixture until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a container, then freeze until just firm, which won’t take long.
Brazilian limeade is a light, sweet, creamy alternative to your usual limeade — and it’s extremely easy to make.
To make this drink, cut 4 limes into eighths, which you’ll put in a blender along with half a can of sweetened condensed milk. Add in 4 cups of water, pulse the mixture for a brief period of time (fifteen seconds at the absolute most), in order to quickly grind up the limes without releasing too much of the bitterness from the peel.
Once you’ve blended it together, strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer, and pour the liquid into a pitcher filled with ice. If you’re in the mood, you can also garnish your drink with an extra lime wedge and some mint leaves.