Sweetened condensed milk is an ingredient I’ve long taken for granted. I often keep it in my pantry. Around the holidays, grocery stores stack towers of cans in baking-themed displays. It’s as if it always existed.
So it’s fun to see the current creative resurgence of condensed milk. It’s both a time-tested touchstone of midcentury recipes and a trendy ingredient hack to save a bunch of steps and shorten your shopping list. There’s another side to condensed milk, too: in many tropical countries where refrigeration was uncommon, condensed milk became a go-to for its ease of storage.
You’ll see examples of each condensed milk genre in this list, from old favorites to new approaches. Whatever the recipe, you know opening a can is the beginning of something special.
Easy Lime Cracker Icebox Cake
Layering Ritz crackers with a key lime pie-esque filling may seem a little odd, but it all comes together in this no-bake dessert with just 6 ingredients.
Pistachio Cardamom Tres Leches Cake
A Latin American classic meets Indian flavors in this lovely reimagining of tres leches cake. Infuse a condensed milk syrup with spices and pour it over the sponge cake for a decadent dessert that’s practically inhaleable.
Thai Iced Tea (Cha Yen)
Contributor Lany Phlong tells us that in Thailand, this refreshing drink is not made at home; instead, people buy it from street vendors as a part of their daily routine. But outside of Thailand, a restaurant is not your only point of access. Make it at home for a fresher drink that’ll make a big dip in your weekly beverage budget.
3-Ingredient No-Churn Ice Cream
We don’t want to bum you out with a spoiler, but condensed milk and two common ingredients (okay, it’s chilled cream and vanilla) come together for an ice cream that adults and kids likewise can pull off with very little active time.
No-Cook Banana Pudding
Before this, my favorite banana pudding recipe was a tour de force involving many pans, bowls, and whisks. But this dead clever version has me rethinking my strategy. Condensed milk makes it all possible.
Key Lime Bars
If you want key lime pie but need to feed a crowd, here’s your answer. Because doesn’t everyone want seconds of key lime pie anyway?
“Cassava cake is a scrumptious snack or dessert,” writes Berry Ann Quirino in this special family recipe. “At a Filipino party, you’ll likely find it at the center of the table with other goodies.” Betty Ann uses frozen pre-shredded cassava and coconut for ease. Condensed milk makes the cake custardy and rich.
Traditionally, condensed milk isn’t part of this cooling Mexican drink, but in this recipe it sweetens the horchata and adds that certain something.
7-Layer Magic Bars
A fixture of holiday cookie trays, these morsel-packed bars go by a few names, including Hello Dollys. Condensed milk is the glue that melds the chips, coconut, and nuts over the graham cracker base.
Peanut Butter Pretzel Magic Bars
A magic bar variation with peanut butter plus salty and crunchy pretzels? It just might supersede the traditional version of magic bars.
Chocolate Tres Leches Cake
Chocolate pervades every layer of this suave and sexy tres leches cake.
No-Churn Peach Cobbler Ice Cream
We don’t need no stinkin’ ice cream makers! It’s peach cobbler a la mode, all in one super-simple dessert.
A blender and five minutes are all you need to make this South American drink to quench your thirst when it’s hot and balmy. Blend the lime—peel and all—with water, sugar, and condensed milk, then strain and serve over ice.
2-Ingredient Hot Fudge
A microwave. Chopped chocolate. Condensed milk. The best ice cream sundaes ever are just minutes away.
Lemon Icebox Pie
The graham cracker crust and lemony custard filling get a quick stint in the oven, and then bam! Add whipped cream, chill, and this beauty is done.
No-Churn Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
The boots-and-sweaters crowd often eagerly awaits the arrival of fall so they can indulge in their favorite seasonal delights. But really, is there ever a wrong time for pumpkin spice? We say no.
The Best Key Lime Pie
I know a few people who annually forgo birthday cake in favor of key lime pie. Considering the charms of this creamy, sweet, and tart classic, I endorse their preference one hundred percent.
Pumpkin and Coconut Ladoo
Contributor Karishma Pradhan married a traditional Indian dessert with winter squash inspired by her New England home. Ladoos can vary in character; these are creamy and fudgy, almost like bon bons.
In the classification of low-lift pies, banoffee pie is the UK’s counterpart to key lime pie…only with a completely different flavor profile. A layer of dulce de leche (the Latin American caramelized condensed milk that you can buy ready-made in cans) sets off the sliced fresh bananas and whipped cream.
Christmas is the time when Puerto Ricans bust out this chilled, spiced punch made with condensed milk, cream of coconut, and (of course) rum.
Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk
Yes, you can make your own condensed milk! It takes a bit of time but the ingredient list is short, and the results will make you rethink the canned version. It shines in a cup of hot coffee or our Thai iced tea recipe.