Homemade sweetened condensed milk traditionally requires ultra-low heat and up to 6 hours of constant stirring, but with a splash of heavy cream added to prevent scorching, I can crank up the heat and be done in 45 minutes. The result is thicker, creamier, and more luscious than anything from a can, with a rich dairy flavor and subtle notes of caramel.
Key Point: Even slightly acidic ingredients will cause hot dairy to curdle, including raw cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, and agave. Take care when experimenting with alternative sweeteners.
Stella Parks's quick and easy recipe for homemade sweetened condensed milk.
4 cups (32 oz.) milk (any percentage will do)
3⁄4 cup (6 oz.) heavy cream
1 cup (7 oz.) sugar
1⁄8 tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt (half as much if iodized)
Combine milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a 5-quart stainless steel saucier. If using a scale, weigh the pot and ingredients together so you can digitally track the reduction. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat resistant spatula, until the milk begins to simmer, about 12 minutes. Continue cooking another 30 minutes more, scraping continuously to prevent a milky buildup from forming around the sides. When the thickened milk-syrup suddenly begins to foam, it’s almost done. Keep simmering and stirring until the foam subsides and the dairy has condensed to exactly 2 cups or 19 ounces. If using a scale, the pot will weigh 26 ounces less than when you started.
Pour into an airtight container, seal to prevent evaporation, and refrigerate up to 1 month. To mimic the consistency of canned milk, bring to room temperature before using.
The timing of this recipe may vary considerably depending on the heat output of your stove and the size, shape, and heaviness of your pot. If it takes considerably longer than 12 minutes to bring the milk to a simmer, you can safely increase the heat to medium-high in order to reduce the dairy within the allotted time. Conversely, should the milk begin to simmer much faster, reduce the heat to medium-low to prevent the dairy from cooking too hard.