How to Make Pumpkin Pie without Evaporated Milk

Slice of pumpkin pie

If you're like me, you've found yourself in the kitchen on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning at least once, with half the ingredients for pumpkin pie already in a mixing bowl, and realizing you have no evaporated milk in the cupboard. 

Now what are you going to do? 

Most grocery stores are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, although the trend these days is that some are open in the morning (I think that's unfair to the employees, they need a holiday too). 

And who has time to go to the store last-minute and fight the crowd? 

But every recipe we've ever read for pumpkin pie requires that canned milk. Can we substitute something else for evaporated milk? 

There must be a way to make pumpkin pie without evaporated milk.

What is evaporated milk?

Evaporated milk is something that has always mystified me. Milk is liquid, and yet this is "evaporated" milk. Wouldn't that make it a solid? Or invisible? (Just kidding.) 

 Actually, fresh milk is 13% solids and 87% liquid. Interesting, isn't it? As it comes from the cow or goat, the solids in milk consist of approximately 3.7% fat and the rest is "solids-not-fat." (Source) Just a trivia tidbit for you. 

Evaporated milk is cow's milk that's been heat-treated to remove about 60% of the water, which makes it more concentrated as well as shelf-stable. 

After removing some of the water, some additional ingredients are added: dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, and vitamins C and D3.

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Substitutes for evaporated milk

As a matter of fact, there are many possible substitutions, so you'll need to decide which one to use. 

I suppose the easiest way to decide is to take a look in your refrigerator and cupboards to see what you already have on hand, right? 

Try one of these substitutes for a 12-ounce can (1½ cups) of evaporated milk:
  • 1 cup of whole milk*
  • 1½ cups of milk plus one beaten egg
  • 1½ cups of milk plus 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup of cream plus 1/2 cup regular milk
  • 1½ cups of plain yogurt, Greek yogurt OR sour cream
  • 1½ cups coconut milk

*I recommend using whole milk instead of 2% fat or less, because low-fat milk contains more water and is thinner than whole milk. 

You can also combine some of these possible substitutions. For instance, if you only have one cup of plain yogurt, you can use it plus a half-cup of whole milk. 

Be creative, and use what you already have on hand - because no one has time to go to the grocery store on a holiday morning, right?

Pumpkin pie
Image by Mary Woolard. Used with permission.

What I used instead of evaporated milk

Because I have fresh goat milk on hand, that's what I used. 

I use goat's milk and cow's milk interchangeably every day. I would have used cow's milk if that's what I had in my refrigerator. 

And since I was making a pie with pumpkin puree I'd made from fresh pumpkin, and fresh pumpkin has more liquid than canned pumpkin puree, I reduced the amount of milk. I used one cup of goat milk instead of 12 ounces (1½ cups) of evaporated milk. 

Our pies were super-creamy and rich. Delicious! The consistency was perfect, and our pumpkin pie set up just like it should. 

We'll be eating rich, creamy pumpkin pies from now on and I won't have to remember to buy evaporated milk ever again! 

No more holiday mornings being frustrated by a simple can of evaporated milk or the lack thereof. No worrying about whether or not the grocery store will be out of this necessary ingredient. You have been set FREE, my friend! 

If you're looking for a pie crust recipe that's easy to make, try this one! And here's my family's holiday recipe collection if you're looking for some inspiration or new sides to accompany your traditional family meal. 

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Is it possible to make pumpkin pie without evaporated milk?

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  1. Anonymous3:52 PM

    I'm looking for the pumpkin pie recipe and I don't see it am I missing something?

    1. Use your family's favorite, time-tested recipe, and replace the evaporated milk with one of the substitutions listed in the post. (I like the one on the back of the pumpkin puree can, myself.)


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