How to Make Pumpkin Pie without Evaporated Milk

A pumpkin pie on a black granite counter, with a black and white checked kitchen towel

What can you use instead of evaporated milk?

Have you ever found yourself in the kitchen on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning, with half of the ingredients for pumpkin pie already in a mixing bowl, and suddenly realize that 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 for a few hours. But who has time to go to the store at the last minute, with your big holiday meal already in the oven, and fight the crowds just for a can of evaporated milk? 

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

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

What is evaporated milk?

Fresh milk - in other words, milk that is in a refrigerated carton or plastic jug, not in a can - 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)  

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 (a thickener), and vitamins C and D3.

Dipotassium phosphate is a man-made chemical that combines phosphate, phosphorus, and sodium, and is used primarily as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and to change texture. According to the Good Mylk Co. website, dipotassium phosphate is considered "fairly safe," but it's been linked to kidney disease among other health problems.

Just another reason why we should figure out a substitute for evaporated milk.

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Substitutes for evaporated milk

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

Try one of the following as a substitute for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie. Remember: one 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 of 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. 

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How to use what you have on hand

Go open the door of your refrigerator and cupboards and take a look. Which of these substitutes do you already have on hand? 

If you have several of these ingredients but not enough of one to use it as an evaporated milk substitute, you can combine some of the possible substitutions above.

For instance, if you only have one cup of plain yogurt, you can use it plus a half-cup of whole milk. Here are a few more possible substitutions:

  • one cup of yogurt plus 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • one cup of yogurt plus 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • one cup of cream mixed with 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of cream plus 1 cup of coconut 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?

A pumpkin pie on a black and white checked kitchen towel, on a black kitchen counter.

Here's what I use as a substitute for evaporated milk

Because I have fresh goat milk on hand, that's usually what I use instead of evaporated milk.

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

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 a bit. 

Using one cup of fresh milk instead of evaporated milk gave us pies that were super-creamy and rich. Delicious! The consistency was perfect, and our pumpkin pie set up just like it should. 

My go-to substitute for a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk is one cup of fresh milk, but I have also used a cup of milk plus 1/2 cup of plain, unflavored yogurt, just to thicken it up a bit.

A delicious pumpkin pie recipe

This recipe makes one pumpkin pie.

2 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree *
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1 cup milk
1 unbaked pie crust

* Homemade pumpkin puree usually contains more liquid than canned pumpkin puree. I let my puree drain a bit in a wire strainer to remove excess liquid. 

Since I store my homemade puree in the freezer and let it thaw when I'm ready to use it, the watery liquid has already separated in the freezer bag, as seen in the image below. It only takes a minute or two in a strainer for the excess to drain out.

A white bowl of pumpkin puree, next to two eggs.


Preheat oven to 425°F. Beat eggs and pumpkin puree together, then add the sugars and spices and mix well. Stir in the milk. Pour into unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil if needed to prevent burning. Pie is done when a clean knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

We've been eating rich, creamy pumpkin pies made without evaporated milk ever since that fateful day when I forgot to buy evaporated milk for the umpteenth time. I don't have to remember to buy evaporated milk anymore, which reduces our reliance on the grocery store as well as providing healthier food for my family.

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! 

No pumpkin puree?

If you don't have pumpkin puree on hand, you can substitute with an equal amount of carrot puree, sweet potato puree, or squash puree.

Honestly, the spices are what make pumpkin pie taste like pumpkin pie. The substitutions above won't be very noticeable.

If you're looking for a pie crust recipe that's easy to make, try this one! 

And if you have an excess of pumpkin puree, try my mother's pumpkin bread recipe. Even folks who don't care for pumpkin bread rave about this recipe!

A sliced loaf of pumpkin bread on a white plate.

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A pumpkin pie on a black granite countertop. Text " Pumpkin pie without evaporated milk"

Related Posts:
Thanksgiving Recipes
My Mother's Pumpkin Bread Recipe - the best ever!


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