Condensed milk is a popular canned milk product used in many desserts and recipes. It is made by removing about 60% of the water from regular milk, which makes it thicker and creamier. But an important question for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is: is condensed milk gluten free?
What is Condensed Milk?
Condensed milk is cow’s milk that has been concentrated by removing about 60% of the water content. This makes the milk much thicker and creamier than regular milk.
There are two main types of condensed milk:
- Sweetened condensed milk – This has sugar added to act as a natural preservative.
- Evaporated milk – This has no sugar added and is slightly less thick than sweetened condensed milk.
Both types of condensed milk have a shelf life of several months to a year when unopened, due to the reduced water content. Once opened, they should be refrigerated and used within about 5-7 days.
Condensed milk is used in many dessert recipes, especially as a key ingredient in sweets like caramel, fudge, and candies. It adds a smooth, velvety texture and sweet flavor. Condensed milk is also popular in coffee drinks to add a creamy sweetness.
Some of the most common brand names for condensed milk include Carnation, Eagle Brand, and Borden’s.
Is Condensed Milk Naturally Gluten Free?
Yes, condensed milk is naturally gluten free.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For a product to be considered gluten free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Condensed milk starts with regular cow’s milk, which does not naturally contain any gluten. No gluten ingredients are added during the production process either. So condensed milk is inherently gluten free.
The major ingredients in sweetened condensed milk are:
- Water (removed to condense the milk)
And the ingredients in evaporated milk are simply:
- Water (removed to condense the milk)
Since milk does not contain gluten, and no gluten sources are added, condensed milk avoids gluten free concerns.
Are Any Potential Sources of Gluten Added?
While condensed milk is naturally gluten free, some people wonder if any ingredients containing gluten could be added during manufacturing.
But the major brands of condensed milk do not add any gluten-containing ingredients. The ingredient lists on popular brands like Carnation and Eagle Brand contain no mention of wheat, barley, rye or suspicious additions.
Some people may be concerned about thickeners like flour being used in condensed milk. But according to manufacturers, no flour or starch is added to help condense or thicken the milk.
The milk is condensed simply by removing water and adding sugar in the case of sweetened condensed milk. No gluten sources are added.
What About Cross-Contamination Risks?
While condensed milk itself does not contain gluten, some people wonder about the risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing on shared equipment.
But reputable brands have procedures in place to prevent cross-contamination for allergen control. Milk is processed separately from any wheat-based products, on dedicated equipment.
For example, Carnation states:
“Our plants adhere to good manufacturing practices and have allergen control procedures in place to address product changeovers and avoid cross-contamination.”
So cross-contamination is very unlikely with major name brand condensed milk products. Generic or store brands may pose more risk depending on their manufacturing procedures. But overall, cross-contamination is minimal due to condensed milk production methods.
Are All Condensed Milk Brands Gluten Free?
The major national brands of condensed milk like Carnation, Eagle Brand, and Borden’s state that their plain condensed milk products are gluten free:
- Carnation sweetened condensed milk
- Carnation evaporated milk
- Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
- Borden’s sweetened condensed milk
Store brands or generic labels of condensed milk also typically state “gluten free” on the packaging if they have been tested to verify gluten free status.
However, some flavored condensed milk products may contain gluten, like coffee or chocolate flavors. The added flavors may have gluten-based ingredients.
For example, Eagle Brand flavored condensed milks contain wheat flour:
- Eagle Brand chocolate condensed milk
- Eagle Brand coffee condensed milk
So plain condensed milk is gluten free, but flavored varieties may contain gluten from added ingredients. Check labels to be sure.
What Do Gluten Free Certifications Say?
Many condensed milk brands display a gluten free certification on their plain milk products, such as:
- Carnation condensed milk – Certified gluten free by GFCO (Gluten Free Certification Organization)
- Borden’s condensed milk – Certified gluten free by the Celiac Support Association
- Nestle and other brands – Display the certified gluten free symbol of the GFCO
These reputable 3rd party certifications verify through audits and testing that the products contain less than 10-20 ppm of gluten.
So the presence of a respected gluten free certification provides added assurance that condensed milk is reliably free of gluten.
Should You Buy “Gluten Free” Labeled Condensed Milk?
Since all plain condensed milk is gluten-free by nature, there is no need to seek out a “gluten free” label on condensed milk. The gluten free claim is more for marketing and consumer awareness.
But for peace of mind, some people prefer buying the brands with an extra gluten free label. Especially for those newly diagnosed with celiac disease, the GF label may provide confidence and reduce anxiety if also following a gluten free diet.
However, all major brands of regular condensed milk are made without gluten ingredients and have been tested to verify gluten free status. So both labeled and non-labeled condensed milk products should be safe.
Can You Make Condensed Milk Gluten Free?
Since regular unsweetened condensed milk is already gluten free, there is no need to make substitutions or recipe adjustments to make it gluten free.
But for condensed milk recipes, you can substitute the wheat flour typically used as a thickener with a naturally gluten free flour instead:
- Cornstarch – This is one of the most popular substitutes for thickening condensed milk recipes. Replace wheat flour 1:1 with cornstarch.
- Potato starch – Another good option that provides thickness. Use the same amount as the wheat flour.
- Rice flour – Adds thickness and texture similar to wheat flour. Again substitute 1:1.
- Arrowroot – Also provides thickening properties like wheat flour.
With these simple gluten free flour swaps, you can modify condensed milk recipes to be gluten free. But condensed milk itself is already gluten free.
Is Condensed Milk Safe on a Gluten Free Diet?
Yes, plain condensed milk without added flavors is gluten free and safe for gluten free diets.
All the major brands of regular sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are:
- Naturally gluten free
- Processed without gluten ingredients
- Unlikely to be cross-contaminated
- Labeled gluten free and 3rd party certified by reputable organizations
So people with celiac disease or NCGS can feel at ease consuming plain condensed milk, as it will not cause gluten exposure or intestinal damage.
However, avoid flavored condensed milks, as the added flavors may contain gluten. Check labels to verify gluten free status if choosing flavored varieties.
What About Using Condensed Milk in Recipes?
Condensed milk can be used without worry in all types of recipes, including:
- Cakes, cookies, brownies, and bars
- Fudge, caramel, candy, and other sweets
- Fruit desserts
- Coffee drinks and smoothies
- Ice cream
- Sauces and curries
When finding condensed milk recipes, just check to ensure the other ingredients are gluten free. As long as the recipe has no gluten ingredients, the condensed milk can provide rich flavor and texture.
If substituting a gluten-based thickener called for in the recipe, use a gluten free option like cornstarch instead.
Should You Avoid Condensed Milk on a Gluten Free Diet?
There is no reason to strictly avoid condensed milk when following a gluten free diet, as long as you choose plain varieties without added flavors.
The only potential concern is with cross-contamination of store brand condensed milks made on shared equipment. But major name brands have procedures in place to prevent this.
So condensed milk can be included safely without worry of gluten exposure. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity do not need to proactively avoid condensed milk. In fact, it can provide smooth texture in many gluten free dessert recipes.
The bottom line is condensed milk is a gluten free ingredient that can provide creaminess and moisture in your diet. Feel free to use it according to your preferences.
Does Condensed Milk Contain Dairy?
Yes, condensed milk contains dairy since it is made from cow’s milk.
Plain condensed milk is composed primarily of:
- Cow’s milk
- Sugar (for sweetened condensed milk)
- Water content removed to condense it
So it is not suitable for vegan diets or people with dairy/milk allergies. Those with lactose intolerance may also react to the milk sugars in condensed milk.
There are some dairy-free condensed milk alternatives made from plant-based milks like coconut, almond, or soy milk. These provide a vegan condensed milk for baking and recipes.
But traditional condensed milk contains concentrated dairy milk, so it is not dairy-free. Those with dairy restrictions need to avoid condensed milk or find dairy-free alternatives.
Can Babies Have Condensed Milk?
No, condensed milk is not recommended for babies under 1 year old.
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advises against giving condensed milk to infants for a few reasons:
- High sugar content – Condensed milk is very high in added sugar, which can be harmful to infant health.
- Missing nutrients – Babies have special nutritional needs that condensed milk does not provide.
- Allergy risk – Introducing cow’s milk too early may increase allergy risk.
- Botulism risk – The lack of water content can potentially harbor botulism spores.
Instead, breast milk or infant formula are recommended as the sole food source for babies under 1 year old.
After age 1, condensed milk may be introduced in moderation as an occasional sweet treat. But it should not be a routine part of a child’s diet due to the high amount of added sugar. For young children, diluted condensed milk or recipes incorporating it sparingly are safer options.
Is Condensed Milk Keto?
Condensed milk is not considered keto-friendly, since it is high in sugar and carbohydrates.
One cup of sweetened condensed milk contains:
- 943 calories
- 121 grams of carbs
- 121 grams of sugar
This is far too high in carbs and sugar to fit into a ketogenic diet plan. Most keto plans aim for around 25-50 grams of carbs per day.
Even evaporated milk without added sugar provides:
- 42 grams of carbs
- 33 grams of sugar
So condensed milk of any type is too high in sugar and carbs for a true ketogenic diet. Small amounts may be accommodated in some keto recipes, but it is generally avoided.
Other keto-friendly dairy options include:
- Heavy cream
- Full fat whipped cream
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Full fat cottage cheese
- Hard cheeses
These provide the creaminess and richness of condensed milk without all the carbs and sugar.
Is Powdered Condensed Milk Gluten Free?
Yes, powdered condensed milk is also gluten-free.
Powdered condensed milk is condensed milk with the water content completely removed. It has been dried into a powder form.
Like regular condensed milk, powdered condensed milk starts with cow’s milk and no gluten ingredients. And no gluten sources are added in during manufacturing.
Brands of powdered condensed milk like Nestle’s Carnation are:
- Labeled gluten free
- Display a gluten free certification symbol
- Processed separately from gluten grains
So powdered condensed milk avoids any concerns related to gluten. It can be used without worry as an ingredient in gluten free recipes.
Just check the label to ensure any added flavors are also gluten free, as flavors may contain gluten while plain powdered milk does not.
The Bottom Line
- Condensed milk is naturally gluten free, as it starts with dairy milk that does not contain gluten.
- No gluten ingredients like wheat, barley or rye are added during manufacturing.
- Reputable brands use dedicated equipment and control procedures to prevent cross-contamination with gluten.
- Major brands label their plain condensed milk as gluten free and display respected gluten free certifications.
- Both sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are safe and free of gluten.
- Condensed milk can be used without concern in all types of recipes and desserts, as long as other ingredients are gluten free.
- Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity do not need to avoid condensed milk.
So in conclusion, both traditional condensed milk and powdered condensed milk are reliably gluten-free products. People following gluten free diets can incorporate condensed milk into recipes and desserts without worry over gluten exposure. Condensed milk makes a great gluten free addition providing creamy texture and flavor.