Is there gluten in sweetened condensed milk?

Sweetened 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 and adding sugar before canning. This gives it a thick, syrupy texture and a sweet flavor.

Many people wonder if sweetened condensed milk contains gluten, especially those following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine.

Is There Gluten in Sweetened Condensed Milk?

The short answer is no, sweetened condensed milk does not naturally contain gluten. Sweetened condensed milk is made by condensing regular cow’s milk with added sugar. Cow’s milk itself does not contain gluten, so sweetened condensed milk is naturally gluten-free.

Ingredients in Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk contains just two main ingredients:

– Milk: Fresh cow’s milk does not contain gluten as it is an animal-based product. All the major proteins in milk – casein and whey – do not contain gluten.

– Sugar: Plain granulated cane or beet sugar does not contain gluten. The condensing process involves cooking off some of the water from fresh milk and adding granulated sugar.

So the two core ingredients – milk and sugar – are naturally gluten-free. This means sweetened condensed milk, at its most basic, does not contain gluten.

However, some brands may add thickening agents like cornstarch to stabilize the texture. Cornstarch is generally gluten-free, but there is a small chance it could be contaminated with gluten during processing.

So be sure to check the ingredients list on the can of sweetened condensed milk. As long as it only contains milk and sugar, it should be gluten-free. If it contains cornstarch or any other additives, contact the manufacturer to check if the brand tests their products for gluten.

Risk of Cross-Contamination

While sweetened condensed milk itself does not contain gluten, there is a small risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing.

Cross-contamination means gluten could accidentally be introduced from shared equipment, surfaces or ingredients. Some potential sources:

– Shared equipment: If the milk is processed on equipment also used for gluten-containing products like wheat, contamination could occur.

– Shared facilities: Similarly, if sweetened condensed milk is produced in a facility that also processes gluten products, trace amounts could transfer.

– Other ingredients: Some minor ingredients like flavors or stabilizers could contain gluten or have been contaminated.

Most major brands will process sweetened condensed milk in dedicated gluten-free facilities and test their products to verify they are gluten-free. But some smaller brands may not have the same quality controls in place.

So if you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive, it’s best to look for brands that label their sweetened condensed milk as “gluten-free” or contact the company directly to inquire about testing.

Whitening Sweetened Condensed Milk

Some recipes call for whitening sweetened condensed milk to lighten the color. The most common way is by mixing it with milk powder, which contains proteins from milk.

Milk powder can also be labeled gluten-free, as it is purely made from milk without gluten-containing ingredients. Reputable brands manufacturing milk powder will generally do so in dedicated facilities and test for gluten.

But as with any ingredient, check with the milk powder manufacturer before using to whiten sweetened condensed milk if you need to avoid gluten.

Using Sweetened Condensed Milk in Gluten-Free Recipes

Sweetened condensed milk can be used to make a variety of delicious gluten-free desserts and treats, including:

– Key lime pie: The filling is made with sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Make sure to use a gluten-free pie crust.

– Dulce de leche: Sweetened condensed milk is slowly simmered until it becomes dulce de leche, used in ice cream and other desserts.

– Fudge: Many fudge recipes rely on sweetened condensed milk for creamy texture.

– Cookie and baked good recipes: It can act as a binder and contribute to chewiness and moisture.

– Homemade candy like coconut haystacks or peanut butter balls: Often made with sweetened condensed milk as a base.

– Candied nuts: Boil sweetened condensed milk down to a coating consistency to coat nuts like pecans or almonds.

– Milk confections: Use it in place of regular milk when making milk candies or brittles.

– Coffee drinks: Add a splash of sweetened condensed milk to hot coffee for a touch of sweetness.

When baking gluten-free goods like cakes, bars and cookies with condensed milk, be sure to use gluten-free flours like almond, coconut, rice or oat flour. Avoid wheat flour as it contains gluten.

Overall, sweetened condensed milk is a versatile gluten-free ingredient that adds moisture, richness and body to all kinds of delicious dairy-free desserts.

Nutrition Facts of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Here is the nutrition information for a 1⁄4 cup (60g) serving of sweetened condensed milk (about 1/3 of a 5.1oz/142g can):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 220
Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 25mg
Sodium 100mg
Carbohydrates 30g
Fiber 0g
Sugar 30g
Protein 4g

As you can see, sweetened condensed milk is high in calories, fat and especially sugar. This is not surprising given the milk is condensed down and sugar added.

There are 9 grams of sugar in 1 tablespoon (15ml) of sweetened condensed milk. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams for men.

So while sweetened condensed milk can be used to make tasty gluten-free desserts, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, and not in excess. Those managing diabetes will also want to keep a close eye on portion sizes.

Lactose Content in Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk is made from cow’s milk, so it does contain lactose – the natural sugar found in mammalian milk.

However, the lactose content is reduced during the manufacturing process. To make sweetened condensed milk, about 60% of the water is removed from regular milk. This condenses the amount of milk solids by 60%, including protein, fat, sugar and minerals.

But the lactose concentration is reduced more than 60%. This is because lactose is water-soluble, so a higher percentage of lactose is removed along with the water evaporation.

Exactly how much lactose remains depends on the individual brand and condensing process. But most experts estimate sweetened condensed milk contains about 30-40% of the lactose in fresh milk.

So while the lactose content is reduced, it is not completely lactose-free. People with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate small amounts of sweetened condensed milk in recipes, but likely not large quantities. Those with severe lactose intolerance or milk allergies should avoid sweetened condensed milk entirely.

Milk Sources for Sweetened Condensed Milk

Standard sweetened condensed milk is made from regular cow’s milk. But condensed milk can also be made from other milk sources:

– Goat’s milk: Goat’s milk has similar nutrition to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk condensed milk has a tangier, more distinct flavor.

– Coconut milk: Makes a dairy-free sweetened condensed milk. Won’t have the same creamy texture but offers a coconutty flavor.

– Almond milk: Condensed almond milk provides a nutty, non-dairy alternative. Be sure to choose unsweetened almond milk.

– Soy milk: Sweetened condensed soy milk has a richer, beanier profile. Ensure soy milk is plain with no additives.

– Rice milk: Using rice milk makes for a very sweet condensed milk. May be thinner in texture than other options.

– Evaporated milk: Evaporated milk is similar to condensed milk, with less sugar. Can be used in place of sweetened condensed milk in some recipes.

So while standard sweetened condensed milk is made from cow’s milk, there are various substitutes available depending on dietary needs or preferences. Always read labels carefully and contact manufacturers regarding potential cross-contamination.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

It’s possible to make your own sweetened condensed milk at home with just two ingredients – milk and sugar.

The basic recipe is:

– 2 1/4 cups milk
– 1 cup white sugar

1. Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until sugar fully dissolves.
2. Once sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered and without stirring, until the volume reduces by half. This will take 45-60 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Store in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

Tips for best results:
– Use whole milk for creamiest texture. Skim or low-fat milk can also work.
– Stir constantly at first to prevent the milk from scalding before sugar fully dissolves.
– Don’t let the milk come to a boil during condensing process. A gentle simmer will prevent scalding.
– Stirring during condensing will cause milk solids to stick to the pan.
– Cool completely before refrigerating to prevent condensation in the jar.

This basic 2-ingredient homemade condensed milk is free from preservatives, stabilizers and other additives. Be sure to use good quality milk and sugar. Making your own allows you to control the ingredients.

Note that homemade will need to be refrigerated and used relatively quickly, unlike canned shelf-stable varieties. But it’s great for when you need condensed milk in a pinch.


In summary, sweetened condensed milk does not naturally contain gluten. The two main ingredients – milk and sugar – are gluten-free. However, there is a small risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing, so check labels and contact brands if you have celiac disease or an allergy.

While safe for gluten-free diets, sweetened condensed milk is high in sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation. Those with lactose intolerance can likely tolerate small servings. But people with a milk allergy should avoid altogether.

Sweetened condensed milk can be used to make many delicious gluten and dairy-free desserts. When baking, substitute gluten-free flours like almond or rice flour for wheat flour. Homemade condensed milk is also an option using milk and sugar.

Overall, sweetened condensed milk is a rich, smooth and versatile product that is an ideal addition to many gluten-free, low-dairy or vegan recipes when consumed mindfully.

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