Best Sweetened Condensed Milk To Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee

If you’re looking for a way to sweeten up your coffee, amplify its flavors, or make killer Vietnamese iced coffee, you’re going to need some high-quality condensed milk. Here are our top brands and favorite DIY recipes.

June 7, 2024
Cans of different condensed milk are placed next to each other.

There are plenty of condensed milk brands out there to choose from, but which ones are the best for coffee?

There are 2 key factors to consider when shopping for condensed milk: 

  • Sugar content — Sweetened condensed sugar typically has a lot of sugar in it. If this isn’t an issue for you, these versions have the best taste and are the most common form used in Vietnam. Low-sugar or sugar-free options are also available.
  • Dairy Content — As the name implies, condensed milk is made by reducing the volume of milk. For people with dairy intolerances or other dietary restrictions, there are some brands that carry dairy-free condensed milk. 

Here are 6 of our favorite brands for brewing authentic Vietnamese coffee:

1. Longevity Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

Longevity Brand has been a Vietnamese staple for decades, so it makes perfect sense that it is a top choice to pair with coffee. The brand has expanded to the US and Canada, so you should be able to find it on selected grocery store shelves. 

What sets Longevity Brand apart from other condensed milk is its consistent quality. Many people praise it for its creaminess, in part because it’s made with full-fat milk.

What we like: Authentic condensed milk made with 100% whole milk.

2. Nestlé Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk

If you can't find any of the other brands on this list, you're almost certain to find Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk. It's made with two ingredients, whole milk and natural sugar, and sold in virtually every country around the world. 

Easy to come by, creamy, and reliable in quality, it’s popular with everyone from bakers to baristas. For ease of use, it can also be bought in squeezy bottles!

What we like: Consistent taste and simple ingredients — just whole milk and sugar.

3. California Farms Sweetened Condensed Milk

Made using full-fat milk solids and sweetened with sugar, California Farms is a US-based brand that is certain to liven up your coffee. Much like the Carnation condensed milk, you can also get resealable bottles instead of traditional (and frustrating) cans. 

What we like: Resealable bottle is much easier to use on a daily basis. 

4. Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk 

Eagle Brand is easy to find and is another popular brand. It’s made with whole milk and sugar and comes in resealable pouches or a tin. 

It makes the perfect addition to your coffee, as it’s not overly sweet.

What we like: Less sugar than most condensed milk products.

5. Parrot Sweetened Condensed Milk

This brand uses nonfat milk, sugar, palm oil, and added vitamins (vitamin A and riboflavin). It's one of the more modified condensed milk products on this list, but it has delicious flavor, slightly lower calories than typical condensed milk, and is much cheaper than brands using whole milk. 

What we like: Excellent taste and low-cost.

6. Nestle Carnation Vegan Condensed Milk

This is one of the best vegan-friendly condensed milk products we've tried so far. It's made from a blend of rice flour and oat flour with sugar to mimic the naturally sweet and silky texture of dairy-based condensed milk options. 

We've found you have to add a little bit more of this stuff than you would traditional condensed milk to get the same taste — but other than that, it's a nearly identical alternative.

What we like: Vegan-friendly formula. 

What is Sweetened Condensed Milk?

Condensed milk starts out as regular milk. Through a process of evaporation, the milk’s water content is removed, often up to 60%. As the water level drops, the milk solids become thick and highly concentrated, forming a syrup-like consistency.

The evaporation process also improves the shelf life of condensed milk. This is why you normally see it sold in tins and why it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. 

Typically, condensed milk is sweetened with sugar during the evaporation process, so it’s usually referred to as “sweetened condensed milk.” Evaporated milk, also sold in tins, doesn’t have the added sugar. The addition of sugar during the heating and evaporating process gives the condensed milk a richer taste and thicker consistency. 

What Does Condensed Milk Taste Like?

Condensed milk is a taste unlike any other. The evaporation process concentrates the milk flavors that would normally be diluted by the water content, creating a rich and intense creaminess. It’s sweet and milky, and some people even get notes of caramel or white chocolate coming through. In terms of texture, it’s pretty thick, meaning it will coat your mouth with flavor. 

As always, though, the best way to find out is to try it yourself! 

Why Use Condensed Milk in Coffee?

Milk has been used with coffee for many years — we’ve been adding it since 1660! So, it stands to reason that if regular milk could be used, then other variations of milk might work, too. 

Condensed milk works amazingly in coffee because of its rich flavor and heavy, milky, sweet notes. It also has a lower fat content than cream, helping the coffee's taste come through more rather than dampening it. 

Sweetened Condensed Milk & Vietnamese Coffee

The traditional way to drink Vietnamese coffee is with sweetened condensed milk. Known as “ca phe nau” (brown coffee) in the north and “ca phe sua” in the south, it usually involves strong robusta coffee that’s brewed with a phin and served over ice.

Vietnamese coffee and condensed milk are a match made in heaven partly because of the beans used. Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content and a stronger, darker flavor than what you get from arabica beans. The condensed milk works perfectly with the strong coffee, balancing out the bitterness and intensity but not masking or drowning out the deep, chocolatey, earthy notes. In fact, some might even say it accentuates them!

If you want to give this combination a try, our HaNoi beans are perfect for it. 

What are Some Popular Coffee Recipes With Condensed Milk?

Here are two of the best coffee recipes that use condensed milk, as well as guidelines on how to make them.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee (ca phe sua)

To make Vietnamese iced coffee at home, you’ll want to use a phin filter to get that authentic taste. If you don’t have one, use a French press or espresso

  1. Prime your phin by running hot water through it into a cup to get it to a good temperature.
  2. Set up your cup with the desired amount of sweetened condensed milk (between 1-3 tablespoons to taste) and ice cubes.
  3. Place the phin on top of the cup, and add 1-2 tablespoons of Vietnamese coffee. 
  4. Pour an ounce of hot but not boiling water into the phin to allow the coffee to bloom.
  5. Wait one minute, then add the remaining water into the phin and cover it.
  6. Wait for the coffee to fully drip down into the cup. It takes up to 6 minutes to brew.
  7. Remove the phin, give the coffee a stir, and enjoy!

Related: How to Say Coffee in Vietnamese?

Cafe Bombon

Made famous in the Valencia region in Spain, Cafe Bombon combines strong espresso and condensed milk.

  1. Pour an espresso shot into your drinking vessel of choice. 
  2. Gently add in sweetened condensed milk to taste. This can either be poured in, spooned in, or even drizzled down the inside of the cup, depending on your preference. 
  3. Sip and enjoy as you get the stark contrast of bold coffee and sweet, creamy condensed milk.

How to Make Sweetened Condensed Milk

It takes time, but making your own sweetened condensed milk is the best way to get the quality you want and save money. You can store it in a jar in the fridge for up to 6 months, giving you plenty of time to use it. 

Here’s a recipe for sweetened condensed milk to try:


  • 2 cups (16 fl oz/450 mL) full-fat milk or low-fat milk
  • ⅔ cups (5 oz /142 g) white sugar


  1. Add the milk and sugar to a small saucepan and stir.
  2. Heat the mixture over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat. Do not stir once it’s simmering, and do not scrape any sugary pieces on the edges of the pan into the milk.
  4. Simmer the mixture for 35-40 minutes, or until it’s reduced by half and has a creamy color. 
  5. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
  6. Pour it into a glass jar with a lid and store it in the fridge.

How to Make Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk

Don’t worry if dairy is off-limits for you. Here’s a recipe for dairy-free sweetened condensed milk.


  • 1 14 oz can (414 mL/1¾ cups) coconut milk (full fat or low fat)*
  • ⅔ cups (5 ⅓ oz / 150 g) white sugar

* Substitute any nut milk or other dairy-free milk for the coconut milk


  1. Add the milk and sugar to a small saucepan and stir.
  2. Heat the mixture over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat. Do not stir once it’s simmering, and do not scrape any sugary pieces on the edges of the pan into the milk.
  4. Simmer the mixture for 30-40 minutes, or until it's reduced by about half and has a grayish color. It will start to darken as it heats up, and that's okay.
  5. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
  6. Pour it into a glass jar with a lid and store it in the fridge.

Are There Any Alternatives to Condensed Milk?

You may really like the idea of condensed milk and coffee as a duo but might not be able to have it, maybe due to its high sugar content. Here are some of the best alternatives to condensed milk that can work with your coffee.

  • Evaporated milk — This works similarly to condensed milk with a rich, milky flavor, although you miss out on the caramel notes that condensed milk brings with its added sugar. Despite this, it works great as a lower-sugar alternative. 
  • Sweetened coconut cream — Try swapping out the condensed milk in your recipe for sweetened coconut cream. It’s rich and creamy and also brings a nuttiness that will make your drink not so dissimilar to the Vietnamese classic.

FAQs: Sweetened Condensed Milk

Still have questions about the pairing of condensed milk and coffee? Check out our answers to some of your queries below. 

1. What’s the difference between condensed and evaporated milk?

Condensed milk and evaporated milk are made in the same way, using evaporation to remove most of the water content. The main difference is that condensed milk has sugar added during the evaporation process, while evaporated milk has no added sugar. 

2. Is condensed milk healthy for me?

Condensed milk is incredibly calorie-rich, containing five times the amount of sugar you would find in regular milk. It also has various vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and vitamins B2 and B12. It’s probably okay to add it to your coffee occasionally and in moderation if you are particularly health-conscious or trying to lose weight. 

3. What’s the best coffee to pair with condensed milk?

All coffee tastes great with condensed milk, but the stronger, the better. This is why condensed milk is particularly popular when paired with strong coffee like Vietnamese coffee, as it is made with robusta beans, which are traditionally stronger in flavor than arabica.

Cafely’s HaNoi robusta beans work amazingly with condensed milk, although if you are still getting used to the intensity, you might enjoy the blend of robusta and arabica in SaiGon OG.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Robusta and Arabia Coffee?

4. Are there low-sugar condensed milk brands?

One way to cut down on sugar is to use evaporated milk instead of condensed milk, but some brands, such as Nestlé’s Carnation, offer “light” alternatives with a lower sugar content. 

5. Can you get vegan condensed milk?

There are vegan alternatives to condensed milk, such as sweetened coconut cream. Other vegan recipes use rice flour or oats to create the creaminess. You can also make your own dairy-free, vegan, and sweetened condensed milk (see the recipe above).

Related: Vegan Vietnamese Coffee Recipe

6. How long does condensed milk last?

Unopened condensed milk is usually good for 18 to 24 months if kept in suitable conditions. However, once it is opened, consume it within 5-7 days and store it in the fridge.