Okay, I will admit it: I have a pet peeve with recipes that tell me in no uncertain terms to use either condensed milk or evaporated milk. Here in Switzerland, there’s only one kind. Why? Because there’s only one kind – they are one and the same. How many think there’s a difference? A difference so substantial that it has to be explicitely stressed in recipes something to the effect of, “Whatever you do, DON’T substitute X for Y! It won’t work!” I’m here to tell you it WILL work, and what the differences are:
Simply put, evaporated milk has gone through a process that removes up to 60% of the water found in the fresh milk. In other words, it is evaporated… or in other words, condensed. Condensed milk, on the other hand, has gone through a similar process, but has tons of sugar added. That’s why it has a long shelf-life. Tons – that’s why it’s much thicker. 62 calories per tablespoon thicker. No matter what the USDA or the FDA says, there’s nothing healthy about that. Period.
The only difference it makes to your recipes is how much additional sugar you’ll have to consciously add to your recipe if you use evaporated milk rather than sweetened condensed milk. But I’d say that if you have to actually see and handle the amount of sugar you’ll have to compensate for, it will go a long way to helping you reduce calorie intake, sugar intake, and be more aware in general of what you’re feeding your body.
Use whichever you want. Make your own (there are dozens of recipes online – because I’ve never made it myself I won’t post a recipe that’s not “tried and true”) so that you know exactly how much sugar is in there. But just don’t get hung up about the terminology – condensed is evaporated is dehydrated.