Recipes / Sips & Syrups

Effortless Homemade Chai Concentrate

Effortless homemade chai concentrate

In my kitchen, sweetened condensed milk is a staple. I grew up with this rich, creamy sweetener in my Vietnamese household, where a dollop was always drizzled into coffee, warmed and served with bread, or mixed into flan.

These days, I use it to make a very addictive Vietnamese coffee every morning and in the spirit of the season, I use it to whip up a weekly batch of this very addicting homemade chai concentrate. Try it and I promise you’ll be addicted, too.

Star anise, cloves, and sweetened condensed milk

Homemade chai can be a daunting recipe to tackle, with a plethora of exotic spices to mix and match to spicy perfection. But! This homemade chai concentrate is so effortless, you still have time to make it as a gift for Christmas! And so delicious, your loved ones will be impressed at the effort they think you put into it!

Homemade Chai Concentrate

Makes 2 half-pints


1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise (optional)


Pour sweetened condensed milk into a mixing cup. Add in all the spices. Stir well and decant into clean jars. Done!

Sweetened condensed milk

Ground cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise

Effortless homemade chai concentrate

The chai concentrate should keep for several months in the refrigerator, but it won’t last that long anyway!

This recipe makes enough for two half-pint jars. To give as a gift, prettify with ribbon and decorative paper, tie on a tag with simple instructions, and wrap it all up with a box of black tea. Quick and cute!

Jars of homemade chai concentrate prettied up with ribbon and paper

To make your tea, simply stir a couple spoonfuls of your homemade chai concentrate into a cup of strong brewed black tea, such as Assam, English Breakfast, or Earl Grey. It’s also delicious with Darjeeling (a lighter black tea usually blended with green or oolong tea) or rooibos (a red tea from Africa).

In my opinion, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves are the core ingredients of a good chai. Any other spices you mix in simply kick up the flavor to your liking.

I like to play around with varying amounts of star anise, allspice, coriander, fennel, black pepper, mace, and nutmeg, depending on what I have in my kitchen. Most of these are whole spices that I also use for pickling, so I give them a quick whirl in my coffee grinder to add to my chai concentrate. An old-fashioned mortar and pestle also works. Grind up only one batch at a time, since oils released from the spices during grinding cause the flavors to deteriorate quickly.

Grind up whole spices in a coffee grinder

Once you get addicted to this chai, you’ll probably start buying lots of sweetened condensed milk. It starts with a can. Then a few cans. Then you’ll wish Costco carried them. So here’s a tip: Sweetened condensed milk is cheaper at a Chinese/Vietnamese market. There may be a bunch of characters and words on the label that you don’t understand, but it’s the same stuff. Just beware of brands (in any market) that use additives — the only ingredients should be milk and sugar.

Sweetened condensed milk from an Asian market

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »