Milk Substitutes for Baking and Cooking

Milk Substitutes for Baking and Cooking
Milk Substitutes for Baking and Cooking. diane555/E+/Getty Images
  • Prep Time
    2 min
  • Cook Time
    0 min
  • Total Time
    2 min
  • Yield

What can you use when a recipe calls for milk and you don't have any, are lactose intolerant or vegan? Lots of things! Here are a bunch of milk substitutes that work well for baking and cooking. Just choose the one that fits best with your recipe and diet.


  • Milk alternatives (almond, soy, rice, oat, etc.), yogurt, powdered milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, sour cream or water


If You're Out of Milk ...

Your best best is to replace the milk with another dairy product. Evaporated milk is an excellent substitute. Just open a can and mix it 50:50 with water. Then, replace the milk measure for measure. If you're making a dessert, sweetened condensed milk can be used in the same way. However, you may need to dial back the sugar in the recipe to account for the sweetness of the milk.

Plain yogurt or sour cream can also be used as a replacement for milk. If you're making a cake, or some other baked good, use an equal amount of yogurt or sour cream. Greek yogurt can also be used for this purpose, but you'll need to thin it with water first. Vanilla yogurt can be used in sweet dishes, but won't work well in savory. It will, of course, add a vanilla flavor to the recipe. Be sure to consider whether that will work well with the recipe. How Long Is Sour Cream Good For?

Another solid option is to use powdered milk. Just reconstitute it following the directions on the box to create as much as your recipe calls for. Does Powdered Milk Go Bad?

In some cases, water can also be used as a replacement for milk, but you should expect some changes to the flavor and texture of the recipe that you're making. Cooked dishes won't be as creamy, and baked dishes may not rise as well as they should.

If you decide to proceed, consider adding a tablespoon of butter along with each cup of water. This will put back some of the fat that the milk would have contributed to the recipe.

Milk Substitutes for Pancakes

Any of the previously-mentioned substitutes will work. If you decide to use plain yogurt or sour cream, consider thinning it with a bit of water to arrive at a consistency that is closer to milk.

Using water in place of the milk will also work, but your pancakes won't have as much flavor. Consider adding berries or vanilla extract to make up for the flavor loss.

Milk Substitutes for Mac and Cheese

Plain yogurt or sour cream works brilliantly as a substitute for the milk in mac and cheese recipes, and results in a creamier, tangier dish. Add just enough yogurt or sour cream to bring all the ingredients together. Annie's Mac and Cheese calls for using 1/2 cup of yogurt in place of 3 Tablespoons of milk.

Dairy-Free Milk Substitutes

If you need, or prefer, to cut milk from your diet, replace the milk called for in your recipe with an equal amount of your favorite milk alternative (soy, almond, rice, cashew, etc.) To get good results, it's important to consider how the flavor of the milk that you've chosen will work with the other flavors in your recipe. For baked and cooked dishes, it's generally best to stick with unflavored milks (i.e. plain almond milk, instead of vanilla almond milk). These will change your recipe the least. Because unflavored milk alternatives still have their own distinct flavor, some work better than others. Many people find that rice milk is the closest flavor match to cow's milk.

However, it's far from the only choice.

When trying to decide which milk alternative will work best in your recipe, here are some things to consider:

  • Almond milk has a distinct flavor that tends to work better in sweet dishes
  • Rice milk is thinner than cow's milk, so it won't give you that creamy texture that many savory dishes are after. Soy milk is thicker, and can withstand the high heat that is necessary to make sauces and casseroles
  • If you're baking something that calls for both milk and an acid, like lemon or vinegar, a high-protein milk alternative will work best. That protein + acid combination is being used to leaven the recipe. Soy, oat and hemp milk are all high protein options, though you may find hemp too strongly flavored.

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