Which Milk Substitute Is Right for Your Recipe? 12 Swaps and How to Use Them (2024)


Which Milk Substitute Is Right for Your Recipe? 12 Swaps and How to Use Them (1)

By Katherine Gillen

Published May 25, 2022

It’s creamy, dreamy and downright mandatory for dipping chocolate sandwich cookies. It’s a key player in everything from one-pot chicken alfredo to overnight oats. Yep, milk is a cooking and baking essential—so what the heck are you supposed to do when it’s the one ingredient not in your fridge?

Not to worry, friend: Whether you’re a day (or three) behind on your weekly grocery shopping, or you’re lactose intolerant and looking to swap in something dairy free, there’s a whole world of milk alternatives that you probably have in your fridge or pantry already. When you need a milk substitute, try any of these 12swaps in your baking and cooking at home.

12 Milk Substitutes to Try

1. Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is a good substitute for milk, but because it has a much higher fat content, you’ll want to dilute it first. Touse it in a recipe, replace the amount of milk called for with half heavy cream and half water.

2. Half and Half

Half and half is made of 50 percent whole milk and 50 percent heavy cream, so it’s an ideal milk substitute—use it in equal amounts.

3. Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is exactly what it sounds like: milk with some of the water content evaporated. That means it’s one of the best substitutes for milk around. To use it in place of regular milk, simply open a can and mix it with an equal amount of water, then replace the milk in your recipe measure-for-measure.

4. Sweetened Condensed Milk

If you’re making something sweet, sweetened condensed milk can also take the place of regular milk. Just keep in mind that because it’s already heavily sweetened, you’ll probably need to dial back the sugar in your recipe accordingly.

5. Plain Yogurt

Plain yogurt can replace milk in both sweet and savory dishes. Use it in equal amounts to the milk that your recipe calls for—but if you’re using Greek yogurt, you’ll want to thin it out with a bit of water first.

6. Sour Cream

Sour cream is another milk substitute similar to yogurt, and it even has the added benefit of tenderizing baked goods (like cake, muffins or quick breads). Keep in mind, though, that it will add a slightly tangy flavor to whatever you’re making. (Which could be a good thing—sour cream in macaroni and cheese? Yum.)

7. Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is regular ol’ milk with all the moisture content removed until it’s just…milk dust. You can use it as a substitute for milk by reconstituting it with enough water to amount to what your recipe calls for. (We recommend consulting the package instructions.)

8. Almond Milk

If you’re looking for a milk substitute that’s also dairy-free, plain almond milk works just fine. But bear in mind that it might add a sweet, nutty flavor to your recipe, so it’s better used in sweet dishes than it is in savory dishes.

9. Rice Milk

Of all the milk alternatives, rice milk might be the closest flavor match to cow’s milk. It can be used as a substitute measure-for-measure, but it is thinner (so it won’t be as creamy as regular milk).

10. Soy Milk

Similarly, soy milk is a dairy-free milk alternative that tastes close to cow’s milk. Unlike rice milk, though, its texture is also like dairy milk, so it can be used almost interchangeably as long as it’s plain.

11. Oat Milk

This dairy-free milk alternative is a great option when you’re baking something that calls for milk and an acid (like lemon juice or vinegar) for leavening, because it has a high-protein content that functions like regular milk.

12. Water

In an absolute pinch, water can sometimes be used as a substitute in a recipe that calls for milk…but you might experience some changes in flavor and texture. (Think: Less creamy, less fluffy and less rich.) Try adding a tablespoon of butter for each cup of water you use—it’ll account for some of the milkfat you’re missing out on.

Ready to Bake? Here Are 7 Recipes We Love:

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  • Croissant Bread Pudding
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  • Cake Batter Waffles
  • Texas Sheet Cake


7 Vegan Buttermilk Substitute Options That Are Plant-Based Baking Game Changers

Which Milk Substitute Is Right for Your Recipe? 12 Swaps and How to Use Them (2)

Katherine Gillen

Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillenis PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...

read full bio

Which Milk Substitute Is Right for Your Recipe? 12 Swaps and How to Use Them (2024)


What is the best substitute for milk in a recipe? ›

Milk in most recipes hydrates the dry ingredients and adds flavor, and there are plenty of substitutes that can do just that without compromising the final result.
  • Half and half. ...
  • Heavy cream. ...
  • Nondairy milks, like soy and almond. ...
  • Sour cream. ...
  • Yogurt. ...
  • Evaporated milk. ...
  • Canned coconut milk. ...
  • Water.
Dec 3, 2021

How do I choose a milk alternative? ›

If you're after a direct nutritional substitute for cow's milk, then protein and calcium are good nutrients to focus on. Look for milk alternatives with 3g or more protein and 120mg or more calcium per 100mL. If you follow a vegan diet, then choosing a substitute that's high in protein and calcium should be a priority.

What is the best alternative milk for a 12 month old? ›

Milk alternatives should not be given before 12 months. Fortified soy beverages are the only milk alternative that help meet a child's recommended dairy needs. Choose one that is unflavored and unsweetened. Your child does not need added sugars.

What are the 5 types of milk used in baking? ›

Choosing the Right Milk for Baking
  • Whole Milk. Whole milk, containing around 3.5% fat, provides a rich and creamy base for baked goods. ...
  • 2% (Reduced-Fat) Milk. ...
  • 1% (Low-Fat) Milk. ...
  • Skim (Fat-Free) Milk. ...
  • Buttermilk. ...
  • Evaporated Milk. ...
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk. ...
  • Plant-Based Milk Alternatives.

What milk substitute is most like milk? ›

In terms of nutrition, soy milk is the closest non-dairy substitute for cow's milk. This is because it contains a similar amount of protein to cow's milk, but it contains half the amount of fat, calories, and carbohydrates.

What is the best non dairy substitute for milk in baking? ›

Among other milk alternatives like almond milk, soy milk and oat milk, soy milk is by far the best for baking. I learned this over the course of several years and many cookies, cakes, muffins and pies. Moreover, some people will tell you that you must swap full-fat coconut milk in for heavy cream or half-and-half.

What milk substitute tastes like cows milk? ›

The test made a few things clear: soy milk, at its best, tastes closest to cow's milk. Oat tastes like a sweetly nutty cereal milk while almond tastes like the water left in your sink after washing the breakfast dishes.

Is oat milk or almond milk better for you? ›

Depends. If you're aiming to lose weight or are diabetic, almond milk with its lower sugar and calorie content might be right for you. On the other side, oat milk is high in fiber and nutrients, which boosts heart health and immunity, and helps muscle grow.

What are the side effects of switching from formula to milk? ›

Switching From Formula To Milk: Side Effects

When switching from formula to milk, side effects most commonly reported are changes in your baby's stools. They may have looser or harder stools, or have trouble passing stools. There could also be a change in colour or texture.

What milk is best for 12 year old? ›

Unless a child has dietary restrictions, cow's milk is recommended for children ages 12 months and older to help supply protein, calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients. "Cow's milk has key essential nutrients that are not matched in plant-based alternatives," Santiago explains.

What does baby poop look like with dairy allergy? ›

Your baby may experience frequent watery, foul-smelling loose poops if they have a cow's milk protein allergy. You may also notice mucus in the stool, and your little one may be gassy and colicky. Babies with diarrhea may quickly become dehydrated, so calling your doctor is recommended.

What's the best butter to bake with? ›

Unsalted butter is better suited to baked goods like cookies that are sensitive to salt content and rely on butter's creamy flavor profile, helping ensure that you don't end up with an overly-salty baked good.

Is evaporated milk good for baking cakes? ›

Evaporated milk is often used in much the same way that half-and-half is, in custards, cakes, shakes and candies like fudge. When you have a recipe that calls for milk and you don't have fresh milk, you'll be glad you've got that can of evaporated milk in the pantry.

What milk is best for cake? ›

The more fat you have in milk, the more the texture of the bake will change. You want bakes to be moist, so this means you should choose milk with a higher fat content to achieve this. Therefore the best milk to use during baking is in most cases whole milk.

What can I substitute for 1 cup of milk? ›

Milk, whole1 cup1/2 cup evaporated milk, 1/2 cup water
Milk, whole1 cup1 cup nonfat milk, 2 1/2 tsp butter
Milk, whole1 cup1 cup skim milk, 1 tbsp melted butter
Milk, whole1 cup7/8 cup skim milk, 1/8 cup heavy cream
83 more rows

What happens if you use water instead of milk in a recipe? ›

In an absolute pinch, water can sometimes be used as a substitute in a recipe that calls for milk…but you might experience some changes in flavor and texture. (Think: Less creamy, less fluffy and less rich.)

Can I skip the milk in a recipe? ›

Mix one cup of water with 1 ½ teaspoons melted butter. Water can be used in most recipes that call for milk.

Can you substitute milk in a baking recipe? ›

Cow's milk is one of the easiest ingredients to substitute in baking and cooking. Any liquid can be substituted for the milk in a recipe with a 1:1 ratio. Choose the best liquid for your recipe: Is your recipe sweet or savory? You may choose between a fruit juice, water or broth, depending on if your recipe's flavors.

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