Milk Substitutes for Baking and Cooking

Non-Dairy Milk: Vegan Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Lactose-Free, Hazelnut Milk, Rice Milk, Oak Milk

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If you are making a recipe that calls for milk and your fridge is bare, or you are cooking for someone who is lactose intolerant or vegan, you need to find a good substitute for the genuine article. You have tons of options. No matter what ingredients you use, the whole process takes a couple of minutes.


You'll need milk alternatives like almond, soy, rice, and oat; yogurt; powdered milk; evaporated milk; condensed milk; or sour cream to make a milk substitute in various ways.


Your best bet is to replace the milk with another dairy product. Evaporated milk is an excellent substitute. Just open a can and mix it in a ratio of 50-to-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 might 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 to the amount of milk the recipe calls for. 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 it 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. 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.

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 use water, 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.

Everyday Milk Substitutes
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Milk Substitutes for Pancakes

Any of the above substitutes will work if you are making pancakes. 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. You could add berries or vanilla extract to make up for the flavor loss.

Milk Substitutes for Macaroni 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. 

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 alternatives such as soy, almond, rice, oat, or cashew. To get good results, it's important to think about 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 milk, like plain almond milk, instead of vanilla almond milk. These will change your recipe the least. Because unflavored milk alternatives still have their 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 for 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 plus acid combination is being used to leaven the recipe. Soy, oat, and hemp milk are all high-protein options, though you might find hemp too strongly flavored.