Once considered as a sign of wealth when added to the tea, today milk is an essential ingredient in baking and cooking, and a diet staple for many people due to its high nutritional value.
However, there are times when you simply run out of it, and you need a milk substitute asap. Or, you may be avoiding dairy altogether and looking for a vegan alternative. There are different reasons for this such as lactose intolerance, environmental reasons, personal preference, milk allergy, or restrictions in your diet.
The good news is that there are many substitutes for milk, both for dairy and non-dairy enthusiasts. Depending on the recipe or use, some are more suitable than others. In this article, we will look into the best ways to substitute cow’s milk when cooking, baking, or consuming it as a beverage.
Dairy Milk Alternatives
Evaporated milk is a good substitute for regular milk as it has a longer shelf life and is more affordable. It is milk that has been cooked down so that 60% of its water content is removed through evaporation.
It is bought in cans and tastes slightly sweeter than milk. It can replace milk’s consistency in sweet and savory recipes that call for a creamy texture. It also tastes good in coffee or on cereal. The slight difference in taste may or may not affect the final result significantly.
For 1 cup of regular milk, mix ½ cup of evaporated milk and ½ cup of water. For a more creamy consistency, you can dilute a little less than 1:1.
Condensed milk is often confused with evaporated milk as they both are concentrated forms of milk. The fact that they are sold in cans doesn’t help either. Their main difference is that condensed milk contains 40-45% sugar whereas evaporated does not contain any sugar.
As condensed milk is super sweet, it can replace regular milk only in sweet recipes - like pudding, pie, ice cream- with an adjustment in the total amount of sugar your recipe calls for. It can also be used as a coffee or tea sweetener.
Mix ½ cup condensed milk and ½ cup water as a replacement for 1 cup of milk.
Half-and-half is a dairy liquid product made from milk and cream at equal parts. It’s popular for its use as a coffee creamer, but it’s much more than that.
It contains more milkfat than milk and can be used as a milk replacement but with a difference in texture and flavor. As it is thicker than milk, it adds creaminess to your coffee and richness to sauces and soups.
You will also love this half and half substitution in quiche, mashed potatoes, and ice cream. Avoid boiling it though since it tends to curdle. Similarly, you shouldn’t whip it.
If there is no half-and-half sitting in your fridge, you can easily create a dairy or vegan version of half-and-half at home. Milk can be replaced with half and half at a 1:1 ratio.
The cream is a milk product made from the fat that rises to the top of whole milk before the latter gets homogenized. It is tastier than milk and thicker in texture.
Nutritionally speaking, both cream and milk are rich sources of protein, carbs, and important nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins, A, D, and B12. But cream contains much more cholesterol, fat, and calories, so daily intake should be limited.
It can be used in place of whole milk in many foods such as sauces, puddings, soups, stews, and cakes. However, as it is richer than milk, it should be mixed with some water -60% cream and 40% water- to make a milk substitution.
Note: Cream that contains stabilizers can alter the texture of your baked products.
Sour cream is a good alternative to whole milk and you can substitute 1 cup of sour cream for 1 cup of milk in different recipes. However, as it is denser, you can thin it out with a little water and do some adjustments to the quantity of other ingredients used in your baking goods.
Change the quantity of leavening agents when replacing sour cream. Increase the baking soda by 1 teaspoon for each cup of sour cream, and cut down the baking powder by 1 teaspoon.
Also, reduce the butter or shortening in the recipe. For each cup of sour cream, decrease the shortening, oil, or butter by ½ cup. When you are mixing sour cream with wet ingredients, expect that the batter will be a bit thicker, and don’t be surprised if your muffins or cake take a couple of extra minutes to bake.
- Fat-free sour cream should be avoided because it will separate when heated and ruin your baked goods.
- Sour cream’s tartness works fine with most baked items, but if you are worried, you can add a little vanilla to balance the tangy flavor.
Many people wonder which is healthier, regular milk, or yogurt. They are both rich in vitamins and minerals, but yogurt is higher in protein and lower in sugars, sodium, and saturated fat. In regards to cholesterol, they are both equal.
Yogurt is a more suitable replacement in low fat, low glycemic index, and low carb diets whereas milk is a better option for low-calorie diet plans. Besides, most yogurt is suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals due to the fermentation process which makes it easier to digest. However, if high heat is applied to yogurt, then it loses that beneficial bacteria for the gut.
You can use plain yogurt instead of milk in both savory and sweet recipes at a 1:1 ratio. As yogurt is thicker than milk, it may slightly change the density of the goods you are baking. If you happen to have Greek yogurt, mix it with a little water first.
If you are looking for an affordable milk substitute, powdered milk, also known as dry milk, is a great choice. Powdered milk is nonperishable and doesn’t require refrigeration. In terms of nutrition value, it’s rich in nutrients like raw milk.
Milk powder can replace milk in baked goods including bread, cakes, cookies, puddings, and pizzas. In cooking, it adds texture to soups and sauces and its taste is good enough to be enjoyed as a beverage or on breakfast cereal.
Dairy-free versions of powdered milk include coconut milk powder, soy powdered milk, cashew milk powder, almond dry milk, and more.
To make a dry milk replacement for regular milk follow the instructions on the box. Use dry milk at a 1:1 ratio.
Water can sometimes be used in place of milk especially in recipes that milk is not the key ingredient. In baking recipes that only call for a couple of tablespoons of milk, you can easily use the same amount of water instead.
If your recipe requires more milk, try mixing a tablespoon of butter with 1 cup of water for each cup of water the recipe calls for. It will make your baked goods more moist, fluffy, and flavorful.
Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
Because almond milk contains a lot more calcium than cow milk, zero lactose, zero cholesterol, and no sugar, it’s of no surprise that this nut milk is the most popular plant-based milk in the States.
It is often a classic choice for those who are lactose intolerant or avoid dairy products. However, it’s not a good alternative for kids under the age of 2 or as a substitute for breast milk because it is low in protein.
Almond milk is creamy with a slightly nutty sweet taste. It can be used in place of dairy milk in salad dressings, soups, sauces, and baked foods. Try it in dairy-free ice cream, bread puddings, and vegan smoothies, or simply add it to your cereal, coffee, or tea.
Swap milk with almond milk in equal quantities and avoid the sweetened version of almond milk because it will considerably change the taste of your recipe.
Baked goods made with almond milk may bake a bit faster because almond milk contains more water than dairy. So, keep a close eye on your baking time if you don’t want them to end up dry.
Soy milk has the highest protein content of all dairy-free alternate milks, so it is the best option in baking confections that require a lot of structure such as breads and cakes. The high content of protein also causes baked goods to brown nicely, which is a plus especially if you are making unfrosted desserts.
Soy milk has a mild flavor that can’t be easily detected when baking but some people find it a bit ashy. It can be used at 1:1 in place of raw milk.
In terms of health benefits, it is lower in fat than cow milk and is cholesterol-free. It has less calcium and vitamins D and B12 than the latter. However, there are calcium-fortified soy milk options available on the market which are good sources of calcium and they are often fortified with other nutrients as well.
Canned coconut milk has a high fat and calorie content, so it should be consumed in moderation. On the other hand, its high levels of fat make it the only dairy-free substitute that can be whipped, similarly to whipped cream.
Due to the coconut flavor, it’s not the ideal milk substitution for all dishes but it is an acceptable choice as long as you are sure that it won’t throw off the flavor of the final product. When it comes to using it in Indian curries and other popular Asian recipes though, coconut is the king as it’s considered a key ingredient.
And it is great for sweet fillings for coconut cakes and pastries as well. Coconut milk muffins are more greasy and dense than muffins made with dairy milk as coconut milk contains more fat.
1:1 is the ratio of milk replacement. If your recipe requires whole milk, use full-fat coconut milk whereas if it calls for low-fat milk, you can use a lighter version.
Oat milk is a nut-free alternative making it ideal for people who have a nut allergy and can’t consume soy or almond milk. It’s also a popular choice among vegans, lactose intolerant and people who don’t eat dairy.
Many people choose to consume oat milk due to its similarity to cow’s milk in terms of viscosity and flavor. Its rich texture makes it easy to blend and it also froths, so it great for your coffee.
Besides, it works well in cooking and it’s ideal for baking - oat milk muffins are the closest option to dairy milk muffins.
Similarly to almond milk, cashew milk contains only 1 gram of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 1 gram of carbohydrates per cup. Its thick creamy consistency, which resembles cow’s milk, makes it a super versatile non-dairy milk. Plus, it has a subtle sweet taste.
It’s a good choice for adding to coffee, drinking, making smoothies, or pouring on cereal. It can be used in baking and cooking, in both savory and sweet dishes, same as we use cashews in many recipes. Muffins made with cashew milk are very similar in texture to dairy milk muffins.
Hemp milk is a good source of nutrients with one cup covering the daily body needs of omega-3 fats. It is also higher in protein -except for soy milk- than other dairy-free milks, so it’s a great alternative for baking.
When it is combined with an acidic ingredient, like vinegar or lemon, hemp milk’s protein helps the batter or dough rise. It adds tenderness and moisture to your baked goods and is the absolute winner for making pancakes.
Hemp seed milk is creamy and tastes nutty and a little sweet, similar to almond milk.
Rice milk is low in fat and lactose-free. It has very little calcium and protein but is higher in carbohydrates. Thus, it may not be a suitable choice for diabetics.
It is thinner in consistency than other plant-based milks and will work better in light sauces and soups than in baking. Its naturally sweet taste may not be ideal for savory recipes but it’s good for desserts and adding to coffee or cereal. Plus, it works great for turning oatmeal into a deliciously creamy porridge.
Other Dairy-Free Substitutes
- Macadamia milk
- Pea milk
- Flaxseed milk