Don't Got Milk? How to Substitute Milk in Recipes

Substituting milk in recipes is necessary from time to time for every baker. Whether it’s because you ran out of milk or are avoiding it for dietary reasons, it’s helpful to know about milk substitute baking alternatives.

Pouring Milk in a Sauce Pan

Here, we’ll talk about some ways to substitute milk in recipes.

From dairy swaps to non-dairy substitutions, the solutions will allow you to finish the baking job without sacrificing quality or flavor.

Evaporated milk

Other dairy substitutes for milk

Out of milk but don’t need to avoid dairy? The best way to ensure similar results in flavor and texture is to use another dairy product in its place. Here are some different ways to swap it out: 


If you have cream, you can usually substitute it in recipes with minimal change. You can dilute the cream with water (I like to use about 60 percent cream and 40 percent water) so that it doesn’t make batters and doughs too heavy. Watch out for cream that contains stabilizers, as they may affect the finished texture of your baked items.

Evaporated milk

Evaporated milk is shelf-stable milk that has been reduced so that it contains less water. As such, it’s an easy substitute for milk in recipes. Simply use a 50-50 mix of evaporated milk and water to substitute the milk called for in the recipe. This substitute can be used in just about any recipe. 

Try our recipe for homemade evaporated milk

Half and half 

Half and half can be substituted for milk in recipes. Personally, I just swap it out rather than diluting the half and half with water, and have usually found that the results are comparable. Like with cream, watch out for half and half that contains stabilizers, as they may affect the finished texture of your baked items. 

Sour cream or yogurt 

In many recipes, sour cream or unsweetened (plain) yogurt can be used as a substitute for milk. Since both of these substances are thicker than milk, it can affect the density of your finished goodies. You might want to thin the yogurt or sour cream with some water for a more liquid consistency.

Do keep in mind that both sour cream and yogurt will impart a different flavor on your baked goods. The acid in sour cream or yogurt can affect how your baked goods rise, but I have personally found that it isn’t to a huge degree. 

Try your hand at our easy homemade sour cream recipe!

Powdered milk

Powdered milk is intended to be a milk substitute. Simply combine the powder with water according to the package instructions, and complete the recipe as usual. 

Water with melted butter 

In some cases, water or water mixed with a little melted butter can be used as a milk substitute. Keep in mind that substituting water for milk should only be done in a pinch, as it’s probably the most likely of these substitutes to affect the texture of your finished goodies. 

Water will usually work fine in recipes that call for a small amount of milk (a few tablespoons at most) to keep the mixture from becoming too crumbly — this is typically the case with some pie crusts or cookies.

With recipes that contain more than a few tablespoons of milk, add a tablespoon of melted butter per cup of water to help replicate the fat and protein in milk.

Almond milk

Photo via Bluprint blog 

Non-dairy milk substitutes

Avoiding dairy for dietary or ethical reasons, or both? Consider some of these alternatives. 

Nut milks

These days, it’s easy to find a variety of nut milks on grocery store shelves, including almond milk, cashew milk, macadamia milk and more. They can be substituted in equal quantities for the milk in most recipes.

It’s worth noting that the nut milk may impart a distinct flavor on your finished baked goods, so choose flavors that will be harmonious. Be sure to look for a nut milk without added sugar, as that could throw off the recipe.

Soy milk 

Soy milk can be substituted in equal quantities for milk in recipes with practically identical results. Like with nut milk, be sure to look for soy milk that doesn’t contain added sugar. 

Oat milk

Oat milk 

Oat milk can be substituted for milk, but my personal experience has taught me that it works best in small amounts. For instance, if making a cookie dough or crust that requires a small amount of milk to become cohesive, oat milk is a great choice. However, because of the starchiness of oat milk, I have found that using more than ½ cup or so can affect the texture of finished baked goods. 

Try our recipe for DIY oat milk

Rice milk 

Rice milk can be substituted in equal quantities for he milk called for in recipes with similar results. It may impart a flavor, so be sure to choose recipes that are harmonious with the flavor of rice milk. Once again, stay away from sweetened varieties, as they can affect your final outcome. 

Non-dairy yogurt 

Like dairy yogurt, unsweetened (plain) non-dairy yogurt can be used as a milk substitute. You might want to thin the yogurt with some water for a more liquid consistency. Do keep in mind that your non-dairy yogurt will impart a different flavor on your baked goods. 

Water and non-dairy butter substitute 

Refer to the “water and melted butter” entry above; the same can be done in small quantities with water and melted non-dairy butter substitute. 

Want to learn more baking basics?

Check out these guides to common baking ingredients. You might be surprised at what you learn!

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