10 Quick and Easy Milk Substitutes for Baking

Don't have milk handy when you're knee-deep in a recipe? Not to worry! We're sharing tried-and-true milk substitutes to help you make the perfect swap.

There’s nothing worse than going down the list of ingredients for a recipe you’re about to make and realizing you’re low on one item. For some ingredients, it may be necessary to scrap the whole idea and try again another day. But if it’s milk you’re low on—or totally out of—you don’t have to throw in the towel.

Luckily, there are multiple options for milk substitutes in a baking recipe, whether your carton is just plain empty or you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative. And the best part is that you already have a few of them on hand.

What Difference Does Using a Milk Substitute Make?

Milk contributes several important things to the final product of a baking recipe. First, milk adds moisture to a recipe, as it works with the dry ingredients involved. It also plays a role in the final texture of your baked good. Another important factor? The fat content found in milk adds flavor to your baked goods.

By using a milk substitute, you can still pull off that delicious recipe, whether you’re baking a cake or muffins, mixing up a loaf of banana bread or making pancakes for breakfast. Some substitutes may make the final product richer because of higher fat content, or even result in a cake or muffins with more moisture than you’re used to. Use these substitutions wisely and you’ll still be able to bake something great

Milk Substitutes for Baking

Half-and-Half

If you have half-and-half on hand, it’s a perfect cup-for-cup substitute. Because half-and-half is made up of 50% whole milk and 50% heavy cream, it will offer close to the same results as milk would, while adding a lovely richness to your baked goods.

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is a great substitute for milk in a baking recipe, but it does need to be diluted slightly. Because heavy cream boasts a fat content of 36% to 40%, using a half cup of heavy cream mixed with a half cup of water will be your best bet for replacing one cup of milk. It will add a luscious creaminess to your recipe, without altering the final texture too much.

Almond Milk

Almond milk can work as a cup-for-cup substitute in a baking recipe, but it will change the texture. Because almond milk is a dairy-free milk alternative, the fat content is lower, making it far less rich. At the same time, it can slightly alter the flavor of what you’re baking due to the taste.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is another non-dairy milk substitute, and it can be utilized with a cup for cup swap. Soy milk tends to have a bit thicker structure than other dairy-free milk alternatives, so the final baked good’s texture will be similar. Soy milk’s flavor is a bit more neutral than other dairy-free milks as well, so it won’t influence the flavor of your final bake.

Other Nondairy Milks

Oat milk and coconut milk, both found in cartons at your grocery store, can serve as two other great dairy-free options when substituting for milk. Replace milk with a cup for cup swap. The lovely, thick texture and mouthfeel of oat milk or coconut milk will help to round out your baked goods. Just be sure to keep in mind that they can impart a slight change in flavor to the finished product.

Learn more about how to adjust a baking recipe to be dairy-free.

Evaporated Milk

The beauty of evaporated milk is its convenience, and it’s easy to tuck it away in your cupboard for when you’re in a pinch. To substitute evaporated milk for regular milk, you need to add liquid back into it because much of the moisture is removed during the canning process. For every cup of milk in your recipe, use a half cup of evaporated milk mixed with a half cup of water.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a great option as a milk substitute, especially because of its ability to add moisture and enhance the texture of baked goods. Use an even cup for cup substitution, but be sure to consider the type of yogurt you’re using. Greek yogurt is much thicker and higher in fat content, so a traditional, plain yogurt will be your best bet.

In general, steer clear of flavored yogurts. You want your other ingredients to shine, not your milk substitute.

Sour Cream

Just as yogurt adds incredible moisture and texture, sour cream might be even better. Sour cream is more neutral than yogurt, without the same tanginess. Swap sour cream for milk using a cup for cup measurement, and enjoy the incredible creaminess it adds to baked goods.

Canned Coconut Milk

If you’ve tucked away a few cans of coconut milk in your cupboards, now is the time to use one. Canned coconut milk makes a wonderful cup for cup substitute for milk in a recipe, imparting great texture for a rich final product, along with a hint of coconut flavor.

Water

In a pinch, you can get away with subbing in water for milk, especially if a recipe only calls for a small amount (think a quarter cup or less). To make up for the lack of richness, add in a tablespoon of butter for every cup of water you’re adding.

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Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a previous bakery owner and former event planner. Now, a freelance writer and editor focused on food and beverage, lifestyle, travel and parties, she brings her years of experience and industry knowledge to readers across a variety of platforms.