Milk Substitutes

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If you can’t get to the store for milk, or you need a dairy-free, lactose-free or vegan alternative to use when you’re baking or cooking, these milk substitutes will help you keep your recipe on track.

Dairy Substitutes for Milk

Evaporated Milk

Have a can of evaporated milk in your pantry? It’s nothing more than milk with some of the water removed, so if you add the water back, you’ll have the perfect milk substitute. Just create a 50/50 blend of evaporated milk and water, and use it in place of the milk in your recipe. Easy!

Sweetened Condensed Milk

If you’re making a dessert, a 50/50 blend of sweetened condensed milk and water is another possibility. Just keep in mind: sweetened condensed milk is 40-45% sugar, so even after you dilute it with water, you’ll still need to eliminate some of the other sugar in your recipe to account for the added sweetness.

Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt

Use sour cream or plain yogurt as a 1:1 replacement for milk in cakes and other baked goods. It’ll add a bit of moisture and fat to the batter, and activate the baking soda or baking powder, just like milk would. Sour cream and plain yogurt also work well in savory dishes, like mac and cheese. They’ll contribute a creamy texture and a bit of tang.

If you’re making something sweet, vanilla yogurt will work, too, as long as you’re okay with adding a hint of vanilla to the finished dish.

Only have Greek yogurt? Thin it to the consistency of plain yogurt, by combining 2/3 cup Greek yogurt and 1/3 cup water.

Half and Half

Turn half and half into a milk substitute by mixing it with an equal amount of water. This will bring the fat content in line with milk (or very close to it). If you aren’t worried about the extra fat, half and half can also be used as a 1:1 replacement for milk.

Heavy Cream

Have a carton of heavy cream in the fridge? For every cup of milk called for, combine 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 3/4 cup water. This will thin the heavy cream to the right consistency, and bring the fat content closer to that of milk. Not watching fat? Then, it’s fine to use heavy cream as a 1:1 replacement.

Powdered Milk

Since powdered milk is just milk with most of the moisture removed, it’s an excellent stand in for milk in baked and cooked dishes. Just reconstitute it following the instructions on the package.


While not ideal, water can be used as a substitute for milk in some recipes. Cakes made with water won’t be as moist or dense, but they’ll still taste delicious. For the best results, add a tablespoon of melted butter for each cup of milk that’s called for. This will put back some of the fat and flavor that the water is lacking. Macaroni and cheese can also be made with water, instead of milk, but the sauce will be thinner and less flavorful. Consider doubling the butter called for to compensate for these issues.

Dairy-Free Milk Substitutes

If you’re allergic to milk, lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply don’t have any of the dairy substitutes mentioned above, these dairy-free milk substitutes will also give you good results. Replace them measure for measure. Here’s how to pick the best one for the job.

Almond Milk

This milk has a distinct sweet and nutty flavor, so it works best in sweet dishes.

Soy Milk

You can use soy milk in sweet or savory dishes, with good results; but it’s best to stick to unflavored varieties, when making savory foods. Soy milk is an excellent choice for sauces and casseroles because it can take the heat. It’s also an excellent choice in baked goods that call for lemon juice or vinegar. These need a high-protein milk, like soy to rise properly.

Rice Milk

This milk is the best flavor match for cow’s milk, but it’s noticeably thinner, so it doesn’t work very well in creamy sauces and casseroles.

Oat Milk or Hemp Milk

These are also good high-protein options to use in baked goods that call for lemon juice or vinegar. They’ll ensure the dough or batter rises like it should.

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Milk Substitutes

Here are a bunch of milk substitutes that you can use when you’re baking or cooking. Includes dairy-free, lactose-free and vegan options.

  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: Varies


  • Evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, plain yogurt, half and half, heavy cream, powdered milk, water, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or hemp milk


Dairy Milk Substitutes:

  • Evaporated Milk: Mix 50/50 with water.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk: Mix 50/50 with water. Use as a replacement for milk in desserts. Cut the sugar in your recipe to compensate for the added sugar (sweetened condensed milk is 40-45% sugar).
  • Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt: Replace measure for measure. This works in baked goods and savory recipes. Vanilla yogurt can also be used in desserts. To use Greek yogurt, combine 2/3 cup Greek yogurt with 1/3 cup water.
  • Half and Half: Combine equal parts water and half and half. Full strength half and half can be used, if you don’t mind the added fat.
  • Heavy Cream: To replace one cup, combine 1/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup water, Straight heavy cream is an option, if you aren’t concerned with the extra fat.
  • Powdered Milk: Reconstitute following the manufacturer’s instructions, and replace measure for measure.
  • Water: Use as a 1:1 replacement in cakes and other desserts. Consider adding one tablespoon of melted better for every cup of milk that’s called for. To make mac and cheese, replace the milk with water, and double the butter called for.

Dairy-Free Milk Substitutes 

Replace measure for measure with one of the following:

  • Almond Milk: Use in desserts and other sweet foods.
  • Soy Milk: Use in sweet or savory dishes, but stick to unflavored in savory recipes. Excellent choice for sauces and casseroles. Also excellent for baked goods that contain lemon juice or vinegar, as these require a high-protein milk to rise properly.
  • Rice Milk: This tastes the most like milk, but it’s pretty thin, so it doesn’t work well in creamy sauces and dishes.
  • Oat Milk or Hemp Milk: These high-protein milks are also solid options in baked goods that rely on protein and an acid — like lemon juice or vinegar — to rise.


Nutrition facts are based on using evaporated milk as a milk substitute

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