The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dairy substitutes

mmmyummy's picture

Dairy substitutes

Dear bakers,


So many  of the wonderful bread recipes we use call for milk, buttermilk, butter, etc.   Have you found any good substitutes for any of these ingredients?  Specifically, would soymilk be a good substitute for milk or would some other food be a substitute for sour cream, for example?  Could cocounut or rice milk be used?  Any suggestions for butter substitute?  This all concerns those of our "customers" (aka family guinea pigs) who are allergic to dairy).

Please advise

EvaB's picture

but as a semi lactose intolerant, I just use the regular whole milk, or powdered milk anyway. I don't find the small amount in a slice of bread that damaging to me, but will never ever use soymilk in anything, or soy anything!

Have read too much on what the soy does and from personal experience don't like it, its worse than the milk to my tummy!

The reason milk is used is to add butter fat to the bread, along with other things, and this makes the bread softer.

If you want to make bread without dairy, then make French or sour dough without any fat, just bread, flour, water and yeast! we ate that every day, as my mother never added milk to her bread, having two kids who didn't like milk, my brother was raised on goats milk, and she always wished she could have had goats when I was little, and I certainly like goats milk over cows, but both are much better fresh from the animal and unpasturized.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I use soy milk all the time without a problem in all my baking. Have never noticed a difference. I even make cream soups with soy milk and they are very good.I'm allergic to milk. I also use coconut oil instead of butter most of the time. Not a vegan but just find I like the taste of the coconut oil and it has some interesting health benefits, surprisingly. I do bake for vegans when we have potlucks during fox hunting season, believe it or not our hunt master is a vegan! No, we don't kill anything and we are very humane. We have a beagle group and chase jack rabbits but never hurt them.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

when I can't use milk, grow some with your favorite fruit.   Coconut milk is also an option, also comes in powder.   Great for sauces!

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

If a person is lactose intolerant they will still be able to handle small amounts of milk, especially higher fat components such as butter or cream. They will be most effected by uncooked skim milk. They will suffer from flatulence and bloating if over imbibing. A person with a true milk allergy needs to stay away from milk entirely as this is more serious, just like a peanut or bee sting allergy. They could suffer from rash or possibly anaphylactic shock. There is another type of allergy to the milk protein, an IGG allergy, which I have. It causes migraines and an "unwell" feeling. It seems to be caused by only one component of the milk. I'm still able to eat hard cheeses and butter but not ricotta, cream cheese, yogurt, etc. This is more confusing but is again an allergy, not a lack of an enzyme, so is an immune problem, not a digestive upset. When cooking for others, if you know somebody is allegic to milk it's important that you make the product truly dairy free, just as you wouldn't use peanut oil in something you are cooking for someone allergic to peanuts. You will find the soy milk, coconut oil to give very satisfactory results in most baking as substitutions. Perhaps something very finicky might not be perfect but i've yet to find anything that didn't turn out well. I haven't tried croissants but I'm sure you could find a work-around, even for something that challenge. Perhaps lard? I do stay away from shortening. Just don't like something that processed in the house. Would rather use lard if I need something with that type of characteristic, say pie crust, for example.

sadears's picture

Doc...interesting...I have that 'unwell' feeling. I have chronic fatigue and attribute some of this feeling to milk products. I, too, can eat hard cheses, etc., but not ricotta and yogurt. Though, two allergists insisted I am not 'allergic' to milk. I'm going to try soy in my bread and see how that works.

Just thought I'd share.


Marni's picture

Rice milk, soy milk, they both work just fine in breads .  I avoid soy milk as I'm concerned about the estrogen reaction with soy.  The rice milk is "lighter", it doesn't have the richer mouth feel that soy has, but I use it for bread and soups, even puddings.  I think that if I don't expect it to exactly duplicate milk, but end up with a very tasty result, I'm  happy.  It is deilcious but not exactly the same thing.

I just can't find a suitable substitute for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie!

As for butter, I sub Earth's best margerine (probably still not a great choice health-wise) and canola oil and applesauce where that will work.


mmmyummy's picture

Thank you everybody for your considered and wonderful recommendations.  Now, off to get rice milk, coconut milk, coconut oil, etc to try all of them and see what works.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season,   MMMYummy

jedwards's picture

Glad this topic has already been covered!  I'm about to try using soymilk in Lesson 2, hopefully it will turn out well!

zorgclyde's picture

Depends on what you're making...I find soymilk weighs down the texture of certain goods like muffins and quickbreads, and gives a very pronounced soy taste (to be frank even though I enjoy drinking soy milk I don't find it a very good substitute in baking overall, too much of a distinctive taste) I've used almond milk in sweeter goods with reasonable outcome.

I will try rice milk next. Other suggestions I've heard but not yet tried: oat and hemp milk.

Let us know which ones you try, and how it turned out!


intheend's picture

I use So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk for all my baking/cooking needs. It's the only milk that doesn't leave an aftertaste. I tried unsweetened almond milk but I still felt like some of that natural sweetness came through.


Hope that helps!

bakedmac's picture

I've used coconut milk in place of whole milk in my regular Pain de Mie recipe (Soft Sandwich Bread) and the results were superb!  At first I thought maybe I should lessen the additional fat called for in the recipe because coconut milk has about 24% fat content and cow's milk roughly 3% but I just went ahead kept the proportions as is, replacing the whole milk with coconut milk 1:1.  The resulting bread was tender with a very fragrant aroma from the coconut milk.  Yum...

I've used grapeseed oil in place of butter and have not noticed any negative effects in enriched breads.  It's neutral in flavor so it really doesn't impart anything extra flavor-wise but I see no big difference in texture in the final product.  I have not attempted oil in laminated doughs or very rich breads like brioche though.

DenseLoaf's picture

I see that this thread is old, but I am glad to have found it.  I use coconut milk in my pancakes, but I wasn't sure about using it in bread recipes.  This information opens up so many more recipes for me! I want to warn you that many of us who are allergic to dairy are also allergic to soy - the proteins are similar according to what I've read.  I don't understand how, as one is a plant and one is from an animal, but I know they both make me feel terrible.


EvaB's picture

I see someone else is allergic to the ever present soy! I am glad to have some sort of explanation, but I also think its a semi genetic thing, as we have native American in the tree, and they certainly didn't milk cows or soy beans! I find that if I stick to my childhood diet I do better with my diabetes, even though that contains biscuits, but considering I ate very little in the way of bread and cereal grains if I could help it, and ate heavily on protien and raw fruit and veggies, it does make a bit of sense.

I just know what works for me or doesn't and eat accodingly. OF course I fall off the wagon, and do get some of those processed things and everytime I read the lables, I almost always see soy protien, or milk solids or both! And I always feel terrible after eating them. But for some reason I still do it!

Graid's picture

Good suggestions here.

I used coconut milk in rolls I made yesterday and I have to say while it made the rolls very soft I am not fond of the taste at all. I did feel that it had a slight coconut flavour, but not in a pleasant way. Sort of greasy coconuty aftertaste.

However, I also used coconut milk instead of yoghurt in a naan bread recipe and it worked perfectly, so I wouldn't say I'm against coconut milk in bread in general. Just that I think you should probably not make a bread with nearly ALL the liquid as coconut milk.

Soya milk doesn't flavour things much, but if using, keep in mind it is not quite as fatty as whole milk.

Soya cream can also be used as a cream substitute and I have found it usually works well.

Vegan margarine works perfectly well as a butter substitute- the sunflower oil kind is a bit better than the soya kind.

I have actually made good challah before without any dairy products, using vegan egg replacer and vegan margarine.

Soya yoghurt also makes a good substitute for regular yoghurt, and is probably as close as you can get to buttermilk. Avoid the sweet kind though.

The only way I've found to get a shiny crusy using vegan products is using a glaze of soya cream.




xanthia's picture

I bake almost exclusively vegan. I use unsweetened almond milk, margarine, tofutti cream cheese and such in my baking regularly.  If you need a substitution I probably have a handful for different circumstances. 

patb's picture

I can't use dairy or soy milk but find that Oat, Hemp and Rice Milk all work well for baking. I have been making my own oat milk by soaking 1 cup quick or regular oats in 6 1/2 cups water overnight in the fridge, covered by a tea towel. The next day blend with immersion blender and strain. I freeze leftover oat milk in ice cube trays, later put cubes into plastic freezer bag.