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The 14 Best Substitutes for Milk In Pudding

I have a friend who has been cooking around severe family food allergies for more than 50 years (as well as her commissioned cakes and desserts for the local town). I called her for input on working around milk. She laughed and started quickly rattling off more than a dozen tried-and-true ways specifically for pudding. Here they are:

1. Coconut Milk


Coconut milk is a great option, and it is one of the thickest, creamiest milk substitutes for pudding. In addition, it lends itself well to flavor enhancers: Chocolate adds its distinctive richness, tapioca pearls introduce their unique texture, and banana acts as both a thickener and well-liked flavor addition.

When replacing, use a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute.

2. Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is the creamiest nut milk to use for pudding, with a natural, light sweetness and a very subtle nut flavor that won’t overwhelm your pudding or any other creative flavor additions that you might like to try adding to the dessert. It also happens to be packed with healthy vitamins and minerals.

When replacing, use a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute.

3. Almond Milk


While cashew milk is the creamiest nut milk, almond milk is most certainly the easiest to find at the store. Consider choosing a brand fortified with calcium if you do not have other non-milk sources of calcium in your diet. It works very well as a milk substitute and tastes lovely. It adds a nice, thick texture, and its distinctive nut flavor is especially successful when creating chocolate and vanilla puddings. It is less effective when combined with fruit but amazing with maple syrup.

When replacing, use a little less almond milk than whatever amount of milk the directions call for.

4. Macadamia Nut Milk

Because the macadamia nut is high in antioxidants, it is a healthy and delicious substitute to add to your pudding. It can gently hold its own and work well with or without other flavors added to the pudding.

When replacing, use a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute.

5. Soy Milk

This is one of the most common milk-replacement options since soy milk is affordable and almost effortless to find, with a very slight taste profile shift from regular whole milk. Just be careful to select unsweetened soy milk- unless your goal is to make a sugar-overload pudding.

When replacing, use a little less than the 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute.

6. Oat Milk

Oat milk is a little harder to find, but it’s worth the search because it has the ideal consistency, along with the thickness and rich flavor. It can be an equally smashing success with traditional flavors (vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch) or unusual additions (lime, wasabi, ginger beer).

When replacing, use a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute.

7. Rice Milk

If food sensitivities/allergies are the problem, rice milk is a solid option because rice is so well-tolerated and versatile. It also offers a refreshing alternative to coconut or nutty flavors in your dairy-free treats. In fact, of all the milk alternatives provided in this list, rice milk is likely the nearest flavor match to cow’s milk. But be sure to be armed with your preferred thickening agent. Rice milk is much thinner than cow’s milk. If nothing else, just add in a small pat of melted butter or your favorite non-dairy thickener.

Once thickened a bit, replace at a 1:1 ratio.

8. Avocado


Avocado is fabulous with its hearty consistency and creamy flavor. It also infuses any dish with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, not to mention numerous vitamins and minerals such as B-6, folate, and magnesium. This is the most popular substitution option among many “moms of kids with allergies” groups.

The only real drawback with it is that the green color is a little weird. But having said that, green pudding could be the perfect choice for Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day – possibly even for Christmas if you serve it in a bright red bowl.

Another frequent solution is pairing it with a strong dark chocolate (preferably at least 70% cacao) whose brown hue can hide the green while tasting divine. Half the amount of milk the recipe calls for, and that’s how much avocado you should probably use (blended and melted a bit too, of course.) It is also best to add a little bit of one of the other milk substitutes in as well, for both texture and taste.

9. Hemp Milk

Its buttery, nutty flavor, highly beneficial protein levels, and naturally occurring nutrition-boosting benefits (iron, healthy fats, calcium, etc.) make hemp milk a good choice for making pudding.

When replacing, use a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute.

10. Chia Seeds


This is a kind of magic ingredient, adding thickness to the texture and many health benefits to the pudding. It does need one of the other milk substitutes (or regular cow’s milk, if you’re so inclined) and probably a flavor or sweetener of your choice since chia can be very bland on its own. Whisk to combine the milk of choice with the chia seeds, then refrigerate for at least two hours, but overnight is best. Then it will be ready to transform your pudding into something special to serve.

11. Squash or Pumpkin Puree

Squash or Pumpkin-Puree

Not only will squash puree add flavor, a rich thickness, and moisture to your pudding, but its deep orange color will make an attractive dessert, especially in the fall and winter.

When replacing, use less than a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute since squash is a bit thicker than milk.

12. Water


You can use water instead of milk for any type of pudding. However, this will significantly change your pudding results (in fact, some people claim it is impossible to substitute water- but there are some tricks you can use to help you). Have a solid thickener on hand. The best are cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or flour, any of which can be combined with any recipe’s sugar to thicken a pudding. The three choices will all do the job, although their results will be slightly different.

  • Cornstarch leaves a slightly noticeable taste in the pudding and is a little cloudy in appearance.
  • On the other hand, arrowroot powder does not change the taste at all, and it remains clear when added to a pudding or any dish.
  • If you use flour, quick mixing or instant flour is best unless you have time to wait for at least 20 minutes for your mixture to thicken completely.

Whichever thickener you opt for, remember to mix it into the water before adding it to the pudding (that way, your pudding won’t be lumpy and clumpy).

If you are using only water, it is recommended that you use a 3:4 water-to-milk ratio when measuring out your milk substitution. And remember, if you do so, the total pudding yield will also be less than if you were using more liquid.

13. Egg Yolks


Technically, yes, you can use beaten egg yolks instead of milk. However, this would not make it dairy-free (if that is what you are going for), and it would also necessitate a bit more work. Usually, egg yolks need to be cooked and stirred in carefully to thicken a pudding.

Additionally, eggs are a crucial ingredient in custards, so this thickening ingredient will produce a more custard-style pudding (though still absolutely delicious as long as you are okay with that).

Related How To Fix Runny Meringue (And Prevent It).

14. Alcohol


As long as everyone is 21 and above and no one minds a little “punch” in their pudding, you can throw in a little liquor as the pudding liquid of choice. Amaretto works best, but again, anything you like or already have around might work well too.

Mix a small shot-sized amount with water and use that combination in a 1:1 ratio with the milk amount you would like to substitute. More than that will overwhelm the taste of the pudding.

Honorable Mentions:

Nut Milks

Hazelnut milk, walnut milk, peanut milk, and pistachio milk did not make the ultimate list; however, they were strong contenders.

They may be much harder to find at the store, but they’re also straightforward to make at home if you wish. In fact, most of the above suggestions can be made by hand if you’re not able to procure them quickly from your nearby grocery store. And sometimes, that extra personalized step can make the resulting dessert even more magical and delicious.

But if you’re going for easy, don’t feel like you have to go that extra mile. Pudding is, at its most basic, a three-ingredient dish that can be awesome in its most simple iterations.

Quinoa Milk

Quinoa Milk is also a frequently suggested option, but it’s much better for cereals, oatmeals, and certain baked goods than it is for pudding. Of course, quinoa does provide protein, fiber, essential amino acids, iron, magnesium, and zinc. So if that is what you’re looking for, give it a try.

However, be aware that milk made from quinoa has less overall nutrition value than whole quinoas do (and consequently, quinoa milk tends to be highly thickened, flavored, and sweetened to make it more palatable- so it may make the health benefits negligible). So take a close look at the ingredients list on these types of milk.

Pea and Flax Milk

Pea milk and flax milk have good things to recommend them, too, such as being pretty environmentally friendly to produce (but check out any brands you’re interested in to be sure).

Pea protein also provides a lot of calcium (more than cow’s milk!), but it can have a strange aftertaste that probably wouldn’t pair well with pudding. And while flax milk could be suitable for those with lactose, soy, or nut allergies, it also doesn’t have a lot of additional nutritional value, and its taste is sub-par.

But those options are there if you are going to make an unusual pudding anyway and are unafraid to add bold flavor to these milk replacements.

How Do You Make Pudding Dairy-Free?

You can swap out cow’s milk with nut milk, plant-based milk, soy milk, coconut milk, squash, avocado, alcohol, or even plain water. Any milk substitute you like can be an acceptable alternative in any pudding. However, without the fat and protein of cow’s milk, you might need additional ingredients to ensure the pudding thickens nicely and has the consistency, taste, and health benefits you desire.

Luckily, pudding is one of the simplest foods to make without dairy while ensuring that it’s still brimming with smooth deliciousness. Every option listed below offers different flavor profiles and texture possibilities (as well as other aspects worth considering, depending on your reasons for substituting the milk), regardless of whether you’re making instant pudding or pudding from scratch.

And however you choose to make it, remember that even the most simple pudding can become attention-getting when served in a special dessert dish or layered in a parfait dish with crushed cookies or milk-free whipped cream, or even fruit. Presentation influences taste too.

Can You Make Pudding With Less Milk?

If you are running low on milk, you can always mix in some water and a little extra thickener to make up the difference (see #12 for more details). Or you can simply use less milk and just be aware that it will produce a smaller amount of pudding. Or perhaps you like your pudding a little thinner? That’s cool too. Add in the extra water to thin it out, and don’t worry about adding a thickener – you’ll get more pudding and have it just the way you like it.

As long as going dairy-free is not the issue for you, feel free to get creative in mixing and matching your cow’s milk with the suggestions below- you just might create your new favorite pudding!

How Do You Thicken Pudding That Didn’t Set?

If you tried one of these milk substitutes and the pudding texture did not come out just right, remember that you can always throw in more of your instant pudding mix (even a partial one, then save the rest in an airtight container for next time). More instant pudding mix is by far the simplest and quickest way to thicken pudding, especially if you do not like other thickeners or have any on hand.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The 32 Best Milk Substitutes for Recipes (Dairy & Non-Dairy).