There are many different types of bread, but this article deals mainly with substitutes for milk in making quick breads like biscuits and cornbread, and basic yeast breads. So, what if you are in the mood to make bread and there is no milk in the house, or maybe there is a little bit left in the refrigerator that has gone sour? What do you do?
The best substitutes for milk in breads are dairy options, including buttermilk, cream, half and half, evaporated milk, goat milk, Lactaid, sour milk, yogurt, and reconstituted powdered milk. Non-dairy options include almond or other nut milks, coconut milk, oat milk, rice milk, and soymilk. Options that are not normally considered to be milk substitutes are fruit juice, vegetable juice, beer, coffee, and water.
We will discuss in the following paragraphs each of these options as substitutes for milk in bread.
Best Dairy Substitutes For Milk In Bread
Using buttermilk results in tender breads, but it is most often mixed in equal parts with milk or some other type of liquid because it is so thick that the texture of the baked goods when using buttermilk alone will be more moist and heavy.
But, when mixed with another type of liquid, buttermilk which is acidic will make your bread more tender, rise higher, and have a lighter texture.
If using buttermilk instead of milk in making cornbread or biscuits, reduce the amount of baking powder by 2 teaspoons and add ½ teaspoon more baking soda than called for in the recipe for every cup of buttermilk used.
Pro Tip: A substitute for buttermilk to be used in baking can be made by adding 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of cow’s milk.
Cool Tip: A Vegan version of buttermilk can be made by adding either 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of soy milk.
A mixture of 50% Buttermilk + 50% Other Liquid can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
2. Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is a milk substitute that many people keep on hand at all times because it is so good for long-term storage. So, if this is the only milk substitute you have when making bread, evaporated milk can be reconstituted by combining 1 can of evaporated milk and 1 can of water and then substituting that mixture for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
When reconstituted, evaporated milk is very close in texture to whole milk and can be used in just about any recipe you are making. The taste of reconstituted evaporated milk might be obvious when used as a beverage and in certain recipes, but there should be no flavor or texture changes in bread from that made with milk.
Without adding the water back and using evaporated milk straight from the can will result in the flavor potentially being overwhelming, however, used straight from the can, it makes a fantastic coffee creamer.
Pro Tip: To prepare evaporated milk for use in muffins, pancakes, biscuits, cornbread, or yeast bread, you will need to mix equal parts evaporated milk and water. Expect evaporated milk to produce a pancake, cornbread, biscuit, or loaf of bread that is slightly heavier, although it will not be as heavy as if you used heavy cream.
3. Half & Half
If you have half & half on hand as a milk substitute for making bread, it can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
Half-and-half, the combination of equal parts whole milk and cream, contains 10-18% fat, which will add a rich flavor and texture to your breads and other baked goods.
For a lower-fat version of your bread, a mixture of 50% Half-and-Half and 50% water can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
4. Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy whipping cream can be substituted for milk in making quick breads and yeast breads, but because of its high fat content (36%), it should be reduced by mixing 50% cream and 50% water to avoid a heavier texture.
The exception is that using heavy whipping cream full strength in stir-and-drop biscuits would create an amazing biscuit you just have to try. Just use the heavy whipping cream instead of mayonnaise and milk in this recipe for a delicious 2 ingredient stir and drop biscuit.3 Ingredient Stir and Drop Mayo Biscuits | Old Fashioned Southern Recipe
Pro Tip: While cream does contain some beneficial nutrients, the primary downside is the 400 calories in each ½ cup of heavy whipping cream. A lower fat content product such as half-and-half or even whole milk is the better, healthier option.
A mixture of 50% Cream and 50% water can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
Lactaid is a lactose-free milk that provides those people who are lactose intolerant a dairy product that their systems can tolerate.
Lactaid is almost the same texture as cow’s milk, but maybe just slightly thinner, and can be substituted for milk in any recipe without significantly affecting or changing the taste or texture of the food, including breads and other baked goods.
Lactaid can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
6. Powdered Milk
Powdered milk is whole milk that has been reduced through evaporation or dehydration so that once it is reconstituted, it has the same nutrients and properties that the original whole milk had and can safely be substituted at a 1:1 ratio in any recipe that calls for milk.
While many people do not like the taste of reconstituted powdered milk for drinking, it works very well as a milk substitute in most breads and cakes and should not significantly affect the taste or texture of your cornbread, biscuits, and other breads.
7. Goat Milk
Goat Milk is very similar in texture and flavor to cow’s milk and should make any breads, cornbread, and biscuits indistinguishable from any baked goods made with cow’s milk.
For those with digestive issues like lactose intolerance, goat milk is known to be much easier to digest than traditional cow’s milk. This is because it has less lactose and alpha-s1-casein protein. If for no other reason, this makes goat milk a great milk alternative for any recipe.
Goat Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
8. Plain or Greek Yogurt
Yogurt can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio in any bread or cake recipe calling for milk. However, using yogurt instead of milk will result in a heavier texture and a slightly tangy taste.
Pro Tip: Plain or Greek Yogurt can be substituted for milk in casseroles, pancakes, biscuits, cornbread, muffins, and other breads, but like sour cream, it will need to be thinned to avoid creating a thicker texture. I would recommend using 75% yogurt and 25% water to counteract the resulting thicker texture.
A mixture of 75% plain or Greek yogurt and 25% water can be substituted for milk at a 1.1 ratio.
9. Sour Milk
Sour milk is milk with a tart taste that has either begun to spoil or has been soured by adding fermentation. Just because milk is beginning to taste a little sour doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe to use. The taste might be a little off-putting for drinking or pouring over cereal, but it would still be good for baking. Avoid using sour milk if it begins to separate and form lumps.
Sour Milk can be substituted for milk in making pancakes, cornbread, biscuits, and other breads and should not significantly change the taste or texture of the breads, even though they may be slightly heavier. As a matter of fact, baked goods made with sour milk are often tastier than when using fresh milk because the tartness of the sour milk gives the biscuits and other breads a more robust flavor.
Sour Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
Best Non-Dairy Substitutes For Milk In Muffins
If you are using a non-dairy milk substitute because you choose to follow a Vegan or other dietary plan that excludes dairy or whether you are substituting for health reasons such as lactose intolerance, there are now many options for you.
Some of the non-dairy substitutes are hard to find and some are quite expensive, but the ones mentioned here are available in most supermarkets and the prices are more reasonable than some of the other less common options:
10. Almond Milk
Almond Milk is one of the non-dairy milk substitutes that is easiest to find and is one of the most popular. Also, of the non-dairy substitutes, almond milk has one of the most neutral flavors, but is also quite a bit thinner than regular milk.
My experience in baking with almond milk is that it has a good flavor and will add a slightly nutty taste to the baked goods which should be a welcome change in some cases. One potential drawback, however, is that muffins, cakes, and breads may be a little drier which can be offset by reducing the baking time by just a few minutes.
Almond Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
11. Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk is one of the thickest and creamiest non-dairy milk substitutes that can be used in many dishes traditionally made with dairy, but will significantly alter the taste.
Coconut Milk can be used as a non-dairy milk substitute for making breads that are Vegan friendly and gluten-free, but whatever you make is sure to have a strong coconut flavor.
Just be sure for the Vegan option to also use non-dairy Vegan butter.
Pro Tip: Coconut water is the liquid found in the center of the coconut, while coconut milk is made from the flesh of the coconut.
The coconut milk to dairy milk replacement ratio is 1:1.
12. Oat Milk
Oat Milk is a plant-based milk that is made from whole oats. It has a creamy texture and a mild oatmeal-like taste that could affect the taste of the recipe.
Oat milk can be used in baking, but it is starchier than cow’s milk, so using more than ½ cup in breads, for example, may affect the texture of whatever you’re baking, making the final product denser than if made with regular milk.
Oat milk is Vegan-friendly, perfect for persons with lactose intolerance, and is soy and nut free.
Oat Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
13. Rice Milk
Rice Milk can be used in almost any dish that calls for milk, including cakes and breads, but it is a little thinner than cow’s milk, so be sure to add some fat, like butter, to make your dish a little moister.
It offers a refreshing alternative to coconut or nutty flavors in your dairy-free foods and is probably the nearest flavor match to cow’s milk.
Rice Milk is one of the most hypoallergenic and provides the lowest amount of fat of all the milk substitutes, and it is cholesterol free.
One major drawback to using rice milk is the high starch content which cannot be used by persons with diabetes.
Rice Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
14. Soy Milk
Soy Milk is a plant-based substitute for dairy that is made from soybeans and filtered water, and is the only dairy substitute with almost the same amount of protein as cow’s milk. This is one of the more common milk-replacement options that is easy to find and is affordable. It is a thicker substance than almond milk because thickeners have been added to make it more similar to cow’s milk and to expand the product’s shelf life.
Soy Milk can replace cow’s milk in most foods, including cakes and breads, but be sure to use unsweetened plain soy milk to avoid a flavor change.
Soy Milk can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
15. Fruit Juice
For an amazing fruit-flavored bread, just add a fruit juice of your choice, to replace the milk in a bread recipe.
Here are some suggestions for fruit-juice flavored breads:
- Apricot, and
Instead of using milk in a bread recipe, try replacing the milk with applesauce to make an absolutely fantastic quick bread that is moist and flavorful. Just be sure to use unsweetened applesauce or the bread might be too sweet.
Replace the milk with applesauce at a 1:1 ratio.
Water can be used instead of milk in making a lot of dishes, including mixes like hamburger helper, puddings, cornbread, and yeast bread. However, a better choice would be to add a little butter to the recipe to replace some of the fat that the milk would have provided.
Water + 1 T of butter/cup of water can be substituted for milk at a 1:1 ratio.
What is the best dairy-free substitute for milk in bread?
Of all the dairy-free options to substitute for milk in making bread, I would have to say soy milk, which has more protein and, therefore, more structure than the rest of the dairy-free substitutes, is the best. And the high-protein nature of soy milk causes cakes and breads to brown as though they were made with cow’s milk.
Water is, however, the best milk substitute for some types of bread. While making biscuits with water would make the biscuits hard, cornbread is a different story. Cornbread made with water is very good, especially the quick “hoe-cake” version of cornbread that is fried instead of baked. Try my version to see what I mean.
Water is also good in some yeast breads. I used to make a basic white bread recipe with only plain flour, yeast, and water that was a “diet” version of my basic recipe that was excellent. Here is that recipe:
Jelly Grandma’s “diet” bread made with water:
¼ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups water
6 to 6&½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- Pour water into a large mixing bowl, then add yeast and stir until completely dissolved.
- Add water.
- Stir in 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, and stir well after each addition.
- Add 1 additional cup of flour and mix well until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Add in the 5th cup and mix well to form a stiff dough.
- Sprinkle about ½ cup flour onto the surface you are working the dough on, cloth, board, or countertop.
- With floured hands, knead the dough by folding the dough toward you, then pushing it firmly away with the heel of your hand.
- Add flour as needed to keep the work surface coated, and knead the dough until it is no longer sticky.
- When it is smooth and satiny, put the dough into a greased bowl and grease the top of the dough.
- Cover the bowl with a cloth and set it in a warm place (approximately 80 degrees) to rise.
- The dough is ready to shape when it has risen to twice its size, which will take about 1&½ hours. The dough is ready when you insert 2 fingers into the dough, and the indentations remain.
- Punch the dough down and squeeze out the air bubbles, shaping it into a smooth ball. Divide the ball into 2 pieces.
- Form 2 loaves by continuing to squeeze the air bubbles out of the dough and shaping them into loaf shapes. Turn them over when the top is smooth, and pinch a seam down the center and ends to seal the dough.
- Put the loaves into greased pans with the seams down, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
- When risen, put into a preheated 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven (350 degrees for a glass pan), and bake until browned and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- When done, remove from the oven and turn out of the pans onto a cloth and allow to cool completely before slicing or wrapping.
I didn’t learn to make yeast bread when I was young, because my parents only made quick breads, mainly cornbread, and biscuits. But, when my sons were young, and I was doing a lot of cooking, I bought a cookbook on making yeast bread with step-by-step photos and taught myself. I wouldn’t say I’m an excellent bread maker by any means, but I can make a loaf that tastes pretty good.
But, whatever your level of expertise with breadmaking, this is a list of the best milk substitutes that can be used in a pinch for making bread.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss The 32 Best Milk Substitutes for Recipes (Dairy & Non-Dairy).
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.