Which Milk Substitute Is Right for Your Recipe? 12 Swaps and How to Use Them

It’s creamy, dreamy and downright mandatory for dipping chocolate sandwich cookies. It’s a key player in everything from one-pot chicken alfredo to overnight oats. Yep, milk is a cooking and baking essential—so what the heck are you supposed to do when it’s the one ingredient not in your fridge?

Not to worry, friend: Whether you’re a day (or three) behind on your weekly grocery shopping, or you’re lactose intolerant and looking to swap in something dairy free, there’s a whole world of milk alternatives that you probably have in your fridge or pantry already. When you need a milk substitute, try any of these 12 swaps in your baking and cooking at home.

12 Milk Substitutes to Try

1. Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is a good substitute for milk, but because it has a much higher fat content, you’ll want to dilute it first. To use it in a recipe, replace the amount of milk called for with half heavy cream and half water.

2. Half and Half

Half and half is made of 50 percent whole milk and 50 percent heavy cream, so it’s an ideal milk substitute—use it in equal amounts.

3. Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is exactly what it sounds like: milk with some of the water content evaporated. That means it’s one of the best substitutes for milk around. To use it in place of regular milk, simply open a can and mix it with an equal amount of water, then replace the milk in your recipe measure-for-measure.

4. Sweetened Condensed Milk

If you’re making something sweet, sweetened condensed milk can also take the place of regular milk. Just keep in mind that because it’s already heavily sweetened, you’ll probably need to dial back the sugar in your recipe accordingly.

5. Plain Yogurt

Plain yogurt can replace milk in both sweet and savory dishes. Use it in equal amounts to the milk that your recipe calls for—but if you’re using Greek yogurt, you’ll want to thin it out with a bit of water first.

6. Sour Cream

Sour cream is another milk substitute similar to yogurt, and it even has the added benefit of tenderizing baked goods (like cake, muffins or quick breads). Keep in mind, though, that it will add a slightly tangy flavor to whatever you’re making. (Which could be a good thing—sour cream in macaroni and cheese? Yum.)

7. Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is regular ol’ milk with all the moisture content removed until it’s just…milk dust. You can use it as a substitute for milk by reconstituting it with enough water to amount to what your recipe calls for. (We recommend consulting the package instructions.)

8. Almond Milk

If you’re looking for a milk substitute that’s also dairy-free, plain almond milk works just fine. But bear in mind that it might add a sweet, nutty flavor to your recipe, so it’s better used in sweet dishes than it is in savory dishes.

9. Rice Milk

Of all the milk alternatives, rice milk might be the closest flavor match to cow’s milk. It can be used as a substitute measure-for-measure, but it is thinner (so it won’t be as creamy as regular milk).

10. Soy Milk

Similarly, soy milk is a dairy-free milk alternative that tastes close to cow’s milk. Unlike rice milk, though, its texture is also like dairy milk, so it can be used almost interchangeably as long as it’s plain.

11. Oat Milk

This dairy-free milk alternative is a great option when you’re baking something that calls for milk and an acid (like lemon juice or vinegar) for leavening, because it has a high-protein content that functions like regular milk.

12. Water

In an absolute pinch, water can sometimes be used as a substitute in a recipe that calls for milk…but you might experience some changes in flavor and texture. (Think: Less creamy, less fluffy and less rich.) Try adding a tablespoon of butter for each cup of water you use—it’ll account for some of the milkfat you’re missing out on.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...