Running out of milk when you need it for a recipe can ruin your entire meal, but these milk substitute ideas can save the day with ingredients you probably have on hand!
I have been a cook for most of my life. Its one of the ways I can physically show my friends and family love without getting the eye roll that comes with trying to hug teenagers. Making sure my crew is well-fed with a nutritious meal that also tastes amazing is one of those things that simply screams “home” to me.
In fact, when my daughter Laura comes home to visit, she almost always asks me to cook one of her favorite meals for her.
But sometimes, either through poor planning on my part, a cost issue or for whatever reason, we all run out of an ingredient or two sometimes. Milk seems to be one of the more common ones for me. I don’t drink a lot of it by myself and even a half-gallon can go bad before I realize it.
That’s where knowing what the best milk substitutes are come in handy in my kitchen.
Do milk substitutes work like cow’s milk in cooking?
Whether or not the substitute you’re using will work for your recipe will honestly depend on two things; what milk alternative you’re using and what recipe you’re making. Some alternatives will change the texture of your final product. Others can affect the taste because they may have a stronger flavor of their own.
What is the healthiest milk alternative?
Healthy is a relative term these days so the real answer is this; the one that leaves you feeling the best and whether you’re looking for a milk substitution because you suffer from a lactose intolerance milk allergy and need a dairy-free milk or you’ve simply run out. If goat milk upsets your stomach, use something else. If coconut milk is too sweet, use almond milk instead.
Generally speaking though, almond milk is often considered one of the healthiest non-dairy plant-based milks. It is low in calories and low carb and a good source of vitamin E.
What are the best milk substitutes?
Just like your reasons for needing a milk substitute, the best milk substitute will depend on what you’re using it for. Things such as soy milk, oat milk, cashew milk, rice milk and even heavy cream all have different uses that they’re best for.
Some have a higher fat content that your recipe may need while others may have a higher protein count for those who watch their nutrition intake. Some milk alternatives can have a nutty flavor which can transfer to your final dish.
The easiest swap to make when you’ve run out of milk is water. Before you do so though, know that your final product will not be as creamy or decadent as it would if you had used another substitute. It will also be missing the nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin d, that using milk, cream or nut milk would provide.
However, if your grocery budget is strapped, water is your best option for a milk substitute.
How Much Water Can I Substitute for Milk?
To use water as a milk substitute, use a 1:1 ratio or an equal amount of water and milk. This means that if your recipe calls for a cup of milk, you will use a cup of water instead. They are interchangeable no matter if you’re using tablespoons, cups or even gallons.
Powdered milk is another great milk substitute. After all, it’s quite literally dehydrated milk. It can be quite expensive if you’re not paying attention though, but with a little deal shopping, you can pick it up for a decent price. I personally prefer to use NIDO powdered milk, but any brand will work as a fresh milk substitute.
Powdered milk is also great for helping to stretch your fresh milk. Simply mix a batch and add it to your current gallon. I’ve found that a half and half mixture works well.
How to Make Powdered Milk Taste Good
If you’ve ever taken a drink of straight powdered milk, you’ll know it has a pretty sour taste that resembles what spoiled fresh milk tastes like. The trick to fixing this is super simple.
Powdered milk tastes sour because it has had all of the fat removed during the dehydration process. To fix this, add 1 tablespoon melted butter to every cup of milk. Adding the fats back in helps to tame the sour and make it taste more like you’re used to.
Non-dairy Coffee Creamer
Believe it or not, you can use plain coffee creamer when you run out of fresh milk. Things like regular Coffee mate powder work incredibly well. To use it in a recipe, combine 2 teaspoons unflavored coffee creamer powder to 8 oz of water. Use in your recipe as you would fresh milk.
Half and Half
Half and half is another milk alternative that works well in a pinch. It’s half milk and half heavy cream. To use it in place of milk, use it as you would milk. There is no need to change the amount for your recipe.
Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy cream rises to the top of milk before it is pasteurized and works amazingly as a milk substitute idea. Use it the same as you would milk. Your recipe is likely to be richer and creamier than it would be with regular milk since heavy cream has a much higher fat content than milk.
If you drink raw milk like I do, you can actually separate your milk and cream quite easily getting you two products for the price of one. I have a tutorial HERE to show you how. From there you can use the cream as is or make different recipes such as homemade butter and homemade buttermilk.
Heavy Cream Substitute
If you happen to need heavy cream, but don’t have any, you can make a quick heavy cream substitute using THIS recipe. It’s simple and comes together in just a few minutes. It will work in any recipe that calls for heavy cream, however, it will not whip into whipped cream.
Nut and Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
Nut milk and other non-dairy alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk and so on work well in place of regular milk. It is important to note with these though that you should use an unsweetened and unflavored version for an even exchange. Otherwise, your final recipe could taste differently than what you prefer.
Non-dairy milk alternatives also require a change in amounts. They often have different textures than regular milk and this can result in needing more or less than you otherwise would.
Whey is the by product of milk being curdled when making things like homemade ricotta cheese. It’s full of protein and flavor and works very well as a milk substitute. To do so, use equal parts of whey for milk just as you would with water.
Evaporated milk is milk so why wouldn’t it work as a milk substitute? It will! You can use as is or you can “rehydrate” it a bit by adding equal parts water to your can of evaporated milk. Use as normal in the recipe.
Plain Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt can also be used to substitute milk in cooking and baking. You may need to play with the amount needed to get the final result you want. Typically though, a 1:1 ratio will work.
Like Greek yogurt, sour cream can also be used in place of milk in recipes. Again, you may need to play around with the amount you use. Unlike using yogurt in place of milk, using sour cream will give your final product a more tangy flavor so be mindful of that when you’re using it in this way.
Goat milk is used for more than soaps and DIY beauty products! It’s also great to drink or use in your cooking! Goat cheese, anyone? Use it in cooking and baking as you would cow’s milk. It may slightly change the flavor of your dish, but it shouldn’t be too much of a change.
If you prefer not to keep fresh goat milk on hand, powdered goat milk is a fantastic option!
Believe it or not, sheep’s milk is a thing and it can be used as a substitute in cooking and baking. With that said, most people in the US only use it for beauty products due to the fact that it does have a fairly strong flavor. This can change the taste of your dish pretty significantly.
If you’re not using buttermilk in your kitchen, are you even cooking? I’m joking, but it does make a fantastic milk substitute. Use it in breads and biscuits or even as the liquid in your fried chicken coating!
Homemade Buttermilk Substitute
If you don’t have buttermilk, but need or want some, making a homemade buttermilk substitute may be the answer! HERE is a post that explains how to make one just in case you need it.
Cottage cheese can also be used in place of milk in a pinch. You’ll want to play with the amount until you reach the flavor or consistency you desire. Once you have the amount right, you can choose to pulverize it in a blender to make a more milk like substance or simply ensure it is fully incorporated into the dish.
Running out of milk when you’re cooking or baking doesn’t have to be a cooking emergency. With these milk substitution ideas, you can keep cooking without looking back! Do you use any milk substitutes that aren’t on this list?