whole milk substitute

Whole Milk Substitutes: 11 Creamy Alternatives Explored

Key points: 

  • For baking, powdered milk, yogurt, sour cream, and evaporated milk can be used as substitutes. 
  • Cream and coconut milk are good options for cooking, while skim milk, soy milk, and almond milk are suitable for drinking. Other dairy-free alternatives like rice milk and oat milk are also available. 
  • Consider factors such as nutrition, properties, flavor, and cost when choosing a replacement. Always check the label and use non-GMO products for healthier choices.

Whether you have run out, have an allergy, or would like to try a vegan alternative, there are many products that can be used as a whole milk substitute. The product you choose will depend on what you are using it for, and your dietary needs.

Here is a comprehensive guide indicating which substitute might be the best option for your needs.

What to Look for in a Whole Milk Substitute


Full-fat dairy and sweetened non-dairy alternatives can contain a large amount of fat and sugar. When choosing a replacement check the label and go for products with minimal added artificial ingredients and sugars. Fortified products can be a good source of vitamin D.


Nut and legume-based milk alternatives are made by blending the predominant component with water. Products such as rice milk, for example, have a thinner consistency than whole milk. Varying fat content and high water content can affect the ability to froth, thicken, and emulsify.


Even though most milk alternatives have a similar smooth texture to whole milk, they don’t all taste the same. The taste of nut- and legume-based milk products can vary according to the brand and whether they are sweetened or unsweetened. If you have tried soy or almond milk and don’t like it, try a different brand before assuming they all taste the same.


Although most large grocery stores have a variety of products ranging greatly in price, non-dairy substitutes tend to be more expensive than cow milk products. 

Best Whole Milk Substitutes for Baking

#1. Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is a great substitute for whole milk and won’t compromise the flavor of your baked goods. Reconstitute the powder with water as per the instructions on the packaging and replace the milk measure for measure. 

Suitable for: Baking, pouring over cereal, and coffee. You can easily find recipes that use powdered milk for making custards and sauces, although the process might be slightly different than using regular whole milk.

#2. Yogurt

Plain yogurt or Greek yogurt can be used as a substitute for whole milk when baking and making batters for pancakes and fried items.

If you are making sweet items vanilla yogurt can also be used. Other flavored yogurts are best avoided to prevent the taste of your dish from being altered. 

Add a few tablespoons of water to dilute the yogurt to the same consistency as milk and replace it measure for measure.

Suitable for: Baking, pancakes, fried batters, dressings, and adding to smoothies.

Not suitable for: Adding to coffee or sauces cooked at high heat.

#3. Sour Cream

Sour cream is less acidic and contains more fat than yogurt which makes it an even better alternative in baking. Add a few tablespoons of water to the sour cream to thin it out slightly. Replace it in the same quantity as the milk required in your recipe.

Suitable for: Baking, pancakes, fried batters, and stews.

Not suitable for: Adding to coffee or smoothies.

#4. Evaporated Milk

Add an equal amount of water to evaporated milk to thin it out, and you have an excellent dairy milk alternative. If your recipe calls for 1 cup whole milk, use ½ cup evaporated milk mixed with ½ cup water as the replacement.

Suitable for: Baking, pancakes, fried batters, cooking, smoothies, sweet sauces, custards, and coffee.

See more: Substitute for evaporated milk

Best Whole Milk Substitutes for Cooking

#5. Cream

Cream is much thicker with a higher fat content than whole milk. It adds a velvety richness to dishes. Use a half cup heavy cream mixed with half a cup of water to replace one cup of whole milk.

Suitable for: Baking, batters, cooking, sauces, stews, casseroles, soups, custards, and coffee. Diluted cream can be used to substitute milk in almost any application.

See more: Can I use milk instead of heavy cream?

#6. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk comes in 2 different varieties. The one is a thick, high-fat canned version, and the other a ready-to-drink type generally available in a carton. To substitute whole dairy milk, use the drinkable, thinner version of carton-packaged coconut milk. 

Its coconut flavor may alter the taste of some recipes. It is best reserved for Indian and Asian flavor profiles as opposed to using it in Italian and French recipes. When using coconut milk as a substitute in coffee it tends to separate. This is natural and does not mean the milk is bad.

Suitable for: Baking, batters, cooking, sauces, stews, casseroles, soups, and smoothies.

Related: Coconut milk alternatives

Best Whole Milk Substitutes for Drinking

#7. Skim Milk

Skim milk is a watered-down version of dairy milk and is a great alternative option if you are watching your calorie intake or prefer something less creamy. Replace one cup of skim milk for one cup of dairy milk.

Suitable for: Any application where whole milk is required.

#8. Soy Milk

Soy milk is made by soaking and blending soybeans and then straining the milky liquid. It is available in sweetened, unsweetened, and flavored varieties. Certain brands have a more neutral-tasting product, whereas others feature a distinct ‘soy milk’ flavor. 

It is best to use unsweetened soy milk to prevent your dish from being overly sweet. Replace the milk measure for measure.

Suitable for: Smoothies, coffee, frothing, baking, pouring over cereal, and cooking.

#9. Almond Milk

Almond milk is made by soaking and blending almonds and straining the leftover nut fibers. It comes in sweetened, unsweetened, and flavored varieties. It has a neutral, slightly nutty flavor, and can be frothed for cappuccinos. The froth is, however, a little lighter than when dairy is used. 

It is best to use unsweetened almond milk to prevent drinks and sauces from being overly sweet. Replace the milk measure for measure in your recipe.

Suitable for: Smoothies, coffee, cappuccino, baking, pouring over cereal, and cooking.

Other Dairy-free Whole Milk Substitutes

#10. Rice Milk

Rice milk in its unsweetened form often has lower calories than other dairy-free alternatives. It has a mild flavor, and in terms of taste, makes a fantastic dairy milk substitute. 

It has a thin, watery consistency which makes it less effective when you need a creamy addition to a sauce or smoothie. 

Suitable for: Baking, batters, smoothies, drinks, and cereal.

Not suitable for: Frothing or thickening. 

#11. Oat Milk

Oat milk is creamy with a neutral flavor. It froths up for cappuccinos and pairs well with almost any flavor profile.

Suitable for: Coffee, cereal, smoothies, drinks, baking, batters, sauces, and cooking.


What substitute for whole milk froths best?

Oat milk is great for frothing and foaming. Both oat milk and almond milk are available in a “barista blend” for even better results.

Can you use milk alternatives to substitute buttermilk in a recipe?

Yes, if your baking or pancake recipe requires buttermilk you can add one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of soy milk, skim milk, or diluted cream. Mix it well and use it instead of buttermilk measure for measure.

What is a dairy free substitute for whole milk in baking?

A dairy-free substitute for whole milk in baking is usually a plant-based milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, or rice milk. These options can be used in recipes as a one-to-one replacement for whole milk and work well in most baking applications, providing a similar level of moisture and flavor.


Whether you are counting calories, switched to a vegan diet, or have run out of whole milk in the middle of your cooking endeavor, there is a range of alternative options to choose from. Using a replacement doesn’t mean you have to compromise on flavor or texture. 

Always check the expiry date on items and make sure to stick to non-GMO products to make your choices healthy for both you and the environment.

Up next: Substitute for buttermilk

whole milk replacement

*image by dechevm/depositphotos

About The Author

Scroll to Top