Dairy free baking is great for many reasons but it can be a little tricky. Some dairy substitutes act differently than traditional dairy products do when baked. In order to get the perfect texture and taste in your dairy free baked goods, there are a few things you should learn!
This article will help you discover everything you need to know about baking without using dairy, so keep reading to learn why dairy-free is great and how to make it work in all kinds of situations.
Why Bake Dairy Free?
There are lots of reasons why you may choose to bake dairy free or just live a dairy free lifestyle. The number one reason why people start following a dairy free diet is due to allergies.
Many people are allergic to lactose which makes up a large part of all dairy products. Lactose can be hard to digest, causing people stomach pain after eating something with lots of dairy.
Others may get hives, experience wheezing or just feel itching around their lips and mouth after they eat dairy. A dairy allergy is a great reason to avoid baking (and eating) dairy products.
Removing dairy from your diet has been shown to have numerous health benefits as well. Eliminating dairy has been shown to help with weight loss and also help clear troubled skin.
Others find that their overall digestion improves once dairy is cut from their diet. With less dairy comes less bloating and also less cramps as it is difficult to digest, even if you do not have an allergy or intolerance.
Another major reason why you may want to consider avoiding dairy is that milk and dairy products can be full of growth hormones. Some commercial farmers give their cows growth hormones to help them produce more milk. They may also use antibiotics on the cows to prevent illness which can also be transmitted into the milk.
Of course, this is not true of all dairy products. You can find many options that are organic, antibiotic free and from humanely raised animals. It is something to be aware of and may cause you to want to avoid dairy all together!
Dairy in general is not needed in a healthy adult diet. In fact, it is completely healthy to eliminate dairy completely from your diet and have no ill effects. Dairy does have a few health benefits but many of them can be found easily in other foods.
Baking without dairy can also be a great way to add some extra nutrients into your baked goods. Some of the dairy substitutes used in baking have many health benefits that outweigh those of dairy alone.
Whether one of the above points speaks to you or maybe you are just out of dairy and feel like cooking, no matter what your reason for choosing to bake dairy free, I can help you learn how! Preheat that oven and keep reading!
How to Bake Dairy Free
Before you begin baking dairy free, you need to be sure you know what dairy is. The most common dairy products found in baking are cow’s milk, cheese made from cows milk and butter. These are ingredients you definitely cannot use if you are baking dairy free.
For some reason, people seem to think that eggs cannot be used in dairy free baking but that is incorrect- you can use as many eggs as you want! Eggs are from chickens and contain no dairy at all- different animal, different food, totally dairy free.
The best way to begin baking dairy free is to simply find recipes that already exclude dairy ingredients. If you start with a recipe that is dairy free, you won’t need to worry about substitutions or making adjustments to the recipe.
Lots of common baked goods are actually dairy free already. Most angel food cake recipes, for example, does not contain dairy and you can easily find a banana bread recipe that is also dairy free. Check out some dairy free baking blogs or cookbooks too for recipes that have already been tested and proven to be delicious.
Finding ingredient substitutions is the next way to make any recipe dairy free. Of course, all dairy free substitutes will act slightly differently when baked but there are some great products out there.
When looking for a dairy free baking substitute, read the label and make sure there is no milk or lactose in the product. You can also search for products labeled “vegan” as these definitely will not contain dairy.
If you try a non-dairy substitute in your recipe and it isn’t quite perfect, do not get discouraged, simply try a different one! Baking is a science and it can take a while to master, especially when you are exchanging ingredients.
Dairy Free Baking Substitutes
Here are a few of the most common and best substitutes you can use when baking dairy free. While I will cover a lot of products you can use in place of dairy when baking, there are many more out there!
Butter is a staple in many baked goods so it is an important ingredient to replace correctly. Butter contributes to the texture of baked goods, the flavor and also adds richness.
Luckily, there are many dairy free alternatives that you can use in your baking that will still do the job that butter usually does.
Shortening has the same texture as butter being very solid when cold, nice and soft at room temperature and melts when heated. You can use the same quantity of shortening as the recipe calls for in butter and have very similar results.
Shortening does not have very much of a flavor and some say it has a greasy mouthfeel but you shouldn’t notice this too much in your baked goods.
Dairy Free Butter
There are several great vegan butters on the market that look like butter, act like butter and even taste like butter. Use dairy free butter exactly as you would use regular butter to make great cookies, pie crusts, bars, fillings and cakes. It can even be used to make perfectly flakey, buttery tasting croissants!
Coconut oil has a similar texture as butter and shortening as it is solid when cold and melts when heated. Coconut oil will even get light and fluffy when beaten with sugar- just like butter!
Coconut oil does have a mild coconut taste so be sure this will taste good in your recipe. Once again, you can replace butter with coconut oil using a 1:1 ratio- the amount does not change!
Vegetable or Canola Oil
You can use ¾ cup of vegetable oil for every 1 cup of butter in a recipe however it will likely affect your baked goods. Oil is quite dense and will not produce the same baking results as regular butter or a different nondairy substitute. Try to only use oil of a very small amount is needed.
If a recipe calls for milk, you have a lot of options when it comes to substitutes. In fact, more and more milk alternatives come on the market every year!
The proteins in regular, dairy milk can help create a strong batter that will hold its structure when baked. Milk also has sugar which adds sweetness to a recipe and tenderizes the baked goods.
The substitute you choose will also depend on what you are baking and what roll the milk plays in the recipe. Here are a few that I have found to work well in dairy free baking that perform as regular milk may.
Nut milks like almond milk, coconut milk and hazelnut milk, all work quite well in baking. Thanks to the nuts that are used to make the milks, there is still protein within the milk.
There are also natural sugars in almost every nut milk. Be sure to choose a nut milk that does not have added sugar or is labeled “sweetened” as it will throw off the balance of sweetness in your recipe.
Depending on the nut milk you choose, the flavor of the nuts will go into your baking. Replace regular dairy milk with nut milk using a 1:1 ratio.
Just like nut milk, soy milk acts in much the same manner as dairy milk. Skip the sweetened soy milks and then use it as you would any regular milk for perfect baked goods.
Oat milks contain a lot of starch and not as much protein as cow’s milk so using it to bake may affect your baked goods slightly. Choose oat milk when you only need a little bit of milk in a recipe. A splash of oat milk in a cookie dough, for example, will be just fine.
If your recipe calls for buttermilk, you can easily make a non-dairy version. Measure out the amount of non-dairy milk you will be using and then add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to every 1 cup of milk. Stir and let the mix sit for at least a minute.
Depending on the kind of dairy free milk you are using, the mix may get chunky and look curdled but that is okay! Use it just as you would have used regular buttermilk in your baking.
Non Dairy Yogurt
This is a great substitution for recipes that call for whole milk or heavy cream. Non-dairy yogurt is nice and thick and will lend a great texture to your baking. Be sure to use an unsweetened, unflavored yogurt and then replace every 1 cup of milk with ¾ cup of non-dairy yogurt.
Water and Non Dairy Butter
When you think about milk, you may think how it is a lot of water and a little fat. You can make this blend just by using water and non-dairy butter! For every 1 cup of milk in your recipe, use one cup of water plus 1 ½ teaspoons of non-dairy butter. The results will be great!
Canned Coconut Milk
Canned coconut milk is another fantastic substitute for whole milk or heavy cream thanks to its high fat content. Make sure you purchase unsweetened coconut milk and shake the can well before opening. Then, use the same amount of canned coconut milk as cow’s milk in your recipe.
You may be interested in making a specific baked good that calls for cheese. Cheese croissants, tiramisu or cheesecake are perfect examples. When your baking calls for cheese, the best plan is to look for a vegan cheese substitute.
There are many great products out there that taste and act like cheese but are made with dairy free alternatives. Dairy free cream cheese and vegan shredded cheese should be readily available in most grocery stores.
Most dairy free cheese are made with nuts (often cashews) but will not have a nutty taste.
If your baking calls for yogurt, a dairy free yogurt is your best substitute! Coconut milk yogurt, soy milk yogurt and also almond free yogurt all exist!
While the texture of dairy free yogurt is almost identical to that made with cow’s milk, the quantity of fat may vary. If your dairy free yogurt is fat free but your recipe calls for whole milk cow’s yogurt (which has a high fat percentage), add 1 tsp of dairy free butter per 1 cup of yogurt in the recipe.
If your recipe just uses skim milk yogurt, you should not need to make any changes to get a perfect baked good.
Milk chocolate, white chocolate and even some dark chocolates contain cow’s milk. Luckily, there is vegan chocolate! Any kind of vegan chocolate chips will work perfectly in recipes that as for chocolate. You can also simply read the labels of your chocolate and see if there is lactose inside.
Dark chocolates may not contain any dairy and be safe to use as is. Dairy free chocolate will melt a little differently than regular chocolate and not be as smooth so if your recipe calls for melting or blending melted chocolate, use a regular dark chocolate rather than a dairy free version.
Dairy free baking is not difficult and there are actually many amazing baking ingredients you can choose to use that are dairy free. Experiment in the kitchen and see what substitutions work best for your personal recipes.
Or, simply choose a recipe that is already dairy free! After all, a healthy diet does not need to include dairy, but a well-rounded diet should definitely include baked goods!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.