I've been considering trying to reduce my dairy consumption for environmental reasons (I've long since reduced my meat consumption), but I'm not sure what to use for various substitutions.

I generally go through one to four gallons of whole milk per two weeks. Uses include:

  • A little bit in scrambled eggs
  • Pancakes, muffins, popovers, and the occasional custard or quiche
  • Yogurt (easier than buying separately, probably cheaper, and I strain it to be much thicker than anything I can find in bulk in stores)
  • Oatmeal, both cooked with milk and then supplemented with yogurt
  • Soda-bread, made with yogurt rather than buttermilk
  • Hot cocoa
  • Mac-and-cheese (not box mix, so milk and cheese and butter are all involved)
  • Milk-enriched yeast bread

And then there's butter and cheese for various things, but I buy those separately rather than making them from milk, so replacing dairy milk wouldn't affect that.

I would expect that the hot cocoa, the yeast bread and quickbreads, the scrambled eggs, and the oatmeal, could work simply replacing the dairy milk with almond or oat or soy milk, because all of those would work with water or with no liquid at all (just less tasty/nutritious). I am less confident that that would work for making custard, quiche, or a properly thick sauce for mac-and-cheese (even allowing dairy cheese), since I'm pretty sure the milk is relevant there chemically/structurally, but I'm not sure. I have a bad feeling that I could not make an acceptable yogurt (both for flavor and for adding sufficient acid to soda-bread) from nondairy milk, or at least not without significantly more effort than the fairly trivial process of making yogurt overnight in a slow cooker.

Is there a single replacement I could buy for dairy milk for all of these products? Lacking that, what replacements should I use for any given portion?

  • I’ve had some great success using coconut milk. Brand really matters... some taste clean and some taste overly coconuty and metallic.
    – mroll
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 2:28
  • I use Silk products...either Soy or Almond. Never have had an issue, and they work very closely to what is expected from Dairy Milk. Been using for years.
    – SittingElf
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 14:56

3 Answers 3


I’m a huge dairy lover but I recently found out a couple years ago that I am lactose intolerant and had to make the switch over to non-dairy almost everything.

  • If continuing to use butter isn’t a problem for you, keep that one. I bake a ton and butter is still the best option for popovers (my grandma was British, I make them every Christmas) and any sorts of breads. If not, subbing in margarine or a vegan butter (basically margarine) works well too.
  • For 90% of what’s on your list, unsweetened original flavor almond-milk is my go-to, oat milk would work well too. Both of those have the mildest flavor and bake well too. Any sauce that needs to be thicker or richer, sub out soy milk instead for chowders or say a bechamel sauce, which could work with almond-milk as well if you just added a little cornstarch and non-dairy or goat cheese, thickens it like a charm! -Non-dairy yogurts and cheeses have come leaps and bounds in the last 10 years! For cooking I’d recommend using either goat-milk yogurt for the tangy-ness or a Kite hill, Silk, or Lavva (which has a really tangy unsweetened one I just used to make a tzatziki sauce the other day, came out great!). For non-dairy cheeses, the best are from Lisanatti Foods (almond-milk mozzarella block), VioLife (their cheddar slices and Parm block are great), or Chao (great slices of cheese for sandwiches).
  • Since ‘oat milk’ is essentially 10% oats, water and a bit of seed oil and calcium and vitamin supplements, why not just cook your oatmeal in water and either boost your vitamin/calcium from leafy greens or take a supplement pill? I always make porridge with water, making it with expensive ‘oats in water’ from a store sounds mad.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 15:07
  • I personally use either almond or soy milk since they tend to be a little higher in vitamins (and flavor), but some of the almond and coconut milk combos might work well too for overnight oats. Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 16:06

I don't think you'll find a single substitute. A useful one that keeps indefinitely in a cupboard is coconut milk powder (or the solid blocks, but the powder is more convenient). It's also not too expensive in Indian or Far Eastern supermarkets in the UK.

Hot chocolate/cocoa benefits from using coconut milk. I've been doing this for a while mainly because it tastes good, but it's now on offer in some of the coffee shops round here. I keep coconut milk powder for use in curries etc, so use that. I use somewhere between the thin and thick quantities they say.

In porridge/oatmeal, you can also use whatever you like the taste of. My first attempt with coconut milk powder (and other flavouring ingredients) wasn't quite the flavour I wanted, and I didn't get round to trying again until today. With honey and raisins it was quite nice. I often use (skimmed dairy) milk powder to make mine, because I can bring a dry mix into work and get breakfast using only a kettle and microwave, so I used the same approach with the coconut milk powder.

I have made macaroni cheese using leftover almond milk or soya milk. Both worked, but I still used butter. I tend to use a proper stovetop recipe rather than a microwave one, and add the milk gradually. This allows me to get the consistency right.


Not a complete answer, but I also try to avoid dairy - in my case for health reasons, I found it causes inflammation (and water retention). To complicate matters, I also eschew soya (for fear of phytoestrogen action) and other commercial milk substitutes and highly processed foodstuffs in general (because of the amount of food processing and additives - and some have an environmental cost on par with dairy).

I've had fairly good results with using coconut oil (extra virgin and not deflavoured) instead of butter/margarine: baking (instant yeast) bread, spreading on bread, stirring into oat porridge for a little bit smoother texture. However, the taste is not the same, so one would need to compromise. Also, it gets rock solid in the fridge and melts far faster at lower temperatures compared to butter, so having it at a workable softness is a bit of an art.

In my locale I also have access to coconut milk and coconut cream (not the powder, but basically coconut "liquids" where the water has been evaporated to a greater or lesser extent - other versions are available with more additives, which I eschew as already said). I've only recently found this so the only successful dish made so far with this is chia pudding - it has a slight natural sweetness and so together with some fruit it is a quite passable cooled dessert (or even breakfast dish). I am planning on trying it for other purposes (next on the list: a dish having a baked egg custard topping, and maybe swiss muesli/"soaked oats"). I also found it to be quite expensive (around 3-4x compared to the same volume of dairy milk and roughly on par with dairy cream) - costs may differ in your locale.

I have resigned myself to the fact that if I want to have a different diet, I may have to change my lifestyle and not insist on having the exact same dishes as before - it's a compromise between accustomed taste and avoiding the objectionable. I may have to invent new dishes (the banting community, for instance, has julienned zucchini stir-fried instead of spaghetti "zucchetti" as a go-to replacement), or tweak the recipe/method to adapt to the substitute ingredient, or completely forgo some things.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.