Dairy Free Baking: Proven Tips for Beginners

A person pouring chocolate into cupcakes in a muffin tin.

Easily eliminate dairy from your favorite recipes with these dairy free baking tips. Whether you're an experienced baker or just starting out, these insights will help you satisfy your sweet tooth while ensuring your treats are dairy free.

The information provided on this site is based on my personal experience living with alpha-gal syndrome. I consistently cite and link to expert sources, but nothing published on this site should be perceived as medical advice.

Alpha-gal sensitivities vary by person. You should understand your dietary restrictions, making any adjustments needed, and directing any questions to your physician.

When I was diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome a few years ago, giving up mammalian meat as part of my alpha-gal diet wasn’t hard. After all, I ate red meat maybe once or twice a year. But giving up dairy for the first two years as I worked to fully understand my sensitivities was so hard! I wasn’t sure I’d ever find dairy free alternatives for butter, cream, and cheese that tasted good.

If you’re in the early stages of adopting a dairy free diet, making delicious cookies, cakes, and other treats may seem impossible. But armed with these expert tips, and taking advantage of more dairy free products and substitutes on the market than ever before, you can easily bake dairy free delights that taste just as delicious as the original recipe.

Dairy free baking tips.

    

In This Article

Expert Tips For Dairy Free Baking

Below are six tried and tested dairy free baking tips. Though eliminating dairy may seem overwhelming at first, once you get used to baking without dairy, it will become second nature, and you’ll reap the benefits of going dairy free.

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1. Research Suitable Dairy Free Alternatives

Finding the correct dairy free alternatives for dairy products is the most crucial step in successfully baking dairy free. Every alternative has a unique flavor profile, so you must choose wisely. 

Here are a few dairy free options you can consider to replace dairy products in your baked goods recipes:

Alternative milks include almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, oat milk, and soy milk
Photo Credit: Canva.

Milk Replacements

Non-dairy milk is popular these days and easy to use. Some of the best dairy free baking choices are almond milk, cashew milk, and oat milk. Easily substitute your favorite non-dairy milk in the same quantity as regular milk when baking.

Sage Advice: The one exception to the 1:1 swap rule is full-fat coconut milk from a can. See more in Tip #6 below.

It’s also important to note that soy and chickpea milk have more protein than most nut milks. They are my favorite substitutes because the protein adds structure to dairy free baked goods.

A block butter cut into slices on a white plate
Photo Credit: Canva

Butter Replacements

There are several great butter substitutes. One of the easiest options is to use vegan butter to replace regular butter. As with dairy free milk, you can make this swap using a 1:1 ratio like non-dairy milk.

Another great butter substitute is organic unrefined coconut oil. Like butter, it hardens in cold temperatures, softens at room temperature, and melts to a liquid. When coconut oil is chilled and grated or cut into cubes, it can be used to make pie crust and biscuit dough just as you’d use chilled butter. 

Olive oil is another dairy free alternative to butter. However, it is not a 1:1 substitution. If a recipe calls for a stick of butter — the same as ½ cup or 8 tablespoons — replace it with only ¾ the amount (or 6 tablespoons) of olive oil.  

Sage Advice: There are also vegan butter-flavored olive oils on the market that add a buttery taste to baked goods while remaining dairy free.

Gingerbread cookies on a red and white checkered napkin.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

2. Stick to Dairy Free Baking Recipes at First

As a beginner, finding dairy replacements can add a lot of stress to the baking process. You can make mistakes and ruin dishes if you don’t understand what substitute will work best. There are many dairy free recipes available. Start with those as you begin your dairy free baking journey. It will expose you to the best dairy free swaps as you adjust to an alpha-gal diet. 

When you aren’t worried about making changes to your recipe in real-time and potentially messing up ingredient proportions or quantities, you will feel less pressure — especially when baking something new. These chocolate almond flour cookies are perfect for beginners! 

A woman is looking at a bottle of milk in a store.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

3. Pay Attention to Labels for Hidden Dairy

Anyone with food allergies likely knows that packaged goods can contain ingredients you don’t expect that may trigger an allergic reaction. This is especially true for those of us living with alpha-gal syndrome since our food allergens aren’t included in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.

Always read the labels for everything you purchase before you put it in the shopping cart or use it in your recipe. For example, many sauces, packaged foods, and baked goods contain dairy in the form of skim milk powder.

A bowl of applesauce on a table surrounded by fresh apples.
Photo Credit: Canva.

4. Find Dairy Replacements That Add Moisture to Baked Goods

One of dairy’s primary roles is to add liquid to baked goods. So, when you remove dairy products, you must find alternative ways to add moisture to fluff up your baked goods. Finding the right dairy substitution is especially important in gluten-free baking, as many gluten-free flours absorb more liquid than the regular wheat version.

Natural sources of moisture, like fruit purees, are a great option for baked goods. Add unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas for moisture and sweetness. Mashed avocado and sweet potato puree are also excellent options. Dairy free yogurt and dairy free buttermilk work really well, too, and can help improve the texture of your baked goods.

Ground Cinnamon and Cinnamon Sticks
Photo Credit: Canva.

5. Enhance Flavor with Spices and Extracts

It might seem impossible to create a delicious dish without butter or milk, but you can use extracts and spices to add flavors back into your dairy free recipes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract are popular choices for baked goods that can instantly boost the taste of any recipe. Learning more about which vanilla beans to use can also ramp up the flavor.

6. Use Coconut Milk for Richness

While full-fat coconut milk — the kind in a can, not a carton — is not a good substitution for milk in cakes and breads, it is the key to creating some ultra-rich, dairy free desserts. Used properly, full-fat coconut milk can be a key ingredient to making your own dairy free caramel sauce, dairy free chocolate ganache, and even chocolate fudge.

A glass of coconut milk with chunks of coconut surrounding it
Photo Credit: Canva.

My Favorite Dairy Free Baking Substitutions

A milk carton with a cow's face on it.

Milk — Instead of cow’s milk, use nut or seed milk. I prefer soy milk because its protein content is closest to cow’s milk.

A big square of butter.

Butter — Substitute vegan butter or coconut oil.

Heavy cream icon on a pink background.

Cream — Use a packaged plant-based cream substitute, cashew cream, or coconut cream.

Yogurt in a cup on an orange background.

Yogurt — Substitute yogurts made from coconut, almonds, cashews, and other plant-based ingredients. 

A bottle of milk on a green background.

Buttermilk — Make a dairy free version by adding vinegar or lemon juice to your favorite plant-based milk.

An icon of whipped cream cheese in a cup.

Mascarpone, Ricotta, and Cream Cheese — A tasty alternative to these soft cheeses is dairy free cream cheese or silken tofu.

A piece of cheese in a circle.

Other Cheeses — For savory baked goods, use nutritional yeast or vegan cheese, which is typically made from nuts or seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dairy Free Baking

Because dairy plays a starring role in baking, it might sound impossible to bake without it. In addition to the tips above, these frequently asked questions can boost your confidence when it comes to dairy free baking.

Can you use dairy free butter in baking?

Yes, you can use dairy free butter in baking. Many brands offer vegan butter sticks that work as a 1:1 substitute for traditional butter.

How to substitute dairy free butter for baking

Substitute dairy free butter in a 1:1 ratio for regular butter. For best results, use sticks rather than spreads, which can contain more water.

What dairy free butter is best for baking?

The best dairy free butter for baking is one that is specifically formulated for high-heat use and mimics the properties of real butter, such as Miyoko’s Creamery or Earth Balance sticks.

Are Country Crock baking sticks dairy free?

Yes, Country Crock Plant Butter sticks are dairy free and designed to be used as a direct substitute for traditional butter in baking.

Are Crisco baking sticks dairy free?

Yes, Crisco baking sticks are dairy free. They are made from vegetable oils and are suitable for vegan baking.

Is dairy free butter okay to use when baking cookies?

Dairy free butter can absolutely be used instead of butter in your favorite cookie recipes. Just make sure it’s at the right consistency (softened if the recipe calls for it) for the best results.

An assortment of nut milks like almond milk, cashew milk, and macadamia milk

What dairy free milk is best for baking?

Soy milk and almond milk are generally the best dairy alternatives for baking due to their neutral flavors and stability under heat. Soy milk’s protein content helps with structure, making it particularly good for cakes and bread.

How to make dairy free buttermilk for baking

To make dairy free buttermilk, add vinegar or lemon juice to your preferred non-dairy milk and let it sit for a few minutes until it curdles. Here’s my vegan buttermilk recipe.

Is tofu a good dairy free substitute?

Yes, tofu can absolutely be used in place of dairy products. I have found it works best as a substitute for thicker dairy ingredients, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, cream cheese, and ricotta. Try it for yourself with my tofu pancake recipe.

Roasted Cacao Beans and Cacao Powder
Photo Credit: Canva

Is baking cocoa dairy free?

Pure baking cocoa, cocoa powder, and cacao powder are inherently dairy free, but always check the packaging for any additives that may contain dairy.

 

Is baking powder dairy free?

Most baking powder brands are dairy free, but it’s always important to check the label for any hidden dairy ingredients.

Is cream of tartar dairy free?

Yes! Despite the word “cream” in its name, cream of tartar is dairy free. It’s a dry, powdery, acidic byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine. And if you’re a fan of Lessons in Chemistry, Elizabeth Zott would refer to cream of tartar as potassium bitartrate.

What are Your Dairy Free Baking Tips?

What dairy free swaps have you whipped up? Whether it’s a tried-and-true substitute or a happy accident turned secret ingredient, I’d love to hear about it. Drop your dairy free wisdom in the comments section below.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Fit as a Mama Bear.

Thank you for sharing!

9 thoughts on “Dairy Free Baking: Proven Tips for Beginners”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! I recently had to cut out dairy for health reasons and have been missing baking all my favorite treats. This post gave me so much more confidence in the kitchen. It can be intimidating making the switch to dairy free but knowing there are reliable substitutions and simple tricks is really reassuring.

  2. I was diagnosed with AlphaGal syndrome. Your dairy free baking tips is super helpful. I learned tips like soy and almond milk is best when substituting regular milk in other recipes. Thank you for all the great information!

  3. Thank you for these tips! My sister-in-law just went dairy free and she’s coming over for Thanksgiving. You’ve helped me feel comfortable baking for her. 🙂

  4. What a fantastic overview of dairy-free baking. As someone new to baking without dairy, I found this article extremely useful. I especially appreciated the tips for different substitutions.

  5. My daughter in law has to eat dairy free so this year I am trying to make sure there are Christmas treats that she can eat.
    Thank you for this article, I am not the greatest baker to start with so I was a bit worried that I couldn’t pull off a dairy free cookie.
    These tips have really helped 🙂
    So excited for Cookies and hot chocolate ( with dairy free milk) on Christmas eve with the whole family.

    1. It takes a little adjusting, but dairy-free desserts can be just as delicious. My oldest daughter (who also has alpha-gal) has perfected a vegan pie crust that everyone likes over anything “old school.”

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