Baking Dairy-Free

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When your child has a milk allergy, you’ll need to avoid most store-bought baked goods because they’re commonly made with milk, butter or some other form of dairy.

Fortunately, you don’t need to avoid baked favorites altogether. The solution is to bake them at home, where you have control over the ingredients.

It’s possible to make delicious baked goods without dairy products. What you need to know is the purpose of each ingredient within a baked good and what ingredient substitution can get you a similar result.

Culprit #1: Milk

Milk’s purpose is to give moisture and softness to batter while simultaneously binding it together and improving its strength. It also offers flavor and color when these aren’t hidden by stronger ingredients.

Today, it’s easy to replace cow’s milk with one of the many other forms of milk available on store shelves. When a baking recipe calls for cow’s milk, simply replace it with the same amount of a different type of milk, such as soy, cashew, coconut, almond or rice milk. Look for a safe alternative depending on your child’s full list of food allergies.

Alternatively, you can use water or juice as your liquid in place of milk.

Culprit #2: Butter

Butter is a key ingredient in baked goods, with a purpose of adding a delectable flavor and providing moisture and leavening (rising). It can also provide flakiness to certain foods like pie crusts and biscuits. Because of its flavor and its ideal melting point, butter is tough to replace. But you can definitely bake without it.

What you need to do is replace butter with a different kind of fat. You can use shortening instead, yet it’s smart to use hydrogenated oil like this in moderation. Another option is to use various oils, such as canola, coconut or palm oil.

In place of 1 cup unsalted butter, the equivalent substitution is 1 cup shortening or 7/8 cup oil. If you’re replacing salted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt to that. Choose an oil from a food source your child isn’t also allergic to, and be wary of margarine, which can include milk solids in its ingredient list.

Culprit #3: Unexpected Ingredients

Baked goods can also include a host of other dairy products aside from milk and butter. Some ingredient lists call for sour cream, heavy cream, yogurt, cream cheese or other foods that are dairy products.

These ingredients can generally be avoided altogether, as they are not the basic ingredients needed for baking. They are more like support ingredients used to achieve specific results, such as making a recipe moister or fluffier. Overall, they’re not necessary.

The easiest way to avoid them is to choose a simplified recipe that relies on the old standbys of milk and butter, and then use the tips above to replace those ingredients.


Try these additional tips that can help you bake dairy-free:

  • Seek out vegan recipes. Vegans are vigilant about staying away from dairy products and any other animal products, so these recipes will work for you as well. Keep in mind that vegetarians are different because they do eat dairy and that it’s always a good idea to read over the ingredient list to double check that the recipe is free of dairy.

  • Experiment and have fun. Ingredient substitutions can change the characteristics of the finished product in baking. Even if your baked good ends up a little different from normal, it can still be full of flavor, and you and your child can have fun seeing what happens.

  • Be open to ideas. This article is not exhaustive by any means, as people have come up with innovative ways to create dairy-free recipes. For example, you can substitute peanut butter for butter by using half peanut butter, half oil. Search for additional ideas and experiment in your kitchen.


We recommend these great cookbooks full of dairy-free recipes:

The Big Dairy Free Cookbook: The Complete Collection of Delicious Dairy-Free Recipes

Go Dairy Free: The Ultimate Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious, Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets