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Whole Milk Substitute


Whether you have run out of whole milk or cannot drink it, the whole milk substitute list below offers many options to choose from. While whole milk is a delicious recipe inclusion, there are specific scenarios where it’s best left out. For example, if you have dietary restrictions that don’t allow you to consume dairy.

mason jar filled with white milk, carton of milk with image of the cow and label "whole milk"

What Is Whole Milk?

Whole milk is a dairy option that generally contains about 3.5% fat content. This type of milk is often included in many recipes, from baked goods to pancakes, bread, yogurt, and mac and cheese. This milk is versatile in its uses and can be in sweet and savory dishes.

What differentiates this milk from others is the way it is produced. Nonfat, 1% and 2% milk are processed for a lower fat content. In comparison, whole milk is not processed and contains its original dairy fat content.

Best Whole Milk Substitutes

1. Half-and-Half

You can substitute half-and-half for milk, as it is also a form of dairy. You can expect a much richer flavor as half-and-half has a higher fat content (about 3-6x whole milk’s amount). Half-and-half is made by combining the cream with whole milk.

This whole milk substitute is homogenized before being sold, allowing the two different dairy products to stay combined while sitting on the shelf and in your refrigerator. You can use half-and-half for sweet baking recipes and savory recipes that call for whole milk. If half-and-half is too heavy for you, you can lighten it by adding skim milk or even a small amount of water.

Use half-and-half milk for bread, baked goods, creamy soups, casseroles, and custards. Keep in mind the cream and whole milk will separate if you boil them. It’s best to add in half-and-half toward the end of the recipe for items you cook on the stove.

Pros
Half-and-half provides a similar dairy flavor and an incredible richness to recipes. This substitute provides a similar creamy consistency to whole milk. It’s easy to find in the stores and comes in various sizes, making it easy to choose the correct amount for your recipes.

Cons
This option does not work well with recipes that need to cook for a long time. It also may be too rich for some people, even after lightening the fat content with water.

Cooking Tip:
Combine ¾ cup half-and-half with ¼ cup water to use in place of 1 cup of whole milk.

2. Light Cream

Light cream is another option to use as a replacement for whole milk. This replacement is also creamy and adds richness to dishes like whole milk. You will notice a much higher level of richness when using light cream as the dairy fat is much higher.

According to the FDA, light cream (also known as light whipping cream) is under 36% milk fat, without going below 30%. Light cream does need to be pasteurized to qualify as light cream.

You can use light cream in your coffee, for thick sauces, or as a dessert topper.

Pros
Light cream also provides a similar flavor and creamy texture. Use light cream for thicker recipes like soups and sauces.

Cons
Because this dairy product is thicker in consistency than whole milk, it will not work well for all recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Combine ½ cup of light cream with ½ cup of water to create a similar consistency as whole milk. Use in place of 1 cup of whole milk in recipes.

3. Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is another excellent substitute for milk in recipes. It is even thicker and creamier than light milk, as it has an even higher fat content (about 36%).

Substitute heavy cream for milk in recipes that you want to be extra decadent, like chocolate desserts, creamy pasta sauce, and thicker soups. If you want other recipes to be less rich, combine heavy cream and water.

Heavy cream works with most recipes that call for whole milk, though it’s best in more decadent recipes.

Pros
This swap offers a creamy consistency similar to whole milk, like previous options. It also provides a similar flavor and adds decadence to dishes.

Cons
For some, heavy cream may be too decadent in recipes. The consistency is thicker than whole milk, which may not work well for some dishes.

Cooking Tip:
To substitute heavy cream for whole milk, use a 1:1 ratio for more decadent recipes. Or, use ½ cup heavy cream with ½ cup water instead of 1 cup whole milk.

4. Low-Fat Milk

Low-fat milk, also known as 1% milk, is another whole milk alternative that you can use in your meals. This milk has a slightly thinner consistency due to its lower milk fat content. However, you can still use it in all recipes, from baked goods to savory dishes that require whole milk.

Like whole milk, low-fat milk offers a creamy consistency and taste. You will notice a difference in the richness that whole provides to dishes. While you can use low-fat milk as-is, you can alter it with a small amount of melted butter or cream to create that decadence in recipes.

Pros
1% milk is readily available in stores and an excellent choice for those who want the creaminess of whole milk with a lighter flavor. You can use this swap in any recipe.

Cons
Using low-fat milk can require an additional step of adding cream for richness. Otherwise, dishes will not share the same decadence as with whole milk.

Cooking Tip:
Add one tablespoon of cream per cup of low-fat milk; use this as an alternative to whole milk.

5. Skim Milk

Skim milk, aka nonfat milk, is similar to 1% milk, with lower fat content. This milk has no fat (like its name signifies). With no fat, there is a lack of creaminess in recipes. This alternative also has a much thinner consistency, which may need to be altered before dish inclusion.

Skim milk will work well for you if you’re looking for a similar dairy taste. Otherwise, you’ll need to incorporate some half-and-half to create the richness and creaminess that whole milk offers.

Pros
This milk alternative is best in baked goods due to its consistency. It provides a similar dairy taste to recipes.

Cons
The consistency and flavor of nonfat milk versus whole milk are different. This quality will cause a difference in texture and richness unless you combine nonfat milk with half-and-half. Creating a similar consistency will add to the timeline of the recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Incorporate 5/8 cup nonfat milk with 3/8 cup half-and-half to replace 1 cup of whole milk in dishes.

6. Sour Cream

Sour cream works well to replace whole milk in baked goods and thick soups. It does offer a much thicker consistency than whole milk, so it will not bode well with all recipes. However, it provides a similar creaminess in soups and richness in bread, muffins, and other similar desserts.

While it provides a dairy flavor, it also offers a noticeable tanginess to recipes. If you want to use sour cream for additional recipes, you can alter it with water creating a similar texture as whole milk.

Pros
In specific recipes, sour cream offers a similar creamy texture. It also provides moisture and richness in baked goods.

Cons
The flavor profile in recipes will be different from if you use whole milk due to sour cream’s tangy flavor. Due to consistency, it also does not work in all recipes that call for whole milk.

Cooking Tip:
Use in a 1:1 ratio as an alternative to whole milk.

7. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a popular non-dairy alternative for those who avoid dairy for dietary reasons. This milk has a much thinner consistency than whole milk and a subtle coconut flavor. Even still, it can be a great replacement in foods like ice cream, smoothies, soups, and some sauces.

This milk alternative is made from the interior coconut flesh that has been grated. There are multiple varieties available, including canned coconut milk and boxed coconut milk. Opt for the canned version as it offers a creamy, thicker consistency most similar to whole milk.

Pros
Coconut milk is an excellent alternative for those who don’t drink dairy. The canned version provides creaminess similar to whole milk. Use this alternative for sweeter recipes, curries, and other dishes which can handle a coconut taste.

Cons
There will be a noticeable taste difference when using coconut milk as an alternative. Because of this, it does not work with all whole milk recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio as a whole milk replacement.

8. Oat Milk

Oat milk is one of the best non-dairy alternatives to whole milk. It has a more subtle flavor than coconut milk, making it a closer flavor match. Additionally, oat milk has a creamy consistency that mimics whole milk’s creaminess.

This whole milk alternative is at an increasing number of stores due to its growing popularity. It is more expensive than most other whole milk substitutes. You can easily create a homemade version by blending oats and water, then straining.

Pros
Using oat milk as a swap offers creaminess and a neutral taste, making it work with various recipes and dishes.

Cons
This option is more expensive than most other replacements for whole milk. While many stores carry this choice, it may not be available at all grocery stores.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace whole milk.

9. Soy Milk

Soy milk is another excellent choice for a non-dairy alternative to whole milk. Like oat milk, it provides a creamy texture and subtle flavor. However, it will have a sweeter taste than whole milk. This note is true, even for unsweetened soy milk.

Because of this sweetness, it’s best to use soy milk for dessert recipes. Soy milk is also readily available in grocery stores and is typically the cheapest non-dairy alternative.

Pros
Soy milk is readily available and inexpensive. It mimics the creamy consistency of whole milk while offering a neutral taste. Use this swap for sweet recipes.

Cons
The uses of soy milk as a replacement are limited to desserts and sweeter dishes due to its sweetness. It does not provide the exact flavor of whole milk, which may be noticeable in specific recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to swap soy milk for whole milk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use 1% Milk Instead of Whole Milk?

Yes, you can use 1% milk instead of whole milk. You’ll still be providing dishes with a dairy taste, though you can expect there to be less richness in your recipe. You’ll still find a creaminess when using 1% milk. However, it is also a slightly thinner consistency.

Can I Add Cream to Skim Milk to Make Whole Milk?

Yes, you can add cream to skim milk to make whole milk. The difference between skim milk and whole milk is the fat content percentage. Adding cream allows you to increase the fat content of the skim milk. Using 1 ½ tablespoon for every cup of skim milk will offer a consistency similar to whole milk.

What Can I Substitute for Milk In Baking?

You can substitute any of the above options for whole milk in baking. Use heavy cream for a dense, rich baked good and 1% or sour cream for a lighter recipe. You can also use the non-dairy milk alternatives for baking in a 1:1 ratio.

Which Milk is Closest to Whole Milk?

2% milk is the closest, in terms of taste, to whole milk. It has a very subtle taste difference since it is only about 1.25-1.5% different in fat content. For non-dairy milk, oat milk and soy milk are the closest as they have a thicker consistency than other milk alternatives.

Summary

Now, when you’re seeking an excellent whole milk substitute, you can refer to this list. Use sour cream for the best baking swap. Otherwise, half-and-half, low-fat milk, and oat milk create the most similar consistency in recipes.

Additional substitutions you can use in a pinch include evaporated milk, almond milk, whipping cream, kefir, and yogurt.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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