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Dear Baker: What can I substitute for milk or buttermilk?

The Dear Abby advice column is something you might rely upon if you need input on your love life or dealing with your in-laws — but not if you’re looking for baking advice. Fortunately, we’re here blogging on a regular basis with tried-and-true suggestions, including what to do when you’re out of an essential ingredient.

If that ingredient is milk or buttermilk (or if you’re baking for someone with milk allergies), you’re in luck. There are a number of viable alternatives you can use, saving you a run to the store.

Milk substitutions (1 cup)

  • ½ cup evaporated milk and ½ cup water
  • 1 cup reconstituted nonfat dry milk and 2 tsp. butter or oil
  • 1 cup water and 1 ½ tsp. butter
  • Soy milk
  • Rice milk
  • Almond milk
  • Potato milk

Buttermilk substitutions (1 cup)

  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar or lemon juice, plus enough milk to equal 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes)
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar, plus 1 cup of milk alternative, such as rice or soy milk

While milk is part of baking recipes because it plays a specific role – namely, hydration of the dry ingredients, which other liquid alternatives can also accomplish – it also offers a plethora of nutrients (calcium and vitamin D ring a bell?) that may not be present in your alternatives. Also, baking substitutions can affect texture and flavor, so keep that in mind. That said, bakers are nothing if not experimenters, so why not try something new? (And if you’ve got problems with your love life or your in-laws, the same advice applies.)