What can I substitute for milk in a bread recipe?


Today I tried a particular sourdough bread recipe for the first time. For a 1.5-pound loaf, in addition to the usual dry ingredients, dried herbs, and sourdough starter, it called for the following wet ingredients: two eggs, half a cup of milk, and a quarter cup of olive oil.

I liked the results, but sometimes I need bread that does not contain any milk products1 -- no milk, butter, buttermilk, sour cream, cheese, etc. (Eggs are still fine.) What can I substitute for that half-cup of milk? Milk is mostly water not fat so from a "structural" perspective, can I substitute water? Does this amount of milk impart enough flavor that I should try to use something other than water (like soy milk, maybe) to make up for that? I assume I shouldn't substitute fats, right?

  1. The consideration here is kashrut (kosher food), not lactose-intolerance, so even small amounts of milk are problematic.

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Would a substitution with other milk-based ingredients be okay? Or do you want to avoid using milk-based ingredients altogether? ‭Zerotime‭ about 1 month ago

Would sort of bread is this for? Some types of bread don't need any dairy products whatsoever (i.e. 'use water'), while others don't need milk but would need e.g. buttermilk instead, which I assume would need to be replaced here ‭Mithrandir24601‭ about 1 month ago

@Zerotime I've made some edits. Milk and milk derivatives are problematic. This is a sourdough (edited that in) and the first sourdough recipe I've used that called for milk. This produced a richer bread (especially with two eggs in the dough plus an egg wash), but still has a sourdough starter, not dry yeast, as its leaven. I don't know how much half a cup of milk contributes to that richness. ‭Monica Cellio‭ about 1 month ago

@Mithrandir24601 ^^^. (Sorry, didn't notice at first that the two comments were from different people, so wrote an aggregate reply.) ‭Monica Cellio‭ about 1 month ago

3 answers


Soy Milk makes a good substitute.

A word of caution, in most case use the original non-flavored type. Using vanilla soy milk with canned tomato soup is unpleasant.

I found several supporting references here are a couple

In terms of substitution, soy milk can be used cup for cup in the same ratio as dairy milk. And, it can be used in baking and cooking just like dairy milk. While the flavor will not be exactly the same, it will be close, and you should have a similar final product in terms of texture and consistency. Source

Soy milk has about 3-4 grams of unsaturated fat per serving, depending on the brand you purchase. Out of all non-dairy milks out there, soy milk has the most protein, about5-7 grams per serving. Due to its higher protein content, I have found to make soymilk the best for baking, as protein is vital for better structure in doughs and batters. I will even put in 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar with each cup of soy milk I use for baking cakes and muffins, which mirrors buttermilk. This will increase the leavening and make your baked goods more tender. Due to its higher protein content, soy milk works the best for this. Source



Milk is water, protein, fat, and sugar (lactose). In a half-cup of milk, I google: 4g protein, 4g fat, 6g sugar.

I would substitute in a half cup of water, ignore the extra protein, add a drip more olive oil, and add 1.5 teaspoons of sugar or, if you want it darker, molasses.

Or... half a cup of water, 1.5 teaspoons of sugar, and buy eggs one size large than you usually do -- extra large if you usually buy large.

1 comment

I did this (the substitutions, not the larger eggs) and it worked just fine -- I couldn't tell any difference in taste or texture. ‭Monica Cellio‭ 24 days ago


Adding milk to a dough is, most of the time, a consideration of adding liquid to a dough in order to avoid a dry end product1. Baked goods tend to be exposed to high heat for a prolonged time so that a dough should be properly "hydrated" so that you get a crunchy and soft result.

The other answers already provided good alternatives. Some other alternatives include:

  • Plain water
  • Juices (mixed with water or pure)
  • Alternative milk-based product (like the already mentioned soy milk but also oat milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.)
  • Mixing milk derivates with water (not what was asked for but for listed for completeness)

A few advantages with these alternatives is that you can adjust the flavour of the final product. For example, I like to add some apple juice in my bread doughs so that the breads have a slight taste of apples and are more "fruity". (I like apples a lot!) Using water as a replacement leads to a "cleaner" taste as the it doesn't obfuscate the taste of the other ingredients which were used.

So basically: add liquid to your dough, which kind can usually be ignored2.

  1. As @dsr pointed out, milk is primarily water and some other things (protein, fat, sugar). When adding small amounts of milk, the other parts of the milk usually can be neglected, especially in comparison to the amounts you use anyway as part of the recipe. They do help but missing them will most of the time not change the taste to a degree that it would be noticeable.

  2. If doing a recipe that uses a lot of milk in comparison to other recipes (for example 1:1 with other ingredients), one should notice that the part about using a lot of milk might be the very reason why the recipe is the way it is, so substitution isn't very suitable anyway.


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