Ultimate Guide to Dairy-free Baking

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oat milk over a pink surface.

Baking has long been a beloved tradition for many, weaving its way through cultures, generations, and memorable moments. The aroma of freshly baked treats wafting through the kitchen evokes a sense of comfort and joy.

But what if you or your loved one have a milk allergy or are simply on a dairy-free journey? Is the world of baking still as exciting and inviting?

Absolutely! Baking dairy-free is possible. So, let’s dive into the world of dairy-free baking with my Ultimate Guide to Dairy-free Baking. While omitting dairy might seem challenging, there are many dairy-free alternatives and techniques that can yield delicious results.

Break the chains of Limitation!

It’s a common misconception that dairy-free baking is restrictive or sacrifices taste and texture. On the contrary, it’s an invitation to embrace alternatives and get creative. The variety of dairy substitutes available today is astonishing, offering an array of flavors and textures that can rival traditional ingredients.

Dairy-free baking is a playground for creativity. As you experiment with new ingredients and flavors, you’ll uncover exciting combinations that you might never have tried otherwise.

Dairy-Free Baked Goods Texture

Dairy-free baked goods can sometimes have different textures than their dairy-containing counterparts due to the unique properties of dairy-free ingredients, such as:

  • Fat Content: Dairy products like butter and cream contribute to the richness and moisture of baked goods. The fat composition can vary when using dairy-free substitutes like vegan butter or oil, which might affect the texture.
  • Protein Content: Dairy products contain proteins that influence the structure and texture of baked goods. When baking without dairy, alternatives like almond milk or soy milk have different protein compositions that can lead to variations in texture.
  • Water Content: Dairy-free ingredients, especially plant-based milk, may have higher water content than dairy counterparts. This can impact the hydration level of the batter or dough, potentially leading to changes in rise, tenderness, and texture.

Dairy-Free Baked Goods Flavor

Dairy-free alternatives can bring their own unique flavors to baked goods. For example, if you substitute regular milk for coconut milk, this swap might add a subtle coconut flavor, almond milk might introduce a hint of nuttiness, and soy milk might have a slightly bean-like taste. These flavors can influence the overall perception of texture and taste. To improve the flavor, you can Enhance your treats with an extra touch of vanilla, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or a zest of citrus.

Baking Times Adjustments When Baking Dairy-Free

When baking dairy-free, you might need to make slight adjustments to baking times to accommodate the differences in moisture content and fat composition of dairy-free ingredients. Here are some general guidelines for making baking time adjustments when working with dairy-free recipes:

1. Monitor Early: Check your baked goods a few minutes before the recommended baking time. This will help you gauge how they’re progressing and prevent over-baking.

2. Smell and Appearance: Pay attention to your baked goods’ aroma and visual cues. They should develop a golden-brown color and emit a delicious aroma. This is usually a good indicator that they’re close to being done.

3. Toothpick or Cake Tester: Insert a toothpick or cake tester into the center of your baked goods, about an inch from the edge. Your baked goods are likely done if it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. If it comes out wet or with raw batter, they need more time.

eggless turtle cake

Baking with food allergies does not need to be frustrating! Even if you can’t use certain ingredients, you can produce amazing desserts that the whole family will love.

4. Check for Firmness: Gently press the top of your baked goods with your finger. If they spring back and feel firm, they’re likely done. If your finger leaves an indentation, they need more time.

5. Oven Temperature Variations: Remember that individual ovens can vary in temperature accuracy. You might want to invest in an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is truly at the temperature you’ve set.

6. Keep Notes: Each time you bake a dairy-free recipe, take notes on any adjustments you made and the resulting texture and taste. This will help you refine your approach for future baking.

7. Practice and Experimentation: As you gain experience baking dairy-free, you’ll become more attuned to the nuances of your recipes and your oven. Practice and experimentation will be your best teachers.

My Favorite Dairy-Free Ingredients Swaps

Dairy-free baking involves creating baked goods without using traditional dairy products such as milk, butter, yogurt, and cream. This approach is often chosen due to allergies, dietary restrictions, lactose intolerance, or vegan preferences.

After much trial and error, here are my favorite dairy-free alternatives for baking:


Substitute butter with dairy-free butter substitutes. Miyoko’s Creamery Organic Vegan Butter and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks are my favorite butter substitutes for baking.

dairy-free butter for baking.


I recommend using soy or oat milk for the best consistency and very neutral flavors, but you can use any dairy-based milk that you prefer. 

soy milk in a bottle over a gray surface.


Make your own dairy-free buttermilk at home by mixing your favorite unflavored, unsweetened variety of non-dairy milk with vinegar. I think soy and oat milk have the best consistency and very neutral flavors. For the vinegar, I recommend apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar. Radio: 1 cup (240 ml) of dairy-free milk + 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of vinegar. Mix the plant-based milk and the vinegar in a bowl, stir, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The milk will be slightly thickened, and you will see small curdled bits. That is okay!

Sour Cream 

Use your favorite dairy-free sour cream. I use and recommend Tofutti Better than Sour Cream

Cream Cheese 

Use your favorite dairy-free cream cheese. My favorite is Violife Just Like Cream Cheese Original.


Use your favorite dairy-free yogurt. I recommend using plain and unsweetened yogurt with a neutral taste, such as soy or oat.

Heavy Cream

Aim for a dairy-free cream with at least 31% fat content if possible. I love Flora Plant Cream, but I know is difficult to find in the USA. I have used Silk Heavy Whipping Cream Alternative with fairly good results.

Sweetened Condensed Milk 

My favorite dairy-free substitute for sweetened condensed milk is NATURES CHARM Sweetened Condensed Oatmilk

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do dairy-free baked goods have different textures of dairy baked goods?

Dairy-free baked goods can sometimes have different textures than their dairy-containing counterparts due to the unique properties of dairy-free ingredients, such as fat, protein, and water.

As you step into the world of dairy-free baking, you’ll find that the possibilities are boundless. With a dash of creativity, a sprinkle of enthusiasm, and a willingness to embrace new ingredients, you’ll embark on a journey that’s as rich and rewarding as traditional baking. So gather your dairy-free alternatives, preheat that oven, and let the magic of dairy-free baking unfold.

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