Best Milk Substitutes for Cooking and Baking

My youngest daughter has been fatally allergic to dairy products since birth. Never having had to really think about milk substitutions or replacements before, I had no idea what to buy or use in place of genuine dairy products. As the years went on I learned two things. First, that there is a huge difference in the quality and taste of the various products available. Second, I learned that if I was going to be doing all the cooking from scratch I’d better find out what the best cooking substitutes were, and fast. Small children have no tolerance for anything icky.

Smart Balance Light: We all need a good spread to put on the table or use in lighter cooking. Smart Balance Light ended up being the best tasting butter substitute for this purpose. The taste isn’t overwhelming, like some other cooking substitutions are, and it isn’t made with animal fat, so it’s also heart healthy. It doesn’t bake very well, but works great for toast, in soups, and for frying an egg.

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese: A really good cream cheese substitute was hard for me to find at first, but a friend turned me on to Tofutti brand and I found my way to this one. It works well as last minute additions to soups and sauces, or just spread over a bagel. I haven’t figured out how to turn it into a cheesecake yet, but I’m still working on it.

So Delicious Ice Cream from Turtle Mountain: Every mom needs a go-to ice cream they can feed their kids both straight, and as part of a recipe. So Delicious makes great soy ice creams that taste great both alone in a bowl, or reformed into ice cream cakes and freezer pies.

Stonyfield O’Soy Organic Soy Yogurt: We don’t often think of yogurt substitutes until we’re looking at a recipe that requires one, or we get hit by a sudden craving. This is one of those products that can go horribly wrong on the taste buds if it doesn’t come from the right company. Stonyfield’s soy yogurt was recommended to me by one of my grocers, and I’ve been very happy with every flavor I’ve tried. It bakes well in cakes and can be turned into a frozen yogurt very easily.

Crisco Butter Flavored: For some baking recipes there is no substitute for real butter. For everything else there’s butter flavored Crisco. Sometimes the old standbys are the best option. This is one of those times. Use it as a cooking substitute for butter in cakes, cookies, pie crusts, and muffins.

Great Value Soy Milk: Regular milk substitutions for drinking are really a matter of personal taste, but they don’t all cook or bake equally. I found, after quite of bit of trial and error, that WalMart’s store brand, Great Value, makes the best soy milk for cooking and baking. It’s creamy in soups, and doesn’t leave my biscuits flat and heavy.

Rice Dream Rice Milk: Not everyone likes soy milk. My daughter is one of those people. For recipes where the flavor of the milk substitute is going to come through she greatly prefers Rice Dream. It also makes a great ice milk when mixed with pureed strawberries, bananas, or other fruit, as well as in smoothies.

Coconut Milk (any brand): One of my biggest challenges in learning cook without milk or dairy products was finding a good substitution for evaporated milk. You can’t make a pumpkin pie without one, and all of the soy based cooking substitutes fell flat in both performance and taste. A good friend introduced me to the idea of using coconut milk as a substitution for evaporated milk on Thanksgiving, and I’ve been playing with it ever since.

Tofutti Sour Cream: Yes, Tofutti comes to the rescue again. They make an excellent soy based sour cream. It doesn’t taste exactly like regular sour cream, but it’s a taste one can easily get used to, and it’s the best one I’ve found so far. Other brands have a tendency to make my taste buds want to commit suicide just to get away from them. This one is actually rather good, and it cooks pretty well too.

More from Candes:
Don’t Change Your Diet! Change Your Foodstyle
5 Foods with More Calcium Than Milk
3 Modern Classic Cookie Recipes