For baking and cooking, you can substitute soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, oat milk or potato milk for cow's milk at a one to one ratio (1 cup of almond milk for 1 cup of cow's milk, for example.)
Taste any dairy substitute you use, especially for milk or butter, before adding it to your recipe. Try out a few different brands of milk substitutes before selecting one, because they have subtle differences that will affect the final product.
For milk substitutes, use the light or unsweetened varieties, especially when cooking savory dishes. For baking breads, cookies or cakes, use plainly flavored milk substitutes, because the flavored ones alter the taste of the final product. Be sure to taste all substitutes first: Some can be a lot sweeter than cow's milk.
If a recipe calls for buttermilk, simply mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with 1 cup of plain soy milk.
For heavy cream, light cream or half-and-half, substitute with something that has just about the same thickness and texture -- for example, coconut cream in a one-to-one ratio for heavy cream. For every 1 cup of light cream, mix 3/4 cup soy, rice or almond milk with 1/4 cup canola oil. You can use this for heavy cream, too, but in a two to one ratio.
Applesauce or oil works well in place of butter, but only for cakes, muffins, brownies or items that bake up soft (i.e., cookies will not become crispy if oil or applesauce is used). To substitute oil for butter, use 3/4 cup oil for every 1 cup of butter. For applesauce, use a one-to-one ratio plus 2 tablespoons of oil.
Soy milk versions of sour cream and yogurt are often not as thick and don't have the same texture as regular sour cream or yogurt. Pureed silken tofu is a great option for both substitutions. Coconut cream also works in place of yogurt. The best option for the thickness of cream cheese is to use a dairy-free or soy version. The taste and texture is actually very similar to cow's milk cream cheese, so you can use it in baked goods or regular recipes with just about the same results. You can substitute each of these items in a one-to-one ratio for each recipe.
Many recipes exist for homemade dairy-free milks, yogurts and even cheeses. For example, to make your own sweetened condensed milk, combine 1/2 cup dairy-free powder (such as potato powder) with 1 cup hot water and 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar. Make evaporated milk with 1/2 cup dairy-free powder and 1 cup hot water.
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