Need a Whole Milk Substitute? Everything You Need to Know 

A whole milk substitute can feel like divine intervention when you’ve started cooking and realize you don’t have the right ingredients.

milk pour from glass on blue background

You might be scratching your head, wondering, “What can I use instead of whole milk?” The good news is that trusted whole milk substitutes exist. And you probably already have at least one in your refrigerator.

What is Whole Milk?

Whole milk is a cow’s milk with many vitamins, including calcium and vitamin D. Whole milk contains 3.25% fat. Reduced fat milks, such as skim, low-fat milk, or 2%, have had fat skimmed from the product.

Whole milk is a popular option for cooking and baking because it offers a full flavor. The flavor comes from the higher fat content, which aids in creating tasty dishes. Many people also enjoy whole milk as it is comparable to what naturally comes from a cow, but you can use a whole milk substitute in cooking.

Dairy-Based Whole Milk Substitute

Cow’s milk can be purchased in many forms, even though the milk fat content differs. If you’re looking for a dairy-based whole milk substitute, you have plenty of options! To get the best results for your recipes, try one of these:

2% Milk

Perhaps the closest to whole milk, 2% can help you out in a pinch. As a whole milk substitute, you can use 2% the same as whole milk. While there is slightly less fat, the taste of this dairy milk will be similar to what you want.

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is a great substitute, although you shouldn’t use the product the same way as whole milk. Because heavy cream is so thick, it is best to water it down to get the right consistency.

As a rule of thumb, use 1 part heavy cream and 1 part water to equal the measurement for your sauces and other recipes.

Half and Half

Half and half is equal parts of whole milk and heavy cream, which makes this substitute ideal! Since it is a bit thicker than whole milk, you may want to cut it with a 1:3 ratio of water to half and half. If you skip the water, your result will still turn out delicious!


You may be surprised to learn that you can use yogurt as a whole milk substitute. Despite yogurt’s thick texture, you can use it instead of whole milk without altering it. Though you might find the sugars in plain yogurt varieties (including Greek yogurt) add extra browning to baked goods, the taste will not suffer.

Sour Cream

Some professionals add water to sour cream to use it as a whole milk substitute. Though subbing it in its original state can add some creaminess to your dishes. When your recipe calls for 1 cup of whole milk, try 1 cup of sour cream instead. When it comes to dairy substitutes, you might be surprised at the outcome.

collage pf whole milk substitutes

Non-Dairy Whole Milk Substitute

Modern-day allergies have brought a new kind of milk substitute to the shelves. Many non-dairy milks can be fantastic as a whole milk substitute. And the difference may be slight. Even if a milk allergy is not a concern, try these great options for your cooking:

Oat Milk

Oat milk offers a creamy texture more than most non-dairy milks, but it does not have the fat content of whole milk. It can provide an excellent flavor to dishes and baked goods. If you have this non-dairy alternative available, give it a try.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is a protein-rich product you can swap when whole milk is unavailable. It is another thick dairy-free option and has only a slightly different taste. As a result, soy milk can help you get similar flavors to whole milk.

Almond Milk

Another popular option is almond milk. The nutty flavor may come through in cooking, and the dish’s consistency may change slightly. Despite the change, almond milk is a decent whole milk substitute, especially for those avoiding lactose.

Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk can bring a new flavor to your dishes. It is important to remember that there is a subtle coconut flavor, so be wary of which dishes you choose to use it in. This whole milk substitute is adequate when you have no other options.


Substituting water for whole milk is the last resort, but it will work in recipes that call for a quarter cup or less. If a recipe requires more milk, it is best to avoid using water.

What Can I Use Instead of Whole Milk in Baking?

The dairy and non-dairy alternatives listed would be adequate for any baked recipe. Powdered or evaporated milks are also great whole milk substitutes for baking. If you reconstitute the powdered milk before use, you can use it just like regular liquid milk.

Evaporated milk is another option to use while baking and has the added benefit of a long shelf life. 60% of its water is removed to create this canned milk. To use in baking, combine 1 part evaporated milk with 1 part water.

Can I Combine Skim Milk and Cream?

To create a whole milk substitute out of skim milk and cream, you’ll want to add 1 ½ tablespoons of heavy cream to 1 cup of skim milk. Mixing these two kinds of milk together can create a similar fat content to store-bought whole milk. Another option would be to add a tablespoon of butter to skim milk.

Savory Recipes Using Whole Milk (or a substitute)

So now that you’re a pro in picking what whole milk substitute to use when, here are some our our favorite recipes in which to use whole milk, or an substitute:

Easy Tuna Pasta

Creamy Rasta Pasta

Olive Garden Stuffed Shells

Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe

Olive Garden Chicken Piccata

Desserts Recipes Using Whole Milk (or a substitute)

Vanilla Chai Mix

Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake

Korean Strawberry Milk

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato

Blueberry Custard Cream Pie

Get Cooking!

Cooking and baking without whole milk are not only possible, but they can also be creative. Spend some time trying different milks with varying soups, savory dishes, and other meals. See what kinds of flavors you come up with. Baking with varying kinds of milk can be exciting, too!

If you’ve never tried other milks before, now’s the time. You might be surprised that whole milk substitutes can pack a punch of flavor. Discover a new favorite whole milk substitute, and it might become your go-to recipe.

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Have questions or suggestions? Leave them in the comments below. Until next time: Stay salty, and sweet 😉

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