Understanding DAIRY-FREE Milk Options for Baking
Updated: Sep 17, 2021
By Savini Gauri
What is the best dairy-free milk option when it comes to baking? Well, that depends on what recipe you are making. Let me break it down for you. Welcome back to another article of my Back to Basics series. In this article, I will be discussing my personal favourite dairy-free milk options for general consumption as well as for baking and cooking.
As times change and progress, more and more people are becoming aware about their allergies and intolerances towards certain ingredients and food products. Lactose intolerance being one of the most common forms of food intolerance is becoming more and more prevalent. A lot of people are interested in cutting back on dairy products these days. It is either because they have a food allergy or follow a vegan diet or simply because they like dairy-free milk better than dairy milk.
In this article, I will talk about some of my favourite dairy-free milk options and some easy and reliable recipes for how to make them at home. All the milk alternatives mentioned are perfectly alright for baking and cooking - the trick is to know what option works best for which recipe. I completely understand that making this choice can be tough. So here I am, attempting to simplify it for you.
OAT MILK - MY FAVOURITE DAIRY-FREE MILK
This option of dairy-free milk is just amazing. I will never forget the first time I tried it. It was life-changing. Especially for all the fellow coffee drinkers: you need to try Oat Milk ASAP if you haven't already. Oat milk is simply fantastic in Hot Mochas and Lattes. And even Iced Coffees. Though it is comparatively new in the Indian market and there aren't too many packaged options available. It is probably the most cost-effective and easiest dairy-free alternative to make. It is naturally a very luscious option that adds a rich creaminess without added fat. Oat milk is perfect to use in baked goods that require a certain thickness and richness to it without having to add fat (for example it tastes exceptional in Bread Puddings and Banana Breads)
To make oat milk all you require is oats and ice-cold water. They are added in a 1:3 ratio (that is one part oats and 3 parts water). Blend them up and strain them. And voila! The only secret to making perfect oat milk is that your water needs to be ice-cold or else your milk will have a slimy feel to it. I like to make oat milk at home as it's quick and can be made at a moment's notice (no prep required). And I do not like to add sugar to my oat milk. But if you feel lazy or simply want to stock up in advance Urban Plater Oat WOW is a good option. They have flavoured options and unsweetened options too.
ALMOND MILK OR OTHER NUT MILKS
Almond milk is one of the most commonly and easily available options when it comes to dairy-free milk. Nut milks in general are a great option whether to consume on their own or while cooking and baking. The best part about nut milks is that depending on what kind of nut you are using, you get an additional slightly nutty flavour which works really well with certain kinds of preparations. You can make nut milk using Almonds, Cashew Nuts, Macadamia nuts, Walnuts, Hazelnuts etc..
For anyone who likes to add a splash of milk to their coffee, nut milks are a great option. Their nuttiness pairs beautifully with the flavour of the coffee.
They are super simple to make: by soaking, then blending and straining the nut of your choice with water. All homemade nut milks just require the nuts of your choice, water and any flavouring you would like to add (like vanilla extract or sugar).
The simplest and most cost-effective nut milk is Almond milk. It can be used in a 1:1 ratio for regular dairy milk. I usually prefer making my own almond milk to avoid consuming any sort of added sugars. But in case you are in a hurry or feel too lazy to make your own almond milk then, Epigamia Almond Milk is a brilliant option. I usually buy their unsweetened variant. But they do offer other flavours too.
Whenever you buy from any brand make sure to check the nutrition label for any additives like sugar, stabilisers etc.
I love to add nut milk to my smoothies, cold beverages or a splash in my coffee (not in larger quantities). I find they add a lovely body and flavour to it. They also work great in vegan cakes or dairy-free cakes like this Vegan Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting.
I love working with coconut milk. It is a staple in my kitchen. It may not be the best option when it comes to beverages. But it is the most ideal option when it comes to cooking and baking. Coconut milk is a rich plant-based milk that makes a great substitute for dairy milk and is also loaded with added benefits. It has the right kind of fats and very little sugar. This makes it the perfect replacement for milk in baking and cooking. It can be used in a 1:1 ratio for replacing milk. It is very easy to work with and store making it a great option for baking and cooking.
The only drawback that coconut milk has is that the aroma is very difficult to cover up. The flavour can die out when baked making the flavour of coconut milk completely undetectable.
This alternative milk is easy to find and make as well. But I would not recommend making it at home since the output ratio is very low. So it makes sense to make it at home if you plan to use it in a small quantity. Luckily, it is easily available in the market and that too by a wide variety of brands. So you can simply stock up. The only thing you need to be careful about is that you read the nutrition label carefully to ensure that it does not contain any added sugars. flavouring agents, enhancers etc..
WHY I DON'T LIKE SOY MILK
The one dairy-free alternative that has been available to us for the longest time is Soy Milk. I'm sure most of us have tried soy milk at some point or another. This Soybean based milk alternative has been prevalent in a lot of cultures and has been used for baking, cooking or simply to drink. But I am not a big fan of it. It somehow tastes very gritty to me and has a very strong flavour. Even if you use strong favours like chocolate it is very difficult to mask its flavour. Also, soy milk is not the best option when it comes to our health. So consuming it in moderation is a good idea.
In general when it comes to dairy-free milk, you do you. The taste and flavour have to work for your palette. Also, if you have some sort of intolerance or allergy, consume whatever sits well with your digestive system and body in general.
I sincerely hope that this article helped you understand the world of dairy-free milk options a little better than before.
Question: What’s your favourite alternative milk? Share in the comments below!