Dairy-free bread: Sandwich loaves, enriched rolls, and pastry

Have you ever wondered how to make your favorite recipes dairy-free? Let us show you the way by making some of our most well-loved recipes with non-dairy ingredients. In this post we explore how to bake with yeast while avoiding dairy, including dairy-free bread, sweet rolls, even pastries! Note: for the sake of this post, eggs are not considered dairy ingredients.

As a baker, you’ve got to have a number of tools in your toolbox. It’s helpful to know how to save deflated dough and substitute whole wheat flour. Another skill that’s becoming increasingly useful? Making your favorite recipes dairy-free. Perhaps someone you bake for is lactose-intolerant, or maybe you just ran out of milk. Either way, we’re going to teach you how to make delicious dairy-free bread: sandwich loaves, enriched rolls, and pastries will all be in your repertoire.

Dairy plays a key role in many yeasted recipes. It adds creamy flavor, tender texture, and helps with browning. Milk, buttermilk, and butter are just a few of the dairy products commonly used in bread and pastry. Don’t fret — we’ve come up with substitutes that will yield equally fantastic results without any dairy at all.

If your recipe calls for this dairy product, use this dairy-free ingredient instead:

1. Milk: If you’ve read any of our other posts about dairy-free baking, you won’t be surprised to hear that in most recipes that call for milk, you can use your favorite non-dairy milk instead.

The key is to use an unsweetened, unflavored variety. Soy, almond, and rice milk are all good options because they’re neutral in flavor. You’d be hard-pressed to taste the difference between bread made with regular milk vs. any of these non-dairy milks.

Some dairy-free milks have a more prominent flavor (like coconut and cashew milk). These may impart a slightly nutty (albeit subtle) taste in your baked goods.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

Look at this loaf of Our Favorite Sandwich Bread — it’s made with almond milk. No one would ever know the difference unless you shared the dairy-free secret.

2. Buttermilk or buttermilk powder: If you’re a baker who likes a little tang in your baked goods, you might find yourself baking with buttermilk. (Or buttermilk powder, which is a shelf-stable version of this versatile ingredient.)

You don’t need to say goodbye to your favorite buttermilk bread recipe just because you’re baking dairy-free. Make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk. (Soy milk tends to “curdle” like real buttermilk the most.) Mix it up, let it rest for about five minutes, then use it in your recipe to replace the liquid. Voilà, butter(dairy-free)milk!

3. Dry milk powder: A handful of soft sandwich bread recipes call for Baker’s Special Dry Milk, which helps loaves rise high while also boosting nutrition and flavor. In these instances, you have two options to make dairy-free bread.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

Classic White Sandwich Bread made with water and oil on the left, milk and butter on the right

Option #1: Omit the dry milk powder (and use water)

Typically recipes that call for dry milk powder use water as the liquid in the dough. If you simply leave out the dry milk powder, your loaf may be slightly less tender and a bit more pale than it otherwise would be. Extend the baking time by about five minutes to attain a golden crust.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

Classic White Sandwich Bread made with almond milk and oil on the left, milk and butter on the right

Option #2: Use non-dairy milk

If you really want to make a loaf that’s indistinguishable from its dairy counterpart, go back to our tried and tested rule: use plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk. In this case, use non-dairy milk in place of the water in the recipe and omit the dry milk powder.

4. Butter: This is another instance when you have two options: oil or vegan butter. The ingredient to use depends on the amount of butter in your recipe.

For sandwich breads and other recipes that call for just a few tablespoons of butter (fewer than 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter per cup of flour), you can use an equal amount of vegetable oil. It’s hard to tell the difference when this is the only variable that’s changed.

For enriched dough that calls for a large amount of butter (think brioche, babka, and cinnamon rolls), use vegan butter. We like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks because they behave like butter in baking.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

The croissant on the left is made with vegan butter and non-dairy milk; on the right is a traditional Baker’s Croissant made with butter and dry milk powder.

Vegan butter acts so much like butter we were even able to make buttery, flaky croissants with it. These two croissants look slightly different, but both look delicious in my book.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

Yes, we said it: croissants without real butter! Truth be told, the flavor was (surprisingly) delightful. The layers were super flaky. I promise no one will be disappointed if you make homemade pastry with this stuff.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

You can make practically any yeasted dough dairy-free: bread, enriched dough, even pastry! Click To Tweet
Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

Our Sweet Cheese Coffee Bread calls for three different dairy products, but no recipe is off the table when you’re prepared with the right dairy-free substitutes.

5. Sour cream, yogurt, or cream cheese: Some breads get an extra boost from other dairy ingredients to make them extra rich and flavorful. You’ll need to be a resourceful shopper and scout the dairy case to find plain, unsweetened soy, almond, or coconut yogurt.

Non-dairy yogurt can replace yogurt and sour cream in recipes. (Soy yogurt tends to be the tangiest non-dairy yogurt and therefore the best substitute for sour cream.) Yogurt even works to replace cream cheese; just hold back 1 to 2 tablespoons of liquid in the recipe. Bonus points if you can find dairy-free cream cheese! It certainly exists and is becoming more mainstream.

Dairy-free bread via @kingarthurflour

These Japanese Milk Bread Rolls made with coconut milk and vegan butter turn out just as delicious (if not more) than the original version.

Special cases: Some of my favorite recipes (Japanese Milk Bread Rolls and Soft Cinnamon Rolls) use a method called tangzhong. This process involves cooking some of the flour in the recipe with milk to make dough that’s extra light and tender.

To make dairy-free bread using tangzhong, it’s important to use milk that’s high in fat. Coconut milk (not the canned milk but the kind that comes in a box or carton) yields delightful results.

Tangzhong recipes sometimes call for both regular milk and dry milk powder; use coconut milk or another high-fat non-dairy milk to replace both the regular milk and water in the recipe. If you use all coconut milk, your rolls will have just a hint of a floral tasting note. (Yum!)

Dairy-free bread: easy and delicious

Baking dairy-free bread and pastries can sound challenging. But now you know how easy it can be! You can even make dairy-free, gluten-free bread if need be — just be sure to use a designed-to-be-gluten-free recipe, then replace the dairy ingredients.

Stand by those dairy-free staple ingredients and make simple swaps for the dairy products in your favorite recipes. Who knows, you just might discover that you like dairy-free bread better than the original. (Soft Cinnamon Rolls made with coconut milk? Divine!) If you come across any outstanding dairy-free variations, let us know in the comments below.

For more dairy-free tips, techniques, and recipes, check out our other articles about dairy-free baking here.

Thanks to Anne Mientka for taking the photographs for this post.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Engagement Team.

comments

  1. Cindy Rickes

    Thank you so much for this information! I made bread this weekend using almond milk and got fabulous results with the KAF favorite sandwich bread recipe. I am sure using KAF flours and yeasts in all that I bake certainly helps, too.

    Reply
  2. Ben F.

    Thanks for the dairy-free baking info! All of the breads I make are dairy-free since my husband is allergic. I usually use a blend of almond and soy, as I find that when using just one or the other the flavor tends to come through (and we always have both in the fridge).

    While all the fancy vegan butter-replacers like Earth Balance get all the press, I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. It has a great buttery flavor and really behaves like butter in most situations. We only get the “original” version, not the sticks (which have dairy in them), which does not behave well in pastry. A new product called Melt Buttery Sticks hit the stores near us recently and it makes great pastry, but with a pretty strong coconut flavor. Best biscuits I’ve made so far blend both of those with shortening, with everything going in the freezer for at least 30 min before mixing with the flour.

    Reply
  3. Stefanie

    I loved this article. I’m lactose intolerant myself and sometimes have a hard time finding recipes that are dairy free. Look forward to trying these recipes.

    Reply
  4. Lucy Price

    I have been a fan of King Arthur for a long time. I read posts with great anticipation and have enjoyed looking back through the past 18 years of info shared with those of us who love baking. I have a historical question: How far back do your KA recipes actually go? I love historical baking. I took a class with a niece at your facility up in Washington. It was awesome fun.
    Would you ever consider having a store or facility in San Diego? We really do have lots of people who bake and I think a store would “flourish”.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Hi Lucy, thanks for your positive feedback. We’re glad to hear you’re no stranger to our recipes or our flour. Our recipes go back to the early days of our company — we were founded in 1790 and have been baking ever since. The date of the very first recipe might be lost to time, but you can count on the fact that our history has been filled with delicious recipes of all kinds. If you’re a baker who loves learning about history, read about our story through time here.We appreciate your suggestion about opening up a store in San Diego, and we’re glad to know you’d be an avid supporter. We don’t have plans to add another location to our campus currently, but we’ll certainly keep this area in mind in future discussions about expansion. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  5. Lar

    Thank you and please continue to publish dairy-free & egg-free posts.
    Following a vegan diet helps my bad gut (IBD) plus I’m lactose intolerant.
    I still collect, but had stopped trying all the great KAF recipes (including those from my KAF cookbooks, Baking Sheets, Sift magazine). Now I’m encouraged to return to the kitchen to see how those recipes fare with these substitutions.
    If I’m going to invest the time baking, I want the results to be something really good (that happens to be vegan) versus something that’s okay, considering it’s vegan. (I’d rather do without, than serve the latter.)
    I also prefer avoiding ingredients that average folks don’t have in their pantries. After all, that’s the reason I’m making something at home, instead of going out and buying it.
    Thank you again (and thank you to all who posted suggestions for tried and true ingredients)!

    Reply
  6. Marjie

    Thank you so much for this post. After forty-plus years of baking with butter, milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc, I finally decided to give a go at non-dairy. I believe it’s better for me and better for the planet. I still enjoy a little cheese here and there, and I’ve found a little goes a long way.
    I so appreciate the tips as well as ideas from other bakers.

    Reply
  7. Kathy

    What about using EnerG Egg replacer instead of the flax egg?? – or even the new “eggs” by Follow Your Heart?? I”ve made omelettes with them, and though VERY similar to eggs in texture,smell…..almost taste, but still good!!! Thoughts on those 2??

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Hi Kathy, these aren’t ingredients we typically use in the test kitchen, but we’ve heard from other bakers they can work remarkably well in most recipes, including bread. EnerG reports that their product works especially well when baking from scratch, so we encourage you to give it a try. (One Egg = 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 tbsp water) We’ll have to keep an eye out for the “Follow Your Heart,” product so we can get more familiar with how it behaves in baking. Kye@KAF

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