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

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 Marketing Team.


  1. diane bolt

    very interesting!!!! have used coconut milk unflavored i loved the flavor and the crumb test little dense

    after reading all this think ill back to coconut milk do another love real butter in my bread etc
    have not yet Tagzhong
    trying to hard prove and tweek artisan bread

  2. Farrell Podgorsek

    I’ve been baking dairy-free for almost 30 years. My favorite dairy-free milk for baking is Oat Milk. I buy Pacific Foods Organic Original Oat Milk. My cakes, muffins and breads bake up moist and flavorful. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks are great. There is a new vegan butter made by Miyoko’s. It is coconut and cashew based. It is also a nice product. Kite Hill non-dairy cream cheese was the winner among my dairy and nondairy-eating friends in a taste-off between it and Philadelphia brand dairy cream cheese. It’s worth looking for.

  3. Linda Geary

    Thank you for the great information. I love making the Classic sourdough waffles for my family and quests. They are quite the tradition here now for Sunday mornings. A couple of times I tried substituing the buttermilk by using unflavored, unsweetened almond milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice. In the past I used whole milk with lemon juice and the waffles were amazing! But, using the almond milk/lemon juice the batter would never foam up after adding the baking soda. It was always watery and thin and didn’t rise to make that beautiful texture we are used to with the milk. Any ideas as to why? Fat content maybe of the milk? I’ve substituted many times almond milk for dairy milk on other recipes and there was no difference. Thanks so much!

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      That’s an interesting question, Linda. It’s possible that the lower fat content of almond milk was partially responsible for the lackluster results you saw. Upon doing some further research, it seems that not all nut milks “curdle” the same way real milk does. For best results when making homemade, non-dairy buttermilk, use soy milk as a base. (We’ve added that note to this article to ensure other bakers also have success.) Thanks for bringing this up, Linda, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Antonia Siebert

    The Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks are okay, but Fleischmann’s Original Unsalted Margarine tastes better. I’ve used it for years with great success.

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Thanks for sharing that, Antonia. We’ll have to look for it the next time we stock up on dairy-free ingredients so we can include it in our testing. We’re excited to see how the flavor of this product compares to some of the others we’ve used. Kye@KAF

  5. Gail Laird

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I cannot use dairy products and have been worried about using no dairy in breads and other recipes. This is a great guide, and I cannot wait baking!

  6. Kathy Plunkett

    This is an amazing post Kye! I am going to bring some of these recipes and ideas to our kids kitchen at camp – raising awareness that specialty baking can still be delicious baking!

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Glad to hear it, Kathy! Dietary restrictions don’t have to hold up any of the delicious fun. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  7. Ellen

    Thank you so much for this! I have a daughter with a life-threatening allergy to milk/dairy, and I’ve always wondered what to do in terms of substituting for the dry milk in bread-machine recipes for whole grain breads.

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      With allergies myself, I certainly understand how important it can be to find suitable ingredient substitutes so you can still bake your favorite recipes. Your daughter will be so thankful for the effort you’re going through to make sure she can still enjoy tasty homemade baked goods and bread. Happy baking to you both! Kye@KAF

  8. Jeanette Dunn

    What about eggs? I am allergic. Also found that I cannot do gluten in the last year. So eating sometimes is very interesting in my house.

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Interesting, indeed! We have two helpful resources for you, Jeanette. First is our Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour: You can use it to replace the regular flour in any recipe that doesn’t call for yeast. For gluten-free yeasted baked goods, use a designed-to-be-gluten-free recipe like these here. As for the eggs, I like using Golden Flax Meal blended with water as an egg replacer. (Check out the full instructions for making a successful swap here.) This works best when there’s only one or two eggs in a recipe. Your results may also vary in some of the gluten-free recipes that use eggs as a primary binding ingredient. Look for recipes with fewer eggs and start there to increase your chance of success. Good luck, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Alex

      Chickpea liquid (from a can or from boiling dry beans), “aquafaba”, also works in situations where the flecks of flaxmeal are unwanted, or when the slight nutty flavor would stand out too much. I’ve made bread and chocolate chip cookies with both, and they’re each good in their own way.

    3. Kye Ameden, post author

      We’ve heard that aquafaba is practically a miracle ingredient and can be used in many surprising ways… like to make egg-free meringue. We’ve played around with it a bit in the test kitchen and hope to do more thorough testing to find out the best ways to use this curious liquid. Stay tuned! Kye@KAF

  9. Maggie

    What a great clear post, Kye! I love seeing the substitutions for each common dairy ingredient. Using coconut milk in the Japanese Milk Bread Rolls sounds divine. For those rolls do you use coconut milk to replace the dry milk as well as the whole milk? I know it is only 2 Tbs, but thought I’d ask. Does the extra liquid require extra flour?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for checking out this post, Maggie! If you’re using the coconut milk, you can omit the dry milk powder altogether. Because it’s such a small amount, you shouldn’t need to adjust with extra flour. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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