5 tips for substituting dairy out of baking recipes

Do you have tried-and-tested baking recipes that you love, but that contain dairy when you need to bake for a non-dairy eating friend / family? Have you tried substituting ingredients in the past, but the recipe has ended disastrously?

Rest easy, I’ve been in this position for years, working for clients who demand a recipe / product that tastes the same as before, but that can be proven “free from”.  I have tested a bunch of different plant-based spreads, oils and solid fat blocks trying to find that holy grail of “you just can’t tell there’s no cow!”

The below tips are a result of many failed recipes, but several brilliant substitution solutions…and I hope they make your life a ton easier, whether you’re baking for a kid with a lactose intolerance, or a new vegan friend.

Let me know how you go!

Substituting dairy out of baking recipes

    1. For crunchy sugar cookies and gooey cookie recipes, I like to use a vegetable fat “block” that is solid in the fridge, as a direct replacement for cows milk butter. Gram-for-gram, you can do a straight swap. Look for a plant-based fat that is a mixture of different fats, e.g., shea butter, rapeseed oil, coconut fat. Some brands I’ve come across that are good are: Naturli (Europe and UK), Stork baking block (UK), Melt butter sticks, or Earth Balance buttery sticks (USA and Canada).
    2. With a sponge cake recipe, substituting dairy out could not be easier. Use a mixed vegetable spread (margarine), that is spreadable at room temperature. A blend of fats (e.g. sunflower, rapeseed oil and soya), work better than single ingredient spreads (e.g., soya only) in my experience.
    3. Try adding a small pinch of salt to sweet recipes – often butter made with cows milk is processed with salt, so this helps to reproduce the flavour you’re used to.
    4. I’ve found that soya or oat milk can often be a straight swap for cows milk in recipes like pancakes and scones / American biscuits.
    5. For a trustworthy vanilla ‘butter’cream or frosting, try my recipe, below. This recipe uses two different types of solid plant fat – one yellow in colour, and one white, more of a shortening than margarine. It makes enough to layer and ice the top of an 8 inch round cake, like this lovely vanilla sponge cake, that happens to be dairy free:

A reliable vanilla ‘butter’cream icing

Makes enough to fill and top a round 8 inch 2 layer sponge.


  • 125 g white coloured solid vegetable baking fat e.g. Crisco or Trex, at room temperature
  • 125 g solid dairy free baking block e.g., Naturli or Stork, at room temperature.
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean extract


Using a food mixer or lots of bicep power, mix the two fats together until you have a smooth paste with no lumps. Add in the vanilla, then icing sugar in two goes, beating until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add in a tbsp. at a time of a pale or white plant milk e.g. Good Hemp or Oatly.



PS For an easy peasy simple, one bowl vanilla cake that’s made without cows’ milk butter, try my recipe here:


Comments (1)

February 2, 2020

Lovely suggestions, thank you!

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