Baking Dairy Free
Restocking your pantry to be dairy free can be a daunting task. Initially, you should take it slow and replace only those staple items that you use on a regular basis, otherwise you may end up with ingredients that you may never use.
As you clean out your pantry, you may find that some of your baking staples are dairy free and do not have to be replaced.
If you are not a baker, but enjoy the occasional sweet treat, there are several great brands that offer cake, brownie and dessert mixes. Use our mobile app, Now Find Dairy Free, to help you find your favorite products.
Below is a list of dairy free items I keep stocked in my kitchen.
I keep several different types of milks on hand including cashew milk and almond milk in my refrigerator and shelf stable rice and coconut milk in my pantry. Soy and hemp milks are also good additions to any pantry. I use cashew milk most often for baking, but I use all of these milks while baking and cooking.
While canned chickpeas may not the first ingredient you think of with dairy free baking, the liquid from the canned chickpeas is used to make aquafaba. Aquafaba is very useful in dairy free baking. It can be used to make many delicious treats like dairy free meringues, mousses, buttercream, fudge…the list goes on and on. And to think, we used to just throw the liquid away.
Cream of Coconut
Canned cream of coconut is a great pantry staple that is used often in dairy free baking and desserts. It can be used to as a thickener or to make dairy free whipped cream.
Eggs are dairy free and provide protein. They add moisture, act as a leavening agent, and are a binder in baked goods.
Liquid Dairy Free Coffee Creamer
Liquid dairy free coffee creamers are not only good in your coffee. They are a great substitute for milk in recipes. I always have some on hand.
There are so many ways to use olive oil in the kitchen, but one of my favorite ways is to use it in baking as a butter substitute.
Dairy Free Butter Substitutes
There is a wide variety of dairy free butter substitutes available. Many of them are vegan and several do not contain the 8 most common allergens. There are spreadable versions available for toast and sticks available for baking and cooking. Try several to see which you prefer.
Dairy Free Yogurts
There are many dairy free yogurts commercially available. While sweeten or flavored dairy free yogurt is a great food to grab when you are in a hurry, I also like to keep plain dairy free yogurt in my refrigerator for baking and cooking.
Single grain flours are generally dairy free. Flour blends, especially gluten free flour blends, pancake mixes and biscuit mixes often contain dry milk powder. Make sure to check the ingredient labels before using these products.
Starches are generally dairy free.
- Tapioca Starch/Flour– Tapioca starch and potato flour are the same product.
- Potato Starch – Unlike Tapioca starch and flour, potato starch and potato flour are not the same product. Potato starch is a very fine white powder, similar in texture to corn starch. Recipes will ask for potato starch specifically. It can also be used to thicken anything that will not be boiled such as gravy, sauces, custard, and pudding.
- Arrowroot Starch/Flour – Arrowroot starch, flour and powder are all the same product. It can be used to lighten the texture of baked goods. Arrowroot powder can also be used as a thickener in the same way as corn starch. If you are allergic to corn, arrowroot is a good substitute. If you are using it to thicken gravy, stews or soups, you will need to first make a slurry. Mix arrowroot powder with a cold liquid and whisk until combined. Add this slurry to your dish at the end of the cooking time, usually right before serving.
- Corn Starch – The thickener that your grandma and mom used, corn starch is commonly used to thicken pies, stews and gravies. Like arrowroot, corn starch must be made into a slurry before being added to gravies, stews or soups. Corn starch is also added to powdered sugar as an anti-caking agent. If you need to avoid corn, you will need to avoid most commercially made powdered sugars. Luckily powdered sugar is easy to make at home. Please see my powdered sugar notes for a great recipe for homemade powdered sugar.
Gums add elasticity to baked goods. Most recipes only call for gums in very small quantities, so even though they can be expensive, they last a long time. Buy the smallest container available and store in the freezer to increase its longevity.
Xanthan Gum – This is a dairy free, corn product. If you are allergic to corn, please do not use this product.
Guar Gum – This product is dairy free and made from the Guar or Indian cluster bean. Like xanthan gum, it is used in small amounts for thickening, binding or as a volume enhancer.
Sugars themselves are dairy free but often times commercially available sugars contain additives. Be sure to check the labels carefully for any additives.
- Light or Dark Brown Sugar
- Turbinado (Raw) Sugar – Excellent for topping muffins and pastries for a sweet crunchy topping.
- Confectioner’s or Powdered Sugar – If you are allergic to corn, you will need to avoid most commercially made powdered sugars, as corn starch is often added as an anti-caking agent. It is simple to make your own powdered sugar at home. Place granulated sugar into your blender and blend until it becomes a powder. Then use a sifter to remove any lumps. The two commercially sugars available without corn starch that I know of are: King Arthur’s “Glazing Sugar” and C&H “Ultra-Fine Bakers Sugar.” C&H is not quite powdered, but very fine crystals, and will still have to be blended to become powder.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Baking powder and baking soda themselves are dairy free. Check the label for additives.
Cream of Tartar
Despite the name, cream of tartar is completely dairy free. It is derived from grapes and is a winemaking industry byproduct. It is most commonly used for meringues or puff pastries such as éclairs.
Yeast, in any form, is dairy free. It is not made from any animal product and is safe for dairy free and vegan baking.
Psyllium husk is exactly what you think it is, and yes, it is supposed to be here. Most people know Psyllium Husk as a plant based fiber supplement. Unflavored psyllium husk is also used to thicken vegan recipes and to improve the texture of gluten free baked goods. If a recipe calls for psyllium husk, resist the urge to leave it out. You can find it in the Health & Beauty section of most grocery stores. Make sure you buy one without flavoring. It can be pricey, but most recipes only require a small amount so you will not have to buy another for a long time.
Vegetable shortenings are a great substitute for butter or margarine in recipes. It can be found plain or butter flavored. Crisco is an old standby and is still readily available, but please be aware that it does contain soy. If you need to avoid soy a better choice would be Earth Balance Natural Shortening or Spectrum Organic Shortening.
Spices and Extracts
Check any spices that you have in your pantry. Most single spices will be dairy free, but make sure to check the labels for additives. Spice blends and mixes will often include additives.
Spices also expire, so unless you are going to bake frequently, start with small containers of a few spices and work your way up to purchasing more it becomes necessary. I use cinnamon in almost everything I bake, so I keep a large container in my pantry. Cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg round out my most used spices for baking. You can bake almost anything if you have these spices on hand.
Vanilla extract- A very common ingredient in baking recipes. It is commonly available in grocery store baking aisles. I prefer using pure vanilla extract instead. It is a little pricey, but a little goes a long way. Again, be sure to check your labels.
There are many other extracts available from peppermint and almond to coffee and hazelnut. If you have some in your pantry already, check them to make certain that they are dairy free. If you don’t have them, don’t worry. As long as you have vanilla extract, you will be fine. You can add to your pantry a little at a time.
Dairy Free Milk Powders
Milk powders are used in baking to add richness, flavor and aid in browning. There are several different types of dairy free milk powders. You can find soy, almond, rice, coconut and even potato milk powders readily available. Dairy free powdered coffee creamers can also be used in recipes. Make sure to read the labels of any “non-dairy” product to make sure there are no milk additives.
What is a kitchen without chocolate? Happily, real chocolate, or cacao, is dairy free. It also tends to be very dark and very bitter. There are plenty of safe options for all your dairy free baking needs although you need to be wary of what is added to the cacao in the manufacturing process. Be careful with chocolate products labeled “non-dairy,” as they may still contain traces of milk products.
Baking Chips – I always keep semi-sweet chips on hand. There are several brands that make delicious dairy free semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips and chunks.
Chocolate Bars – I use bars for decorating and the occasional sweet tooth attack. There are several manufacturers that offer dairy free, allergen safe chocolate bars.
Baker’s unsweetened chocolate – This product is 100% cacao. It is used often in baking and is dairy free, but check labels for production warnings.
Natural unsweetened cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate- These should be naturally dairy free, but read your labels to check for allergens.