Exploring Substitutes for Milk in Mashed Potatoes

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Are you wondering what’s the best way to substitute milk in mashed potatoes? There are lots of different options to choose from when making mashed potatoes without milk so this comfort food favorite fits into different diets and lifestyles. Some work better than others and some even add more nutritional value to the potatoes.

Why Use a Milk Substitute

There are a variety of reasons that you may be looking for a substitute for milk in mashing potatoes. Some of the top reasons include:

  • Dietary Sensitivity: This can include lactose intolerance or even just a sensitivity to different dairy products.
  • Style of Eating: Do you follow a vegan or plant-based diet and want to know how to make a great tasting mashed potato side dish without any dairy?
  • Out of Milk: Are you craving them but out of milk and don’t want to go to the store?
  • Lower Calories or Change Nutritional Value: You may also be looking to simply make them a bit healthier for personal reasons.

Cooking Without Milk

Milk adds both flavor and moisture to mashed potatoes and is what contributes to their creamy and fluffy texture. This comes from the liquid, but also the amount of fat in regular whole milk. So keep that in mind as you are considering the various replacements available.

You may also need to experiment a little with using different ratios for the replacements you add in order to discover what works best for you. Not all replacements will be a simple 1:1 swap.

Here’s the basic ratio for 4 servings:

  • Potatoes: Two pounds
  • Regular Milk: 1 cup
  • Fat: ½ cup
  • Salt: To taste

Substitutes for Milk in Mashed Potatoes

There are several main categories of substitutes for milk in mashed potatoes. These include other types of dairy, plant-based milk, and other liquids or ingredients.

Other Types of Dairy to Substitute

1. Heavy Cream:

  • Description: Heavy cream contains a higher fat content than whole milk so it makes super rich, creamy, almost decadent mashed potatoes. You can swap out at a 1:1 ratio or reduce the amount if desired.

2. Sour Cream:

  • Description: Sour cream is much thicker than whole milk so it makes a much thicker, more dense mashed potato. When using sour cream, I like to reserve ½ cup of the cooking water and combine that with ½ cup of sour cream. The tangy flavor in sour cream does come through in the mashed potatoes. Try mixing in some chopped chives for a sour cream and chive mashed potato combination.

3. Yogurt:

  • Description: Plain, full-fat Greek or regular yogurt can also be used. The greek yogurt is thick, like the sour cream so it may need to be used in conjunction with another liquid such as the cooking water or broth. Yogurt also has a unique flavor that comes through in your mashed potatoes.

4. Half and Half:

  • Description: This dairy option is made of one-half heavy cream and one-half milk. It makes a creamier, richer mashed potato though less so than the heavy cream alone. If you want to swap out the milk with half and half, use a 1:1 ratio.

5. Cream Cheese:

  • Description: Cream cheese melts easily and gives them a unique flavor that’s fantastic when paired with green onions or garlic. Start with ½ cup of cream cheese and then add more if you want.

6. Buttermilk:

  • Description: The tanginess of buttermilk makes a perfect companion for mashed potatoes. It works to simply replace an equal amount of milk with buttermilk.

7. Mayonnaise:

  • Description: Mayonnaise can also work as a replacement for milk though it will also change the flavor of them, adding a slight eggy flavor. I’d start with one-half the amount of mayonnaise and mix it in and then adjust from there. You may also need to thin it out with cooking liquid or broth.

8. More Butter:

  • Description: Simply ditch the milk and pile on more butter!

9. Evaporated Milk:

  • Description: This type of milk comes in a can and is a more processed and concentrated form of milk. You can swap it out 1:1 or add one-half the amount of milk and then another liquid such as reserved cooking liquid from the potatoes or tap water. Be sure you are using evaporated milk and NOT sweetened condensed milk, they aren’t the same thing!

Alternative Milks

Swapping out dairy milk with plant milk is a bit tricky but definitely an option especially if you are following a vegan diet. Most of these kinds of milk have a unique flavor in them that I find shows up in dishes, like mashed potatoes, in ways that don’t necessarily taste that great.

You can use any of these options below in a 1:1 ratio in place of milk, but be sure you choose an unsweetened version of the milk. You may find that you need to experiment a bit with them to see which works best for you when making mashed potatoes.

10. Oat Milk:

  • Description: One of the more mild flavor options you can use as a replacement for milk.

11. Rice Milk:

  • Description: This substitute is also mild but has a natural sweetness that may or may not work for mashed potatoes.

12. Canned Coconut Milk:

  • Description: I like this option because it has a creamier texture to it but it does definitely add some coconut flavor to them. This flavor may work with some meals and not for others.

13. Almond Milk:

  • Description: This may add a slightly more nutty flavor to them.

14. Soy Milk:

  • Description: The flavor of soy milk is slightly more subtle but it still may add some hint of the soybeans to them.

Additional Liquids and Ingredients

15. Vegetable Broth:

  • Description: Vegetable broth works great as a substitute for dairy in mashed potatoes as it does bring a hint of flavor with it. I’ve used in it my favorite mashed potato recipe with delicious results.

16. Water:

  • Description: Simply use water. The options here are filtered or tap water or you can also save the boiling liquid from the mashed potatoes and use that instead. The starchy water from boiling the potatoes may add a little more flavor to the potatoes than the tap water.

17. Silken Tofu:

  • Description: Silken tofu is an alternative to use, especially if you are looking for a way to make great tasting vegan mashed potato. Be sure to use soft silken tofu and be prepared to add flavor in other ways.

Expert Tips:

  • Be prepared to add extra flavor to your mashed potatoes in other ways. Depending on the substitute you are using there may be a need to boost the flavor of your dish. This may include adding roasted or fresh minced garlic, more salt and pepper, herbs such as rosemary and thyme, green onions, or different spice blends for flavor.
  • Get creative and mix and match your substitutes for milk.
  • Start with the best types of potatoes. You want to choose starchy potatoes for the fluffiest mashed potatoes such as Russet potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes, or other all-purpose potatoes. Be sure to avoid red potatoes or other waxy potatoes.
  • Cook your potatoes whole in cold water if possible. Once they are tender, the skin will slide right off. This prevents the potatoes from absorbing too much water and becoming denser.
  • Want mashed potatoes with skin? Be sure to scrub them well before cooking!
  • Don’t use an electric mixer or food processor to mash your potatoes as they will become gluey. Like lumpy mashed potatoes? Use a potato masher or fork to mash. Like mashed potatoes with a smooth texture? Use a food mill or potato ricer!


As you can see, there are lots of ways you can make mashed potatoes without milk with great success. Other forms of dairy are often an easy alternative and a great place to start if you don’t need the potatoes to be dairy-free.

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