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Biscuits without Milk

These dairy free biscuits are made without milk and without butter.

Instead, these biscuits are made with oil and your choice of dairy free milk or water.

Still, they are soft, fluffy, flaky, and crumbly on the inside.

Biscuits are a quintessential part of Southern cuisine like cornbread and fried chicken.

They are usually eaten with butter or jam or covered in sausage gravy or country gravy.

Dairy free biscuits piled up in a bowl

Personally I enjoy my biscuits warm from the oven and spread with jam or as biscuits and gravy.

I often find meats to be a little much for breakfast and more of a brunch thing, so I think biscuits and gravy without the sausage are really nice too.

Biscuits are also a common to find them served at family dinners such as for Thanksgiving.

Though I personally prefer serving southern yeast rolls because they are so light and fluffy.

Since these dairy free biscuits are made without milk or butter I find them very easy to make at home.

If you like these biscuits without milk you may also like my buttermilk biscuits without buttermilk.

History of Biscuits

Early European settlers in the United States brought with them a simple, easy style of cooking. 

It was usually based on ground wheat and warmed with gravy as a source of cheap nutrition. 

This was the foundation for biscuits. 

The biscuit emerged as its own food in the early 1800s as a cheap addition to meals.  It had the benefit of not requiring yeast.

At this point in time, bread was made only once a week.  Also, yeast was a byproduct of making beer commonly known as emptins.

So, if you lived in a city and close to a brewery you had relatively easy access to it.  However, if you were not so lucky, it was difficult to attain or you had to try to make some version of it at home.

Even once panned yeast was created, by the turn of the century it was still not easy to acquire.  

With due to the lack of yeast, beaten biscuits, or sea biscuits as they are known in New England, were developed.  They were similar to hardtack.

These biscuits were beaten and folded to incorporate air into the dough which expanded when heated in the oven causing the biscuit to rise.

They were beaten for anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes using a rolling pin, hammer, side of an ax, or handle of a musket. 

These biscuits were eaten with gravy and it wasn’t long before biscuits and gravy was created.

Then, with commercial baking powder becoming available in the middle of the century it made the fluffy biscuit we know today possible.

Dairy free biscuits on a cooling wrack

Is there dairy in a biscuit?

Yes, biscuits contain dairy since milk or buttermilk and butter are used to make them.

What does milk do in a biscuit?

Milk adds moisture and fluffiness to biscuits.

Can you make biscuits without milk?

Yes, you can make biscuits without milk. You simply need to replace the milk with another liquid such as a dairy free milk.

How to make biscuits without milk?

To make biscuits without milk you need to replace the milk with another liquid.

What can you substitute for milk when making biscuits?

To substitute milk for biscuits you need to replace the milk with another liquid.

You can use water, a dairy free milk, or even orange juice.

I like to use water because milk doesn’t add flavor to biscuits anyway.

Can you make biscuits with water instead of milk?

Yes, you can make biscuits with water instead of milk. In fact, there will be no flavor difference.

Can you make biscuits with almond milk?

Yes, you can make make biscuits with almond milk though they may add a slightly nutty flavor to your biscuits. Also, unsweetened almond milk is deal.

Can you make biscuits with oat milk?

Yes, you can make biscuits with oat milk. A mild flavored oat milk is best unless you don’t mind your biscuits maybe having a slight oat oat flavor.

Why do you need butter in biscuits?

Butter adds fat to biscuits which makes them flaky and tender.

What can I use instead of butter to make biscuits?

To replace butter in biscuits you need another form of fat such as oil, animal fat, a vegan butter, shortening.

Can I substitute oil for butter in biscuit recipe?

Yes, you can substitute oil for butter in biscuits but the process of making biscuits changes a little when you do.

See the recipe instructions for directions on how to use oil instead of butter for biscuits.

Can I use olive oil instead of butter in biscuits?

Yes, olive oil can be used instead of butter in biscuits however the process of making the biscuits with oil as opposed to butter is a little different.

See the recipe instructions for directions on how to use olive oil instead of butter for biscuits.

How Can I make Drop Biscuits without milk?

To make drop biscuits without milk follow this recipe but increase the oil to 1/2 cup and the water to 3/4 of a cup.

Then, instead of cutting out the dough into biscuits, scoop the batter into mounds (about 3 tablespoons permound) and place on the baking sheet.

biscuits with on a plate with jelly

HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS

Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup. 

Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.

The one exception to this is brown sugar.  Brown sugar should be packed down, and then any excess should be scraped off as well.

DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP

Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups?  I used to.  I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup. 

After a quick search, I had my answer.  I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.

As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up. 

First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more. 

By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.

WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients

There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa: 

It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tightly in a bag. 

It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.

If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.

A Note on Flour

This recipe calls for all-purpose flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

I do this to make the recipe easy for anyone to make.

However, many people use self-rising flour to make biscuits.

If you’d like to, then use 2 cups of self-rising flour instead of the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.

Biscuits and gravy without meat on a white plate on a white marble counter

BAKING WITH OIL

In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.  

Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.

Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too.

Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.

This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.

Which Type Of Oil to Use

I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil.  However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.

If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.

Baking with Oil Conversion Chart

If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil – butter to oil conversion chart.

BAKING POWDER VS BAKING SODA

I’ve had a number of comments asking me questions about baking soda and baking powder. 

I’ve also noticed that if the wrong one is used, things don’t come out as they should. 

Using baking soda instead of baking powder can give your recipe a terrible metallic taste, while using baking powder instead of baking soda leaves your baked goods looking flat.

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is a leavening agent, which means it helps things rise.  

It does this by creating carbon dioxide when it reacts to an acid, such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar. 

When the carbon dioxide is released, it causes the familiar texture and crumb in pancakes, cakes, quick breads, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.

Baking soda works well with sourdough because sourdough is acidic.  When combined, it makes a lighter product with a less acidic taste, since baking soda is alkaline.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour.

BAKING POWDER

Baking powder is also a leavening agent and it’s a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch.

Most baking powder sold is double-acting. This means that the leavening occurs in two steps.

The first time it’s activated is when baking powder gets wet, which is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later.

The second time is when the baking powder is exposed to heat.  This happens when the batter is being baked or fried.

Since baking powder already contains an acid, it’s most often used when a recipe does not call for an additional acidic ingredient or too little of one.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of flour.

WHY SOME RECIPES CALL FOR BOTH

Some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda when the carbon dioxide created from the acid and baking soda is not enough to leaven the volume of batter in the recipe.  

Too much baking soda gives a terrible metallic taste, so baking powder is added to give it more lift.

WHICH ONE IS STRONGER?

You may have already guessed the answer since baking soda is used to make baking powder, and you need more baking powder per cup of flour. But I’ll tell you anyway.

Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder. 

That’s why you will more often than not see recipes that only call for baking soda rather than recipes that only call for baking powder.

HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is good indefinitely past its best by date, although it can lose potency over time.

A rule of thumb is two years for an unopened package and six months for an opened package.   

However, to be honest, I’ve used very old baking soda with good results.

BAKING POWDER

Like baking soda, baking powder is good indefinitely past its best by date, and can lose its potency over time. 

For both opened and unopened, it’s ideal to use it within nine months to a year.

While storing it, make sure to keep it in a dry place and away from humidity.

HOW TO TEST IF IT’S STILL GOOD

BAKING POWDER

To test baking powder, pour 3 tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and stir.

If the baking powder is good to use, it should fizz a little.

BAKING SODA

To test baking soda, pour 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and stir.  

The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh.

Dairy Free biscuits and gravy on a white plate on a white marble counter

BAKING AT HIGH ALTITUDES

The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure, and the more difficult it is to bake recipes.

Increase 15 to 25°F. Since leavening and evaporation happen more quickly, the higher temperature helps set the structure of baked goods before they over-expand and dry out.

However, the baking at higher temperatures means products are done sooner, so decrease by 5-8 minutes per 30 minutes of baking time.

Adjustment for 3000 feet

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon decrease 1/8 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 1 tablespoon.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 1 to 2 tablespoons.

Adjustment for 5000 feet

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.

Adjustment for 7000+ feet

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 3 to 4 tablespoons.

Baking with Humidity

Humidity can have a big impact on how your baked goods come out.

This is because when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda soak up moisture from the air.

This can negatively impact the outcome of your cakes, cookies, yeast breads, and quick breads.

There are some things you can do to try to save your baking.

Try to counterbalance the additional moisture

To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter.

If the batter or dough looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add an additional liquid tablespoon at a time until you have the desired consistency.

This is not usually possible to do for cookies, but it does work for cakes and breads.

Store Ingredients in the Fridge

If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than in a cupboard or pantry, they are better protected from humidity.

As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, in addition to helping them stay bug-free.

For the best results, let them warm to room temperature before using.

Bake for Longer

If you bake your goodies for a few extra minutes, it can help the liquid to cook off.

To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes for breads, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, and muffins.  Cookies, on the other hand, need to be checked every minute.

Use Air Conditioning

To help lower humidity levels on humid summer days, air condition the room for at least an hour before you start baking.

Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air.

Store your baked goods in an airtight container

Humidity can also ruin your fresh-baked goods because when they are left out, they can absorb moisture.

To avoid this, store them in an airtight container or resealable bag.

Recipe Tip

I think it’s very helpful to make these biscuits on wax paper like I do my dairy free pie crust made with oil. It makes for easier cleanup and doesn’t stick as much.

How to store biscuits at room temperature

Allow the biscuits to cool completely on the baking sheet or wire rack.  Then, cover individual biscuits with heavy duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Store in a cool and dry place.

You can also store them in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag.  However, they may not store as well.

Store for 1 to 2 days.

How to store biscuits in the refrigerator

Allow the biscuits to cool completely on the baking sheet or wire rack.  Then, cover individual biscuits with heavy duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap. 

Store for up to a week.

Can You Freeze Biscuits?

Yes.  Let baked biscuits sit on a wire rack until completely cool. Then, wrap each biscuit tightly in heavy-duty foil or freezer wrap and store in a gallon-sized freezer bag or airtight container. 

They can be stored in the freezer for 2-3 months.  After that they are still safe to eat but the quality begins to degrade.

How to Reheat Frozen Biscuits

To reheat previously-baked biscuits, transfer the frozen biscuits to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 350°F or 175ºC oven for 15-20 minutes. 

To prevent the biscuits from over-browning, lay a sheet of foil over the frozen biscuits.

Can You Freeze Biscuit Dough?

Yes. After cutting out your biscuits, arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and then transfer it to your freezer. Once the biscuits are frozen, you can transfer them to a gallon-sized freezer bag or airtight container. 

Store the frozen biscuit dough for up to 3 months.  After that they are still safe to eat but the quality begins to degrade.

How to Bake Frozen Biscuit Dough

Place the frozen biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to a preheated 425°F or 220ºC oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Yield: 12 biscuits

Biscuits without Milk

Dairy free biscuits piled up in a bowl

These dairy free biscuits are made without without milk and without butter. Instead they use oil but they are still soft and fluffy.

If you want dairy free drop biscuits without milk, see the notes on how to adapt this recipe for drop biscuits.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (250 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup oil (80 millilitres)
  • 2/3 cup water or dairy free milk (175 millilitres)

Instructions

  1. Whisk flour, sugar (if desired), baking powder, and salt together in a medium size bowl.
  2. Add oil. Mix with a fork until crumbly.
  3. Add water or dairy free milk. Mix using a rubber spatula until combined into a very wet dough. If it is too wet to come together into a dough, add more flour a little at a time until it does.
  4. Preheat oven to 425°F or 218°C.
  5. Move dough to a well floured surface. Pat the surface with flour.
  6. Flour your hands well and knead the dough five times by pushing the dough away from you and folding it over itself.
  7. Use your hands, flatten the dough to 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick.
  8. Cut out biscuits as close together as possible using a biscuit cutter or the rim of a cup. 2 to 3 inches wide is ideal.
  9. Reshape the dough and cut again. Repeat until there is no dough left.
  10. Place biscuits on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet less than half an inch apart.
  11. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until tops are beginning to lightly golden brown. Remove and serve warm.

Notes

How to turn these biscuits into drop biscuits without milk and without butter:

  1. Increase the oil to 1/2 cup and the water to 3/4 of a cup.
  2. Then, instead of cutting out the dough into biscuits, scoop the batter into mounds (about 3 tablespoons permound) and place on the baking sheet.

All the other directions are the same.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 145Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 310mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Melida

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

If using water, you need to add an acid - like vinegar - to activate the baking powder to help the biscuits rise. I filled my measuring cup with just under 2/3 cup of water and then added vinegar to get to 2/3 cup of liquid. The rise was really nice! i do love the texture the oil gives them! Im making another batch today!

ElissaBeth

Thursday 25th of August 2022

I'm glad you enjoyed the biscuits! Actually, since this recipe calls for baking powder instead of baking soda, the acid is already built in and reacts when the water is added and, since most baking powders are double action, it will react again when exposed to heat. The added acid does give a little extra rise though :) Thanks for sharing!

Molly

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Very tasty and appropriate for my dairy sensitive husband and his son. However, the nutrition Information wasn't making sense to me. I have to watch the amount of carbohydrate that I consume so I used an RDA calculator to assess it. I found the following: Nutrition Facts Servings: 12 Amount per serving Calories 134 % Daily Value* Total Fat 6.3g 8% Saturated Fat 0.8g 4% Cholesterol 0mg 0% Sodium 196mg 9% Total Carbohydrate 17.5g 6% Dietary Fiber 0.6g 2% Total Sugars 1.1g Protein 2.2g Vitamin D 0mcg 0% Calcium 58mg 4% Iron 1mg 6% Potassium 149mg 3% *The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Not bad on the calories and the carbohydrates.

Gwenn

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

Best milk free biscuit recipe I've tried so far! A little too much salt for my taste buds, but could be because I skipped the sugar. Now I know for next time. Biscuits came out nice and fluffy though.

ElissaBeth

Monday 2nd of May 2022

I'm glad you enjoyed them :)

Jennie

Friday 16th of July 2021

I'm confused. Is the flour as listed supposed to be self-rising? Is that why they didn't rise?

ElissaBeth

Sunday 18th of July 2021

No, self-rising flour is not required. Maybe one of your ingredients were expired or you forgot to add something.

PAM

Thursday 1st of July 2021

Thank you for the awesome article. I learned a lot and feel like I could attempt several variations with confidence. Our biscuits turned out nice and flaky even though I had to substitute shortening.

ElissaBeth

Friday 6th of August 2021

You're welcome! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it :)

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