Milk vs Water in Bread – Which One Makes Better Bread?

Marria Beklavac By Marria Beklavac

Do you love baking bread? If yes, there are two methods you can choose to make the dough.

You can either use milk or go with water.

But do you ever wonder which ingredient will help you make better bread?

Here’s a simple answer:

Milk makes better bread. 

Why? Adding milk to bread dough makes the bread softer and smoother because milk has more fat. It also makes the bread taste better and turn brown faster when baking because of the natural sugars in milk. Also, bread with milk stays fresh longer because of the fat in it.

Now, if you want to know more about the differences between using milk or water for making bread, keep reading.

Does Bread Taste Better When Made With Milk or Water?

If you have read the introduction, you already have the answer to this question. 

Milk will give you a better-tasting bread.

The difference in taste is very clear.

Simply make two types of bread – one with water and one with milk in it. When you taste both the breads, it will be clear that the one made with milk is more flavorful.

But why does bread made with milk taste better?

Well, the answer lies in what’s inside milk. 

Remember that 87% of milk is water, and the rest is sugar and fat. 

  • Fat

It is a fact that fat improves food flavor. 

So, when you add milk to the dough, it will give the bread a creamy and rich taste. This makes it more delicious to eat.

  • Sugar (Lactose)

Also, milk contains natural sugars that caramelize during baking, adding extra flavor. This caramelization process also gives the bread a brown crust, making the bread look more tempting. 

As people often eat with their eyes first, freshly baked bread with a brown crust is preferable. 

To sum it up – the combination of fat, sugars, and caramelization results in a more flavorful and enjoyable loaf compared to bread made with water alone.


But remember that the fat and sugar content in the milk may differ depending on the type of milk you use. For example – full-fat milk contains more fat and sugar than fat-free or skimmed one. 

Milk vs Water in Bread – 5 Differences

While milk is a better choice for making bread, it doesn’t mean that water is not a good option. There are many people who still prefer using water to make dough for milk.

And then, there are some who create a balance by using both, milk and water. Now, let’s understand the 5 main differences in using milk vs water for making bread:

Texture and Crumb Structure

Which type of bread do you like – the one that’s softer with finer crumb or the one that’s firmer with larger crumb? Most people go with the first option as it makes the bread more visually appealing and easy to eat.

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

  • Milk – smooth texture with finer crumb structure

If you use milk to make dough for the bread, it will give you smoother and softer bread. The fat content in the milk will alter the crumb structure by changing the way gluten forms. The gluten strands will be shorter and bind more securely, giving you a finer crumb. 

Also, milk has a higher pH level compared to water, which affects how yeast ferments. Because yeast prefers slightly acidic conditions, the higher pH of milk slows down fermentation. This longer fermentation time can result in a stronger gluten structure in the dough. 

  • Water – firm texture with a larger crumb structure

When you use water to make dough for bread, the texture will be more firm and the crumb structure will be large. That’s because water doesn’t contain any fat and has a lower pH level. This speeds up the fermentation process, resulting in larger air pockets in the bread. 


Because milk-based bread rises more slowly, you need to add more sugar to help the yeast work faster. It should match the timing of water-based doughs.

Flavor and Aroma

As we have discussed at the beginning of this blog, bread made with milk is more flavorful and smells better. The natural sugar and fat present in the milk are the two main culprits behind the taste. 

On the other hand, bread with water is not as rich in its flavor. But if you add a bit of fat and sugar along with water, it will somehow compensate for the taste. You can use cream, butter or oil to add fat. 


Remember that, you will get richer flavor with milk only if you use the one with fat in it – full fat or semi-skimmed. If you are using fat-free milk, it is best to add extra fat in another format. 

Type of MilkFat Content
Cultured milk3.25%
Light cream18%
Heavy cream36%
Evaporated milk6.5%
Sweetened condensed milk8%
Non-fat dry milk1.5%

Browning and Crust Color

The browning of bread happens through a process called the Maillard reaction. Here, the sugars react with proteins at high temperatures to give a brown crust to the bread. 

It is also known as non-enzymatic browning. Milk contains lactose, which is a type of sugar. It caramelizes during baking and results in quick and even browning of the crust. 

In comparison, the bread made with water will have a paler crust. If you want a brown crust with water, add a bit of sugar to the dough and brush a bit of butter on the top. 


When you use milk to make bread, it can quickly lead or caramelization. So, you need to reduce the temperature of the oven to prevent burning. It helps to cook the break more evenly. 

Shelf Life and Freshness

Bread made with milk has a longer shelf life and remains fresh for a long time. Here again, the fat plays an important role. It helps to increase the moisture retention and slows down the starch retrogradation. This will increase the life span of the bread.

Also, there is less organic activity when making bread because milk is more alkaline. It results in a light-tasting load that stays fresh. 

On the other hand, bread made with water will dry out more quickly. You cannot store this type of bread and immediate consumption is the best option. 


When changing a recipe from water to milk, it’s important to use more milk to avoid dry dough.

Nutritional Content

Milk is healthier than water if you use the right type. It contains fat, protein and certain vitamins and minerals. So, bread made with milk has better nutritional value. 

Using water alone might not give you all this nutritional content. However, there is not much difference if you are taking a balanced diet into account. 

However, sometimes bread made with water is considered healthier as it doesn’t contain fat and sugar. In the end, the choice is yours. Also, you can add nuts and dry fruits to increase the nutritional value of the bread. 

Types of Bread That Benefit from Milk

As we know, breads are available in many different shapes, flavors, types and forms. The choice of using milk or water actually depends on the type of bread you are making. 

Milk is often the best choice when making sweet or tasty bread like pastries. Here are some types of bread that benefit from using milk:

  • Regular white bread
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Sweet breads like brioche or challah
  • Bread rolls and sweet pastries
  • French bread
  • Bread with seeds or nuts

Types of Bread That Work Well with Water

While milk is the best choice for flavorful breads, some types of bread dough need water. The simplicity of water can make these breads better. Here are some types of bread that work well with water:

  • Basic white bread
  • Simple sandwich bread
  • Baguettes
  • Sourdough bread
  • Ciabatta
  • Rye bread

Wrapping Up

So, when it comes to milk vs. water for making bread – milk is the best option. Adding milk to the dough will give you,

  • Tasty and flavorful bread
  • Smoother and finer crumb
  • Soft texture
  • Brown crust
  • An even rise
  • Longer shelf life

But you can also use water to make the bread dough. In fact, most people either choose water or go with milk + water to make regular bread. Using only milk is suitable mostly for pastries. 

We hope you got all the answers with this blog. If you have any questions, leave comments below.

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By Marria Beklavac Owner
Hey there! I'm Marria Beklavac, a barista by trade and a cook by heart. My culinary journey started at 12, inspired by my grandpa, who first introduced me to the wonders of cooking. His passion sparked mine, leading me to a life where each meal is an adventure. In Terra's Kitchen, I blend my love for coffee with my zeal for cooking to share my culinary exploits with you. This blog is my space to share the joys, discoveries, and lessons from my kitchen to yours. Welcome aboard – let's cook up some magic together!