Instant potatoes simplify the creamy, hearty side dish by taking all the hard work of peeling, mashing and waiting out of the equation. Instant mashed potatoes typically require only a handful of ingredients, such as water, salt and butter or margarine, to transform the potato flakes into actual mashed potatoes within minutes. When the directions call for milk, don't cry -- you may have a few suitable substitutes nearby.
Lighter dairy-based products may sub for milk when the directions call for it. Both powdered and evaporated milk may be reconstituted into actual liquid milk by adding water. Powdered milk, or dry milk, is milk evaporated into powdered form; for milk from powdered milk, mix 1 part powdered milk and 3 parts cold water. Evaporated milk, or dehydrated milk, is like powdered milk, but retains about 40 percent of the moisture -- for milk from evaporated milk, mix equal parts water and evaporated milk.
Creamy and Whipped
Two heavy dairy alternatives to milk are sour cream and ordinary cream. Sour cream is fermented by a bacteria culture; though sour cream has a much stronger flavor than milk, it will not overpower the other flavors of the instant potatoes. If subbing with sour cream, mix in an amount equal to the milk and cut back on the margarine or butter needed. Cream is butterfat that comes from the top of milk before homogenization. Because cream is thicker than milk, you have to dilute it with an equal amount of water.
This lactose-intolerant world has given us many alternative forms of milk. Some of the most common are almond, rice, hemp and soy milk, each one produced from the listed ingredients. These milks retain the flavor of their source material, but when added to dishes, their flavors enhance rather than detract from the entire dish. One difference is the texture -- these milks usually have a consistency closer to low-fat or fat-free milks. Select a milk that would give good hints of flavor to the instant potatoes, like the almond or rice, pour the directed amount, then add a little more butter or margarine for texture.
Different types of broth can substitute for milk in instant potatoes. The most common broths are chicken, beef and vegetable. When subbing with a broth, pick a flavor that will not only go well with the potatoes, but will also go well with the foods it is served with, such as chicken or vegetable broth in the potatoes to go along with a grilled chicken dinner. For broths, pour an amount equal to the milk required. One final simple substitution is just water -- substitute an equal amount of water, but add a dollop of ranch dressing or more butter or margarine for taste and texture.