Author: Dana Lingard
Every day, more and more people are removing or reducing dairy products in their diets. Whether it be ethically-motivated, for their health, or to manage allergies, the population of people who don’t “got milk” is definitely growing!
At first, many cannot fathom a diet without favorites like cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Going dairy-free does not mean deprivation, though! In this day and age you can find substitutions for almost any recipe imaginable (thanks internet!). Whatever your reasons are for going down this dairy-free path, embrace the challenge, and enjoy trying out some new foods! They could just become your favorites.
Dishes that you would traditionally make with dairy are not one-size-fits-all, so it makes sense that replacing milk with a dairy-alternative would also not be a one-size-fits-all solution. You wouldn’t use the same type of dairy milk in a smoothie that you would in an alfredo sauce, for example. A common mistake people make when going dairy-free is thinking that their single carton of almond milk will meet all of their traditional milk needs, and the result of that assumption can be incredibly frustrating! We’re going to share with you our favorite dairy alternatives to milk, and where they can be most seamlessly applied in your kitchen.
- Almond milk: widely available and boasting a palatably thin yet milky texture, this option is great for cereal, smoothies, and oatmeal (hemp milk & flax milk also fall here as options, depending on your taste preferences)
- Soy milk: packed with protein and creamy enough to be nearly universal, soy milk is a great go-to for baked goods, cooking, and drinking plain
- Oat milk: rising in popularity at cafes all over, oat milk possesses a great consistency for being frothed in lattes, but is also excellent in cold coffee or your morning cuppa
- Cashew milk: with a savory flavor and velvety mouthfeel, cashew milk is perfect for soups, sauces, and gravies
- Coconut milk (in a can): full fat coconut milk is something magical when it comes to making whipped cream and ice cream from scratch (& it’s also fabulous in curries)
In case you didn’t notice, this list goes in order from thinnest → thickest in terms of consistency of the product. We recommend always opting for unsweetened and unflavored non-dairy milks across the board; this will make things easier on you. Imagine getting ready to fix a savory gravy and all you have on hand is vanilla flavored almond milk! You can always sweeten later if the dish requires it, thereby eliminating potentially frustrating culinary situations while also controlling added sugars in your diet (win-win!).
Bonus: make your own almond milk
Butter is one of those things that just adds a certain something to your meals. Spread on toast, melted on a baked potato, or sizzling under some sauteeing mushrooms, the flavor of butter is in one word – craveable. #NoomNerds like to know why (and we want you to know too!). Fatty foods (like butter) are flavorful in recipes due to their ability to work as capable vessels to carry those flavors from spices, sugars, and other fat-soluble ingredients into dishes. Thankfully just as in the case of non-dairy milk, non-dairy butter alternatives are taking the world by storm. You can find sticks and tubs of spreadable dairy-free butter on the shelves of almost any grocer! Traditional margarine can be dairy-free, but it can also hide dangerous trans-fats as well as other highly processed ingredients. Always read the labels and go for brands that have clean ingredients and are listed as vegan, to be sure they are truly dairy-free.
Remember that you can always opt for healthy fats (like extra virgin olive oil, nut butter, or mashed avocado) as butter alternatives where they make sense in your life and meals, and they’ll carry those flavors and satisfy your cravings in a similar way. If you do desire that buttery flavor though. don’t worry, you don’t have to give it up! If you are a bit of a do-it-yourself type, here is a recipe for a delicious and easy non-dairy butter you can make at home: homemade artisan vegan butter.
Ah, cheese. This foodstuff may be the biggest reason for those seeking out a dairy-free lifestyle to turn their heads away. Cheese is often stated exasperatedly as something to be given up, but let’s reframe that mindset! You aren’t giving up cheese, you’re giving up dairy-based cheese. There are tons of fantastic dairy-free cheese options on the market, from delicious shreds and slices to silky cream cheeses, and even fancy artisan aged cheeses made from nuts (not to mention the plethora of delightful recipes out there to make cheese at home from scratch, no moo necessary!).
Enjoy the mindful bites of your meals, where the flavors are truly shining through, without fighting cheese over the winner’s seat with your taste buds. When you are working on substituting dairy cheese out from your favorite recipes, keep these tips handy!
- Hummus, tahini, or ripe avocado: these work well as replacements for cheese in many dishes, such as in sandwiches, wraps, burritos, tacos, burgers, and salads, due to their creamy texture and fatty taste
- Nutritional yeast: although it has a less-than-appetizing name, trust us that this inactive yeast has an unbeatable cheesy flavor great for sauces and soups, or for sprinkling on top of pasta dishes and popcorn
- Cashew cheese: truly the most regaled member of the dairy-free cheese world (at least in our eyes), cashew cheese made from scratch is a perfect base for sauces, casseroles, pizzas, and more (try this recipe!)
Save these to your computer and try them ASAP!
- Amazing Vegan Mac & Cheese
- Easy Veggie Vegan Pizza
- Almond Milk Yogurt
- Banana “Nice Cream” (+10 flavors!)
- Coconut Whipped Cream
A dairy-free life is not a bleak existence. Eating whole foods whenever possible is always recommended, but easy and convenient store-bought versions of your old school dairy-based favorites do exist when you are transitioning to a dairy-free lifestyle. Take yourself back to the days when you first learned to cook, and channel that excitement and bright-eyed joy into these new experiences, flavors, and meals! The experimentation of cooking is what makes it fun, after all!