Have you been tasked with eliminating dairy from your diet because of a recently discovered allergy? Did you try a whole 30 and decide you’re better off with less dairy? Or maybe you’ve decided to take your vegetarian diet to a new level and cut out dairy for ethical reasons. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to be the one to help!
I’ve written this post so many times. Whether it’s for friends of friends, co-workers or relatives who want to try a dairy free lifestyle, I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing down all I know about how to successfully substitute dairy in your diet. Mostly it’s been via email, but now it’s time I made it permanent.
How and Why to Cut Out (or Cut Down on) Dairy
For some reason, it seems dairy is the most difficult thing to give up for so many people. (Duh: cheese!) but being a former cheese addict myself, I can assure you that with all the incredible dairy free alternatives out there, you won’t have to feel deprived. Here I’ll share all the dairy free products I use in my everyday life, as well as ones I’ve tried and highly recommend. You can do this! Here’s some help:
For starters, if you don’t already, now is the time to start paying attention to nutrition labels. The best labels will call out below the ingredient list CONTAINS: X, Y, Z, such as milk, wheat, tree nuts, etc. If the label doesn’t have this feature, common allergens will often be bolded in the ingredient list. When all else fails, just scan the list and make sure you know the hidden sources of dairy, such as lactose, whey, casein and more.
There are a few ways people can react unfavorably to dairy. Some people react to lactose, which is very common in adults. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest a form of sugar in dairy products. If you’ve experienced common signs of lactose intolerance after eating dairy products and would like to simply cut down on it in your diet, you can easily do so by swapping out a few dairy products for those with less lactose. Kefir is a great alternative, it’s sort of an effervescent, drinkable yogurt that’s delicious and very low in lactose. If you can’t handle not eating cheese there are several low-lactose or lactose-free options such as feta and goat cheese (chèvre), which are both delicious on salads. Goat cheese is a tasty snack on crackers with dried fruit and honey or olives. YUM!
But then there are people like me who just can’t seem to be able to handle any dairy whatsoever. I get terrible bloating, acne and unbearable stomach and head aches. It could be that you react to the casein, or simply that you don’t want to eat dairy for ethical reasons. Either way, there are options for us too!
Before getting into dairy free brands, I would first encourage you to try and eliminate dairy by replacing the dairy in your diet with whole foods. For example, opt for nut butter on morning bagel or toast. Have veggies with hummus as a super healthy and quick snack. Skip the cheese on your burger or veggie burger and add avocado instead.Put aioli on everything. Do what you can to not replace dairy with processed dairy free alternatives. It’s OK to eat them in moderation, but it’s important not to use these products as a crutch to continue unhealthy eating habits.
My Go-To Dairy Free Recipes
To start, make your own stuff! There’s tons of recipes out there. Right on this very site you can find dairy free coconut whipped cream, buckeyes, caramel puff corn, hollandaise sauce, pepper jack cheese sauce a.k.a. queso blanco, sun-dried tomato cream cheese, alfredo, sweet cashew cream cheese, pesto, smoothies and a whole lot more. But let’s be honest, every recipe you find on my site is dairy free, because I can’t digest it either. 😉
One of the easiest replacements you’ll find is raw almond parmesan. It’s great on spaghetti, salads, pizza or whatever you sprinkle parmesan on. I make it even easier by using almond flour instead of processing almonds to make it as easy as stirring four ingredients together.
I wish I could link you to a recipe, but you should go buy Lindsey S. Love’s cookbook Chickpea Flour Does It All. I’ve made about a quarter of the recipes and I haven’t been disappointed even once. My favorite is her chickpea halloumi. YES. Halloumi that can be warmed on the stovetop and is completely addictive and made of chickpea flour. It’s incredible. You will not be disappointed with this purchase. It has the same gorgeous photography you find on her blog, Dolly and Oatmeal, and excellent recipes.
These are The Best Damn Vegan Mashed Potatoes (it’s even in the name).
Brownies? These ones from Chocolate Covered Katie are the best I’ve ever had. EVER. Trust me on this.
Looking for more dairy-free recipe ideas? Follow me on Pinterest!
Dairy Free Brands
The two most popular dairy free milk beverages (other than soy milk) seem to be almond milk and coconut milk. You can find these at pretty much any grocery store. Trader Joe’s and Target both have their own in-house products and Silk is a very common brand you can find everywhere. Unflavored almond milk is great for tons of things, like smoothies and cereal and even in mashed potatoes!
Daiya: This dairy free brand is crazy good and super accessible. I buy the shredded cheeses (mozzarella is our fave) at my local Target store in the cheese section and it’s also at a ton of co-ops (if not all of them). It’s very meltable, so perfect on pizza. It’s so good that Pizza Luce has been offering it on their menu (along with a house-made dairy free cheese) for years. Daiya’s cheddar slices make great grilled “cheese.” Yes. You can have grilled cheese even if you don’t eat dairy. We splurged on the Daiya Cheezecake once and DANG was it rich and dreamy.
Annie’s Homegrown: You can also have mac and cheese. Yep, Annie’s offers a vegan shells as well as a gluten-free and vegan mac! The taste is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion, but the comfort is what I’m going for anyway. I just doctor it up by adding nutritional yeast and hot sauce and call it a day. It’s tasty and comforting!
So Delicious: My go-to when I need yogurt for a recipe or smoothies is So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt. It’s an excellent source of healthy fat, but the one thing that I wish was different is that it doesn’t have much protein. It’s more for a texture thing, or if you don’t care about the lack of protein. Hopefully that changes soon! Theres is also the best dairy free ice cream alternative I’ve found. I’ve had the dipped salted caramel bars, gluten free cookie dough and so many other flavors. This ice cream is SO good!
Ben & Jerry’s has even jumped on the bandwagon and offers a ton of dairy free flavors. We find them at Target as well. Up until recently they all contained wheat, so I haven’t tried them, but Eric has tasted a couple flavors and reported good things.
I should probably have a whole section for ice cream because this is a department you won’t be deprived in. Minnesota-based Talenti offers a couple of dairy free flavors, too. Last I checked, all of their sorbetto flavors (Mango, Raspberry, Peanut Butter Fudge, and Chocolate) were all dairy free. Again, Target!
You do not need any other butter alternative than Earth Balance. We add it to our oatmeal (Mark Bittman told me to), our mac and “cheese” (see above), cook our omelettes and scrambled eggs in it and more. I even made “cream cheese” cake frosting using Earth Balance buttery sticks for my best friend’s wedding cake. It was incredible. The only thing I haven’t enjoyed using this butter on was when I tried it on popcorn. But you should be putting coconut oil on your popcorn anyway. It’s far superior. TRUST.
Did you know that despite it’s creamy appearance mayonnaise contains no dairy? That’s why I can make all these amazing aiolis, guys! JustMayo is an awesome product that’s the same price as regular mayos but it’s vegan. Just is also a good option for vegan (so, dairy free) salad dressings.
Enjoy Life has dairy free chocolate chips, but you don’t have to spend the extra bucks buying it if you read your nutrition labels. Trader Joe’s has a specific type of chocolate chips or chunks that don’t contain milkfat and they also have delicious Belgian dark chocolate bars that we eat religiously around here that are dairy free, too. It might not always call it out in big letters on the front, but if you pay attention you can find it!
Doritos? The Spicy Sweet Chili is the only dairy free flavor, but they’re delicious and sadly not gluten-free (LIKE EVERY OTHER DORITO FLAVOR COME ON FRITO LAY. You’re killin’ me.).
Twin Cities Restaurants That Offer Dairy Free Alternatives
Milkjam Creamery: Speaking of ice cream, go to Milkjam, people! That place is so good, they’re busy even in the dead of winter. They always have at least a few options of vegan ice cream and I’ve never been disappointed.
Pizza Luce (as mentioned above), Pizza Studio (at MOA) and Parkway Pizza all offer dairy free cheese alternatives and they’re all good! Also: pizza is still delicious without cheese … it’s called flatbread! I’ve never had a server look at me weird for ordering pizza without cheese. So you shouldn’t feel weird doing it either!
Starbucks, Dunn Brothers and Caribou have been offering soy milk forever, but they’re now both offering almond milk and Starbucks and Dunn Brothers also offer coconut milk. If your drink of choice is an espresso drink with steamed milk, I’d opt for soy milk because it froths the best, but you do you knowing that you’re covered with dairy free milk alternatives. Tons of local coffee shops also offer dairy free alternatives for your cup of joe. Just ask!
So there you have it. Have I proved to you that you can go dairy free for any amount of time, whether it’s a week or a month or years? All these brands and restaurants have got your back. And so do I!
Do you have favorite brands that I need to try? Or questions on going dairy free? Please let me know in the comments!