From its ooey gooey nature to its bold flavor varieties, cheese and dairy products are one of the biggest parts of American cuisine. And, for the lactose intolerant and vegans alike, dairy is one of the most difficult things to recreate. Even five years ago, if you decided to choose a vegan lifestyle or cut dairy from your diet, it meant you needed to eliminate all of the deliciousness that came along with it. Now, luckily for us, dairy-free alternatives can be easily located in most mainstream grocery stores and specialty shops.
It’s important to keep in mind that no dairy-free replacement is created equally. Some of these non-dairy replacements are made with a soy base while others are created from nuts, like cashews and almonds, and some are even curated from vegetable oils. Discovering your favorite dairy-free replacements can open your world (and palate) to new and exciting cooking and recipe combinations that you might have never thought possible. To start your discovery, here are my favorite alternatives.
Instead of Milk try Rice Milk
Milk is tricky to avoid at times because it’s in recipes or dressings that you wouldn’t even think included dairy. This makes it even more necessary to have non-dairy milk options on deck at all times. For recipes you’ll most likely prefer unsweetened rice milk as it can alter your recipes flavor. But, if you’re adding it to your morning coffee then sweetened is the way to go for the extra kick it needs.
Instead of cow cheese try vegan cheeze
I’m allergic to nuts so I try to find plant based, non-soy options, but they are few and far between thus far. For a soy/tofu based option, Chao and Daiya has delicious sliced cheese options. Violife has delicious shredded cheese options and melt like regular cheese, but they sometimes they hold their shape a little better.
If macaroni and cheese is one of your main food groups, like myself, and you’re not looking for homemade, I highly suggest Daiya’s Deluxe Cheezy Mac. Unlike other brands, you don’t have to add the extra garlic, salt, pepper, and all the works…. With this cheezy mac all of these spices are added for you and even though other brands say they add this you still end up adding more. This is the closest thing I’ve found to real macaroni and cheese to date.
Instead of butter try vegan butter
This option is a staple in a lot of houses, but they also have a vegan alternative — I can’t Believe it’s not butter: It’s Vegan! Country Crock also has great dairy-free butter alternatives with their Plant butter that is avocado oil, olive oil or almond oil based. Or, another option that came very highly recommended is Miyoko’s organic vegan butter, but note this one is cashew based. No matter which one you choose, you can’t taste the difference whether it’s on simple toast or mixed in with a recipe.
Instead of sour cream try vegan sour cream
Nachos, baked potatoes and mushroom soup just aren’t the same without sour cream. For these reasons, I was probably the most upset about this one when I cut dairy out of my diet. Luckily, I was able to find Tofutti’s Better Than Sour Cream which tastes almost just like the original stuff. Hallelujah!
Instead of cream cheese try
This dairy-free alternative is newer to the game and some improvements can be made. But, the best ones I’ve found so far are from Philadelphia (hard to find and in the beta testing stages, but the OG) or Violife. The day they come out with scallion vegan cream cheese, I’ll be in bagel heaven!
Instead of ice cream try Non-Dairy Pints
Last but certainly not least, ice cream. It was a sad evening when I thought I had to give up my ice cream and Netflix binges. Emily in Paris, here I come! Yes, sorbet and water ice is good, but it’s not exactly an ideal replacement for ice cream. Low and behold, Ben and Jerry’s comes through, per usual.
Ben and Jerry’s sunflower butter and almond milk non-dairy ice cream pints are absolutely delicious. For the almond milk options, my mom says that the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is out of this world and you never would have known that it wasn’t real ice cream. For the sunflower butter option, the Creme Brulee Cookie is my favorite! I’ve tried other brands and they simply don’t hit the mark for a quality dairy-free ice cream alternative so Ben and Jerry’s takes the cake here.
Do you have other dairy-free recommendations? Would love to try and add them to this list! Share your tasty ideas in the comments below.