A list of the best dairy free alternatives to satisfy all of your dairy cravings, plus the info you need on all things dairy and what to look for when avoiding it!
You won't miss a thing with these amazing recipes and store bought brands! Knowing what to look for when you can't eat dairy is hard, but this comprehensive information will help you every step of the way.
If you don't eat dairy it can seem extremely limiting! In addition to milk, cheese, and butter being such staples in our lives, dairy seems to find its way into so many other foods. But it is possible to go dairy free!
Reasons to Avoid Dairy
There are many reasons people do not consume dairy. Some are more voluntary than others.
Lactose intolerance is when your body has trouble digesting the sugar, aka lactose, in milk products. When we are born we produce a digestive enzyme called lactase, which is what works to process lactose. As we age, many people stop producing lactase which can affect your ability to digest milk.
When people with lactose intolerance consume dairy products they can experience symptoms including cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Basically no fun!
Even those that aren't intolerant choose to avoid it because of health reasons. Dairy products, including milk, are the biggest source of saturated fat here in the Unites States. This can cause heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, more research needs to be done, but there is evidence to suggest it can even contribute to an increased risk of certain cancers.
If you're big on the environment, you might want to consider giving up or limiting your dairy intake. Believe it or not the dairy industry has a great effect on climate change. The farming required to produce dairy products results in greenhouse gasses including methane, nitrous oxides, and carbon dioxide. These gasses are one of the biggest factors for climate change due.
What is Dairy Found In?
The common foods that contain dairy include:
- Drinks - Milk, some coffee drinks, eggnog, hot cocoa, smoothies
- Yogurt - Traditional, Greek, Skyr, etc.
- Butter - Including margarine and butter spreads
- Cheese - Any cheese, unless otherwise specified
- Breads - White, wheat, rye, biscuits, rolls, pastries
- Breakfast - Cereals, pancakes, waffles, donuts, muffins, French toast, scrambled eggs or egg substitutes
- Snacks - Crackers, saltines, chips, dips
- Dessert - Ice Cream, sherbet, cakes, cookies, puddings, pie, chocolate, fudge, nougat, caramel
- Condiments - Salad dressings, buffalo sauce, and sometimes even BBQ sauce and ketchup
Secret Sources of Dairy
You'll want to keep an eye out for these sneaky ways dairy can find its way into your food. Always read your labels!
- Meat - Processed meats like deli meat, hamburgers, sausages, and meatballs
- Soups - Creamy soups, chowders, bisques
- Pasta - Macaroni and cheese, Alfredo, and lasagna of course, but also double check store-bought tomato sauces
- Veggies - Prepared vegetables at restaurants can be saturated in butter, or battered veggies can contain dairy
- Potatoes - Mashed, scalloped, and even frozen french fries
- Non-Food - Supplements, protein powders, and some medications
How to Read Labels to Check for Dairy
You know to look for milk, cream, cheese, and butter, but sometimes even food labeled as "non-dairy" can contain ingredients made from milk. Look closely for these words in the ingredient list:
- Artificial butter flavor
- Brown sugar flavoring
- Caramel flavoring
- Casein, casein hydrolysates
- Caseinates (ammonium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium)
- Custard, pudding
- Flavorings (natural and artificial)
- High protein flour
- Half and Half
- Hydrolysates (casein, milk protein, protein, whey, whey protein)
- Lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate
- Lactoglobulin, lactoferrin
- Lactose, lactulose
- Rennet casein
- Whey (delactosed, demineralized, protein concentrate)
So what are good substitutes for dairy products? If you're dairy free there are so many options now! It's easy to find store bought dairy free alternatives (Check out all the Vegan Trader Joe's Options!) or make your own.
I love making my own recipes to replace classic dairy foods, in my opinion they just taste better. When it comes to store bought I'm very picky, but my favorite go-to brand is Miyoko’s kitchen, everything is so good!
In my opinion, store bought cheese can be very hit and miss! It might take you some trial and error to find ones you like.
Some of the most popular store bought options include:
- Follow your heart - especially the sliced provolone!
- Miyoko's kitchen - I love shredding the farmhouse cheddar and pepper jack
- Loca Queso
- Kite Hill
It's also easier than you may think to make your own cheesy creations:
- Cheese Sauce
- Sharp White Cheese Sauce
- Cream Cheese
- Feta Cheese
- Ricotta Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
- Nacho Cheese
- Cheese Fondue
- Queso Dip
- Jalapeño Ranch Cheeseball
- Bruschetta Cheeseball
Dairy Free Milk
From almond to soy, cashew to oat, there are so many dairy free milk choices!
- Silk unsweetened cashew is our go to.
- I also love the extra creamy oat by Chobani.
- And of course Miyoko’s once again!
- Califa Farms
Create some tasty flavored milks for the whole family to enjoy:
- Culina yogurt is hands down my fave!
- Dairy free Oui is another great choice
- So Delicious coconut based vanilla is the kids favorite by far.
You can also make your own Homemade Yogurt and mix in a ton of different flavors!
- Miyoko butter, especially the oat butter is amazing
- Daiya is popular but not my fave
- Earth Balance
- Pure Blends
I also love this homemade Coconut Butter spread on toast!
These days you can find endless dairy free alternatives! The following brands have some great dairy free flavors:
- Ben and Jerry's
- So Delicious
You can also try out making your own Chocolate Ice Cream at home.
Condiments and Sauces
Many of the brands listed above also make dairy free dressings, sauces, spreads, etc. But honestly it is so easy to make your own with all whole food, simple ingredients. I highly suggest making these recipes:
- Ranch Dressing
- Caesar Dressing
- Basil Pesto
- Tzatziki Sauce
- Sour Cream
- Buffalo Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- Bechamel Sauce
Dairy Free Recipes
Speaking of recipes, here is a collection of completely dairy free and plant based recipes for you to try out:
- Overnight Oats
- Buttermilk Pancakes
- French Toast
- Peanut Butter Chia Pudding
- Banana Bread
- Apple Cinnamon Scones
- Piña Colada Smoothie
Mains and sides
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Creamy Mushroom Risotto
- Mushroom Stroganoff
- Pot Pie
- Mashed Potatoes
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Green Bean Casserole
- Drop Biscuits
- Caramel Popcorn
- Vegan Trifle
- Baked Churros
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Caramel Sauce
- Rice Krispie Treats
- Vegan Ganache Frosting
- Whipped Cream
- Chocolate Syrup