So now what? You’re talking about giving up milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and creamy sauces, right? How are you ever going to fill that huge dairy void? There are many great ways to do just that. Let’s talk about it.
Nondairy Milk. Nut milks (almond, cashew, walnut, hazelnut, etc.), oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk. These milks are delicious and can be found unsweetened, sweetened, with or without vanilla, and in some cases, chocolate-flavored. The unsweetened, non-vanilla varieties are great when substituting for milk in dishes that are not sweet. Any or all of the varieties are great over cereal, in smoothies, and even just to drink. Look for brands such as SILK, Westsoy. Or you can easily make a quart of your own delicious nut milk: just soak 1 cup of nuts overnight in water, drain and rinse the nuts, then blend in 3 cups of water until smooth and strain through cheesecloth.
Nondairy Cream. Coconut milk and coconut cream are rich and slightly sweet, making them a great alternative to cream. There are also almond, coconut, and soy “cream” products available, including several coffee creamers made from almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk by brands such as SILK, So Delicious, and Califa Farms.
Nondairy Yogurt. Several stores carry nondairy yogurt typically made from almond, coconut, or soy milk. You will find varieties from many of the same brands mentioned above. These are great. However, beware that they typically have lots of added sugars.
Nondairy Ice Cream. Likewise several stores carry nondairy ice creams, which are also typically made from almond, coconut, or soy milk. These are delicious! However, while they don’t have dairy, they typically do have loads of added sugars. Alternatively there are many great sorbets, which are simply frozen puréed fruit. Stay away from sherbet because it typically includes milk products. Always check the ingredient list so you can be sure to skip anything with milk products.
Nondairy Cheeses. Along with health food stores, most major grocery stores and some farmer’s markets carry non-dairy cheeses made from soy, almonds, rice, or other ingredients. While these “cheeses” are made without animal-based products, be careful, as they can still be high in fat from oils. Daiya is one of the better manufacturers of nondairy cheese and offers a variety of flavors found in most stores. Be sure to read ingredient list as some have animal products in the form of casein (milk protein) or other milk products.
Tofu. Tofu is versatile and fairly tasteless, and is a great source of calcium. Tofu can be added to soups, stir fries, scrambles, etc., and it will take on the flavor of whatever it’s been added to. Tofu can easily be made into a “ricotta” for making lasagna or stuffed shells by combining ½ cup chopped parsley, 1 clove garlic, 1 pound lite firm silken tofu, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon in a food processor and processing until smooth and creamy.
Cashew Cream Sauces. There are several recipes on the internet for various cashew cream sauces that are heavenly. You can make almost any kind of cream sauce from cashews, including sweet cashew cream, cashew sour cream, cashew cream cheese, and cashew “cheese” sauces. Click on this link for a great cashew cream Alfredo sauce recipe.
Nutritional Yeast. Nutritional yeast comes in flakes or powders and can be added to or sprinkled over foods to add a cheesy, nutty taste with no cholesterol and virtually no fat. It’s much higher in protein than cheese and much lower in calories. Some nutritional yeasts are fortified with vitamin B12, an added bonus (more on vitamin B12 later). Here’s a link to my favorite “Not So Cheese” sauce that uses nutritional yeast.
There are a lot of local “cheeze” makers showing up at street fairs and farmers markets, especially in bigger cities. Those have been some of the best nondairy cheeses I’ve ever tasted. Check out any street fairs or farmers markets in your area. You never know what you might find in addition to the amazing fresh and local produce! And Whole Foods carries an amazing brand of vegan cream cheese called Kite Hill.
Now that you have a good idea of what kinds of non-dairy substitutions are available, you can either use them directly or as ingredients in foods that you cook. For example, you can pour almond milk directly over your morning cereal or you can use it as an ingredient in a “creamy” sauce. You can find many great recipes in cookbooks and online that use non-dairy ingredients. Or, you can simply alter your own favorite recipes.