The one thing that was the hardest since switching to a lactose/dairy free lifestyle was learning about the many products available to use as dairy free substitutions and even the “hacks” that can help going lactose and/or dairy free a little easier.
I thought it might be helpful to create a list of all the products we use on a regular basis, to help those of you who are just getting started in your lactose/dairy free journey. If you’ve been living a dairy free lifestyle for a while now, there maybe be a few things you can add to your repertoire as well.
Please note: I’ve listed several lactose free options in this list, and I want to remind you that these are not technically dairy free. So if you have a milk allergy, or you’re trying to cut dairy out of your diet for personal reasons, you will want to avoid these. We use all of these on a regular basis, but you will need to choose what suits your needs/diet best.
- Smart Balance – We’ve been using Smart Balance since day one. It’s one of the only margarine’s that’s actually dairy free (who knew?).
- Earth Balance – Very similar to Smart Balance, but I think it’s a little more on the “natural” side. I have also found that it has a little more sodium and saturated fat, but the reason we don’t typically buy it is because it’s not available at Costco.
- Crisco Butter Flavored Shortening Sticks – I use this regularly for baking, specifically because of how easy it is to measure. The pacakage says to add extra water on the package when subbing for butter, but I never do.
- Oil – If a recipe calls for butter to sauté vegetables or something like that, I usually just use the same amount of olive oil. If a baking recipe calls for melted better, I usually swap it for canola oil.
Other options available: coconut oil, vegan butter sticks
- Lactose-free milk – This is by far the easiest substitute for milk, but it’s not dairy free. Use what’s best for your diet.
- Nut Milks – I typically choose almond or cashew milk. They are on the sweeter side so you can sometimes taste the difference. An extra pinch of salt tends to cancel that out.
- Coconut milk – Canned coconut milk is much thicker than coconut milk in the refrigerated section. Use what’s best for your the recipe you’re making. Opt for canned coconut milk if your recipe calls for whole milk or half-and-half. so it’s a decent (not perfect) substitute for cream/half-and-half. I have found lactose-free half-and-half at Woodman’s in the organic dairy section, which I use instead of heavy cream in recipes.
- Lactose-free half-and-half – Organic Valley makes a lactose-free half-and-half that is a great substitute for cream in recipes. It’s not quite as thick as heavy cream, but it works in many recipes.
- Coconut cream – This is a thicker version of canned coconut milk that can be whipped to make whipped cream. It’s also a good substitute for heavy cream.
- Soy/Nut creamers – I don’t typically buy these. Since they’re sweetened, they aren’t good for savory uses, but they could be the right choice for a dessert.
- Coffee creamers – most flavored coffee creamers are dairy free and could be used as a replacement for cream in sweet dishes, just make sure to check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain milk.
Other options: cashew cream, non-dairy creamer (such as Coffee Rich)
Whipped Cream Substitutes
- SoDelicious Coconut Whipped Topping – this is a dairy-free version of Cool Whip. Don’t let it thaw completely though (even though the package says to), it really won’t hold it’s shape like the dairy version.
- Coconut whipped cream – you can also whip a can of coconut cream for a homemade option.
- Lactose free cottage cheese – Lactaid makes a lactose-free version, and I have even blended it smoother to substitute for ricotta cheese.
- Lactose free cheeses – there are a decent amount of choices for lactose-free cheese out there, mostly in the vegan section of your grocery store. Cabot brand explains which of their cheeses are considered lactose free on their website. It’s even a good resource for cheeses that aren’t manufactured by them.
- Cream Cheese – Green Valley Organics makes a line of lactose free products that includes lactose free cream cheese. There are also vegan options (I prefer Daiya brand).
- Vegan cheese – ask where you can find vegan substitutes in your grocery stores. There are a lot of great options out there, so it’s not really worth make a specific list.
- Nutritional yeast – this is a common substitute for parmesan cheese in many vegan recipes. It also adds a decent amount of savory umami to a recipe.
Sour Cream Substitutes
- Lactose-free sour cream – Green Valley Organics makes a lactose free version.
- Vegan sour cream – My favorite sub for this is Tofutti brand sour cream. It’s a vegan brand, and they also make a cream cheese that I’ve heard good things about, but haven’t tried.
Other options: lactose or dairy free plain yogurt – yogurt is always a great swap for sour cream.
- Lactose free yogurt – Yoplait makes several lactose free yogurts, but they are all flavored and sweetened, meaning they would be okay to use in a dessert recipe, but not so great for savory applications. Green Valley organics makes both flavored and plain lactose free yogurt.
- Dairy free yogurt – There are so many kinds of dairy free yogurts. They range in flavor and texture, so try a few out and see what you like best. As with lactose free, many are sweetened, even the plain soy, so you’ll have to adjust your recipes a little for savory recipes, but it’s doable.
Other options: lactose or dairy free sour cream should work for baking or savory recipes.
Ice Cream Substitutes
- Lactose free ice cream – Lactaid and Breyers both make lactose free ice creams. They are the simplest swap, but choose depending on your diet/tolerance.
- Dairy free ice cream – there are so many choices out there. Check your freezer section and see what’s there. I think the cashew milk ice creams tend to be the creamiest. The coconut ones can be a bit icy.
Other options: Popsicles – if you can’t decide on an ice cream substitute, try a fruit based popsicle. They are naturally dairy free and should satisfy a sweet tooth.
If you’ve been living dairy free for a while, what are some of your favorite dairy free substitutions? I’d love for you to leave them in the comments section so other readers can learn even more!