Our Favorite Dairy Substitutes
The one thing that was the hardest since switching to a dairy free lifestyle was learning about the many products…
The one thing that was the hardest since switching to a 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.
- Vegetable shortening
- 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.
Go here to read more about dairy free butter swaps.
- 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.
- Soy milk
- Oat milk
- Almond cooking milk
- 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.
- 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.
- Avocado – it’s a great choice for burgers because it’s creamy, just sprinkle it with a little salt.
- Unsweetened toasted coconut. This one is a little weird, but it’s awesome in my favorite broccoli salad. Trust me.
Sour Cream and Yogurt Substitutes
- 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.
- Unsweetened, plain coconut yogurt (for sour cream).
- Plant based 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
- 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.
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!
More dairy free resources:
- The Ultimate Dairy Free Panty Guide
- Dairy Free Halloween Candy
- Dairy Free Substitutes for Butter
- Are eggs dairy free?
Last Updated on November 4, 2021 by Melissa Belanger
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Thank you so much for this website!!! My son recently had an upper GI and he has to go dairy free! I was freaking out, but actually calmed down after finding your website. I have to change the way I cook and now I have an idea of where to start for ingredients. Than you so much!!!! Keep the ideas coming!!
I’ve used the Toffuti cream cheese for about 20 years and it makes a wonderful cheese cake. Make the cheese cake like normal just substitute the Toffuti cream cheese. You can’t tell the difference.
I found this while looking for a lactose free cream cheese. I will search for and try those options. However, you left off (unless I missed it) the most magical lactose free solution of all. Heavy whipping cream has no lactose. It’s pure fat! I just use great value, actually the less posh the better. You have to experiment. If the manufacture doesn’t provide it totally fat, then I’ve had issues a couple of times over the past 10 years. Therefore, Daisy sour cream doesn’t cause me a problem either, because it uses pure whipping cream. Certainly you want to experiment whilst at home, near the toilet, but it’s worth a try. I cannot however, tolerate the amount of dairy in the smallest amount of cream cheese. But, I’ve bee know to get away with pure cream Bries. However, I buy mostly goat and sheep cheese since they are naturally lactose free, and am moving toward almond milk, since I know I should move away from dairy as much as possible. It’s just good to know, especially for that creme sauce you make once or twice a year..
That’s really interesting. Lactose and dairy intolerances can be different for everyone. It’s important to note (for safety purposes only) that I don’t suggest experimenting with dairy products if you have a dairy allergy, but it could worth trying if you just suffer from an intolerance. Thanks so much for sharing!
Trader Joes makes an amazing dairy free creme cheese in the tub. So good!
Oh good to know. We don’t have a Trader Joe’s around here, but I wish we did!
Recently gone dairy free. You mentioned that there are lots of dairy free yogurts. I have found 1 store in our are that carries 1 dairy free yogurt., but it is soy which I am also avoiding. Can you recommend brands? I don’t think this is something I can order on line due to refrigeration requirements. TY.
It depends on what you’re looking for. I don’t care for yogurt on it’s own, but I do like to use yogurt to cook with. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find unsweetened, even the “plain” ones have sugar added to them. I believe that So Delicious makes one that is unsweetened and plain. If you like to just eat fruit yogurt, then I would recommend experimenting with them to see which ones you like best.
tofutti sour cream is nasty chemically tasting.
Earth island dairy free sour cream is actually really good if you can find it..
I haven’t tried that brand. I actually haven’t seen it, but now I’m going to look it up and try it! Thanks for the info 🙂
I recently tried a cream cheese by Kite Hill, it is almond based. It is really good and I’ve used in a free recipes- tastes great!
Oh awesome! I’ve been meaning to give that one a try, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll have to add it to my list for this week!
If u r looking for a really good sour cream lactaid brand makes their own sour cream now. it’s amazing. If u give it to someone who isn’t lactose intolerant or dairy free they would never know the difference it’s that good.
Thanks so much for the tip! I didn’t know they were making sour cream. We don’t personally use any dairy based products anymore (allergy), but it’s great to know for the readers who still do! Thank you!