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?
Published: May 12, 2017. Updated: November 4, 2021.
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