Are you dairy-free and looking for some new products to try? Considering cutting back on your milk and cheese intake? Wherever you're at, I've got products and recipes to fill your day with delicious food! My Favorite Dairy-Free Swaps will totally delight you (and they are all soy-free too!). From milk and cream to dinner and dessert, these are the resources that I count on for a plant-based diet!
Why I'm Dairy-Free
I've been lactose intolerant as long as I can remember! Since I was a little kid, dairy has just never agreed with my digestive system or my body in general. In high school I developed a more distinct allergy with sinus and headache symptoms, and I've been dairy-free ever since. As an adult I've learned more about the factory farming industry, animal rights, and the environment impact of milk products, all of which have made me even more passionate about eating plant-based foods. Animals in the meat and dairy industry are treated horrifically, while the environmental impact of factory farming is just not sustainable. Cattle, and animals raised for food, are the number one consumers of water in the US. Two-thirds of agricultural land in the US is used to raise animals for food or to grow grain to feed them! (source)
What You'll Find in This Post...
With access to an entire rainbow of fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts right in your local grocery store, we can have a totally nutritious, filling diet without using dairy products. Let me show you how delicious Dairy-Free Swaps can be!
- How to Go Dairy-Free
- Plant-Based Milks
- Dairy-Free Products (AKA how to navigate the refrigerator section at the grocery store!)
- Cheeses: Recipes & Brands I Love
- Dinner Time! Creamy Pastas, Casseroles, and Soups
- Comfort Foods
- Condiments, Sauces, and Dips
- Desserts Without Dairy
- All About Chocolate
- More Helpful Resources (including meal plans!)
How to Go Dairy Free
The first thing to remember is that you don't have to do it overnight! Many of us grew up being told that we need milk to build healthy bones and having dairy products as a staple in the house, so an overnight change might feel overwhelming. Start with small and doable Dairy-Free Swaps, such as trying a plant-based yogurt with your breakfast or having your cereal with almond milk. See how your body feels with decreased dairy...I bet you'll notice a difference! Try not to get discouraged if you try a new product and don't love it. We experiment with lots of different recipes and brands, find what works best for us, and then pass on the ones that don't.
I make most of my own dairy-free milks at home! Sprouts has bulk bins, which are a great place to shop for raw almonds, cashews, and oats for making your own milks. I love my Almond Cow machine (you can get $15 off with code ELAINE) for this process. If I buy dairy-free milks, I usually go for Whole Foods 365 Almond Milk, Malk brand, Oatly or SoDelicious unsweetened, plain coconut milk, which I get it in bulk at Costco. Here are some of my homemade dairy-free milk recipes:
Dairy-Free Products I Love
These are the odds and ends that I use in my daily cooking! Some of these are products, while some are recipes that I make often and always have on hand. There are so many dairy-filled products that many families don't think twice about adding to their grocery cart, so I always suggest making a plan ahead of time to have the ingredients you need for success in Dairy-Free Swaps!
- Yogurt - Culina coconut yogurt is my favorite brand! Their vanilla bourbon is my favorite flavor. It's so creamy, I could honestly eat it for dessert. I use this yogurt to make Strawberry Heart Parfaits for Valentine's Day, and I eat it regularly with my Easy Granola Recipe sprinkled overtop.
- Sour Cream - This recipe is similar to my Cashew Cream, but it has a bit of tang added to it for the "sour" taste! I've also been impressed with Kite Hill brand. I use vegan sour cream this as a base for Vegan French Onion Dip (totally craveable!), and as a topping on Easy Vegan Tostadas and Mexican Veggie Burrito Bowls.
- Cream Cheese - I love the Kite Hill cream cheese. It comes in a few different flavors, but I always grab the plain. It's thick, creamy, and delicious!
- Heavy Cream - Cashew Cream is kind of the holy grail of dairy-free cooking! It's an incredible substitute for heavy cream with a subtle flavor. I use cashew cream in many savory pasta, casserole, and soup recipes, so make sure to check out that section below! If you're nut-free AND dairy-free, check out Sunflower Seed Cream Sauce.
- Butter - I buy the Miyokos brand of vegan butter with a hint of salt. This is great for my Easy Vegan Vanilla Frosting, Sugar Cut Out Cookies, Cinnamon Roll Cookies, Best Vegan Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry and Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies, and Gluten-Free Blueberry Crumble Bars.
My Favorite Dairy-Free Cheeses
Aah, cheese. This is one of the first things people always wonder about! "You don't eat cheese? How do you LIVE?!" Well...I do eat cheese, and lots of it! I just find options made without dairy, and I think you'll be shocked by how creamy, flavorful, and absolutely satisfying these vegan cheese Dairy-Free Swaps can be.
- Feta Cheese - VioLife is the brand I always grab! I used it in a Vegan Whipped Feta Dip and you guys...out of this world. I also use this vegan feta in Orzo Salad, Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Greek Pasta Salad and Greek Village Salad, and a vegan version of the viral Baked Feta Pasta.
- Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce - I use this on Sheet Pan Nachos and it's one of our favorite football game day recipes!
- Ricotta Cheese - Another homemade cheese that I PROMISE you can make! I also sometimes use the Kite Hill brand. This is delicious on Sweet Potato Rounds with Toasted Walnuts!
- Mozzarella Cheese - Ever since I learned how to make my own it's pretty much all we eat for cheese! It's good on EVERYTHING. It bubbles up and becomes golden brown just like real mozzarella cheese. I know that making your own cheese probably sounds really overwhelming, but I promise it takes minutes and it's so easy. Plus, it's made from pantry ingredients that are easy to store! I love this cheese on No-Boil Baked Ziti and Easy Vegan Baked Taquitos.
Dairy-Free Creamy Pasta Sauces, Soups, and Casseroles
I use cashew cream in many savory dishes! It provides a hearty base, the perfect silky and creamy texture, and subtle flavor that boosts every recipe I've tried it in. Also, cashews are nutrient-dense! They're considered an excellent source of copper, and also a good source of magnesium, manganese, vitamin K, phosphorous and zinc.
I also use Cashew Cream to make creamy soups!
- Speedy Creamy Broccoli Soup
- Kid-Approved Creamy Carrot Soup and Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
- Simple Vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup
- Blender Pumpkin Soup
- Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, which can also easily be made in the Instant Pot!
I love using coconut milk for thickening sauces! I usually get the Sprouts brand of full-fat coconut milk and use it for Easy Vegan Tikka Masala, Easy Coconut Rice, One-Pot Pumpkin Curry, Sweet Potato Curry, and Thai Coconut Curry Soup.
The classics! My kids always get so excited for my Best Vegan Mac and Cheese, and for a pizza night, we love Easy Skillet White Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Roasted Garlic, and Basil, Easy Vegan Zucchini Pizza Bites, or we each build our own with Cast Iron Skillet Pizza Crust, Homemade Mozzarella, and a variety of toppings to choose from!
These sauces, dips, and dressings just make foods a little bit tastier! From sweet additions like Nutella and caramel to sauces and dressings like tzatziki and pesto, I've made Dairy-Free Swaps for all of your favorites.
- Healthy Homemade Nutella - Traditional Nutella is made mainly with sugar, oil, and skim milk powder. My version has hazelnuts, natural sweetener, cocoa powder, and vanilla...and it's just as tasty!
- Creamy Cinnamon Vanilla Fruit Dip - This is one of our favorite snacks. It's so good with apples!
- Instant Vegan Caramel Sauce - A vegan dream come true! This takes just a few minutes to make and is so decadent. Use it in my Salted Caramel Smoothie!
- Vegan Tzatziki Sauce - Tzatziki sauce is used in Cucumber Salad, Tzatziki Beet Salad, Tzatziki Potato Salad, and my Greek Sheetpan Dinner.
- Easy Vegan Basil Pesto - This recipe also has very little oil!
- Tahini -A great stand in for creaminess without nuts! Creamy Vegan Tahini Sauce, Herbed Tahini Sauce, and Green Tahini Sauce. I even have a Vegan Salted Tahini Sate Chocolate Smoothie!
- Creamy Dressings - Creamy Vegan Poppy Seed Dressing, Green Goddess Dressing, Vegan Strawberry Vinaigrette (doesn't even use cashews!), and Easy Kale Salad with Cashew Ranch Dressing
Desserts Without Dairy
I am NOT one of those vegans who says, "I don't really crave sweets! I can skip dessert!" Nope. I need a sweet treat! I have made SO MANY dairy-free desserts, there is something for everyone. If there's a treat you're worried about missing out on if you eliminate dairy, check out my list below! You can also search my site to find just the Dairy-Free Swaps your sweet tooth is craving.
- Puddings - Try Instant Vegan Chocolate Pudding, No-Cook No-Avocado Chocolate Pudding, Blackberry Vanilla No-Cook Pudding, Creamy Chia Seed Pudding, Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pudding, and Key Lime Pie Pudding Parfaits
- Ice Cream - The best treat! No-Churn Chocolate Banana Ice Cream, Easy No-Churn Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream, Blender Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream, and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I also have The BEST Vegan Ice Cream Cake that's perfect for celebrations!
- Cheesecake - This is my favorite No-Bake Vegan & Gluten-Free Cheesecake! You can easily make it any flavor you like, or add toppings like Easy Raspberry Chia Seed Jam or Instant Vegan Caramel Sauce.
- Creamy Pies - Try my No-Bake Vegan Paleo Pumpkin Pie and No-Bake Pecan Pie Bars. So decadent and you would never know they are dairy-free!
- Frosting and icing - They're awesome for topping cakes and cookies, but I also love a little frosting on a chocolate or vanilla smoothie! Paleo Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting, Easy Vegan Vanilla Frosting, and Easy Vanilla Blender Icing.
- Creamy popsicles - I have several popsicles that utilize cashews and/or coconut cream! Our summertime faves are Creamy Vegan Vanilla Bean Matcha Popsicles, Vegan Berries & Cream Popsicles, Healthy & Creamy Key Lime Pie Popsicles, Creamy Chocolate Fudgesicles, Vegan "Nutella" Fudge Pops.
- Coconut Whipped Cream - This is really good on top of Strawberry Shortcake Cake, Key Lime Pie Smoothie Bowls, and Vegan Dessert Shooters!
SO MANY chocolates you'll find at the store have dairy in them! Even dark chocolate will usually have a surprising amount of milk product included. My go-to brand is Hu, especially their chocolate gems (use the code ELAINE for 10% off!). I've also made chocolate at home: Homemade Vegan Chocolate. If you're craving chocolate, my favorite chocolatey recipes are...
- No-Bake Fudgy Quinoa Chia Bites
- Blender Hot Chocolate
- Vegan Almond Butter Cups
- Copycat Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs
- 5-Ingredient Peppermint Patties
- Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles
- Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream
- Homemade Almond Joy Bars
- Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
- Homemade Crunch Bars
- No-Bake Fudgy Hemp Bites
- Homemade Peppermint Patties
More Helpful Resources
I've been plant-based for years, and I am always eager to share the things I've learned! So much of what I hope to do with Eating by Elaine is inspire you to try plant-based recipes that are approachable and will help you feel your best. I hope these resources are helpful to you!
Rock Your Blender is my cookbook! These dairy-free smoothies taste like an indulgence, but they're all nutrient-dense and so good for you. I love smoothies and make them almost every day...even in the winter! This cookbook is filled with my all-time favorites (exclusive to the book and not found on the blog!) that I think you'll love, too.
I have meal plans for every season, and they're all dairy-free! These include dairy-free recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. I use in-season produce and recipes to jump start your nutritious eating journey or take some of the stress out of meal planning!
Linda Winters says
I was so very very excited to have found you. I am trying to go 100% Whole Food Plant-Based. I was raised on the Standard American Diet, and have found it so difficult to give up mayonnaise, butter, and other dairy items. Can you please tell me what you would suggest for mayonnaise, as this has been a huge stumbling block for me along with the butter and mozzarella cheese for pizza? Thank you!!! Linda
Elaine Gordon says
Hi, Linda! Thank you so much for reaching out. Sounds like you have come a long way already from how you grew up.
As for mayonnaise there are vegan mayonnaise options you can get at the store but my favorite swap is actually to use my vegan sour cream recipe: https://www.eatingbyelaine.com/vegan-sour-cream/
For mozzarella cheese on pizza I love this recipe: https://www.eatingbyelaine.com/easy-vegan-mozzarella-cheese-paleo-gluten-free/
For vegan butter my kids love Earth Balance soy-free vegan butter. My favorite is Miyoko's vegan butter (sea salt flavor). I also use coconut oil as a vegan butter swap in most of my baking recipes.
I actually have a dairy-free resource guide with more details and more of my favorite dairy-free swaps: https://www.eatingbyelaine.com/favorite-dairy-free-swaps-the-ultimate-dairy-free-resource-and-recipe-guide/
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any follow up questions.
Best of luck to you!