The Ultimate Guide to Dairy-Free Alternatives

Nov 22, 2018

Considering going dairy-free, but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you’ve given it a go already, but miss ice cream or cheese. Maybe you’ve even heard about dairy-free products, but have no idea which ones are actually good. We’ve created a list of everything you need to maintain a dairy-free diet and still enjoy your favorite foods. Read the tips below, make a list of a few products you’re willing to try, and get back to savoring that morning cup of coffee with nondairy creamer.

Make a List

So much of what we eat is subconscious, particularly the foods that are normalized and habitual. Dairy can be found in nearly everything – beverages, baked goods, soups, dressings and sauces, and a plethora of packaged products. When you’re trying to determine which foods to avoid and supplement with dairy-free options, be sure to look beyond the obvious milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese. Do you ever order a smoothie from your gym’s health bar? Does it have milk, greek yogurt, or whey protein in it? Enjoy coffee? Think about creamer. Even the pesto spread on your favorite grilled veggie sandwich may contain cheese. This isn’t meant to stress you out, only to make you aware of the foods you’re used to eating that may contain dairy. Identify what’s in your food, and make a list of the ingredients you need to find replacements for.

Ask Questions

It’s okay to ask questions if you are polite about it. When dining out, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable asking the server if certain items contain dairy. Just ask nicely and don’t make a face if he or she responds in the affirmative. The server may be able to direct you to their favorite plant-based menu items or suggest a plant-based substitution. In some cases, you may even find that the establishment carries a vegan alternative, like dairy-free cheese. These options are becoming increasingly popular – particularly in pizza restaurants – from national chains to independently owned eateries across the country. Sometimes the offering is designated on the menu, but it can be easy to miss. If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat after a grueling training day, many ice cream shops also carry their own nondairy flavors. Sorbets are generally fair game, from mango to dark chocolate. Just ask to be sure, then sample your favorites!

Go Shopping

Know you can’t live without creamer in your coffee or your regular yogurt and granola? Don’t worry, there are plenty of quality plant-based products out there that are widely available, both online and in stores. Here are just a few of our favorites to suit any dairy craving!
(Note: there are several other brands and options available; this list is merely comprised of the products we have tried and loved. For more information on these brands and others, check out our Dairy Alternatives page).

Oatly, Silk Cashewmilk, Almond Breeze, Califia (almond, cashew, and coconut milks), Ripple (pea milk), Veggemo (pea & potato milk), Milkadamia (macadamia milk), Good Karma (flax milk)

Milk (for espresso beverages)
Califia Farms Barista Blend (almond milk), Pacifica (soy milk), Elmhurst Barista Edition (almond and oat milk), Oatly (oat milk)

Melty Cheese/Slices
So Delicious Shreds, Follow Your Heart Shreds & Slices, Miyoko’s Vegan Mozz, Field Roast Chao Creamery

Gourmet Cheese
Miyoko’s, Treeline, Kite Hill, Yvonne’s Vegan Goatless Cheese, Punk Rawk Labs, your local vegan cheese purveyor (check your farmer’s market or local health food store – there’s tons of stellar small batch dairy-free cheesemongers out there!)

Cream Cheese
Miyoko’s, Daiya, Kite Hill, Tofutti (for baking)

Kite Hill (both European and Greek styles), Silk, Forager Project, CocoYo, The Coconut Collaborative, So Delicious

Coffee Creamer
Trader Joe’s Vanilla Soy Creamer, Silk Soy Creamer (both Original and Vanilla), Califia Farms Almondmilk Creamer, Wildwood Organic Soymilk Creamer

Miyoko’s Vegan Butter, Earth Balance Original

Condiments & Sauces
Follow Your Heart (various dressings, sauces, and mayonnaise), Miyoko’s Roadhouse Cheese Spread, Victoria Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Daiya (dressings and sauces)

Whipped Cream
So Delicious CocoWhip!, Reddi Wip Nondairy Whipped Topping (almond and coconut varieties)

Ice Cream
So Delicious (cashewmilk ice cream pints and bars), NadaMoo!, Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy, Haagen Dazs Non-Dairy, HaloTop Dairy-Free, Arctic Zero Non-Dairy, Whole Foods Non-Dairy, Talenti Sorbetto, Sorbabes, McConnell’s Dairy-Free

Cocoa Parlor (dark chocolate varieties), Enjoy Life, Hotel Chocolat (dark chocolate varieties), Dandelion Chocolate, Yes Cacao

*There are countless brands of dedicated dairy-free chocolate companies, but most pure dark chocolate bars are also dairy-free. Check the label for milk, milkfat, whey, or other milk derivatives to be sure.

Get in the Kitchen

All of the dairy replacements listed above can also be made at home. Some are quick, like homemade ricotta or parmesan, while others take some patience and a few kitchen tools. There are thousands of free recipes for dairy alternatives on the web, but you can also look into a few essential cookbooks if you truly enjoy making meals from scratch. We recommend “This Cheese is Nuts!” by Julie Piatt and “Simple Happy Kitchen” by Miki Mottes to start. Want to start making your own dairy-free milk and cheese right away? Check out these simple recipes to whip up a few kitchen staples:

Parmesan – Minimalist Baker 5 Ingredient Parm
Ricotta – Minimalist Baker Tofu Ricotta
Feta – Green Evi’s Tofu Feta
Basic Cheese Sauce – Engine2Diet Cheeze Sauce
Oatmilk – Oh She Glows Easy Oat Milk
Whipped Cream – Oh, Ladycakes Coconut Whipped Cream

Going dairy-free is simple and effortless with all the options now available. So go ahead and enjoy your trail run, long ride, or pumped-up gym session – you can still look forward to that post-workout smoothie or comforting cup of creamy coffee!


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