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Monday, January 10, 2011

Dairy Free Superlatives: Best Substitute Products

The number one thing to dairy-free eating is knowing the best substitute products, and it seems to be pretty unanimous among the dairy-free community which ones are the best. I want to go on record that the brands matter here, that is the whole point of this post. If you get a random dairy-free milk or yogurt (not the brands I recommend here) and it is horrible, realize that I am recommending these SPECIFIC brands for a reason. Try them first and then compare with other brands.

One thing to note is that soy and dairy are very similar proteins.  Many people who have issues with one will have similar issues with both.  If you are still determining you/your baby's allergens, do NOT go too heavy on the soy products because it could confuse the issue.

Also, everything listed here is also gluten free!

Best Dairy-Free Butter: Earth Balance (or Soy Garden—same thing).  Also there is a soy-free version available that's equally good.

This margarine has NO hydrogenated oils, and so does not have that weird mouth coating taste that most margarines have. This means it is healthier than most margarines. It is also less calories than butter, but does contain palm oil, which is a (more healthy) saturated fat. Therefore this butter substitute also has a rich flavor similar to normal butter.
Uses: On bread or toast, in any recipe that calls for butter, in any situation where you would use butter.
Cost: Around 3 dollars for a 15 oz tub

Best Dairy-Free Yogurt: Whole Soy and Co, Soy Yogurt

We like the vanilla best, plain is also good. I usually get it in the big containers but there are smaller ones with fruits like you would pack in a lunch. Very creamy and delicious and has the same health benefits as dairy yogurt because it has the same probiotics (acidophiles, etc). Has that tart yogurt taste.
Uses: As yogurt—NOT a sub for Greek yogurt, though. Soy yogurt has a much thinner consistency than a thick yogurt like Greek yogurt.
Cost: About 4 dollars for a 24 oz tub, 1.50-2.50 for small (6oz) flavored ones.
*soy-based, use sparingly

Best-Dairy Free Cream Cheese: Tofutti Better-than-Cream Cheese

This comes in several flavors and varieties. There is a non-hydrogenated version which I would recommend—it is harder to find but worth it in terms of health.
Uses: On bagels or crackers, in recipes that call for cream cheese
Cost: Around 3 dollars for an 8 oz tub
*soy-based, use sparingly

Best Dairy-Free Ice Cream: SoDelicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream

It is TO DIE FOR. Most people that I know agree that it is as good or better than dairy ice cream. Again, the coconut has healthy saturated fats that give it a rich and creamy taste. Comes in MANY flavors and varieties.
Uses: As ice cream—in rootbeer floats, in sundaes, in banana splits, you know.
Cost: Around 5.50 or 6 dollars for a pint—ouch! Yeah, it is expensive but totally worth it if you have an ice cream craving!

Best Dairy-Free Cheese: Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative

We like Monterrey Jack better than Mozzarella, and we like the Cheddar, obviously! Needs to be cooked at temps over 450 degrees (or in the microwave) to achieve melting—for some things like grilled cheese, I pre-melt it (in the microwave) before putting it on the bread or in a cheese sauce. We like to grate the entire thing when we open it, and then keep it in the freezer, and just break off some as needed.
Uses: As a MELTING cheese. On pizza, in lasagna, for grilled cheese, etc. Not really good as a cold cheese (not on crackers, sandwiches, etc). Good in hot cheese sauces for pasta or veggies.
Cost: About 3.50 for a 8 oz brick.
*contains soy, use sparingly

Best Dairy Free Cheese Topping: Nutritional Yeast

Believe it or not, nutritional yeast which is VERY high in Vitamin B 12, very low in calories, and delicious, is both dairy-free and tastes like cheese.
Uses: As parmigiana cheese—on pasta, pizza, casseroles, etc. Can also be used to flavor almost anything. Good on toast or bagels with butter, on salads, etc.
Cost: Depends on where you get it! A bit expensive but since it is used sparingly it lasts for a long time (think of it as a food supplement or spice).

Best Dairy-Free Sour Cream: Tofutti Better-than-Sour Cream

Uses: On Mexican food, on baked potatoes, in recipes that call for sour cream, and to add creaminess to just about everything: mashed potatoes, soup, cheesy pasta sauces, etc.
Cost: About 4 dollars for a 12 oz tub
*soy-based, use sparingly

Best Dairy-Free Milk*: Almond Breeze Brand Almond Milk

This is starred because there are a MILLION different milk alternatives.  Again, I would not do soy, but would try Rice, Almond, or coconut milk first.  Most people prefer one to the other, and they are very different in terms of sweetness, thickness, etc.

Uses: In recipes that call for milk, for dunking cookies, in cereal . . .. see my note about drinking milk below.
Cost: About 3 dollars for a half gallon. The cost of other brands and types of milk vary greatly.

Things there are, unfortunately, no adequate substitute for:

Cold Cheeses—you can find dairy free cheese slices, but it’s not really the same. There is no sub for a slice of cheddar cheese on a cracker, or fresh mozzarella, brie, etc. Something you have to learn to live without.

Milk for Drinking—If you are someone that straight up likes to drink milk, there is no perfect substitute. A lot of people like to drink Almond milk, but it will take an adjustment period. This is something else you just have to accept that it’s not going to be the same and see if there are things that you can like about your alternative milk of choice. Most people I know who liked drinking milk and then switched to a dairy-free milk did NOT like it at first (including myself). I just kept forcing myself to drink it and I hated it less and less and then I actually started to like it, and then I REALLY started to like it. Give yourself time on this.

I think that’s it, really! Most things are easy to substitute and live without once you know what to replace them with!


Alisa Fleming said...

great post! I definitely agree with some of your selections here. I would vote for Almond Breeze and So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage for the milk alternatives, Daiya for the cheese alternative, and must admit, I'm not loving the coconut milk ice creams as much as I did at first. Those would be my only changes for my "best" list though!

justadrienne said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Alisa--all that stuff is definitely good, too.

But you are crazy about the coconut milk ice cream, LOL.

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