How To Modify Recipes to be Dairy Free + Recipe Examples!
A Post By Bridgette
Dairy Free Cooking
As one who struggles with a dairy allergy I can relate firsthand to the frustration that can come with cooking dairy free. I count myself fortunate though as I’ve been practicing this skill since the moment I first learned to cook and bake.
My mom was an excellent teacher, though I doubt it was easy for her as she was learning too. She never had to think “dairy free” until she had me (number 3 out of 9 kids) and found out I was allergic to dairy. There are tips and tricks you learn along the way that help though, and my goal today is to share them with you to hopefully make your journey easier.
The first thing to learn about before getting started cooking though, are dairy substitutes.
Common Dairy Substitutes
By far, my favorite substitute for cow’s milk is goat’s milk. I’m able to drink goat’s milk because my allergy is to a protein in cow’s milk, I’m not lactose intolerant.
My second choice of dairy substitute is almond milk. Obviously this may vary per person, but in my opinion it tastes good. It’s pretty inexpensive, and is easy to find in most grocery stores (for sure Walmart & HyVee). The one thing about almond milk though is that a lot of it does come sweetened, which bothers my daughter’s stomach (she is also allergic to dairy) so I have to be sure to buy the unsweetened unflavored kind when I do get it.
Two common substitutes that I’ve often used are coconut oil and olive oil.
Coconut oil is healthy! It’s also fairly mild, so I typically don’t have a problem with the flavor of it. Though you may find that the texture of your baked goods isn’t quite the same as it would be with butter.
Olive Oil is also a great substitute, however I do have memories as a child of the strong flavor of extra virgin olive oil. As an adult I prefer to buy “regular” or “light” olive oil just because I don’t love the stronger flavor.
My experience with non-dairy cheese substitutes is pretty limited since I’ve always been able to use goat’s milk cheese. However when making a recipe that calls for cheese I often simply go cheeseless.
Leaving cheese out of a recipe typically doesn’t change it too drastically. I usually just dip out a few cheeseless servings of the recipe at the end and then add the cheese, or leave out the cheese completely and let people add it to their plates at the table if desired.
There are three good substitutes for yogurt I’ve found and two of them are available at my local walmart.
Goat’s milk yogurt: can typically be found at specialty grocery stores and tastes great. It can also be made at home.
Bonus: I also use plain unsweetened goat’s milk yogurt as a substitute for sour cream!
Coconut milk yogurt: I found this at my local walmart and really enjoy the taste! My walmart carries it in 4 different flavors which is really nice too, to get some variety.
Almond milk yogurt: this one was also available at my walmart in multiple flavors, however I didn’t like the taste of this quite as well as the coconut milk yogurt. It wasn’t bad at all, just not my favorite as it lacked that tangy yogurt taste.
Ice cream is that one treat that I missed the most as a child allergic to dairy. It didn’t help at all that certain siblings of mine would torture me by eating their ice cream in front of me loudly saying “Mmmm!”
As a kid if I wanted ice cream I’d have to make it homemade in my little 1 pint hand crank ice cream maker. I’d use goats milk and it always turned out just fine.
The bummer was always that the flavor and texture never compared to the store bought ice cream my siblings could enjoy, which is why as an adult I’ve been thrilled to find other ice cream alternatives!
My favorite: Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy almond milk ice cream.
My local walmart carries it in two different flavors and it’s the perfect sweet treat when I’m in need of an ice cream fix!
A close second: “So Delicious” cashew milk ice cream. This comes in quite a few different flavors and really is so delicious. They also make coconut milk ice cream, which I don’t prefer but is still great!
Using Dairy Substitutes in Everyday Life
To start with, I’m going to confess that thinking of these examples is hard for me! I’m so used to NOT using dairy that I can hardly think of when your typical person does use it. Years of practice has made modifying recipes second nature to me.
Let’s walk through a typical day’s meals:
Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal
6 cups rolled oats
2 cups milk- use milk substitute
4 eggs, beaten
1 c melted butter- use coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar, honey or sugar substitute
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
Instructions: The day before: Stir together 6 c rolled oats and 2 c milk substitute. This makes the oats more digestible. In the morning: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly mix the eggs, coconut oil, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the rolled oats and milk mixture. Pour into a 11×15 pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Don’t forget to set a timer! Serve in a bowl with your favorite milk substitute.
Lunch: Easy One Pot Taco Pasta
1lb ground beef
1 cup jarred salsa
2 cups water
2 cups uncooked rotini pasta
1 cup shredded cheddar- leave out until the end
Brown the ground beef and drain, then add taco seasoning, salsa, water, and uncooked rotini pasta. Bring to a simmer, then cover and lower heat. Let cook covered for 15 minutes or until pasta is done, stirring occasionally.
Scoop out enough servings as needed for those who have a dairy allergy.
Add the shredded cheddar and stir until it melts. OR let those who don’t have an allergy add it to their plates at the table.
Serve with tortilla chips and/or other taco type toppings if desired.
Supper: Beef Hash
1lb ground beef
½ package frozen hash browns
1 onion finely chopped
3 Tablespoons onion soup mix
1 cup beef broth
Small pinch of pepper
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Brown the ground beef and drain. In a 9×13 casserole dish, stir the onion, soup mix, beef broth, pepper, and hash browns. Add in the beef and mix well.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then remove and add cheese to only half of the casserole.
Put it back in the oven and bake until the cheese gets nice and melty and the casserole is heated through.
Another alternative would be to make two batches: one with cheese, and the other completely without.
If making another batch is excessive, freeze half of it as a dairy free freezer meal or simply make a half recipe instead.
Common Ways to Adapt Recipes to be Dairy Free
- Use substitutions
- Leave out dairy ingredients
Example: potato soup recipe that calls for cream or milk- simple leave out the cream.
- Stop and take out servings of the dairy free parts before adding dairy to a recipe
- Keep out the dairy ingredients to add at the table instead of to the whole dish
Example: for many recipes with cheese or sour cream etc., they can be added to an individual’s plate as desired at the table instead of to the whole dish.
- Use a different recipe
- Make two separate batches of a recipe- one dairy free and one not.
When buying “dairy free” alternatives, or even just doing your regular grocery shopping: READ LABELS.
Even some things labeled as dairy free may contain dairy products. Example: In a past experience we’ve seen vegan cheese, labeled as dairy free but that still contained dairy ingredients.
For the sake of your health, read up on the language used on labels to be informed about what to look for when reading food labels.
Living Dairy Free takes practice
Cooking diary free at first can be hard! It’s a thought process that takes time to get used to, especially if you’re not the one who has the allergy.
I can’t count the number of times that my mother or other family member has been halfway through a recipe and yelled “oh shoot! I just put milk in this!” Or even gone through the process of adding a milk substitute but then slips up and adds butter or something like that. It happens.
With practice though it becomes second nature and before you know it, you’ll be modifying recipes in your head without giving it a second thought.
For more kitchen tips, check out this how-to post about Kitchen Day!