by Kelley Lindberg
Last week, I offered some suggestions for replacing nuts and peanuts in recipes. The week before that, I discussed replacing eggs in recipes. This week, let’s talk about dairy!
Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream… lots of recipes use dairy products. Whether you can replace them with a safe substitute depends in part on the recipe, but I’ve had some good luck with some of these replacement ideas:
In baked goods, I use rice milk (Rice Dream) instead of regular milk. No one can tell the difference, and it bakes identically in everything I’ve tried. You can also try soy milk.
I’ve also used rice milk in a few soups that call for milk, and it seems to work okay. The only thing rice milk doesn’t do is set up – so you can’t use it to replace real milk if you’re making pudding or a pie, for example.
There are a few dairy-free margarines that I like. Smart Balance Light and Blue Bonnet Light are completely dairy-free (the other varieties of Smart Balance and Blue Bonnet all have milk, so be sure you get the Light version only). Both spreads are great for using on the table to butter bread or flavor vegetables, for example. However, neither one is great for baking. Spectrum margarine is dairy- and soy-free and okay to use on the table, but not for baking.
For a margarine that works extremely well in baking, use Nucoa margarine (it comes in sticks). You can also use safe shortening or vegetable oil instead of butter in baking recipes. Or use Spectrum shortening if you need to avoid soy, too. You can also replace half of the oil or margarine called for in a recipe with applesauce, to reduce the fat. The baked product won’t rise quite as high as the original recipe if you use applesauce, but it will still be yummy.
To replace sour cream or yogurt in a recipe, try a soy yogurt or Tofutti soy sour cream (your best bet is health food stores or Whole Foods or Good Earth Markets). Just check the ingredients carefully on soy yogurts – some have milk ingredients. I haven’t found any soy yogurt in a plain flavor – just vanilla, which is somewhat sweet for most recipes – so you might prefer looking for that Tofutti sour cream instead.
Rich’s makes a couple of versions of a non-dairy topping that you can whip yourself or buy in a tub like Cool Whip. Rich’s also makes a non-dairy creamer that’s a liquid designed to use in coffee, but you can probably use it to replace milk in other aspects. (All are made with soy.) Rich’s products can be elusive to find, however, so ask your local grocers if they carry it. A friend of mine buys the version you whip, and she adds Jell-O pudding mix as she’s whipping it to make it set up a little thicker. If she adds a whole box of Jell-O pudding mix, it becomes a sort of mousse. (Make sure you get the regular Jell-O pudding mix, and not the sugar-free kind, because the sugar-free kind has milk.)
Looking for milk-free chocolate chips? Try the Kroger “Value” brand (the store brand for Kroger and Smiths) which is both milk-free and nut-free. Enjoy Life Foods also makes chocolate chips free from the top 8 allergens, and you can find them at Whole Foods Markets. Can't find those? Lots of online grocers sell allergen-free chocolate chips, so just search online for what you need.
Pie crusts? Believe it or not, most of the premade graham cracker crusts at the store are milk-free, egg-free, and nut-free, and so are Pillsbury’s refrigerated pie crusts (the kind you unroll). Just double-check ingredients to be sure.
As for cheeses, there are soy cheeses that are milk-free, but the taste is usually different enough from regular cheese that most people can tell. I’ve found it’s perfectly alright to just leave the cheese out of some recipes. For instance, our group of friends often has tacos, burgers, chili, or other foods, and we just skip the cheese. It may seem a little “un-American” at first, but when we’re all sitting around eating and gabbing, nobody notices and nobody cares.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to replacing dairy ingredients in recipes. Please feel free to share your own dairy-replacement ideas or recipes! I’ll tackle gluten-free ideas for recipes sometime in May, so stay tuned…