Ditching dairy isn’t that difficult when you know how to make substitutions. In most cases, these simple swaps will go unnoticed and you won’t even realize that you’re not eating dairy.
If a recipe calls for butter as a base, usually you can substitute (in equal measure) an oil, like coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, or Earth Balance, which is a buttery tasting spread.
When it comes to creamy soups, you can often play around with a few different things. Depending on the type of soup, you can add soaked and blended cashews, rolled oats, coconut milk, or tahini (sesame seed paste) in place of traditional milk cream. In other cases, simply adding in potatoes or a starch (such as arrowroot or organic corn starch) will thicken your soup, giving it a creamier texture.
If a recipe calls for milk, particularly when making baked goods, you can safely opt for any of the milk alternatives I listed in a previous blog post. If the recipes calls for buttermilk, you can easily make your own by adding an acid to a plant-based milk. For example, add 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or cream of tartar to 1 cup of a plain or unsweetened plant-based milk. Let it stand for a few minutes and then you can add it to your recipe. It’s as easy as that!
There are also a few fantastic swaps for whipped cream. All you need is a can of full fat coconut milk. Visit the Oh She Glow’s website for an extremely simple step-by-step tutorial. Coconut whipped cream is one of my favourite discoveries. Try it out, I guarantee you’ll love it too! If you're interested in some creative culinary magic, search for "aquafaba whipped cream" recipes. This is whipped cream made from bean or chickpea brine (yes, the liquid you normally pour down the drain!). I've made whipped cream with bean brine on many occasions for cooking demos and people are shocked by the fantastic taste and texture. All you need is brine (from canned or homemade beans or chickpeas), sugar, vanilla and cream of tartar, and mixer or immersion blender and you're good to go!
Miso paste is another pantry staple in dairy free cooking. It’s a salty condiment, often used in Japanese cuisine (miso soup), made with fermented soy beans. Miso paste has a pungent umami flavour and is a brilliant replacement for parmesan in both pesto and risotto recipes. It can also be blended in to mashed potatoes or added to salad dressings for extra creaminess and flavour. You’ll find miso paste at most Asian grocers and in health food stores. For those with aversions or allergies to soy, look for chickpea miso.
All of the guidelines above will get you started on your diary free journey. However the best advice I can give you is to play around with these ideas and get comfortable in the kitchen. From a nutrition perspective, reducing or avoiding dairy can be extremely beneficial. If you pair that with eating home cooked meals on a regular basis, you’ll do wonders for your health and wellness.
Finally, to get you started on your dairy-free journey, here's a very simple and basic almond milk recipe. Enjoy!
PLAIN ALMOND MILK
4 - 5 cups water (go with less water for thick almond milk, more water for a lighter almond milk)
1 cup almonds (soaked overnight, then drained and rinsed)
Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender for about 1 minute, or until smooth.
Pour contents through a nut milk bag, or through a fine strainer and cheesecloth, in to a bowl.
Transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.
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