My Favorite Dairy-Free Substitutes | Ambitious Kitchen

Shortly after the birth of my second son, I discovered that he had a dairy allergy (commonly outgrown after 1 year old), but that meant that if I wanted to continue to breastfeed, I needed to practice a dairy-free diet. After doing further research, I realized that dairy and soy proteins are related so it would be best to cut out soy as well, which is a lot harder than you’d think!

Thankfully, there are SO many dairy-free products out there that finding replacements for my favorite dairy items wasn’t too hard. Soy seems to be in just about everything so that was a little more challenging, but today, we are strictly focusing on dairy-free alternatives that I personally have used, tried, love, and recommend!

I’ve linked tons of recipe ideas and ways to use these products below, but you can get ALL of my dairy-free recipes here, too!

Benefits of using dairy-free products

I have plenty of cooking and baking recipes on my site that DO use dairy products, however, there have been times when I’ve cut down on dairy or had to omit it altogether. When I was breastfeeding Viggo, I had to omit dairy for a few months because it was actually upsetting his stomach. That’s where these easy non-dairy substitutes came in handy! These products are great for people who:

  • Are looking to reduce their overall dairy intake, perhaps for digestion issues, inflammation, etc.
  • Are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy
  • Have eczema or skin issues like acne (because dairy can be inflammatory for some)
  • Eat a vegan diet (just be sure to double-check the labels to ensure they’re dairy-free AND vegan!)

What are dairy-free products made out of?

The ingredients in these non-dairy products really vary based on the brand and the type of product. Remember to check out the labels of any products you’re buying to see what’s going into the product!

  • Dairy-free milk is often made from nuts like almonds, cashews, and coconut. Oat milk is much more popular now, too! Besides the store-bought version, you can get all of my homemade nut milk recipes here.
  • Dairy-free butter is also often made with nut products like cashews, cashew milk, and coconut oil, plus sunflower products like sunflower oil.
  • Dairy-free cheeses use coconut oil, starches from potato and corn, and vegan cheese flavorings.
  • Dairy-free yogurts often have a coconut base, plus other plant proteins to make it rich and creamy.
  • Dairy-free cream cheeses also lean on nut milks like almond milk or cashew milk, plus cultures to give it that true cream cheese tang.

Where can I find these dairy-free products?

Plant-based and non-dairy products are becoming more and more common in a variety of grocery stores! I can typically find all of these products at Whole Foods, which I know isn’t as accessible or convenient, but it is where I tend to find the most variety of dairy-free products. More and more grocery stores are carrying alternatives (like the ones found in this blog post) so I’m hoping they will continue to be more accessible for those who really need it!

Dairy-free milk substitutes

Milk is probably the easiest ingredient to substitute for a non-dairy alternative, and it can be used in the majority of my recipes that call for milk. I love Califia Farms, Silk, and Ripple for my kids the most!

Here are some tips and tricks for using dairy-free milk in recipes:

  • If you are looking to substitute heavy cream, I suggest using a full-fat coconut milk (from the can). Otherwise, a more neutral milk is your best bet. I prefer unsweetened almond milk and cashew milk (Silk has awesome options!) but I also LOVE Califia.
  • Savory items like sauces, soups & stews, pastas, and egg bakes: Try a neutral dairy-free milk such as cashew milk or unsweetened almond milk.
  • Smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes & waffles: any milk of choice will work!
  • Muffins, breads, cakes, and pretty much any baked goods: any milk of choice typically works well here!
  • Frostings and glazes: Try a neutral dairy-free milk such as cashew milk or unsweetened almond milk so that it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the frosting/glaze.

holding a package of dairy-free butter

The best dairy-free butter

I started using vegan/dairy-free butter when I was breastfeeding Viggo and this brand, Miyoko’s, is truly the BEST. I always use salted butter for the extra flavor, and it truly tastes like the real deal. Use it:

four packages of dairy-free cheese

Replacements for cheese

The vegan and dairy-free cheese market has gotten even better over the last couple of years because now these vegan cheese actually melt and TASTE like real cheese! I find Chao Creamery to be the best in terms of how it melts and how it tastes! Use them in:

holding three dairy-free yogurts

Creamy dairy-free yogurts

I’ve been on a plant-based yogurt kick for a while now, too, after siggi’s made the BEST coconut-based yogurt. Cocojune and Culina are also delicious, and all of these brands come in tons of great flavors. I also recently tried Forager’s and honestly that might be my new favorite — my kids are obsessed with the blueberry flavor. Feel free to use dairy-free yogurt in:

Just make sure to use PLAIN dairy-free yogurt in savory items so that you’re not accidentally getting vanilla or fruit sweetness.

holding three dairy-free cream cheeses

Plant-based cream cheeses

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with plant-based cream cheeses, unless they are already flavored. I recently tried all 3 plain cream cheeses pictured above and was SO disappointed. I love some of their flavored versions but these were a miss for me! I’m still on the hunt for a dairy-free cream cheese I can use and love. Any suggestions?

If you find one you love, feel free to use it in:

Thanks for reading all about my favorite dairy-free alternatives. I hope you found something you are excited to try! Also, let me know in the comment below if I missed your favorite.


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