Going dairy-free doesn't have to be a sacrifice of taste or creativity.
If you’re anything like me, you love food. Growing up, my three great loves were eating, reading, and writing. Fast forward to my adult years when I found myself with my dream job – features editor of a food magazine. With this dream job came the wonderful task of eating everything. My mind and heart loved it; but after a bout of terrible food poisoning my body wasn’t on the same page.
I found myself in constant pain – stomach cramps, nausea, and exhaustion. I took numerous blood tests to no avail. I was told by my doctor to try eliminating gluten for two weeks, which made no difference.
Next, I eliminated dairy from my diet and immediately felt like my former self – energetic, no stomach cramps, no more nausea. I was ecstatic!
Then it hit me – most foods have some form of dairy in them. Like I said earlier, I love food so much that I made a career out of it. So what’s a food writer to do when dairy is no longer an option?
Answer: Create a dairy-free pantry so delicious, your dairy-tolerant friends will get jealous!
Below are some versatile ingredients that can be used to make various dairy-free meals and desserts:
- Coconut yogurt: If you enjoy a bowl of yogurt with granola for breakfast, I have good news – you can still enjoy it. Similar to Greek yogurt in texture and, like regular yogurt, it has probiotics.
- Coconut cream: It’s a great substitute for heavy or clotted cream. If you’re a fan of vanilla, pair this cream with vanilla paste or extract for fluffy clouds of whipped cream.
- Coconut Milk: In my book "Dairy-Free Delicious," I’ve included recipes for ice cream and custard that use the incredibly versatile and subtle coconut milk as an alternative.
- Coconut Oil: To top off the magic of coconut, there’s coconut oil. Use extra-virgin raw coconut oil to make homemade granola, flapjacks, or to fry and roast vegetables.
- Almonds: Adding almonds to your diet is a great way to help reach your daily intake of calcium. Living a dairy-free life eliminates several foods that provide calcium – we need calcium to keep our teeth and bones strong. They’re great to snack on all on their own in addition to flaked almonds being a great substitute for Parmesan on classic Caesar salads.
- Sesame Seeds: Another excellent source of calcium, sesame seeds go great on yogurt, salads, curries, and millions of other dishes.
- Almond Milk: Almond milk is dairy-free, contains calcium and has a subtle, neutral taste. It tastes great on cereal and in tea (I’m British so believe me, this was a big criteria when finding a replacement for milk). If you want to enjoy the taste of buttermilk, you can mix almond milk with lemon juice and voila!
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Toss your favorite green veggies in a juicer to make a tasty green juice in the morning. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, watercress, and broccoli also have calcium among other health benefits.
- Cashew Butter: Goes great on breakfast toast, and cashews are a great source of magnesium and zinc.
- Avocados: Creamy avocados are perfect for a non-dairy spread on toast. They’re packed with vitamin E, iron, and potassium too.
- Semisweet Chocolate: Dairy-free doesn’t mean chocolate-free; if anyone tells you otherwise, refer them to my chocolate cakes and desserts recipes. In many of my cakes and desserts I use 70-percent cocoa solids semisweet chocolate. Quality 70 percent cocoa most often doesn’t have cow’s milk, so you can use it to make your favorite chocolate sweets. If you have a cow’s milk allergy, look for one made in a factory that doesn’t also make dairy products.
- Light Olive Oil, Vegetable, Peanut, Canola, or Sunflower oil: Many of my baking recipes use light olive oil, vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil. They help make light and fluffy cakes that you and your loved ones will definitely enjoy.
- Vanilla Extract: Regardless of your preference – fluffy or crumbly – you’ll find I use vanilla extract in many of the sweet recipes. It adds a pleasant aroma to free-from baking.
- Non-Dairy Butter: I use this when baking various pastries. Its consistency is similar to unsalted butter, and when paired with vanilla extract it enhances the flavor so well that my guests can’t tell the difference. There are several brands available now that don’t have trans fats or other artificial ingredients.
- Vegan Cream Cheese: If you want to top off your favorite cake with icing, vegan cream cheese paired with confectioners’ sugar and lemon or vanilla, makes a delicious fluffy frosting.
Does dairy-free living sound less intimidating and more delicious now? Good! It should, because it really can be. No one should have to give up the luxury of enjoying a variety of foods. It’s time redefine what it means to have dietary restrictions – specifically, dairy-free.
Katy Salter is the author of the book "Dairy-Free Delicious", published by Countryman Press.
Mother and daughter in kitchen image via Shutterstock