Best Substitutes For Dairy Products

best substitutes for dairy products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter are staples in many kitchens. However, they may not be suitable for everyone. Some individuals are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies, while others follow a vegan lifestyle or have chosen to reduce their consumption of animal products. Fortunately, there are several excellent substitutes for dairy products that can be used in a variety of dishes and recipes.

Key Takeaways

  • Dairy substitutes are necessary for individuals with lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, or those following a vegan lifestyle.
  • Common types of dairy substitutes include plant-based milks, cheeses, and spreads made from nuts and seeds.
  • When choosing a substitute, consider the flavor, texture, and nutritional profile of the original dairy product.
  • Dairy substitutes can be used in a variety of recipes, including desserts, sauces, and beverages.
  • Proper storage and handling of dairy substitutes will ensure their freshness and shelf life.

Why You Need A Substitute For Dairy Products

There are several reasons why you may need to find a substitute for dairy products. Let’s explore some of the most common ones:

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to effectively break down lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. This can lead to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. For individuals with lactose intolerance, consuming dairy products can be uncomfortable or even painful. In such cases, finding a suitable dairy substitute is essential for maintaining a balanced diet.

Dairy Allergies

Some individuals have allergies to specific proteins in milk, such as casein or whey. These allergies can cause a range of symptoms, from hives and itching to severe respiratory distress. For those with dairy allergies, completely avoiding dairy products is crucial. Using dairy substitutes allows them to enjoy similar flavors and textures without compromising their health.

Vegan Lifestyle

Many people choose to follow a vegan lifestyle, which means abstaining from consuming any animal products, including dairy. This may be due to ethical concerns about animal welfare, environmental reasons, or personal beliefs. For vegans, finding substitutes for dairy products is essential to ensure they still have a varied and balanced diet.

Health Considerations

While dairy products can provide essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, they can also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Some individuals choose to reduce their consumption of animal products for health reasons, such as managing weight, lowering blood pressure, or improving cardiovascular health. In such cases, finding healthier alternatives to dairy can help meet nutritional needs while minimizing potential health risks.

Types Of Substitutes For Dairy Products

There are several types of substitutes available for dairy products, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are some common options:

Plant-Based Milk

Plant-based milk has gained popularity in recent years and is a popular substitute for cow’s milk. These milks are made from nuts, seeds, grains, or legumes and come in various flavors and textures. Some common types of plant-based milk include almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, and rice milk. These milks can be used in cooking, baking, or enjoyed on their own.

Non-Dairy Cheese

Non-dairy cheese is a great substitute for traditional dairy cheese. Made from nuts, seeds, or soybeans, these cheese alternatives come in a wide range of flavors and consistencies. They can be used for melting, grating, or simply enjoying as a snack. Popular choices include cashew cheese, almond cheese, and soy cheese.

Dairy-Free Yogurt

Yogurt is a creamy and nutritious food that can be enjoyed alone or added to various dishes. Fortunately, there are many delicious dairy-free yogurt options available. These yogurts are typically made from coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, or other plant-based ingredients, and are fermented with live cultures, just like traditional yogurt.

Non-Dairy Spreads And Butters

Spreadable non-dairy options, such as margarine or vegan butter, are commonly used as substitutes for traditional butter. These spreads are made from vegetable oils and can be used in baking, cooking, or spreading on bread. They often have a similar taste and texture to butter, making them a suitable replacement in many recipes.

Nut-Based Creams

Cream is a key ingredient in many recipes, providing richness, thickness, and flavor. For those avoiding dairy, nut-based creams offer a great alternative. They can be made from cashews, almonds, or other nuts blended with water to create a creamy consistency. Nut-based creams can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.

Best Substitutes For Dairy Products

Now let’s explore some of the best substitutes for specific dairy products:


  • Almond milk: Made from ground almonds and water, almond milk is one of the most popular plant-based milk options. It has a mild flavor and a slightly nutty taste. Almond milk is excellent in smoothies, coffee, cereal, and baking.
  • Soy milk: Made from soybeans, soy milk has a creamy texture and a neutral taste. It is protein-rich and can be used in a variety of recipes, including soups, sauces, and desserts.
  • Oat milk: Made from oats and water, oat milk has a slightly sweet and creamy flavor. It is an excellent option for those with nut allergies and can be used in coffee, tea, baking, and as a substitute for milk in savory dishes.
  • Coconut milk: Made from the flesh of coconuts, coconut milk is creamy and has a distinct tropical flavor. It is commonly used in curries, smoothies, desserts, and baked goods.


  • Cashew cheese: Made from soaked cashews blended with water, lemon juice, and seasonings, cashew cheese has a creamy texture and a tangy flavor. It works well in both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Nutritional yeast: While not a true cheese substitute, nutritional yeast is a popular option for adding a cheesy flavor to dishes. It is made from deactivated yeast and is a great source of B vitamins. Sprinkle it on popcorn, pasta, salads, or use it in sauces and dressings.


  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in baking and cooking. It has a similar richness and a slightly sweet flavor. Use it in recipes as a 1:1 replacement for butter.
  • Vegan margarine: There are many vegan margarine options available that can be used as a replacement for butter in spreads and baking. Look for options made with vegetable oils and without any dairy ingredients.


  • Coconut yogurt: Made from coconut milk and probiotics, coconut yogurt has a creamy texture and a mild coconut flavor. It can be enjoyed alone, used as a topping, or added to both sweet and savory recipes.
  • Soy yogurt: Made from soy milk and live cultures, soy yogurt has a similar tangy taste to traditional yogurt. Use it as a replacement in recipes or enjoy it with fruit and granola.


  • Cashew cream: Made by blending soaked cashews with water, cashew cream is a rich and creamy substitute for heavy cream. It can be used in soups, sauces, and creamy desserts.
  • Coconut cream: The thick, creamy layer that forms on top of a can of refrigerated coconut milk is an excellent substitute for heavy cream. Use it in recipes that require a thick and rich consistency.

Choosing The Right Substitute For Dairy Products

When selecting a substitute for dairy products, it is essential to consider the flavor, texture, and nutritional profile of the original product. Here are some factors to keep in mind:


Consider the flavor profile of the dairy product you are replacing. Some substitutes, like almond milk or cashew cheese, have a distinct nutty flavor, while others, like soy milk or coconut milk, have a more neutral taste. Pick a substitute that complements the other ingredients in your recipe or matches your personal preference.


The texture of the substitute is crucial, especially in recipes where the consistency plays a significant role. For example, if you are making a creamy soup, cashew cream or coconut cream may be the best substitutes for heavy cream due to their rich and velvety texture.

Nutritional Profile

Dairy products provide essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. When choosing a substitute, check the nutritional information to ensure that you are still getting the necessary nutrients. Some substitutes, such as almond milk or soy milk, are fortified with similar nutrients found in cow’s milk. If you have specific dietary restrictions, such as nut allergies or soy intolerance, consider alternatives that suit your needs.

Pro Tip: Experiment with different substitutes to find the ones that best match your taste preferences and dietary requirements. Some recipes may require a specific substitute due to compatibility, while others can be more flexible. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new combinations to find your favorites.

Cooking With Substitutes For Dairy Products

Once you have chosen the right dairy substitute for your needs, you can start incorporating it into various recipes. Here are some tips for cooking and baking with dairy substitutes:

  • Start with simple recipes: If you are new to using dairy substitutes, start by substituting them in familiar recipes that require less precision. For example, try using almond milk instead of cow’s milk in your morning cereal or oatmeal.
  • Measure accurately: When substituting dairy products in recipes, measure the substitute accurately to ensure the right balance of ingredients. Different substitutes may have different consistencies, so adjust the quantities as needed.
  • Be mindful of flavors: Some substitutes, like coconut milk or almond cheese, have distinct flavors that may affect the overall taste of your dish. Consider how the flavors will complement or change the flavors of other ingredients before substituting.
  • Adapt recipes as needed: In some cases, you may need to make additional adjustments to the recipe when using dairy substitutes. For example, if you are using an oil-based spread instead of butter in baking, you may need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe.
  • Experiment and have fun: Cooking is all about exploring new flavors and techniques. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of substitutes, spices, and herbs to create unique and delicious dishes.

Recipes Using Substitutes For Dairy Products

Now that you know how to choose and cook with dairy substitutes, here are a few recipes to get you started:

Vegan Mac And Cheese


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 4 hours)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Drain the soaked cashews and place them in a blender with water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour the cashew mixture over the cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
  4. Heat the mac and cheese over low heat for a few minutes until heated through.
  5. Serve hot and enjoy!

Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse


  • 1 can coconut cream, refrigerated overnight
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Open the can of refrigerated coconut cream and carefully scoop out the thick cream from the top. Discard the watery liquid or save it for another use.
  2. Place the coconut cream, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip the ingredients together until light and fluffy.
  3. Divide the mousse into serving cups and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.
  4. Serve chilled and garnish with fresh berries, shaved chocolate, or a dollop of coconut whipped cream if desired.

Storage And Shelf Life Of Substitutes

Proper storage and handling of dairy substitutes are crucial to ensure their freshness and longevity. Here are some guidelines:

  • Plant-based milk: Most plant-based milk alternatives are sold in cartons and can be stored unopened at room temperature until their expiration date. Once opened, they should be refrigerated and consumed within 5-7 days. Shake well before use.
  • Non-dairy cheese: Store non-dairy cheese in the refrigerator, following the manufacturer’s instructions. It is best to consume these cheeses within a few weeks of opening.
  • Dairy-free yogurt: Keep dairy-free yogurt in the refrigerator and consume it within the suggested time frame indicated on the packaging. Stir well before serving.
  • Non-dairy spreads and butters: Store non-dairy spreads and butters in the refrigerator, following the manufacturer’s instructions. They typically have a shelf life of several weeks after opening.
  • Nut-based creams: Homemade nut-based creams should be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator and consumed within a few days. Check the recipe for specific storage instructions.


Whether you have dietary restrictions, ethical concerns, or simply want to explore new flavors, dairy substitutes offer a wide range of options for both cooking and baking. From plant-based milks to non-dairy cheeses, there are plenty of delicious alternatives to traditional dairy products that can be used in a variety of recipes. Experiment with different substitutes, adapt your favorite recipes, and enjoy the versatility and flavors that dairy-free options can bring to your kitchen.

Pro Tip: When substituting dairy products, don’t forget to consider the unique characteristics of each substitute, such as flavor, texture, and nutritional profile. This will ensure that your dishes turn out delicious and satisfying.


What Are Some Non-dairy Alternatives For Milk?

Soy, almond, coconut, and rice milk are some popular non-dairy options for milk. Each alternative offers a unique taste and texture. Soy milk is the closest in taste and nutritional composition to cow’s milk. Almond and coconut milk have a subtle, nutty flavor and are a good source of healthy fats. Rice milk is a lighter option and is often used in baking recipes.

Can You Suggest Some Cheese Substitutes That Are Dairy-free?

If you’re looking for a dairy-free cheese substitute, try nutritional yeast, which has a nutty and cheesy flavor and can be used in dips, spreads, and sauces. You can also look for plant-based cheeses made from soy or nuts. Brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Kite Hill offer a variety of options, from shredded and sliced cheeses to cream cheeses and feta.

What Is A Good Non-dairy Substitute For Butter?

Coconut oil, olive oil, or vegan butter (made from plant-based oils like soy or coconut) are some good options for replacing butter in recipes. Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and has a subtle coconut flavor. Olive oil is liquid, so it is best used in recipes that call for melted butter, like sauteeing vegetables or making a sauce.

What Are Some Vegan-friendly Egg Substitutes?

Aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) can be whipped into a foam, similar to egg whites, and used in recipes like meringues and macarons. Silken tofu can also be blended into a smooth paste and used in place of eggs in recipes like frittatas or quiches. Flax seeds or chia seeds can be used as a binder in recipes like muffins or pancakes, by mixing a tablespoon of seeds with three tablespoons of water to create a gelatinous mixture.

Are There Any Non-dairy Alternatives For Ice Cream?

Coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, and cashew milk are all great bases for non-dairy ice cream. You can add in flavorings like vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or fruit puree to create your favorite flavor. There are also many brands of vegan ice cream available, like So Delicious, Nada Moo, and Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy line.

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  • About the Author Jenny

    I'm Jenny, a housewife with an unwavering passion for food. My culinary journey began with my grandmother's kitchen, and it's now a full-fledged food blog. I've turned my love for cooking into a creative outlet, sharing recipes and stories with a global community of fellow food enthusiasts. It's proof that being a housewife can also mean pursuing your passions and savoring life's delectable moments.