Replacing Dairy: Know Your Substitutes
Supermarket Free From sections are expanding rapidly, and while that’s great news for coeliacs, wheat-free advocates and dairy dodgers alike, it can cause some problems for new converts. The plethora of choices now available can leave many scratching their heads, and rather than wondering “What can I eat?” you might find yourself asking “Which one should I choose?”
From fruits and legumes to nuts and grains, dairy substitutes come in many different shapes and forms. One thing they do have in common, though, is the ability to provide a delicious alternative to the milk products that we’ve all grown so accustomed to.
We believe that everyone deserves plenty of options, and along with this choice, it’s also important to be well informed. That’s why we’ve created a detailed roundup of the most popular substitutes, helping you to choose the very best dairy alternative.
Soya is perhaps the most well known dairy alternative, readily available in small shops and cafes as well as larger establishments. Soya milk is made from soaking and grinding soybeans, resulting in a highly nutritious liquid. This can then be consumed as milk, whipped into cream, transformed into cheese and added to recipes as a cow’s milk substitute.
Another option is rice milk, which derives from boiled rice, rice syrup and rice starch. It can be a little trickier to find than soya milk, but well worth the hunt, especially when you discover the range of flavours available. Rice milk is a good alternative for individuals with both a dairy and soya intolerance, enjoyed for its natural sweetness and hypoallergenic properties.
If you’re a keen baker, coconut or almond milk is the best choice. The naturally nutty flavours complement cakes and other desserts, making for a much more indulgent flavour. However, coconut milk tends to be much higher in calories, so should be approached with caution if you’re on a controlled diet. Choose almond milk if you’re calorie conscious, which is still extremely tasty and easy to find in shops.
Oat milk is also a great choice, offering plenty of beneficial grains along with its low cholesterol and saturated fats. Oat milk is also packed with fibre and iron, so is perfect for people that want to improve their digestive health as well as those with anaemia. One thing to bear in mind is that oat milk isn’t suitable for gluten allergies or intolerances.
When it comes to your favourite topping for pizza, pasta and baked potatoes, soya is once again a great option. Soya cheese is rich with nutrients, containing little or no fat as well as being cholesterol free. While its taste and texture differs from regular cheese, it is nonetheless enjoyable. Made from soya milk, this cheese is available in many different flavours, though it can be difficult to get hold of in regular shops. Soya cheese is free from lactose, and therefore ideal for lactose intolerants, but some varieties involve the milk protein caseinate, so read labels carefully if you have a milk allergy.
You might be surprised to learn that nuts also offer a delicious alternative to cheese. Almonds, cashews and macadamias can all provide a base for tasty vegan cheese, which can then be added to salads and sandwiches as well as used as a dip. There are lots of recipes available for dairy free cheese, but a basic process is blitzing up the nuts with water and lemon juice, then adding garlic and salt to taste. You can also visit specialist health food shops to find readymade nut cheese.
Soya based yoghurts are one of the easiest dairy free alternatives to purchase, widely available in local shops and supermarkets. Prepared with soya milk, yoghurt bacteria and sugar, it is suitable for those with a dairy allergy and lactose intolerance, as well as vegans and vegetarians. There are plenty of flavours to choose from, including fruit, caramel and chocolate, but you could also try making your own homemade version.
Coconuts also provide a great alternative to dairy yoghurts. For those that want a quick fix and would rather not spend time heating, cooling, thickening and culturing, simply remove the solidified parts from several cans of coconut milk and mix together in a blender. This is one of the easiest methods for making coconut yoghurt, and offers all the same benefits: 100% natural, 100% dairy free, and 100% delicious.
Custard, cream and ice cream
Those with a sweet tooth will be delighted to know that there are plenty of dairy free solutions for custard, cream and ice cream. First, our good old friend the soybean, which offers a healthy base for these tasty treats. Soya custard can be found relatively easily in most good supermarkets, available in a readymade packet. But what you may not realise is that most custard powders are also dairy free, so you can whip up your own at home using your favourite dairy free milk.
Soya cream can also be bought, but it’s easy enough to make at home; simply blend soya milk with corn flour, sugar and oil, and then add vanilla to taste. You could even try making homemade soya ice cream, though this process is a little more complicated.
Coconut and nuts can also be found in dairy free cream and ice cream alternatives. Coconut cream is a real favourite, offering a more indulgent taste and texture than most dairy free options. Almonds are also ideal for whizzing up into a creamy topping, and provide so many more health benefits than typical cream.
Most people can’t resist a thick spread of butter on a wedge of freshly made bread, and fortunately there are several dairy free solutions. Soya, sunflower and olive versions can all be enjoyed, ideal for cooking, baking or simply topping a slice of toast. Traditional butter is renowned as an unhealthy food brimming with salt and saturated fat, but dairy free versions are much healthier. Take a look at our range to find out more!