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Substituting non-dairy ingredients for dairy ingredients in your favorite recipes.

This blog is largely about living Gluten Free, but I have also been Dairy Free for almost 9 years.

As I have shared before, I first went GF after my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  After being on the GF diet for a week, I suddenly felt better than I had my entire life.  I have been 100% GF for almost ten years now. 


A couple of weeks after going GF I actually had a turn for the worse.  I was immobilized with panic and anxiety.  I had terrible stomach issues and was suffering through yet another sinus infection (I was literally off and on antibiotics every other month).  I went to my general practitioner who recommended Lexapro.  I then visited a naturopath who diagnosed me with a dairy allergy.


I immediately gave up dairy and my health quickly rebounded. It was easy for me to give up dairy because I never liked it.  I did not like milk, yogurt or cottage cheese (a subtle reminder that we should all listen to our bodies).


Almost a decade of no gluten and no dairy plus regular exercise and I am amazingly healthy now.   I can’t remember the last time I took an antibiotic.  I had a stress test as part of a normal checkup and they told me I had the heart of an 18-year-old boy.


Through trial and error I have learned how to live a really happy life without both gluten and dairy.  Some of the obvious sources of dairy were easy to give up because I never liked them in the first place.  Others were not.  If it is Thanksgiving, I want my pumpkin pie despite my dietary restrictions.  Here are some of the tricks that I have learned for substituting non-dairy ingredients for dairy ingredients in my favorite recipes. 


In addition, most of the recipes on my website can be made dairy free and I note how to do so in the recipes.  I also have a feature on the left side of my recipe section where you can sort by dietary concern. 


Hope these tips help:  


  • Butter:  I prefer Earth Balance non-dairy spread.  Tastes, spreads and bakes pretty similar to real butter.  For baked goods that call for cold butter, I like Spectrum Organic Shortening.  Olive Oil is another great dairy stand-in.  Pour some on a plate and add garlic salt and pepper and dip your gluten free/casein free bread sticks in it. 


  • Buttermilk:  Add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice to GF Soy milk and let it sit until it thickens.  Additionally, I often bake with mayonnaise.  It works pretty well as a replacement for buttermilk.  Just add a little non-dairy milk alternative to reach a thinner consistency. 


  • CheeseDaiya and Go Veggie make dairy free cheese that comes shredded and in slices.  The flavor is fine but it takes some extra heat for it to melt.  If making a pizza, place under the broiler for a few minutes for a crisper cheese topping.  For some reason, these dairy free versions of cheese give me a stomachache.  I just skip the cheese or I will use mayonnaise in a casserole dish such as lasagna.   When I am feeling energetic, I will use this recipe for a Dairy Free Cheese Substitute.  This taste really great in Baked Ziti or Lasagna.



  • Cow’s milk: There are several non-dairy alternative milks.  My personal favorite is coconut milk.  I honestly don’t notice the coconut flavor in my baked goods, but you may notice it if you are very sensitive to coconut.   It has a consistency that is similar to 1 percent milk.  Other choices include Almond, Soy or Rice Milk.  Almond milk has a thicker consistency, while Rice Milk is very thin. If you are using Rice Milk as a replacement, then subtract one to two teaspoons of the rice milk from your recipe to account for the thinner consistency.  There has also been a lot of information lately about the arsenic content in rice milk.  For that reason, I avoid it.


  • Cream Cheese: There are non-dairy versions available at natural food markets.  Try Tofutti Brand Better Than Cream Cheese®.



  • Evaporated Milk:  Substitutions depend on the recipe.  Let a can of full fat coconut milk settle and use the thinner milk as a substitute.  This will give the baked goods a coconut flavor.  I have also used silken tofu as a substitute for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie.  Just replace the 12-ounce can of evaporated milk in the pumpkin pie recipe with a 10.5-ounce package of silken tofu that you have drained and processed in a blender to a smooth consistency. 


  • Sour Cream:  There are non-dairy versions available at natural food markets.  Tofutti also makes a non-hydrogenated Better Than Sour Cream that is casein free. Mayonnaise can also substitute for sour cream.  Or try one cup firm silken tofu blended with 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice.


  • Sweetened Condensed Milk:  Substitutions depend on the recipe.  Again, I have had good luck substituting silken tofu but you may need to add more sugar to the recipe.  Go Dairy Free has a great recipe for Sweetened Condensed Milk Replacement.


  • Yogurt: There are many dairy free yogurts.  I love the So Delicious Dairy Free Cultured Coconut Milk “yogurts.”  You can also use full fat coconut milk.  Let the can settle and then skim the coconut cream off the top of the can.   You can use this cream as a substitute for yogurt in most recipes.  Lastly, you can puree medium silken tofu.  It is flavorless, but has a similar consistency to yogurt.


More Gluten and Dairy Free Recipes


For more gluten and dairy free recipes, check out this section on my website.



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