dairy free substitutions imageI love milk and just about every food that falls into the dairy category. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from lactose intolerance. But, according to The Mayo Clinic, there are about 3 million annual cases of people in the United States alone who don’t have the ability to fully digest sugar (lactose) in dairy products. That’s when uncomfortable symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence, bloating and nausea, can present themselves. Not good!

In addition to those who have found out the hard way that they are lactose intolerant, there are others, such as vegans, who choose not to include dairy products in their diet.

If you find yourself in one of these two categories of people who steer clear of dairy products, there are a number of non-dairy products available that can be used in place of the bona fide dairy products originating from animals. These substitutions can be used in practically any food preparation, too.


Using a one-to-one ratio, substitute rice, coconut, hemp, almond and soy milk for the real deal. If you are trying to get a full fat replacement, simply use a one-to-one ration of water or rice milk mixed with one egg yolk.


Again, using a one-to-one ratio, in place of buttermilk consider using rice, soy or hemp milk or even plain dairy-free yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Let it stand for about 5 minutes so it can “sour” before use. You can also use apple cider vinegar in place of the lemon juice, if you prefer.


Did you know that besides yogurt made from dairy products, you can also find coconut milk, rice and soy yogurts? You can mix apple sauce in them as a type of fruit puree to give it even more flavor.

Finally, there are other lactose-free products such as ice cream, pizza string cheese, butter, shortening, cream cheese and sweeteners, to name a few.  Just read the ingredient label carefully. Even though the package might read lactose or dairy free, it might only be 90% lactose free.  If you super-intolerant, this amount could affect you. Also, if whey bothers you, make sure the product doesn’t contain any in the list of ingredients.  I found this link from Whole Food Market to be very helpful for ideas and info on dairy-free shopping.

The bottom line: Make your trip to the grocery store an adventure. Take your time and see what’s available that would fit into your dietary preferences. There is always something for everyone lining the shelves. Like the Weight Watchers program, you never have to feel deprived or eat the same food day-in or day-out.

by Chef Isabella Nicoletti