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My Favorite Dairy Substitute Products

The human body has no more need for cows' milk than it does for dogs' milk, horses' milk, or giraffes' milk. - Michael Klaper, M.D.

After my post about milk a few readers sent me emails like this one.

I am convinced about milk, but how am I to give up cheese and ice cream?

Giving up dairy, or at least scaling back, seems more daunting than it is. Health and environment and animal cruelty aside, the truth is, non-dairy food products often taste better than dairy. That's for sure true about ice cream. I promise.

Here’s a good example. Last month while my uncle was visiting me from out of town, his 82-year uncle stopped by. I’m not related to his uncle, and I’ve never met him, but we had a lovely conversation that went on into the evening. We all started getting hungry so I offered to make dinner. Luckily I had a jar of spaghetti sauce stashed in the cupboard to which I added some chopped vegetables and vegan ground hamburger “meat.”

I quickly made croutons, which I learned in a vegan cooking class (thanks Spork Foods) and threw them into a tossed salad. Then I stuck a loaf of bread slathered in non-dairy “butter” and fresh garlic into the oven and topped it all off with a dessert of non-dairy “ice cream” and vegan chocolate chip cookies.

Now, my uncle’s uncle comes from Omaha. He is a born and bred meat guy. I didn’t tell him that the entire meal was vegan. He tried the pasta and said, “Wow, this meat sauce is delicious!” My uncle and I smiled at each other. Then he took a bite of the garlic bread with “butter” and said, “This is really good!”

When it came time for dessert I thought he was going to bounce out of his chair, "That is the best ice cream I have ever had! What kind is it?" I showed him the label but he was so busy licking his bowl he didn't see that it was made out of beans.

I must admit, I got a little satisfaction out of that evening. Seeking the best dairy replacement foods paid off. But it didn't happen overnight. I've spit out some pretty nasty non-dairy cheeses in my time.

So I thought I would compile a list of my favorite dairy replacements for those of you considering making the switch to non-dairy, or for just pulling a little switcheroo on someone you love enough to care about what he or she eats.

Like my uncle and my uncle’s uncle, I was born in Omaha, famous for their Omaha Steaks. In fact I used to smell the stench of meatpacking plants wafting through the air where we lived and on my grandmother who used to work at one. I was also raised, amongst other Midwestern states, in Wisconsin. I am a true Cheesehead. I come from the heartland of meat and dairy. And I can say with complete confidence that there is no sacrifice in switching to non-dairy foods.

Butter Replacement

Earth Balance

I use this for spreads and for cooking and baking. It's made with omega-3s, and has no trans fats, hydrogenated oils, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), or artificial ingredients.

Yogurt Replacements

Update:

March 28, 2010. I just tried So Delicious soy milk yogurt (agave sweetened) and I'm not crazy about it. It left a funny after taste. (Blueberry). As far as soy yogurts, I'd stick with Silk Live or Whole Soy as mentioned below. However, I do have some So Delicious coconut milk yogurt that I will try very soon. (Okay, I tried it and don't like it. Sorry So Delicious, your yogurts don't match your ice cream, which I love!)

Silk Live

My favorite is Key Lime. They're all so good.

Whole Soy and Co.

Silk Live is slightly tastier than Whole Soy and Co. But Whole Soy is organic, and better for you. 

Ice Cream Replacement

Turtle Mountain

(Soy Delicious and Purely Decadent)

With the copious amounts of vegan ice cream I have consumed, I could be a professional taste tester. Some ice creams are made of rice milk but you won’t find them listed here because I don’t think they’re amazing. Kind of icey. But the creamier ice creams I prefer are made of soy or coconut milk. I've only been eating the coconut milk ones lately because I don't want to OD on soy. (Though I have been eating

copious

amounts of soy for twenty years and I am very healthy.) My favorite Purely Decadent Coconut Milk flavors are Cookie Dough and Chocolate Mint. Careful, very addicting.

Ice Cream Sandwich Replacement

Tofutti Cuties

Everyone I know, vegans and carnivores, loves these. It's like happy food.

Milk Replacements

Almond Breeze

This is available in sweetened and unsweetened, original, vanilla, and chocolate. Almond milk is good for you too. I use it a lot.

Silk Soy Milk

They too have a variety: Omega-3s and calcium added, unsweetened, sweetened, light, organic, vanilla, and their chocolate milk is amazingly rich. Also, try their non-dairy creamer. Silk is also making almond milk now and it's so great!

Rice Dream

Some of my vegan friends prefer almond milk, some like rice milk, others only drink soy milk. I like them all. You kind of have to trial run them and see what you prefer. I’m not picky when it comes to non-dairy milk because I don’t drink it plain out of a glass. If I did, I would choose Silk. I think it tastes the best. I use all of these milks for different things--cereals, baking, cooking, and protein shakes--so I don’t notice much difference. Okay, maybe rice milk is my least favorite.

Cheese Replacement

Follow Your Heart

I think cheese is the last food item most vegans relinquish because, dang-it!, they just can’t seem to make a non-dairy cheese that tastes as good. We just have to accept that it’s not going to be the same, because it isn’t. But this one does the job better than the others I have tried.

Whatever non-dairy cheese you purchase make sure it is casein-free. Casein is a milk protein made from the stomach lining of a calf. It’s a bonding agent that gives cheese its elasticity. Look for “casein” or “caseinate”on the label. It’s widely used in other foods as well, and it's the cause of all kinds of health problems--iron deficiency anemia, internal bleeding in kids. They used to make plastic and glue out of it. Now we just eat it. Go figure.

THIS JUST IN: UPDATE to the Cheese post.

There is a GOD! There's a new cheese on the market called Daiya and it's so good! And it's not made from soy. And it melts! I inhale it in large quantities.

Cream Cheese Replacement

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

This comes in different flavors as well.

Sour Cream Replacement

Tofutti Sour Supreme

Great on tacos. Follow Your Heart makes a good one too.

Mayonnaise Replacement

Vegenaiese

Can't be beat for sandwiches. It's also available with healthy additives like omega-3s and grapeseed oil.

Egg Replacement

Ener-g

This is just for baking. I first used this product with mixed results and then I went to a vegan cooking class and

Jenny

told me not to add the water as per the instructions. She's genius! Everything turned out much better.

You can also use ground flaxseeds (great for pancakes) potato starch, and arrowroot as egg replacements. I've used them all with excellent results. Eggs are basically just binders in baked goods so replacements are common. I made a coconut lemon meringue pie with arrowroot recently for a dinner party and everyone loved it. I took the recipe from my favorite vegan cookbook

Veganomicon.

You don't notice the eggy-ness of baked goods until you give up eggs. I think eggless cakes and cookies and cupcakes taste better because you can taste the other flavors, not just egg. Here’s a helpful website:

EGGLESS COOKING

So those are my choices, what about yours? If you have a non-dairy item you love please share! I've been looking for a good parmesan cheese and I have a lead, so I'll get back to you.

Also, don't be afraid to ask your local grocer to stock these foods. Every grocer I’ve asked has happily done so.

I'm headed to my freezer.

For more information on a dairy free life:

GO DAIRY FREE