Example of dairy products that can be substituted with dairy alternatives

Dairy alternatives to consider for dairy-related issues

Medically reviewed on June 14, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Having lactose intolerance, a dairy-related allergy, or a daily-related sensitivity can be a struggle, especially when there are so many delicious foods with dairy in them. Even if your stomach grumbles in protest after every bite of ice cream, you still may crave that creamy texture.

Is there a solution for this, or a milk alternative that can satisfy your dairy craving?

Luckily, there are dairy substitutes. Today’s health food markets have created many tasty and nutritious milk alternatives for those with dairy sensitivities. In some cases, you may not even notice the switch. To take the leap, read our guide on the best dairy alternatives, including:

  • Non-dairy milk
  • Non-dairy cheese
  • Non-dairy yogurt
  • Non-dairy butter

(And to check for potential sensitivities to dairy-related products, try the Everlywell Food Sensitivity Test.)

1. Non-dairy milk

Today, the word “milk” has expanded far past traditional dairy. From nuts to grains, you can turn various plant-based foods into delicious and nutrient-packed liquids, often referred to as “milks.”

Whether making a latte or a creamy pasta dish, non-dairy milk can get the job done in style. Many alternatives naturally include vitamins and protein, but some might even be fortified options. In general, it’s best to avoid ones with added sugars or preservatives—the more natural and less sweet, the better.

New to non-dairy milks? First off, be mindful of any other problem foods for you—besides dairy. Then, choose an alternative that keeps your digestive health happy, such as [1]:

  • Cashew milk – A creamy choice, cashew milk has a light nutty flavor and a drinkable texture. Most cashew milks are around 40 calories per cup, primarily made up of fats and carbohydrates.
  • Almond milk – Light and slightly sweet, almond milk is excellent for flavoring coffee or desserts. It’s also nutritious, clocking in at around 40 calories per cup and providing vitamin E, phytic acid, and calcium.
  • Hemp milk – Don’t worry, there’s no THC present in this milk. Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds, giving it a distinct nutty and earthy flavor. Each cup has around 60 calories and is made up of mostly fat and protein, making it an excellent option for sugar-conscious drinkers or for those living with diabetes.
  • Coconut milk – This alternative is a delight in milk and cream form. Coconut cream and full-fat coconut milk are common cooking ingredients in Asian cuisine, and they often come packed with plenty of medium-chain triglycerides (a saturated fat with potential health benefits). This lighter, drinkable milk comes in at around 45 calories per cup (if choosing options lower in fat) and boasts a distinct coconut flavor.
  • Soy milk – Coming in at about 80 calories per cup, soy milk is a longtime favorite for many vegans. The impressive high-protein content, mild flavor, and creamy texture make it a favorite for drinking plain or for cooking.
  • Oat milk – A blend of oats and water, oat milk usually contains preservatives and binders that give it a “milky” texture. The result is a slightly higher calorie milk (about 140 calories per cup) with a light and sweet flavor. However, you also get the fibrous benefits of oats with this option.
  • Rice milk – Like oat milk, rice milk uses thickeners and preservatives to create “milk” from blended rice. It has about 130 calories per cup and has a sweet, mild flavor. Since there’s little fiber, fat, or protein, it may not be the most nutritious alternative for some.

2. Non-dairy cheese

If you ask any ex-dairy eater what they miss the most, many have one answer—cheese.

This salty, rich, tangy dairy product used to be tough to replace. Fortunately, cheese alternatives have massively improved over the last decade. You can now find both soft and hard non-dairy cheeses to satisfy your cravings. Most include some form of blended or mashed plant-based ingredients, including:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Soy products
  • Tapioca starch
  • Cauliflower
  • Coconut oil

One easy at-home alternative to cheesy flavor? Nutritional yeast.

This ubiquitous ingredient found in many vegan recipes has the distinct nuttiness and saltiness of parmesan, alongside some impressive nutritional stats. Just two tablespoons provide eight grams of protein and four grams of fiber [2].

3. Non-dairy yogurt

For centuries, cultures have fermented dairy milk into this tangy, creamy concoction. Thanks to modern innovation, non-dairy yogurts come close to the real deal.

Yogurt’s nutritional powers come from its high-protein content and probiotics. The bacterial cultures used to ferment milk into yogurt create extraordinary bacteria for your gut health [3]. To replicate this benefit, most non-dairy yogurt makers add probiotic bacteria to popular varieties like:

  • Coconut yogurt
  • Almond yogurt
  • Cashew yogurt
  • Soy yogurt
  • Hemp yogurt

Another important note? Most non-dairy yogurts won’t have the same protein content as dairy-based yogurt. The highest non-dairy alternative is hemp yogurt, containing 11 grams per cup compared to Greek yogurt’s 18 grams per cup [4].

4. Non-dairy butter

To be fair, it might be tough to find that sunny, golden flavor of butter in just any non-dairy butter. However, there are still some excellent alternatives with a delicious flavor all on their own.

Texture-wise, butter is relatively easy to replicate. Since butter is mostly solidified fat, non-dairy fats can easily mimic the texture. From spreading on toast to sauteing vegetables, most non-dairy butter includes plant-based fats like:

  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soy oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Nut butters (cashews, almonds, etc.)

Layer one of these options onto a freshly toasted slice of sourdough, and you might not even notice the difference.

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1. The 9 Best Nondairy Substitutes for Milk. Healthline. URL. Accessed June 14, 2022.

2. Yogurt, living cultures, and gut health. Healthline. URL. Accessed June 14, 2022.

3. Morelli L. Yogurt, living cultures, and gut health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 May;99(5 Suppl):1248S-50S.

4. Nutritional Yeast: Is It Good for You? WebMD. URL. Accessed June 14, 2022.

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