If you’ve been keeping up with the previous blog posts on this topic of Dairy Free living, then you will know that giving up dairy can be quite a challenging prospect. This is because a lot of dairy products are used as cooking essentials. Think butter for frying, yoghurt for marinating, cheese in sauces. A dairy free world then seems unimaginable. But for many this is not a choice, its a necessity. Hence finding dairy free cooking alternatives is the first step to adopting a dairy free lifestyle.

Milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, cream are present in almost every cuisine and in all types of recipes – be it cakes & baking or in main courses, with meats, carbs or even in drinks such as milkshakes or the summer favourite spiced buttermilk. It is very easy to find substitutes for all of these and to suit the ingredients that the recipes call for. It may take a while for you to adapt to the slight change in flavour that comes with a dairy free diet. In the case of our son who has never been able to taste milk based products, due to his milk protein allergy, the adoption has been seamless.

Cooking with Milk: Substitutes

Milk is used for a wide variety of cooking purposes. Right from direct consumption to using it as a key ingredient, milk can clearly be called out as a cornerstone in modern cooking. Milk recipes conjure up images of fruity milkshakes, refreshing icecreams, white sauce pasta, malai based recipes such as methi matar malai or malai koftey, to the sweet treats seviya kheer, puddings, cakes & many more.

The simplest way to replace milk in recipes is to use dairy free milk alternates. This is milk made from nuts such as almond, cashew, or other plant based sources such as soy, coconut, rice, oats, flax hemp.

Plant based milk can make great dairy free cooking alternatives for recipes which call for milk such as in white sauce, roux (milk, flour & cheese), or in gravies and curries (fish moilee, south Indian curries, methi matar malai). If you want a thicker sauce or gravy then a coconut milk may work well, but for roux like sauces any plant based milk can work wonders. Just remember to ensure that the milk is not a flavoured variety.

Most plant based milk come in a range of flavours such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and the Indian variants such as Kesar Pista etc. These can be consumed as is or in milkshakes and even in kheer/payasams and puddings.

Dairy free Yoghurt/ Curd alternatives

One of the unique characteristics about yoghurt is the presence of live probiotic bacteria which can be a great source of health for the gut and active functioning of our body.

A lot of vegan yoghurt brands are available out there today which can easily be substituted in your recipes. If using it for savoury dishes then make sure the variant is not sweet or flavoured. Making curd or yoghurt at home is quite simple and usually a piece of cake in the Indian home. If you would like to attempt making a dairy free/vegan yoghurt at home then I found this recipe online.

Short of time and need it immediately then follow this cheat trick I usually use – squeeze some lemon juice in some plant based milk with a thick consistency – coconut milk works well in such cases. Whip up the mixture to create a fluffy mixture and use it in your recipe. I have also seen tofu being whipped up with some milk or water and some souring agent like lemon to make a yoghurt like dip.

Alternatives for Cheese

Cheese must be the ultimate Theobroma. With so many different textures, flavours it appeals to everyone’s taste buds. And the biggest regret of someone living a dairy free or vegan life can be the abstaining of cheese. But luckily a wide variety of dairy free alternatives for cheese are widely available. From tofu to substitute for paneer/cottage cheese to nut and plant based cheeses with added flavourings to mimic every cheese variant from Cheddar to Emmenthal to Brie.

Cheese substitutes abound but it is also possible to make cheese-like flavouring especially for white sauce for pasta or bakes. Essentially the roux you make as the sauce base can be made in plant based milk with oil and flour. Adding salt, pepper and the magic ingredient of nutritional yeast can finish off the base in a matter of minutes.

Cream cheese is even easier – grind/whip up some silken tofu along with some plant based milk or water to the consistency you want and use it in cheesecakes or dips.

Cooking with Butter: Alternatives

This one makes me cry personally. Blame it on being raised on Amul Butter – both the edible variety and the iconic ads they have created over decades in the Indian subcontinent. Amul butter is an addiction and one that’s hard to substitute – but only for the emotional reasons.

A great many vegan butter alternatives are available in the market. But if you are not keen on them then oil makes a simple and great alternative for butter. From oil (olive or any refined oil) in cakes to coconut oil on rotis/parathas/breads living without butter can be quite easy.

A simple recipe which my child told me to try out was to add coconut oil to a hot pan and add some salt to it to mimic the melted Amul butter taste. Genius I thought! We have tried this and it works in a jugaad kind of way. 🙂

This is just an attempt at showing you that finding dairy free cooking alternatives is not that hard and in today’s day and age it is not the end of the world when you attempt to change your food and diet habits. There are pros and cons to every practice and you must aim to balance out the benefits, costs and other considerations peculiar to you.

This blog is part of the #BlogchatterA2Z Blogging Challenge and my theme is Our Dairy Free Life