G-Free Foodie Guide to Dairy Substitutes; Cooking with Dairy Alternatives

G-Free Foodie's Guide to Dairy Substitutes and Cooking with Gluten Free Dairy Alternatives

So many people who are living gluten-free are dairy free too – and some have additional allergies.  We hope this Guide to Dairy Substitutes will help you cook safely & deliciously! Check out our Dairy-Free recipes for tasty ideas that don’t require you to make your own dairy substitutes.

We must stress this frustrating fact: Not all “Dairy Free” items are Casein Free!  Check all labels for the words “casein,” ”
milk derivative
,” or “sodium caseinate” before you make a purchase.

Feel free to add comments of other ideas to the bottom of the post!  Here we go:


Look for Soy, Almond, or Coconut Milk in national supermarkets and specialty retailers. Milks made from Oat (make sure it’s gluten-free!), Rice, Potato (powder form), and Hemp can be found in specialty markets.  Unless a recipe calls for a flavored milk, you should use “Plain” or “Original” flavored milks in recipes.


Choose the Dairy Free Milk of your choice, and follow this recipe to make Dairy Free Buttermilk:

  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Lemon Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, or Cream of Tartar
  • Plain or Unsweetened Milk Alternative (soy, rice, oat, etc.)

Directions: Add enough of the milk alternative to the juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar to make one cup. Let the solution stand for ten minutes before adding to your recipe.

Powdered Milk:

Look for powdered milks made from potato, rice or nuts in natural retailers or online.  A quick Amazon search yields lots of good option for gluten-free dairy-free folks. Coconut milk powder is also available, but some brands have a high oil content which may alter the finished product in a recipe.

Half and Half:

There are Soy and Coconut based Half and Half products in the refrigerated section of most natural retailers (my favorite is from Foragrer products).  Alternatively, you can make your own Half and Half using one of these methods:

Blend 1 part Coconut Cream to 1 part fluid Milk Alternative (soy, rice, etc.)


Blend 1 part silken tofu with 1 part fluid Milk Alternative (soy, rice, etc.)

Heavy Cream:

Coconut Cream can be used in place of Heavy Cream in recipes. Or Blend 2/3 cup of  fluid Milk Alternative with 1/3 cup melted dairy free margarine or oil to make one cup of heavy cream substitute for recipes. If you’re looked for a replacement for whipping topping, we suggest using a non-dairy brand of whipped topping from a grocery store or natural retailer. A company named Mimicreme makes both a heavy cream and whipped cream/topping product that is Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free.

Evaporated Milk:

Evaporated milk is simply concentrated milk (about 60% of the water is removed.) To make an evaporated milk substitute, you can use a powdered milk product and mix it at double strength. There are also coconut-based evaporated milk products on the market that perfom equally to dairy options in recipes. Other options are:

Allow a can of coconut milk to settle (about ½ hour). The coconut cream will rise to the top and can easily be skimmed off.  The thinner liquid can be substituted using a 1:1 ratio for evaporated milk.


Put 3 cups of soy or rice milk in a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the volume is reduced to 1 & 1/2 cups

Sweetened Condensed Milk:

Sweetened condensed milk is just evaporated milk with sugar added. Coconut based products are available  – I’ve found them at natural grocers and Trader Joe’s.

To make your own dairy free version, make 1 c. of evaporated milk (recipes above) and, over medium heat, dissolve 1-1/2 c. of granulated sugar in the mixture. Cream of Coconut can also be used as a 1 to 1 substitute. Do not confuse this with Coconut Cream, Cream of Coconut is much sweeter, and sold in separate cans. Look for brands such as Coco Lopez or Goya.

Sour Cream:

Many natural retailers have soy or coconut-based sour cream substitutes available. If you can’t find those or would like another option, you can use plain, unflavored soy or coconut yogurt. In baked goods or dressing recipes, mayonnaise can often be used in place of sour cream.


Look for soy or coconut yogurts in natural retailers. Depending on the application, Coconut Cream or a Sour Cream substitute can be used in place of yogurt.


The grand-daddy of cooking replacements, finding the best butter alternative can be tough.  Here’s some help:

Margarine: Most non-dairy margarines and vegetable shortenings work well in baking, cooking, and/or as spreads. We recommend using non-hydrogenated brands like Earth Balance.

Vegetable Shortening: Can be used in baked goods, but amounts of other flavorings (vanilla, cocoa, etc.) may need to be increased

Oils: Olive or Vegetable oils can be used in a 1:1 ratio for butter in sauteed, fried or roasted applications. To replace butter with oil when baking, use 3/4 of the amount of butter called for.

Coconut Oil or Butter: these products are almost interchangeable. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but it melts quickly and can be used well in baking applications.

Fruit Puree: Fruit puree can be used in place of butter in quick bread and baking applications. To replace butter with fruit puree when baking, use 3/4 of the amount of butter called for.  You’ll want to consider the flavor of the fruit when you add it to a recipe, and you may want to slightly decrease the sugar in the recipe.  Some of our favorite options are applesauce, pureed dried plums/prunes, and apricots.

Cream Cheese:

Many natural retailers offer soy, cashew or coconut-based cream cheese product, and that’s the best alternative we’ve found.  To make your own at home:

Tofu Based:

  • 1 cup Firm Silken Tofu
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive or Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice or 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1Tablespoon Sugar
  • ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Chill well before use.

Cashew Based:

1 ½ Cups raw, unsalted Cashew pieces ***
1 Tablespoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Non-Dairy Milk, plain
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
¼ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Xanthan Gum

Directions: Rinse the cashews and soak them in water for 12-14 hours. Drain the cashews and put them into the work bowl of a food processor with the other ingredients.  Process until the mixture is completely smooth.  Wrap the mixture in a piece of cheesecloth and place it in a colander over a clean bowl.  Let it sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours. Remove the cheesecloth.  Keep your Cashew Cream Cheese in a covered container in the fridge for up to one week.

***Most cashew nuts labeled “raw cashew nuts” are not truly “raw”.  They have been heat processed in order to remove the nut from the toxic shell – the term “raw” refers to the nut industry meaning, which is: not roasted. Eating cashews that have not been heat treated can be harmful to your health.

Cottage Cheese or Ricotta:

Look for options in natural retailers, or process Firm Silken Tofu with a dash of lemon juice and a dash of sugar in a blender or food processor to reach desired consistency.


There are several non-dairy cheeses available from natural retailers.

Chocolate Chips, Chocolate or Baking Chocolate:

Many non-dairy chocolate products are available through natural or premium retailers. Enjoy Life makes dairy free & nut free Chocolate Chips, and we love the Scharffen Berger Home Baking Bars (use caution, some of the other Scharffen Berger dark products are made in a different factory that contains milk.)


If you have other awesome dairy substitutes to add, please comment below!

12 thoughts on “G-Free Foodie Guide to Dairy Substitutes; Cooking with Dairy Alternatives

  1. Great dairy-free guide! I love dairy products and can tolerate it every now and then (except for milk). I use substitutes as much as possible so I can occasionally have pizza.

    Recently I found a great recipe for coconut condensed milk at http://andloveittoo.com/sweetened-condensed-milk-gluten-free-dairy-free-casein-free-refined-sugar-free-vegan/ and proceded to make myself some Vietnamese Style Coffee http://www.gfedge.com/2011/10/vietnamese-style-coffee-%e2%80%93-iced-or-hot/. It was awesome!

  2. Love this! Thank you so much. We are on the same journey and I have made some amazing things lately by just using regular recipes and substituting the stuff we cant eat.

  3. I am looking for non dairy powered buttermilk.I would really appericate any emails on where I could get some.

  4. Ghiradelli Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips seem to be dairy free. Make great cookies.
    Tofutti Sour Creams are great along with their cream cheese.
    Daiya Sliced soy cheese are absolutely wonderful.
    Have tried just about everything do to my extensive lactose intolerance.
    Thanks for this wonderful guide.

  5. Thank you for this dairy free guide. I've been gluten free for many years, but only recently learned of my casein intolerance. I especially appreciate your make at home versions since I also cannot have corn products, including the vegan friendly lactic acid found in most of the non-dairy products.

  6. My Dr just recently told me I need to try to go GF and DF and see if it would help my body. I really panicked, I am 73. I looked and looked at labels, went to lots of stores. Got so discouraged. On my own just started eating things that were GF and DF. and felt SO much better. Now, your website gives me encouragement. I can actually cook properly again. And we have a huge garden (which I can eat part of). Thank you.

  7. Hi, I have Dairy Intolerance and miss my butter which is a good fat that we all need…Is there any one out there who makes butter with out the lactose….not Lidells Lactose free dairy blend, that has veg oil in it, not good..thankyou in advance 🙂

  8. Lots of great info on this site! I'm new to Gluten-free and eager for tips, recipes and basic I nfo. I just turned 68 (yesterday) and old habits are hard to break. I have a couple of books and would like to add "Footloose and Gluten-Free (baking hints & recipes from a multi- Allergy Family by Judy Sauer. Can I order this book?

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