Once your child has been diagnosed with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance and you set out to remove all milk products from their diet, you suddenly realize that milk seems to be in just about everything. Not only is your new task of reading labels tedious, but cooking and baking suddenly become time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming. Below are some guidelines for using ingredient substitutions in your kitchen when milk allergy or sensitivity is present in your home.
Substituting for Milk
Several commercially-made alternatives to cow’s milk exist on today’s supermarket shelves including milk made from rice, soy, coconut, potato, cashew, almond, hazelnut, flax, hemp, sunflower and macadamia. Many of these are available in several varieties such as “vanilla,” “regular,” “chocolate” and sometimes “mocha.” Some do have added sugars so you may want to opt for varieties that are marked as “unsweetened” when cooking – especially when it comes to savory dishes. Each of these milks can be substituted 1-for 1 in recipes, meaning that if a recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, you can use 1 cup of any of these alternatives for similar results. Below are some of the top contenders in the milk substitution game.
Soy Milk: Soy milk is possibly the most comparable to cow’s milk, as it is even good for drinking straight out of a glass. It can be used poured over cereal or in coffee as it has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Soy milk can be used in any recipe in place of cow’s milk.
Almond Milk: Almond milk is another great option that is somewhat versatile in cooking and baking. With a slightly sweet and nutty flavor and a creamy texture, it is also great poured in cereal, added to coffee and used in most recipes. Because it is a little on the sweeter side, some prefer to skip the almond milk in savory dishes, reserving it for baking desserts or adding to smoothies.
Coconut Milk: Coconut milk (non-canned) is also very versatile and can be used in cereals, beverages (hot and cold) and in cooking and baking. There is a subtle coconut flavor, but it is not so strong as to avoid adding it to savory dishes.
Canned coconut milk is too thick and creamy to drink directly. But it is great in soups, sauces and stews as well as for use in making creamy puddings.
Rice Milk: Rice milk is thinner than other milk alternatives. Some people argue that it has the closest taste to cow’s milk of all non-dairy milks. It is somewhat sweet, making it better in desserts, soups and light sauces but not a great option when it comes to savory dishes.
Water: Believe it or not, you can substitute water in any recipe that calls for milk. This is a great option if you are out of alternatives or prefer to not bother with non-dairy milks.
Substituting for Butter
When butter is required in a recipe, one of the easiest substitutions is a dairy-free margarine, like Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks. Although this is a great tasting option (and is even fantastic on toast), you may want to do some shopping around and taste testing to find your favorite. When shopping, look for a dairy-free margarine that comes in sticks as opposed to that which comes in a tub. Margarines that come in sticks typically have a lower water content and higher fat content, making them more ideal for baking.
Substituting for Cheese
Dairy-free cheese is a little more difficult to substitute for but is not a lost cause altogether! Most dairy-free cheeses do not taste or feel much like regular cheese (and usually do not melt the same way,) so if your child is old enough to remember the flavor and texture of dairy cheese, you may want to wait some time to introduce a dairy-free version. Several milk- and soy-free cheese options are available and may come in blocks, shreds and slices.
Substituting for Buttermilk
To make your own buttermilk, simply mix one tablespoon of vinegar with one cup of dairy-free milk alternative like soy or rice milk.
Substituting for Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk
You can make a substitute for sweetened condensed milk by making your own milk-free evaporated milk and adding sugar. Evaporated milk is essentially milk with a reduced water content (being reduced by 60 percent).
To make a dairy-free evaporated milk: Add approximately 3 cups of soy, coconut or rice milk to a pan and simmer until about 1 cup remains (around 15 to 20 minutes), whisking occasionally.
To make sweetened non-dairy condensed milk: Mix one cup of evaporated milk (above) with 3/4 cup of sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Gently simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the milk has darkened, has reduced by half and is thickened.
You can also use canned coconut milk in place of evaporated milk.
Substituting for Creams
If a recipe calls for light cream, use canned coconut milk or coconut-, soy- or almond-based creamers.
Heavy cream can be replaced by full fat coconut milk in a can. A coconut flavor will be added to the final product so this may not work for all recipes.
Substituting for Sour Cream, Cream Cheese and Yogurt
Many dairy-free sour cream, cream cheese and yogurt alternatives are available today and almost always work well in recipes.