Cheatin' Wheat Gluten Free Baking Blog

Favorite Dairy Free Substitutions

Like many families, we contend with multiple allergies in my house. Between myself and my kids, we avoid both gluten and dairy, which I think is fairly common. It seems these two “intolerances” happen together quite frequently. This little challenge really just means I have to have more tricks up my sleeve in order to make delicious food. In some rare instances, we just choose to go without instead of using an inferior substitution. For example, we eat pizza with lots of yummy toppings but skip the cheese altogether. In other cases, I have found great alternatives to traditional dairy ingredients. Here is the list of my favorite dairy swaps. I have also included some of my favorite dairy free pre-made products. A girl cannot cook everything all the time.

Coconut Milk:
I love using coconut milk as an alternative to sweetened condensed milk or heavy cream in recipes. I need to be clear, this is the thick, rich stuff in the can that is often found in the Asian foods isle of the grocery. It is not the coconut milk that you drink, well, like milk.

My favorite recipe substitution is using it in pumpkin pie, which we eat year round in my house. It adds the perfect amount of creaminess and fat to the recipe without imparting a coconut taste.  My relatives, who have no food allergies, actually prefer my version of pumpkin pie to a traditional pie made with condensed milk. 

I also use coconut milk when making frosting. Not only is it delicious, it allows me to achieve a nice white color that is difficult to reach with soy or almond milk. A word of caution, since it is so thick and heavy, I do not use it in a recipe that actually calls for milk. For that, I have other secret weapons…

Seltzer or Club Soda:
Seltzer is a surprising dairy alternative for many successful gluten free, dairy free recipes. The fizzy stuff is my go-to for family breakfasts when I am cooking up a batch of Cheatin' Wheat Gluten Free Pancake Mix. The end result is deliciously light and fluffy. I buy the 12 oz cans for a one-time use so that I know it is always fresh and bubbly. I also find that it works great in yeasted items like breads, rolls and pizza crust. It just seems to add that little extra lift that you do not get with water. Nor does it affect the flavor like soy or almond milk. Is it the answer to everything? No, but it is a good tool to keep in your culinary back pocket.

Earth Balance:
When avoiding butter in baking, Earth Balance is my favorite fat substitute. That being said, there are a few modifications necessary when using this in place of butter. First, most recipes call for unsalted butter, which Earth Balance is not. This means your recipes may come out a bit salty the first time through. With a little effort, you can modify the salt used in the recipe. I would begin by cutting out ¼ tsp. of salt from the original amount, and then let your taste buds be the judge.

Besides containing salt, I also find that Earth Balance is softer at room temperature then butter and melts more quickly. This has an impact on my cookie dough, making it stickier and more likely to spread when baking. To counteract this, I chill the shaped dough before baking. The cookies react more like dough made with butter.

Good Dark Chocolate:
Ok, this is not so much of a substitute as a staple; although I do use dark chocolate in place of milk chocolate in all of my baking. By definition, bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates should be dairy free; however, it still sneaks in there, so you have to be careful. That being said, once you find a chocolate you love, it can be a wonderfully satisfying dessert on its own. The key is not to scrimp on the quality of the chocolate. After all, it is going to be the star of the show. 

Ready-Made Products:
It doesn't matter how much I love to bake. There are times when we need great dairy free alternatives to fill that previously occupied slot in our pantry or freezer. Here are a few of my family's favorites:

1. So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream - While I was growing up, I never craved a glass of milk. Even at that point, dairy did not have a strong pull for me, but I did love ice cream. When I gave up dairy, this was definitely the food my heart missed. I tried the rice and soy milk alternatives, but always found them lacking. Then I discovered coconut milk ice cream…yum! My favorites right now are Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl and Cherry Amaretto.  It finally feels like dessert again.
2. Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – So decadent and delicious, these bring back many Reese’s Peanut Butter cup memories. Need I say more?
3. Amande Yogurt – Made from almond milk, these yogurts have more body to them than traditional soy or coconut milk yogurts. My favorite flavor is peach and my daughter loves the coconut.

This list will grow and I will keep updating you about my favorite dairy alternatives. Please do the same by telling us about any dairy free treasures you have unearthed, or any great recipes you would like to share. 

Happy gluten free and dairy free baking!