Quiet down, cheeseheads. Lactose intolerance can be a blessing, not a curse— especially with a few simple, healthy dairy substitutions at hand. Read on for our top 30 picks, guaranteed to satisfy that next big craving for the creamy, cheesy, and otherwise off-limits dairy products. Even non-lactards will want to dig in!
- Regular or smoked tofu for sliced mozzarella or provolone
Believe it or not, sliced tofu can mimic the taste and texture of mozzarella and provolone cheese. Try it on sandwiches or crackers for a protein-packed snack with about half the calories and fat of its cheesy counterparts.
- Nutritional yeast for cheese
Instead of topping those nachos with cheddar, try a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavoring with less fat. The taste and texture may be a little bit different, but the creamy texture is pretty comparable.
- Soy, hemp, or rice-based “cheese” for cheese
Le Cordon Bleu might not approve, but for vegan and lactose intolerant nibblers, these faux cheeses are a clutch alternative. Some even shred, melt, and stretch just like the real deal. Vegan pizza party, anyone?
- Plain soy yogurt for sour cream
With just a fraction of the fat and calories of sour cream, soy yogurt makes for a healthy 1:1 swap. It may not be quite as thick and creamy (sorry, tacos), but it can still do the trick in dips and salad dressings.
- Pureed silken tofu for sour cream
Break out the blender (or food processor if you fancy, huh!). Pureed silken tofu can deliver a thick, creamy consistency similar to sour cream— without the mega-dose of calories and fat. Too thick? Simply mix in a small amount of non-dairy creamer.
- Soy yogurt for yogurt
Soy-based yogurt may not taste exactly like its dairy counterpart, but when it comes to texture, versatility, and even certain health benefits, there’s little to be missed. Look out for brands that contain probiotics to help support the body's natural defenses.
- Unsweetened applesauce for butter
It’s hard to imagine this fruity fall favorite could adequately replace the richness of butter. But applesauce lends just the right consistency plus a hint of sweetness— without all the fat. Try it in any sweet bread (like banana or zucchini), or in muffins, including pre-packaged mixes.
- Unrefined coconut oil for butter or lard
Coconut oil can withstand some seriously high heat, making it a go-to for frying. And while it has a high amount of saturated fat, coconut oil may have some health benefits, including increased metabolism and immune system support.
- Olive oil for butter or lard
An all-star staple in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil beats out butter or lard in recipes for those trying to avoid lactose and minimize saturated fats. The flavorful oil also packs a healthy dose of essential omega 3 fatty acids.
- Avocado puree for butter
Why not go green? They’re both fats (albeit very different fats) and have nearly the same consistency at room temperature. The creaminess and subtle flavor of the avocado works especially well in fudge brownies and dark chocolate desserts. Check out this recipe for an idea of the right proportions for baking.
- Mashed bananas for butter
The creamy, thickening-power of mashed banana acts the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baked goods. The consistency is ideal, plus the bananas add a healthy dose of potassium and fiber.
- Prune puree for butter
Miss those chocolaty cakes, cookies, and cupcakes? Turns out a half-cup of pureed prunes (yes, prunes!) can replace a cup of butter in most baking recipes. Just follow these simple steps to get the puree down pat.
- Hemp, soy, rice, oat, or almond milk for cow’s milk
Perhaps one of the simplest switches, these milk alternatives can stand in for cow’s milk without the bat of an eye. And while some might taste slightly sweeter than cow’s milk, they can actually be lower in sugar! Just be sure to go for unsweetened and unflavored varieties, and for some extra vitamin D and calcium, try the fortified kinds.
- Soy milk for buttermilk
While soy milk can sub pretty seamlessly for buttermilk, to bring out the same sour, tangy flavor, the trick is adding an acid. For every cup of soy milk, try adding two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice.
- Coconut, potato, rice, or soy milk powder for powdered milk
Got powdered milk on that recipe? Hit the baking aisle for one of these simple substitutions. While soy milk powder may be easiest to come across, coconut, potato, and rice milk powder all do the trick (with the same 1:1 ratio).
- Coconut milk for evaporated milk
The distinct flavor may be best for desserts, but coconut milk can sub in for evaporated milk ounce-for-ounce. Let the bake-off begin!
- Coconut milk for cream
No soup for you? Coconut milk is a great substitute for heavy cream in soups and stews. And don’t be turned off by the word “coconut”— it doesn’t taste like the sweetened shredded kind!
- Coconut cream for half-and-half
Later lactose. Making a tasty (and digestible!) alternative to half-and-half is easy to do. Check out these simple steps to whip up your own half-coconut cream and half-soy milk blend.
- Tofu spread for cream cheese
When a bagel without cream cheese seems incomplete, seek out its dairy-free doppelganger, the tofu spread. With about half the fat of regular cream cheese and twice the protein, this is one extra that’s OK to schmear on.
- Flavored tofu spread for chip dip
Every chip needs a dip— but not necessarily a heavy, cream-filled one. Luckily, there are plenty of tofu spreads that can double as dips, including flavors like French onion, garden veggie, and garlic and herb. Feeling extra adventurous? Try making your own— like this vegan sun-dried tomato spread.
- Baba ganoush for spinach and artichoke dip
Sure, the veggies are different, but this simple mashed eggplant dish has the same chunky, hearty texture of the heavier cream and cheese-filled dip. Scoop it up with pita chips, crackers, or raw veggies for a lower calorie snack.
- Soy protein powder for whey protein powder
Craving protein in powdered form? Since going dairy-free rules out the popular whey protein powder (derived from milk), opt for soy protein powder instead to mix into shakes, smoothies, cookie batter, and more.
- Certified Kosher deli meats for standard cold cuts
Probably the last place you’d expect to encounter dairy? The deli counter’s cold cuts are sometimes injected with casein, whey, or other dairy derivatives like butter to enhance flavor (ick, we know…). To stay on safe side, look for meats labeled “Kosher,” which should be dairy-free.
- Coconut milk ice cream for gelato
While there’s nothing quite like the smooth and creamy Italian specialty, coconut milk “ice cream” offers a similar richness, with nearly 100 fewer calories per serving. Just remember this non-dairy alternative is high in saturated fat, so be sure to pass the pint around.
- Banana “ice cream” for ice cream
Ice cream made from only frozen bananas? Yes please! This is one naturally sweet and dairy-free recipe that’s sure to have you scratching your head— while scooping up seconds. Extra potassium, people!
- Sorbet for sherbet
These two scoopable treats may start with the same three ingredients (pureed fruits, sugar, and water) but sherbet also adds in milk, gelatin, or egg whites. Feeling fruity? The dairy-free option averages about 70 to 80 percent real fruit per 4-ounce serving.
- Soy, rice, or hemp-based “frozen yogurt”for frozen yogurt
Who isn’t temped by the tart and twisty fro-yo? Lactose intolerant folks can still get in on the action with some equally tasty soy-based alternatives. Find them at the most supermarkets and some specialty fro-yo chains.
- Rice milk chocolate for milk chocolate
Chocoholics, rejoice! Rice milk chocolate can satisfy most cravings for the milky stuff, and it’s completely dairy-free. There are even rice milk chocolate bars for an on-the-go treat.
- Dark chocolate for milk chocolate
Go ahead, take a trip to the dark side. Not all dark chocolate is lactose-free, though, so always check the label. Look for brands that contain just cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, lecithin (usually soy-based), and sugar. For snacking, try dark chocolate with 50 percent cocoa— just enough sweetness to satisfy that sweet tooth. For baking, semi-sweet and bittersweet tend to work best.
- Carob chips for chocolate chips
For those who want to avoid dairy and added sugar, unsweetened carob chips are a simple substitution for chocolate chips in baking and trail mixes. Plus, they pack a healthy dose of dietary fiber, protein, calcium, and iron.
Did we miss one of your favorites? Tell us in the comments below!