Whole Story

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Hold the Cream: 6 Great Ingredients for Dairy-Free Richness

I’ve got one more reason to keep your blender (or food processor) out on the counter! With a few healthful pantry staples, you’ll have the basis for creamy, satisfying dishes without all the fat and calories of cream.

Here are some of my favorite ingredients for delivering thickness and satisfying texture while letting the natural flavors in food really shine through. Better yet, each is a nutritional superstar in its own right, so blending them up makes great health sense.

Creamy Spinach DipCreamy Tahini and Broccoli Pasta

Beans They’re packed with protein and fiber, and adding them to everything from soups to sauces to dips adds thickness and body. White beans are particularly popular because of their neutral color. Cannellini beans are featured in our Creamy Spinach Dip and garbanzo beans are the star of the rich vegan sauce used in this Creamy Tahini and Broccoli Pasta.

Cashew Sour CreamLemony Cashew Dressing

Cashews Not only are they an irresistible snack, but blending cashews with liquid makes a power-packed alternative to dairy. Try your hand at the spreadable Cashew Nut Cheese or the versatile Cashew Sour Cream and top a dessert with Cashew Cream. Their naturally sweet flavor and velvety texture enrich these satisfying casseroles: Chicken Enchilada Casserole and Creamy Cashew Macaroni.

Tofu RicottaSonoma Tofu Salad

Tofu Tofu’s creamy texture and neutral flavor makes it ideal for replacing high-fat ingredients. Ditch the cheese in lasagna and opt for Tofu Ricotta. Use vegan Tofu Spread instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, wraps and in dips. It does double-duty in our recipe for Sonoma Tofu Salad, blended first with white beans to make a thick dressing and then tossed with celery and grapes for a hearty main-course salad.

Creamy Curried Cauliflower SoupRoasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Vegetable purées Smoothly blended cooked vegetables are an ideal way to bring cream-like richness to soups and sauces while adding virtually no fat. Root vegetables like parsnips, potatoes and carrots are popular choices, as are winter squash and cauliflower. The latter gets star billing in lean and flavorful Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup. Snag canned pumpkin and sweet potato purées for easy work.

Steamed Artichokes and Creamy Walnut DipKale Waldorf Salad

Walnuts These healthy nuts are packed with antioxidants and heart-healthy nutrients, and they’re tops when it comes to deep, rounded flavor. In our popular Kale Waldorf Salad, they’re blended with nothing more than good old H20 to produce a wonderfully rich and satisfying dressing. With garlic and sherry vinegar, they make a good-for-you creamy dip for steamed artichokes.

Raw Banana Ice CreamBanana Nice Cream

Bananas When it comes to sweets, nothing adds naturally lean creaminess like ripe bananas. Frozen bananas are the delicious highlight of this great alternative to ice cream and in this one with honey and cinnamon..

Do you have any tricks for adding creaminess without the cream? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

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Alice FitzHugh says …

When needing heavy cream for a recipe, I use 3/4 cup of soy milk plus 1/4 cup earth balance. I tried this in the Whole Foods recipe for Chicken Pot Pie. It worked great and the pot pie has now become a family favorite.

Shelly Humbach says …

I add a half an avocado to my morning smoothie for extra creaminess and great, healthy fat!

Carolee says …

I use avocados to get a creamy chocolate pudding without the dairy. Put them in a food processor with cocoa and sweetener and process until creamy. Add some canned coconut milk and vanilla and process until smooth and lump free to create a truly yummy dessert.

Colleen k. says …

Do you sell a "pizza crust" that is made of cauliflower or squash? I'm looking for a crust/cracker without carbs.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@COLLEEN - Our products differ between stores so I would suggest reaching out to your local store directly. They will be happy to let you know what they have in stock!

CaliKoala says …

For dessert I have made homemade dairy free pudding using cornstarch and chocolate soy milk, eggs, and adding melted coconut oil. I actually started with light soy milk since that's what I had on hand but see no reason you couldn't also use almond or coconut milk. I did have to work it a little to get the cornstarch to blend. I didn't add any extra cocoa or sweetener but might try a bit of honey next time. Arrowroot is another thickener especially if you need something clear. **I normally use tofu in my homemade salad dressing. Mix it with apple cider vinegar and berries.

Marie Jordan says …

Icecream. Take a handful of frozen fruit, I use raspberries, put them in a grinder and grind until they are as small as breadcrumbs. Add some coconut cream and beat together until mixed. Eat. Delicious. It takes about 45 seconds.The cream goes hard when it is mixed with anything frozen. if you want to make a milk shake just add coconut milk. The other fruits that are good are mango and banana.

Marie Jordan says …

Avocado beaten with pure cocoa, is a yummy mousse and very healthy and raw. Have also used avocado for key lime pie and ice-cream.

Teena says …

does anyone have a coffee creamer suggestion that is really dairy free and not flavored? Used to use plain soy or almond creamer but my grocer discontinued them.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@TEENA - Most of our stores should have a dairy alternative but items can differ. Check with your local store to find out what options they have in stock.

Dee says …

Thanks, I didn't think I'd ever get sour cream again. soooo thank you. Dee