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Lighten Up With Dairy Alternatives

brown_rice_pudding Any chance you've noticed the number of non-dairy milk, cheese and ice cream replacements available these days? The choices are soaring - even in conventional grocery stores! Plenty of people stay away from dairy products for a number of reasons, including allergies, lactose intolerance and concern over the environment or the way animals are raised and treated. While organic dairy products can be a healthy option, some people feel better, lighter or less congested with fewer dairy products or none at all. If you are one of these people, take heart! It's never been easier to lighten up or go dairy-free than it is right now, and it keeps getting easier. Want a simple replacement for milk? Here's a list to get you started, but bear in mind that both soy and tree nuts can be potential allergens or problematic in some cases, so be sure to check with your doctor or qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions.
  • Almond milk - the unsweetened version is great for baking, quiches, cereals and puddings.
  • Hazelnut milk - try this for hot chocolate! Also good for cereal and baking.
  • Rice milk - this can be on the sweet side; it's easy to digest for many people and a good replacement for hot or cold cereal and in smoothies and other beverages.
  • mixed_fruit_smoothie
  • Soy milk - hands down, the most common replacement of all! It's sold in milk cartons on the dairy isle and in aseptic packages on the grocery isle. Unsweetened versions can be a little "beany" flavored, but many people find they get used to the flavor quickly and enjoy it for many different uses.
  • Oat Milk - great for hot cereals and custards but remember this is NOT okay if you are avoiding gluten!
  • Hemp Milk - good for baking and using in smoothies.
  • Coconut Milk - great substitute for milk or cream, try it for quiche, desserts, in pies, puddings, custards and cold on cereal. It can be a bit thick so you may want to try it thinned out with a bit of other non-dairy "milk.
coconut_ice_creamMany milk replacements are available unsweetened, sweetened and flavored. Start with the unsweetened first as some have a lot of added sugar. When it comes to cheese replacements, there are versions made with rice milk, almond milk or soy milk. Many have natural yellow coloring added to simulate real cheese. Because they can be mild in flavor, adding some spices or other ingredients can help pick up the flavor. Here are some uses for non-dairy cheese:
  • Make a grilled "cheese" sandwich. Add tomatoes and some spicy mustard or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast for a "cheesy" flavor.
  • Sprinkle over salads - great with dried fruit and nuts.
  • Try a pita pizza with non-dairy "cheese," tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and peppers.
  • Make an omelet with eggs that have been whisked with a bit of lite coconut milk. Top with shredded non-dairy cheese, olives and a dollop of guacamole.
  • Add to tacos or burritos. Spice it up with salsa or your favorite hot sauce.
You know you need those probiotics! Here's the dairy-free way:
  • Coconut milk kefir and yogurt - pretty new to the market; available in lots of flavors and naturally fermented for good probiotics. Use just as you would yogurt or kefir in smoothies, desserts or enjoyed plain. Try the plain version as a buttermilk replacement.
  • Soy yogurt and probiotic drinks - a little "beany" flavored if you're not used to it - so try the fruit flavored first. Use just as you would yogurt or kefir.
There's more:
  • "Cream cheese" made from tofu - spread on toast or bagels; use in dips and sauces.
  • "Sour cream" made from tofu - try on potatoes or in dips and sauces.
  • "Whipped cream" made from cashew nuts - great on pies or cakes or for a real treat, dollop a bit over hot coffee or non-dairy cocoa.
  • Coconut or soy milk creamers - for coffee, tea, chai, and other beverages, iced or hot. I like the coconut creamer (just a bit) over hot oatmeal in the morning.
  • "Parmesan cheese" made from rice - when tossed with a little nutritional yeast, you get a stronger cheese flavor. Try this with extra virgin olive oil over pasta or in salad. Also good sprinkled over soup and steamed or sautéed veggies.
  • "Ice cream" made from soy milk, rice milk or my favorite: coconut milk - these all vary a bit in flavor. Enjoy as they are or make ice cream-like desserts: parfaits, ice cream cakes, smoothies, etc.
blueberry_banana_smoothieExperiment to find what you like best - you'll be surprised at how easy it is go dairy free without sacrificing good taste. You'll find tons of dairy-free recipes on the recipe pages of our website. I like using the advanced recipe search so you can select "dairy-free" and then search by meal course, cuisine, main ingredient, etc. Please note that I've seen all of the products I mention here in at least one Whole Foods Market store, but our product mix does vary. If your local store doesn't carry a dairy-free item mentioned, simply ask if they can order it for you. Got a dairy-free dish you love or a favorite way to use a dairy replacement? I'd love to hear.

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Nani says …

I actually HATE soy milk, but rice milk is so good! I found this really delicious vanilla version at my local grocery store. So good! And it wasn't as 'creamy' as the soy milk.. which I like : D

Larry says …

Sheep milk, The Real Dairy, Dairy Alternative The nutritional profile of sheep’s milk exceeds other milk sources in several areas containing notably higher levels of protein, calcium, iron, foliate, vitamins A, B group, C, D & E than both goat & cow’s milk. Many doctors and dieticians now recommend sheep milk as a healthy and nutritious alternative to cow’s milk. Due to its smaller fat globules, sheep’s milk also ranks highly with ease of digestion and is well tolerated by consumers with bovine dairy digestion issues. There is also evidence that the lactose in sheep milk is more readily tolerated and easier to digest than other milk. Studies recommend replacing cow milk with sheep milk to aid the treatment of these and other related problems. Sheep’s milk contains higher levels of short & medium chain fatty acids which are used directly as energy in humans instead of being deposited as fat as with longer chain fats. These mono and poly unsaturated fats can also limit, lower or inhibit cholesterol deposition. All of this combined with the fact that sheep milk is “real” dairy, gives sheep milk an advantage over plant based dairy alternatives that lack the flavor of real dairy. Sheep milk and sheep milk products are actually more flavorful than cow’s milk. Given the high solids content of sheep’s milk, it lends itself particularly well to cheese and yogurt making. Some world famous cheeses include Feta, Halloumi, Pecorino, and Manchego along with the world famous Greek style yogurt which is made traditionally with sheep’s milk. Testimonials I recently gave a friend, who loves dairy products, but unfortunately has a lactose intolerance problem, some of your cheese and yogurt. Reluctantly, she ate them and experienced none of the usual symptoms she experiences with cow’s milk. Being skeptical she thought perhaps she no longer had a lactose intolerance problem and put some cow’s milk sour cream on her baked potato which proved to be a mistake as she became very sick. Thank you for providing these wonderful alternative dairy products for people like my friend. And how about sheep milk sour cream? Karen T. These are probably the finest sheep milk products on the market today. Once you start eating them, you just cannot stop. Bob B. I was skeptical because I have had goats milk cheese and found the goat flavor offensive. These cheeses were a pleasant surprise, no goaty flavor what so ever. Joyce P. Your yogurt is by far better than the finest Greek style yogurt I have had. I cannot believe how firm, creamy and smooth it is. The depth of flavor is amazing. Scott M. I never knew that butter could be made from sheep milk. I tried the Shepherdess butter and was immediately taken back to the days of my childhood eating fresh butter on saltine crackers. Your butter tastes like butter used to taste. I never noticed a difference before and now I am spoiled! Victor S. What a treat!!! it was delicious, aged to perfection, it smelled like ewe cheese should. My grandfather would have highly approved!!! My grandfather was a sheepherder from the Pyrenees. He made cheese as it was the custom that only men made cured cheese. The cheese from WSDC confirms what I have said so often that American products of European origin are often as good if not better than what we have coming from Europe. The best cheese I ever had, and I have had cheese in lots of places in the world. I will raise a toast, to Wisconsin. Monique B. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The medication I take has taken a toll and my liver and kidney function needs to be monitored. About a year ago I began drinking 12 ounces of sheep milk every day and enjoying sheep milk cheese and yogurt. At my last check up, my doctor told me my blood work showed my organ functions had improved and she noted that I had the blood work of a 20 year old. She asked what I was doing differently and the only thing different was adding sheep milk to my diet. Steve Z. The members of the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative would like to introduce Starbucks to our line of cholesterol and lactose friendly dairy products for consideration by Starbucks. www.sheepmilk.biz

julia98290 says …

Do you have a list available for casein and/or dairy free food products?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JULIA - Each store should have a store specific list for gluten and casein free products since our products differ between stores. You should be able to find the list on your local store website at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.

emharrah55 says …

How can I order non-dairy p roducts from you online.I have not been able to do this.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@EMHARRAH55 - We do not currently offer online ordering. We have a store in Austin that can ship non-perishable items within the US. You can give them a call at 512-542-2243 to see if they have the items in stock you're looking for.

Julie Blasingame says …

I am looking for a vegan coffee creamer in packets. I cannot have any of the CoffeeMate packets because they still have sodium caseinate in it (a milk derivative) and I am allergic to dairy products. I use coconut milk at home but really need packets to carry in my purse as I travel. Any suggestions?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JULIE - Since our products differ between stores, I can't say exactly what our stores carry in your area. I did find one option in packets online: http://soygo.net/. Hope this helps!

Vanessa Morales says …

I have so much appreciation for this article! I have felt a little lost in the transition to not being able to consume dairy and have turned to soy as the obvious alternative since its so accessible. Happy to know there's so many options!

Anita Rossi says …

I tried making a tapioca pudding with soy milk and it didn't firm up like it's suppose to. I was very watery so I was wondering if coconut or almond milk would work better.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANITA - You might find that happens with dairy alternatives. I would suggest trying to make it with coconut milk since that tends to be more thick.

Maggie Ensminger says …

I have been diagnosed with multiple gastrointestinal problems. I find that I will have to find the right foods that will help make my life easier. Glad to see that your are a source for such foods.

Annette says …

Where in Miami can I get coconut kefir? I have tried two stores (north miami beach and 10th street on south beach) but neither had any coconut keifr or yogurt and no one knew what I was talking about sadly. Would be great to find out- Many thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANNETTE - My apologies the stores were not able to get this. If they cannot special order it, I would suggest trying to find it for sale online.

Nancy Calkins says …

Looking for lecithin granules used to replace eggs in baking. For people with egg allergy. Little yellow granules mix with water...results egg like replacement for cakes, cookies etc. Whole foods carry that? Some call it "EggNot" or "Egg Not" not sure how word is formed. Thanks. I live in Rhode Island

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@NANCY - Our products will differ between stores so I would suggest calling your local store in RI to find out what they have in stock. They might have a vegan egg replacer option in packaged form.

cristina says …

The soy yogurts available are small and very sweet. Could 365 produce plain unsweetened soy yogurt? I cannot make recipes that call for plain yogurt when it is like desert. Please make plain unsweetened soy yogurt and sell it in large tubes, as you do with regular yogurt.


I went to the store off Falls Rd in Baltimore City. I was stock to find out there this or and Whole Foods store did not carry the 365 Rice milk. Whole Foods was the only store that carried the rice milk, the are no other grocery chains in Maryland that carry this product. When I ask why is the rice milk is not be sold, the only response I get is that it has been discontinued. Rice milk is the only form of milk my son is able to drink, he has allergy to dairy products. So I am asking Why? Is there a problem with this product? have you changed distributors? is the rice eating world having a problem with sharing rice to product milk? I just want to know why no grocery store in Maryland carries rice milk. In case this is a suggestion, Dreamers rice milk is not milk, it a rice drink. Regards

john schwind says …

I have used non-dairy Coffeemate coffee creamer and know now how unhealthy it is. I'm looking for a flavored alternative though have been also cautioned about soy products by a nutritionist. I had heard Whole Foods offers a healthy alternative. Coconut milk appears to be very high in fat although maybe not a bad fat. Please advise at your convenience.