By Kali Kushner
When going dairy free seven months ago I KNEW it was going to be hard. I was a fiend for anything cheesy, a soft cheese and wine pairing, parmesan alfredo, mozzarella sticks, mac n cheese, and pizza! I couldn't bring myself to give up pizza- I mean c'mon is that even legal? However, cutting out dairy is hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made for my skin. After a few short months of giving dairy the boot (yes even pizza) my cystic acne cleared up almost completely except the one odd spot around THAT time of the month. That was enough motivation for me to continue on my dairy-free lifestyle but I couldn't help to reminisce on some of my old favorites. I wondered if there were any vegan substitutes that were on par with their nemesis dairy, and that's why I've curated this list.
At first, I was so overwhelmed in the dairy-free sections at my local Whole Foods and Fresh Thyme that I couldn't be bothered with trying to recreate some of my old favorites. I would've rather gone without pizza for the rest of my life then try hundreds of dairy free substitutes that just didn't match up. That was up until a few months ago when I reallllly started missing mac n cheese, I said: "ya know what, screw it I'm going to try them all, just once, and find the best of the best." And let me tell ya, it's been a whirlwind of an adventure, not all dairy free substitutes are exactly, erhm- delicious to say the least. So for anyone who is looking to make the switch into a dairy-free lifestyle but doesn't want to compromise the taste of their old favorites or doesn’t know where to start, this list is for you.
1. Forager Unsweetened Cashew Milk
All it took was one sip for this to become an immediate staple in my house. I love the creaminess as a base for savory sauces, dips, and anything you want to make cheesey-cheeseless. I typically opt for the unsweetened version so that I can use it in a variety of dishes but they also have a sweetened version, chocolate, and vanilla that are equally as delicious. Forager cashew milk is also free of soy and gluten. (To find a store that carries forager products near you click here.)
2. Silk Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
One of my old-time favorites, I've never been a huge milk drinker, to begin with, but I would opt for some good ole silk milk over a glass of cow juice any day. Not to mention they just got a NEW formula that’s creamier than ever, seriously if you liked the old formula you're gonna love the new one.
The Vanilla flavor is my favorite to pair with sweeter foods like vegan protein powder, a matcha latte, or just some good ole fashioned oreos. Silk Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk has 50% more calcium than dairy and is also free of soy and gluten. (Silk has pretty much gone viral, being one of the most accessible dairy-free alternatives on the market, however, if you're having trouble locating its whereabouts you should be able to track down the closest retailer here.)
1. So Delicious Dairy Free Cheddar Jack Shreds
These are brand-spankin' new, being released just a month ago this year, So Delicious came out with three different cheese alternative flavors- cheddar, cheddar jack, and mozzarella. Cheddar Jack, of course, being the best for Mexican inspired dishes like tacos, nachos, and quesadillas! I find that it doesn’t stretch or melt as much as I'd like but the flavor is so on the money that it doesn't seem to bother me. So Delicious cheese is coconut-milk based and free of any soy or gluten. (To see if it's rolled out in a store near you, click here.)
2. Daiya Mozzarella Style-Shreds
I'm probably going to receive some backlash for this one but I can't help it, I LOVE DAIYA. Here's the thing with this brand, you either love it or you hate it, there's no in-between. Some people really think it tastes like plastic and others (like me) find its stretchiness and creaminess amazing for vegan mac n' cheese, soup, queso and, pizza! Yes, pizza! I know that I can't be the only one who thinks so because of a local chain pizza joint near me, Mellow Mushroom, added it to their menu a few years ago as a vegan cheese substitute. You can even go halfsies on a pizza so now you have no excuse not to go out on date night or grab a slice with a friend. Daiya cheese is, of course, free of Soy and Gluten. (Find it near you by clicking here.)
1. Treeline Cracked Pepper Artisinal Aged Nut Cheese
Wow. Just wow. This. Is. THE. Cheese. If you're into cheese and wine pairings or freshly grating your own cheese- this is for you. The flavor is extremely rich and creamy with a subtle hint of spiciness, sending a symphony of flavors to your taste buds. Not to mention Teeline cheeses contain probiotics which help to protect, heal, and seal the gut- so you can feel great while you're eating them! They have four soft French style nut cheeses and two aged nut cheeses, which are all vegan and made from cashew nuts. (To see if Treeline is sold at a retailer near you click here.)
2. Miyokos Fresh Vegan Mozz
Soooo creamy and soooo dreamy. This cheese is extremely soft, similar to cream cheese but carries all of the flavors of mozzarella, plus it melts and browns. I know that sounds a bit odd, but finding a good vegan cheese that both browns and melts is, for whatever reason, hard to find and incredibly satisfying. It’s the most flavorful when mixed into a homemade pasta like lasagna or sliced into chunks for a vegan pizza. Miyoko's fresh vegan mozz is a cashew and coconut oil based cheese that is also free of gluten and soy. (To find a store that carries Miyokos near you click here!)
Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
If you're looking for a vegan butter to substitute in baking, topping your toast, or for the perfect mac n cheese look no further. Earth balance has the best buttery taste without all of the added trans fat. I typically use this as a butter substitute when baking sweets. Earth balance is gluten free but unfortunately, it does contain soybean oil, so if you have a soy allergy this one may not be for you. I have a soy intolerance but it seems to be okay if I use it in a baking dish every now and then. ( Earth balance is another dairy free alternative that seems to be fairly common around grocery stores BUT if you aren't able to find it near you, try clicking here.)
1. Ben and Jerry's Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie
You asked and they delivered, Ben and Jerry's is stepping the dairy-free game up with seven (and constantly expanding it seems) non-dairy flavors. Some of the best are PB & cookies, chunky monkey, and the absolute greatest of all time is perhaps chocolate fudge brownie. I have no clue how it can be so chocolatey and chunky AND creamy but still be dairy free.
Ben, Jerry, I got some questions for you guys. The coolest thing is that you don't have to miss out on an experience by trudging through the grocery as aisle and eating that pint alone at home, no- they have all the vegan flavors in their scoop shops as well! Being dairy free just got a whole lot easier right? (Click here to check if there is a scoop shop or grocery store near you.)
2. So Delicious Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl
So Delicious is the golden standard for vegan frozen dessert, with 45 flavor variations ranging from Cashew Milk Chocolate Cookies and Cream to Coconut Milk Simply Strawberry, they’ve got this whole ice cream business figured out. I've tried a handful of their ice creams and found the best way to eat it is to take it out of the freezer about 10 or 20 minutes before you plan on indulging to let it melt a little. Otherwise, it isn't as creamy and it sort of comes out in flakes on your spoon, which isn't exactly appetizing. (Again, to find if So Delicious is in a store near you click here!)
Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt (Strawberry Banana tubes)
More times often than not it can be hard finding a vegan yogurt with a good consistency, most seem to be too runny or chalky. Let me just say Kite Hill has mastered the perfect texture AND flavor, mimicking that "yogurt in mouth" feel. They currently carry 9 different probiotic packed yogurts ranging from key lime to caramel. My favorite (by far) is the brand-new Strawberry Banana tubes, the kid in me prefers them because they're fun to eat, perfectly portioned, and portable. Kite hill yogurts are almond milk based and free of soy or gluten. (To see if Kite Hill is in a store near you click here!)
Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
If you're looking for a vegan cream cheese that spreads just like the real thing, then look no further. Trust me, I've tried some pretty gnarly cream cheeses and Tofutti takes the cake. I even snuck some on my husband's bagel one morning, he was clueless. Tofutti has 6 better-than-cream-cheese flavors that all carry savory flavorings such as Garlic and Herb or French Onion that are all soft, rich, and 100% straight up creamy. Tofutti cream cheese is vegan but it does contain soy so it may not be the best option for those with an intolerance. (To find Tofutti products near you click here!)
If you plan on transitioning into a dairy-free lifestyle, I hope this list makes it a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable! Cheers and good luck!
Giveaway: To kick off our new blog redesign launch - We'll be hosting giveaways in each of our featured blog posts! Articles that were written by Brigid or Kali will be open for a giveaway to win a pumpkin enzyme masque! To enter: Just comment below something that you learned from reading this post! We'll pick a winner at the end of the day! No Spam posts!