The best way to go about it is to choose one or two products to replace initially. As you eliminate dairy products from your diet, you’ll lose your taste for them altogether, and non-dairy milks and cheeses will begin to become familiar and tasty to you.
Don’t get caught up in being “perfect,” just take it step by step, and soon dairy-free won’t seem so daunting.
Although there are many soy-free non-dairy options these days, don’t avoid soy just because you heard somewhere that it was “bad.” Soy isn’t evil (unless you’re allergic or have certain health concerns.) Find out why here.
Silk makes a large variety of soy milks, yogurts, and coffee creamers.
I am not big on soy milk because of the weird sugary taste. I prefer the unsweetened almond-coconut blend from Blue Diamond. It’s lower in calories, fortified with vitamin D, and doesn’t taste so sweet.
My favorite non-dairy milk is unsweetened So Delicious Almond Plus. It’s also fortified with vitamin D, contains 9 essential amino acids, and has 5 grams of protein per 40 calorie cup. It’s also very thick and creamy, so I like to use it in soups, stews, and desserts. (Any non-dairy milk is fine in cooking and baking.)
Daiya is probably the most popular brand of vegan cheese, but I don’t care for it at all, and most omnivores I know despise it. It actually makes me feel a little sick, and I’m not impressed with their ingredients. Here’s another article on why (and how much) I hate Daiya.
Don’t be fooled by Galaxy Nutritional Foods‘ lactose-free cheeses. They may not contain lactose, but they are derived from casein, and they also taste like crap.
I like to order products from HeidiHo Organics. Their ingredients are MUCH more natural, and I believe they are soy-free. They offer feta, chipotle cheddar, smoked gouda, and monterrey jack. Here’s an article I wrote on Daiya versus Heidi Ho.
By far, my favorite brand of dairy-free cheese is Lisannati. It comes in mozarella and cheddar and is available at Whole Foods. It’s creamy, it actually melts, and tastes good to non-vegans. I love this brand so much, that I can’t be trusted alone with it. I only buy bags as-needed because left unsupervized I’ll eat the whole thing! Here’s more on why I love Lisannati Vegan Cheese so much.
Homemade vegan cheeses are also delicious, and very easy to make. Find out more at the Gentle Chef.
Parma brand makes several different flavors of vegan Parmesan.
Or, you can make your own using cashews and nutritional yeast.
Cream cheese and sour cream
Tofutti is a great brand, but they do use soy. Toffuti makes a wonderful cream cheese and a delicous sour cream. I truly can’t tell the difference between their products and the real stuff, and they are omnivore tested and approved!
So Delicious has a line of soy-free yogurts made from coconut milk. The only thing I dislike about them is that they contain little to no protein. So Delicious has recently come out with a cultured coconut milk yogurt, which I think is fabulous. I don’t think it’s quite vegan, though, because in order to culture any kind of milk, you have to derrive the mother bacteria from a dairy starter. It is completely lactose free, though, and regulates my digestive system wonderfully. The taste is incredible, the texture is lovely, and it makes a great addition to desserts. It’s also a great egg replacer.
Amande makes cultured almond-milk yogurt, and it’s very similar to So Delicious. I love both, but of the two, So Delicious is my favorite.
Lately, I’ve discovered how simple it is to make homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker using Mimicream, coconut milk, bananas, or avocados. This saves TONS of money, and the results are usually tastier. Dairy-free ice creams are by far one of the most expensive products on this list!
Follow Your Heart makes a variety of delicious “veganaise” products, and has a soy-free option as well.
I prefer their reduced-fat version, and use it all the time in salad dressings, and on sandwiches. No one can tell the difference from the real thing!
Mimicreme is by far the most outstanding and delicious replacement for non-dairy heavy cream. However, it’s not sold locally in Texas, and must be ordered ahead of time. They also have a whipped topping which I have used to make ice cream. Read more about how much I love their product here.
If you don’t have Mimicreme on hand, you can use soy creamer or canned coconut milk instead.
Here’s an excellent recipe for vegan heavy cream.
Here are some other ideas from Jenn Shagrin’s Veganize This!:
-1/2 cup raw cashew pieces + 1/4 cup almond slivers in bowl, cover with warm water. Soak overnight. Drain, puree with 1/2 cup water. Blend and add water until completely smooth. Consistency should be like milkshake. (good for savory dishes)
-1 cup of highest fat nondairy milk you can find, pour into saucepan. Mix 2 tbs cornstarch + 2 tbs ice cold water. Heat nondairy milk over medium high, stirring frequently, until begins to boil, then add cornstarch mix. Cook, stirring continually, until reduced by 1/2. (good for all dishes)
-14 ounce can coconut milk into saucepan. Mix 1 tbs cornstarch + 1 tbs ice cold water. Heat coconut milk over medium high, stirring freq. until begins to boil, then add cornstarch mix. Cook, stirring continually, until reduced by 1/3.
-1 pint soy creamer into saucepan. Mix 2 tbs cornstarch + 2 tbs ice cold water. Heat soy creamer over medium high, stirring freq until begins to boil, then add cornstarch mix. Cook until reduced by half. (good for all dishes)
Here’s a great set of instructions for making vegan buttermilk.
You can find a gluten-free version made with cashews here.
Cashew Cream is a popular substitute.
Here’s a coconut version similar to Cool Whip.
Mimicreme makes a fabulous whipped topping that you can order ahead of time.
In baking, I use either Ener-G Egg Replacer or farm-fresh eggs from my friends’ chickens. Here’s a list of other ways to substitute eggs. For breakfast, I make Fantastic World Food’s Tofu Scramble.
Need more ideas? Here’s an awesome guide to vegan substitutions.