Top Tips for a Dairy-Free Thanksgiving

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From the lactose intolerant to vegans, Thanksgiving celebrations can be a challenge.  Luckily, non-dairy foods and ideas have finally hit the mainstream.  The following substitute ideas should now be fairly easy to find on supermarket shelves, and will help to maintain the tradition of a homemade holiday feast that everyone can enjoy: 

  • Milk: When preparing bread and desserts, plain almond and rice milks will work beautifully.  For savory fare, the unsweetened versions of Almond Breeze, Organic EdenSoy, or Silk Soymilk (the green package) are each good options.  Some feel that the flavor of soymilk doesn’t quite jive with mashed potatoes.  For this dish, you may wish to experiment with oat milk.  It can be purchased in stores, or very easily prepared at home
  • Butter: For the rich flavors of holiday cooking and baking, Earth Balance Natural Buttery Sticks are a top choice.  Earth Balance and Spectrum Naturals also produce non-hydrogenated shortenings to keep that piecrust flaky.  Of course, oil (olive, canola, or vegetable) is an excellent replacement for butter or margarine in practically every application.  When a recipe calls for butter or margarine, around 1/4 less oil (give or take) can typically be used in its place.
  • Cream: Coconut cream (the thick portion skimmed off the top of whole fat coconut milk) and tofu are fantastic alternatives.  Coconut cream can be used as a straight substitute for dairy cream in your favorite whipped cream recipe.  Tofu offers versatility, based upon the type you purchase.  Soft will yield a light cream when pureed, while extra-firm will produce your thickest option.  For a truly creamy texture, always choose varieties that are labeled as “Silken.”  Though for pumpkin pies and cheesecakes, the non-Silken tofu selections will give your dessert a more traditional texture.
  • Cheese: For some, scalloped potatoes just aren’t the same without a topping of cheese.  Admittedly, creating a good dairy-free cheese is not an easy feat.  Some soy cheeses (particularly the most popular ones) do in fact contain dairy.  Nonetheless, there are a few good brands on the market, and even one that is soy-free and receives high ratings, Daiya. If cheese flavor is really all you are seeking, try some nutritional yeast.  It tastes much better than it sounds, and offers a Parmesan-like flavor to most meals. We usually skip cheese alternatives altogether, and make the Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes recipe from Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. The result is simple, rich, and popular with our family!

For further guidance, check the dairy-free recipe section section at Go Dairy Free.  With thousands of recipes and growing, there are a number of selections for pies (from pecan to pumpkin), potatoes (mashed and scalloped), stuffing, and gravy sans milk.  If you suddenly become allergic to the kitchen as Thanksgiving approaches, don’t despair.  Many prepared foods are also at your beckon call:

  • Pies: Wholly Wholesome offers a vegan/dairy-free pumpkin pie, fruit pies, and several pie shells. Most of their products can be found in the frozen (ready to bake) section of Whole Foods markets. Whole Foods also sells three of their own vegan pies for the holidays (most years): pumpkin, cherry-blackberry, and apple-cranberry-currant.  For those with additional dietary requirements, Fabe’s Naturals and Natural Feast sell a variety of gluten-free / egg-free / dairy-free pies. 
  • Dessert Toppers: A la mode is a must this pie…I mean holiday season.  You won’t need to look far for Turtle Mountain’s Purely Decadent and So Delicious (includes coconut milk-based ice creams) lines. This incredibly popular brand has made it into most supermarkets in North America (even Walmart).  For another good non-soy choice, Good Karma’s Organic Rice Divine™ can be found at Trader Joe’s and other natural food retailers. For a dollop of whipped cream atop that pumpkin pie seek out Soyatoo (in spray cans), or use one of the Coconut-based Whipped Creme recipes in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook
  • Side Dishes & Full Dinners: Whole Foods Markets and various other natural health food stores offer full vegan meals for Thanksgiving. If you are a carnivorous non-dairy consumer, order an all-natural turkey along with your vegan feast.  Both will be prepared in advance and ready for your pick-up.  Prices may vary by location, but expect to pay just $15 to $25 per person for this fully catered meal.

For more non-dairy ideas, explore this website and Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook (also available as an e-book for immediate "delivery").  Go Dairy Free is an informational website offering recipes, product reviews, substitute ideas, resources, and extensive product lists.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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