The problem with living dairy-free in a dairy-full world is not so much what you don’t eat — it’s being reminded of “what you’re missing” every time you open a restaurant menu or have a conversation with a cheese lover.
If you’re dairy-free or vegan like me, you’ll wish you had a dime for everytime someone tells you they can’t possibly imagine giving up cheese. What I used to hear in that dialogue was not how much the other person loved dairy; it was how much I was unlike them. And, in being unlike them, I was somehow weird. I took these conversations to heart because, let’s face it, what we choose or choose not to put in our bodies is deeply personal. It makes no difference whether you’re motivated by ethics or health.
Living dairy-free is nothing to be ashamed about nor something you should second-guess just because someone else does. Inevitably though, you’ll sometimes be surrounded by cheese lovers or people who swear by their lactose and casein.
How do you embrace your dairy-free lifestyle without feeling like you’re missing out on the cheesy goodness? I’ve packed these five tips with some of my favorite recipes and ideas.
Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe from Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook
1. Make your own cheese substitutes for parties.
Ah, the ubiquitous cheese plate. Create a dairy-free space at someone else’s party table by bringing your own vegan cheese. When you serve one of these, the satisfied feeling you’ll get surpasses any temptation (or not) to dip into store-bought Velveeta. Try these recipes:
2. Befriend the cashew.
Cashews + nutritional yeast + lemon = one killer dairy-free combo. From homemade soy-free vegan cream cheese to spreadable peppered “goat” cheese and vegan mozzarella, cashews know no bounds as your “cheesy” partner in crime.
But cashews really shine when used as a cream. Simply soak raw cashews overnight, then go nuts with cashew cream in quesadillas, as a base for creamy soups or on top of fresh fruit. This basic cashew cream recipe from Tal Ronnen will get you started.
3. Swap easy cheesy alternatives in your favorite comfort foods.
Thanks to nutritional yeast’s nutty, cheesy flavor, nearly any recipe can get a dairy-free makeover. Mac n’ cheese, I’m looking at you!
Try Oh She Glow’s 5-ingredient vegan “cheese” sauce when you’ve got a serious craving. Or, combine some nooch with cauliflower for a cheesy sauce you can drizzle over baked potatoes and broccoli from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. The cheesiest vegan lasagna recipe I know of (also, the way to this vegan Italian’s heart) uses not only cashews but macadamia nuts as a fake-out cheesy ricotta. Brilliant — and delicious.
4. Consider coconut.
You probably have used tofu, either silken or not, to create a creamy texture in recipes such as this spiced dairy-free chocolate mousse. But if you’re watching your soy intake like I am, you’ll love the option to use coconut instead.
5. Explore new products from dairy-free brands that do it well.
Every year, the tasty options available to dairy-free eaters grows. One new product that gets so close to the cheese taste it’s incredible is Follow Your Heart’s new Gourmet Vegan Shreds. One taste took me right back to a childhood grilled cheese that was definitely not vegan.
I’m currently in a love affair (shh, don’t tell my boyfriend) with RawFoodz, Inc’.s Zen Budda. Even die-hard butter lovers will even enjoy the creaminess of this coconut oil, EVOO, hemp, nutritional yeast and sea salt (that’s it!) spreadable “budda.”
Victoria Vegan bypasses cream and butter in its vegan, dairy-free alfredo sauces. Opting for creamy cashews as a base, the jarred sauce comes in unique flavors like artichoke, arugula pesto and roasted pepper.
What are your favorite cheesy go-to’s so you never feel like you’re missing out? Share in the comments!