The 3 Best Dairy-Free Ingredients + 21 Recipes Using Them

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It amazes me how my tastes have changed over the years. When I was a kid, the three dairy-free ingredients below rarely crossed my lips, and I certainly wasn’t cooking or baking with them. But as I learned to expand my palate, now virtually unafraid of trying any new food or flavor combination, a whole world of rich, creamy deliciousness opened up.

I can only hope that my niece follows suit (soon!) with a little more healthy adventurousness in her diet. In the meantime,  many of the recipes listed below are “sneaky” ones that she and other kids are likely to enjoy without knowing anything about the “unusual” grown-up, dairy-free ingredients that lurk within.

The 3 Best Dairy-Free Ingredients + 21 Recipes Using Them

Coconut Milk

I’m not talking about coconut milk beverage here; this is full fat, delicious canned coconut milk or cream. Its versatility is bar none: fluff it into whipped “cream,” stir it in for a rich savory sauce, use it for the perfect consistency in cream pies or ice cream, and even bake with it. Need something lighter on a budget? Simply water down full fat coconut milk to create light coconut milk (1/3 cup coconut milk + 2/3 cup water). For coconut milk beverage, thin it even a bit further.

Though I could send you on your way at this point, I must emphasize that not all brands of canned coconut milk are created equally. See my Guide to Coconut Milk for more detail on using this amazing dairy-free ingredient.

The 3 Best Dairy-Free Ingredients + 21 Recipes Using Them

Dairy-Free Recipes Using Coconut Milk

  1. Thai Tofu Stir Fry
  2. Ultra Peanut Butter Ice Cream
  3. Roasted Carrot Bisque
  4. Samoa Girl Scout Cookies
  5. Sticky Coconut Chicken (with vegan option)
  6. Everyday Turmeric Smoothie
  7. Peppermint Fudge Bites

Avocado

My primary memory of avocado as a child was smashed in pita pocket sandwiches from a sandwich shop my mom worked for. By the time the sandwiches came home later in the day, the avocado was slightly browned and had made the bread a bit soggy – unappetizing to say the least. After banishing this green fruit from my life for nearly a decade, I rediscovered it in sushi. Since then, it has become a staple in my cooking AND baking, and one of my favorite dairy-free ingredients.

I know that many of you will be hesitant to use avocado in anything but Mexican food, but trust me, it’s time to branch out. This fruit is mild in taste and has a creamy texture that even works in sweets when properly paired. Yes, it really does. Try it, you won’t regret it. Avocado also acts as an egg-free binder and even provides a gelatinous texture on its own.

The 3 Best Dairy-Free Ingredients + 21 Recipes Using Them

Dairy-Free Recipes Using Avocado

  1. Creamy Vegan Pasta Primavera
  2. Chocolate Cream Pie
  3. Peruvian Stuffed Avocados
  4. Creamy Coconut Lime Dressing
  5. Healthy Shamrock Shake
  6. 7 Layer Salad
  7. Dirt Pudding Cups

Cashews

I couldn’t stand nuts as a kid. Their knobby presence in brownies, quite frankly, annoyed me. And my mother’s dark chocolate-covered almonds were far too adult and boring for my tastes. But as my palate has evolved, I’ve learned to appreciate nuts, with a special fondness for the creaminess of cashews. I frequently blend them up to create quick milk alternative, luxurious nut butter, a sweet cream, or the base for a rich dinner sauce.

Some people soak cashew prior to blending, but I’m rarely that planned in advance. This soft nut powders beautifully in a spice grinder and can then be blended seamlessly into a creamy recipe.

Can’t do nuts? Though not exactly the same, I find that in many recipes, you can grind up sunflower seeds or use sunflower seed butter in an equivalent amount.

The 3 Best Dairy-Free Ingredients + 21 Recipes Using Them

Dairy-Free Recipes Using Cashews

  1. Fuddruckers Copycat Cheesy Sauce
  2. Raw Cookie Dough Bites
  3. Vegan Tomato Queso Dip
  4. Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
  5. Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits
  6. Vegan Goat Cheese Alternative
  7. Creamy Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

For More Dairy-Free Recipes, Get Go Dairy Free!

Go Dairy Free - The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein-Free Living

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food 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, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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