Going dairy-free

Switching from dairy products to cruelty-free alternatives is easier than you might think. The range of dairy substitutes is growing rapidly and there are now vegan versions of milk, cream, cheese, yoghurt, custard, margarine and many more food products.

What can I use instead of milk?

Soya milk is now widely available in supermarkets and health food shops and it is offered in most cafés, coffee shops and restaurants.

There are a variety of different brands available and all taste slightly different. Popular brands include Alpro, So Good, Plamil, Granovita, Sojade and Bonsoy, and most supermarkets now produce an own-brand version. Varieties can include sweetened, unsweetened, concentrated, organic, long-life, vanilla flavoured, chocolate flavoured and vitamin enriched versions.

Most people find that once they have been using soya milk for a few months, cows’ milk is impossible to go back to, as it begins to taste fatty and sour.

As well as soya milk, you can buy rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk and coconut milk from health food shops and many supermarkets. Rice milk (such as Rice Dream) has a thinner consistency and sweeter flavour than soya milk and does not really work very well in hot drinks, but it is excellent on its own or with breakfast cereals. Oat and almond milks (such as Ecomil, So Good, Oatly and Blue Diamond) are really creamy and can be used in the same way as soya milk. Almond milk is particularly delicious in coffee and hot chocolate. Hemp, coconot and hazelnut milks (such as Good Hemp, Koko and Ecomil) are also becoming increasingly available. Try a range of brands to see which you prefer.

I’ll miss cheese too much!

Dairy-free cheese alternatives are available from health food shops and many supermarkets. One of the most widely available is Cheezly, made by VBites, which is available in a variety that melts and is therefore good for cooking with. Other companies that make dairy-free cheese include Bute Island Food ‘Sheese’, Tofutti, Vegusto and Violife. Tesco and Sainsbury’s have their own-brand ranges as well. Dairy-free cheeses are available in a number of flavours including edam, cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, cheshire and blue. Vegan cream cheese is also available in various flavours.

You can also find artisan, aged vegan cheeses from companies such as Tyne Chease, Mouse’s Favourite and Lettices – look out for more at local vegan fairs.

What about yoghurt?

You can buy dairy-free yoghurts from health food shops and some supermarkets. Alpro and Sojasun are natural yoghurts that come in plastic tubs and taste almost exactly the same as dairy yoghurt. You can also buy several different brands of dairy-free yoghurts in smaller portion-sized yoghurt pots, including CoYo and ‘Wot No Dairy?’, which come in a variety of flavours.

Is plain chocolate vegan?

Continental plain chocolate is more likely to be vegan. Always check the ingredients, as many brands contain butterfat or milk powder. To be sure, why not order some delicious chocolate bars and truffles from the Animal Aid online shop?

Is margarine vegan?

Most margarines contain lactose or whey, both of which are dairy-derived, and whey may not even be vegetarian. However, the ‘Pure’ range of sunflower and soya margarines is widely available, and ‘Vitalite’ is also suitable for vegans. Most supermarkets now stock their own dairy-free brand as well.

How can I create dairy-free versions of my favourite foods?

Soya milk, tofu, soya cheese, soya yoghurt, coconut milk, ground cashew nuts and yeast flakes can all be used creatively in your favourite recipes in place of milk and cheese.

Custard can be made in the usual way with soya milk or rice milk. Alternatively you could buy a carton of Alpro ready-made custard or Alpro vanilla soya dessert and use as custard.

Cheesecake filling can be made by blending together silken tofu, soya milk, sugar, vanilla essence and fruit.

Delicious vegan ice cream is made by several companies and is hard to distinguish from dairy ice cream. Swedish Glace is the most widely available – look out for it in supermarkets and health food shops – but other brands include Tofutti, Booja Booja, Almond Dream, Coconut Collaborative and Food Heaven. Some supermarkets have their own vegan ice cream, as well.

Mild curries like sag aloo can be given a creamy texture by cooking with vegetable ghee or oil and adding soya yoghurt or coconut milk.

Creamy soups can be made with soya milk and spicy soups can be given a great flavour and texture with coconut milk.

Milkshakes can be made by blending any milk-alternative with syrup, fruit or soya ice cream. You can also buy Alpro OY drinks in chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and banana flavours from supermarkets and health food shops.

You can even buy dairy-free fudge, nougat, coffee-whitener and pizzas!

Giving up Dairy Products – Action Plan

  1. Investigate the growing range of dairy alternatives available from shops. Try them to see which brands you like.
  2. Try tofu, soya milk and other vegan products in your favourite recipes. Experiment to see what works for you.
  3. Invest in some good vegan cookbooks and try some new recipes. You can buy them from the Animal Aid online shop or other online book sellers. Many high street bookshops have a vegetarian and vegan cookery section.
  4. The internet is a brilliant source of advice and recipes.
  5. Educate yourself about vegan nutrition. Find out the facts about calcium and osteoporosis, vitamin D and other issues. You can then respond with confidence if concerned friends and relatives accuse you of neglecting your health.
  6. Put pressure on your work or college canteen and local catering establishments to provide dairy-free food and drinks for you. Forward them a copy of the Vegan Society‘s catering pack. Point out that an increasing number of people are going vegan and that many people are allergic to dairy products, so they could tap in to a significant market.
  7. Once you have become confident about being vegan, try introducing your friends to dairy-free dishes and discussing the issues with them if they are curious. They might be very receptive.
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