The Best Dairy-Free Alternatives and How to Use Them

Thank goodness there are great substitutions these days for dairy products. What used to be just milk alternatives has expanded into really delicious vegan cheese, yogurt and more. But with all of the options on the shelves these days, you may be wondering, “Which one should I choose for cereal? What about desserts?” I get it…it’s like the wild West out there.

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Since Julia is dairy-free and grain-free, I’ve had the chance to try a lot of different dairy-alternative brands and products in my cooking. To those of you searching for a quick, digestible list of some of the best plant-based dairy substitutes, this post is for you!

Quick note: When adding any of these to hot liquids, it’s best to do it toward the end. Most of these plant-based milks, if boiled or cooked for long periods, will separate and become grainy. 

Best Milk Alternatives for Soups and Smoothies: Good Karma Flax Milk

Chris Loves Julia | Chris pouring plant milk into a cup

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Chris Loves Julia | Good Karma Unsweetened Vanilla Flax Milk

I use this one for sweet dishes or fruit-based smoothies. The potentially clumpy nature of flax milk does best when cooked or blended, so I’ll use it in a dessert or a smoothie with fruit, as the texture added by frozen fruit goes really well with it.

Chris Loves Julia | Good Karma Unsweetened Plain Flax Milk

I use this one for savory dishes where I might otherwise use milk. Soups in particular, but also as part of the base for vegan cheese sauces. 

Best Milk Alternatives for Shakes and Cereal: Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla or MALK Unsweetened Almond Milk

Chris Loves Julia | Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla

I use Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk for protein shakes and for bowls of cereal.

Chris Loves Julia | Malk Almond Milk

I know the gums in the almond milk can be a little difficult for some, so as an alternate I like MALK brand almond milk, which has very few ingredients but can be a tad more grainy. 

Best Cheese and Yogurt Alternatives for Dips and Sauces: Kite Hill 

Chris Loves Julia | Kite Hill Ricotta

Kite Hill ricotta works great for being cooked into sauces or thick soups (like a broccoli-cheddar soup). It also works really well in desserts where a little thicker consistency is desired, or as a base for dips.

Chris Loves Julia | Kite Hill Greek-Style Plain Yogurt

I use this in place of sour cream as a topping as-is, or I’ll mix it into dressings where you may use sour cream or mayo. It adds a good consistency and flavor to mashed potatoes as well, and cooks into sauces uniformly. 

Best Butter and Cheese Alternatives for Pizza, Casseroles & Soups: Miyoko’s Creamery Products

Miyoko’s Creamery makes my favorite products overall. The flavors are great, the textures are great, and the ingredients are typically simpler than other brands. 

Chris Loves Julia | Miyoko's Creamery Butter

I use this as I would regular butter. It’s great spread on toast, whipped into mashed potatoes, or melted as a dip for shrimp and crab. It’s fantastic mixed with garlic and lemon and tossed in some noodles with herbs. I’ll often use it in tandem with duck fat for a little more depth of flavor. 

Chris Loves Julia | Miyoko's Creamery Classic Plant Milk Mozzarella Wheel

I use this one similarly to the Kite Hill ricotta, but while that one is more friendly to sweet dishes, this one favors savory IMO. It’s great crumbled and melted over pizza, but also cooks into sauces and soups incredibly smooth, especially with the use of an immersion blender. 

Chris Loves Julia | Miyoko's Creamery Cream Cheese

I use Miyoko’s cream cheese for baked dips, casseroles, and sometimes desserts. Combine with Kite Hill ricotta to stabilize the structure and keep it feeling like cream cheese when cooked. 

Chris Loves Julia | Miyoko's Creamery Pourable Plant Milk Mozzarella

Anywhere you’d have a cheese getting baked, I use this. Pizza and nachos in particular. It’s also great to add as a creamy thickener in sauces and soups.

Best “Topping” Dairy Alternatives

In the last category, I have a couple of my favorite dairy-free products to add on top of savory and sweet dishes.

Chris Loves Julia | Cocoyo Plain Coconut Yogurt

I love this one for cold desserts. It’s great to use as the base of a dressing for fruit salad or even a dollop over top a baked blueberry crumble. Mixed with a little orange juice and honey, it’s exquisite. 

Chris Loves Julia | GOOD PLANeT Foods Olive Oil Cheddar Shreds

These are my favorite shreds for adding to salads or using as a topping. In any instance where you would sprinkle grated cheddar over something, this one works great. It doesn’t melt super smoothly unless whisked into a hot liquid.

Chris Loves Julia | Parmela Creamery Plant-Based Mozzarella Shreds

These shreds melt pretty well and are great in creamy dips, sauces, and pastas. I’ll use it in tandem with Miyoko’s pourable mozzarella on pizza and nachos. Or add it to cooked-down vegetables and stock with some of the Kite Hill ricotta for a super-tasty nacho cheese dip. 

So there you have it! Let me know your favorites in the comments.

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