FAQ: Dairy-free Basics


We ran out of beets over the weekend, and we love beets in our house! While at Hy-Vee, I ran into a gal who was obviously torn on some products in the Health Market section. I always feel bad about situations like this because I’ve been there! Haven’t we all? And let me be honest, I’m still sometimes that deer-in-the-headlights girl making choices, reading labels and head spinning in the aisles. Just pat my back and help me :)

I asked her if I could help. She was looking at Earth Balance butter, the dairy-free alternative we use in our house. She looked so relieved to have someone there to talk through her options. Her family is in the process of moving to a more plant-based diet (no dairy, less meat, more fruits and vegetables, etc.) and she was starting the process of searching for replacements and alternatives.

I thought I would share with you some of our discussion in the event you are going dairy-free and need help. Others might have additional ideas or differet opinions (which I’d encourage you to share in the comments), but here is what we’ve found:

1. What do you use as a replacement for butter? We use Earth Balance spread, coconut spread or coconut oil. She asked the difference between the Earth Balance original, soy garden and the whipped. We use the original. I know nothing about the soy garden. I avoid whipped options because you are paying the same for air. When things are whipped, there is just added air to make it fluffier, so you’re getting less product.

We love coconut oil, use it for cooking and baking. It’s an amazing oil! I believe it should be a staple in every kitchen.

2. What do you use as an alternative for cheese? We don’t. If you’d like to try an alternative, try Daiya. We tried it and weren’t fans. Finn picked at it one night when we put it on his pizza, and I didn’t like the texture. That said, I know several people who use it and really like it, so it’s worth a try!

3. What do you use as an alternative for sour cream, cream cheese, etc.? I haven’t found anything. We avoid it. There are brands that are dairy-free, but most are soy-based without confirmation they are GMO-free.

4. What do you use as a “milk” replacement? We use original almond milk. When Finn first started drinking almond milk, I bought the original not really knowing the difference between the flavors (original, vanilla, unsweetened). If I had to do over, I wish I would have bought the unsweetened. Less sugar. Hindsight! Finn, of course, won’t touch the unsweetened now, even if I do a half-and-half mixture.

5. Do you miss dairy? I did. I do. I don’t. Yes. No. Sometimes. … Clear enough? ;) The first few weeks for me were tough. I missed my chai tea lattes, cheese/fruit/cracker snack, ice cream, etc. But the desire to eat those things faded more quickly than I expected. Now I rarely crave dairy. The only thing I REALLY miss is a piping hot pizza from time to time.

6. Can you tell a difference in your body not consuming dairy? I didn’t notice a difference when I cut dairy, but I notice it now. For instance, my body lets me know when I’ve gone off the wagon and had some cheese or milk-products. In short, I don’t notice how great I feel when I’m not consuming dairy, but I know how crappy I feel when I do eat it.


Do you have other questions about going dairy-free or different thoughts on the above questions? I’d love to hear about what happens at your house!





  1. Nicole says

    Hey Kerry, I wonder if you have ever tried any sort of cashew cheese, especially as a replacement for sour cream or cream cheese. I’ve found some great recipes that I think are awesome & are really easy to make with a high speed blender!

    • Kerry says

      WOW – I’ve never heard of it and we LOVE cashews, so I’m sure the taste would be great. If you have some recipes, I’d love to try them. Please pass them along! Thanks!

  2. says

    I have to agree. I gave up dairy a few years ago and it is amazing the difference. When I get off track as well due to external events or visiting family who use dairy it is shocking. It make me feel slower and more ugh!!! (not sure how else to explain it). I am a fan of the unsweetened almond and haven’t found any replacements for sour cream or cheese. I guess when you know what it is supposed to taste like… not eating is better than a bad replacement.

    I haven’t tried the Earth Balance so I will need to. Being a baker it is hard to not keep real butter in the house but I am a fan of the coconut oil so I tend to just use that when i need oil.

  3. says

    i went dairy free to clear up acne- i think it kind of worked (lots of scarring)… but the amount of weight i lost was crazy! i am a small girl, so a 10 lb difference was huge- i couldn’t believe how much weight i had gained and lost until i put on some fat jeans that didn’t work and screamed with delight when the “too-tight” pair finally fit again… and all i did was cut dairy!!

  4. sara says

    Thanks for the dairy-free tips. I agree, the only thing I really crave is pizza with melty cheese!!

    Did you try to give your son the unsweetened vanilla? It has much less sugar than original, but is still a bit sweeter than just the plain unsweetened.

    I get decaf iced lattes with almond milk at my local coffee shop, and one week I could’ve sworn they put syrup in it. Went back a few days later and saw they had switched to sweetened vanilla. That is even stronger than the original!

    By the way, this recipe has been my go-to for a sweet snack. I swap in a different oil, and use half whole wheat flour. Make sure to note that she made a few mistakes on the recipe. I use the lesser amount of sugar and oil.

    • Kerry says

      I haven’t tried the unsweetened vanilla. My mom accidentally bought the vanilla once for him and he wouldn’t touch it, but this is good to know for down the road!

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