The Veggie Table: My Favorite Non-Dairy Alternatives

By: Janel Ovrut Funk
soy products


Assorted Generic Soybean Products

Photo by: Steven Mark Needham

Steven Mark Needham

When I first found out I was lactose intolerant, my mom and I had to drive 30 miles away to a health food store just to pick up a carton of soy milk. Now, nearly 20 years later, almost every supermarket offers a plethora of dairy alternatives. With a rise in dairy allergies, intolerances and personal choice to avoid dairy products, non-dairy alternatives are becoming more of the norm.  Here are a few of my favorites, and the best ways to use them.

Best milk in my morning oats: I love cooking my morning oatmeal with a splash of Very Vanilla Silk Soymilk to sweeten up my breakfast bowl. Made with organic soybeans, Silk Soymilk has a rich taste that blends well with creamy oats. While the Very Vanilla flavor has 16g of sugar per serving, I find I only need a small pour to add the perfect amount of sweetness to start my morning.

Best milk to dunk my cookies in: Before I had to ditch the dairy, I grew up drinking skim milk, so I prefer the thin texture of almond milk when I want a cold glass to dunk my cookies into. The Pacific Natural Foods Unsweetened Almond Milk does the trick for me, and its mellow flavor also works well in recipes that call for milk. However, almond milk doesn’t boast the protein that soy or cow’s milk have, so I make sure to meet my protein needs elsewhere.

Best cheese to top my pizza: If you’ve experimented with non-dairy cheese before, you know that many varieties either taste a bit like plastic, or don’t melt well. That changed for me when I tried Daiya Vegan Cheese. It melts, stretches, and tastes great – especially when used on a homemade pizza pie.

Best ice cream: The first time I tried Purely Decadent ice cream, I couldn’t believe my taste buds. I thought I was eating real ice cream, and was pleasantly surprised to see this vegan treat contains only 0.5g of saturated fat per ½ cup, compared to 11g in regular ice cream! The variety of truly decadent flavors doesn’t disappoint, either. If you don’t do soy, you can try their line of coconut milk ice cream, which is vegan, soy, and gluten free. Or, try making your own like I did.

Best way to imitate eggs: While my favorite flax and water combo won’t wind up looking or tasting like an egg omelet, it makes a great egg substitute when baking. I simply whisk together one tablespoon ground flax seeds with three tablespoons warm water until it becomes gelatinous, much like an egg white. The flax mixture works as a binder, and adds some fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to your recipe to boot! I always use this mixture when making pancakes.

Best buttery spread: When topping a piece of toast, or baking with a recipe that calls for butter, I turn to Earth Balance, which has a line of vegan and soy free spreads. The Earth Balance spreads are heart-healthy and trans fat free with superior spread-ability.

TELL US: What’s your favorite non-dairy alternative?

Janel Ovrut, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel , and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel . Catch up on her previous posts here .

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