So you’ve made the decision to ditch the dairy. But what happens next? Luckily Michelle Kight is here to guide you through, and give you her suggestions for which dairy-free products to buy to replace traditional dairy items…
A Beginner’s Guide to Dairy-Free Products
So you’ve made the decision to ditch the dairy. You might be suffering from a cow’s milk allergy, lactose intolerance, have recently decided to become vegan or have another reason.
But what happens next? If you’re not bold enough to attempt creating your own, you can buy a wide variety of dairy-free replacement products in major supermarkets and health food stores. Current replacements include plant-based milks and yoghurts, margarine spreads, soft and block cheese, chocolate and now even ice-cream.
This is by no means a definitive list- nor is this a sponsored piece for any brand/supplier- just a starting point of which mainstream places stock dairy alternatives. As someone who has been lactose intolerant since birth, I wish there had been something similar when I was growing up; soya milk in the local supermarket was the only product if you were lucky.
With all the choice and options today, there’s never been a better time to lose the dairy!
Dairy-free milk has never been so popular, so this is a great place to start! Traditionally, dairy-free milk meant soya milk, but now a wide variety is available. You can choose between: soya, coconut, almond, rice, oat, cashew, hazelnut, hemp… Even milk made from quinoa (keen-wah) is an option. You can find single flavour milks, blends (rice and almond) or flavoured varieties (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate: usually soya or almond based).
Taste is personal preference and the nutritional composition can vary between types. You might find that you like unsweetened almond milk in smoothies, but soya milk in your coffee.
A note on soya milk: If you choose soya milk, be aware of two things: rainforest destruction and Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs). Choose a brand that does not use soya from the Amazon, and free from GMOs- although, this should be labelled as such in the UK. If you cannot see a label stating whether or not the soya is GMO-free or not, choose organic where possible: it’s impossible for GMO-derived ingredients to bear an organic label.
Most high street coffee houses also offer soya or coconut milk as a non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk too. And if you fancied grabbing an iced coffee, fear not. Almond milk alternatives exist as Blue Diamond Almond Breeze comes in two iced coffee flavours: cappuccino and mocha.
Best in tea
When it comes to adding dairy-free milk to your morning cuppa, Oatly’s Barista oat milk is hard to beat! It makes a perfectly creamy replacement to cows milk, and many non-vegans I’ve given this too have said they actually prefer it.
Personal recommendation: Alpro+, Provamel, Good Hemp milk
+Alpro do not use GMOs and source their soybeans in Europe
You’d be forgiven for thinking that many light style vegetable based butters would be dairy-free, but unless specified on the label, this usually isn’t the case. Many vegetable based spreads still use buttermilk or whey powder to create that butter-like taste. Sneaky!
Dairy-free butters are usually made from vegetable oils- rapeseed, olive, sunflower, coconut, soya- with added vitamins A, D2, E and occasionally B12. Many manufacturers do however supplement these oils with palm oil- which confusingly may be referred to as ‘vegetable oil’- so try look for sustainable palm*.
Personal recommendation: Koko Dairy Free coconut oil spread**, Sainsburys Free From Spread**
* Palm oil is a leading cause of rainforest destruction
**Made with sustainable palm oil
Most yoghurt is soya based as it has a similar taste and texture to traditional yoghurt, but coconut based yoghurt is rising in popularity: you can buy both large and small pots of soya or coconut based yoghurts. Most brands offer fruit flavours, so there isn’t the same variety in flavours as the dairy yoghurt market, but this will hopefully change in the future.
There isn’t a wide range of yoghurt types yet either, but Alpro are addressing this. They recently launched two new products that are currently unique to the dairy-free market: drinking yoghurts, and high protein pots with a Müller style fruit layer. These high protein yoghurts are thicker in texture, more like a Greek or Greek-style yoghurt.
- Alpro* and Provamel* (both soya based)
- Koko (coconut based)
- Marks and Spencers Made Without Dairy range (both)
- CocoYo (coconut based)
- Tesco’s Free From range* (soya based)
- Nush (cashew based)
*Alpro, Provamel and Tesco also offer some non-fruity soya desserts
Hands up if you’ve ever heard anyone utter the words, “But I could never give up cheese!”
Whilst many mainstream restaurants and manufacturers fail to grasp that dairy-free cheese exists, it is indeed a thing. And a very good thing it is too. It is harder to find than other dairy-free dairy products: most supermarkets don’t stock it and you’ll only find an own brand version at Tesco. A good health food store is your best option as you can also find many varieties of non-dairy cheese such as cheddar, Edam, mozzarella and parmesan.
There may also be a deal-breaker: the taste isn’t always identical to dairy cheese (which is a matter of personal preference). The soft spreadable cheeses are perhaps most similar with harder cheeses being quite hit or miss.
Most cheese-less cheeses are made using coconut oil or soya; this is true of soft and hard cheese.
- Sheese (Bute Island Foods)
- Cheezly (VBites)
- Tesco and Sainsbury’s Free From range
- Follow Your Heart
If you prefer artisan cheeses then be sure to check out:
It’s hard to find an individual who doesn’t like ice cream, yet it’s much harder to find dairy-free ice cream. Supermarkets usually stock soya based Swedish Glace in vanilla, and until recently, that was pretty much it for dairy free options. Sorbet was traditionally a dairy-free dessert choice for many, but many sorbets actually contain milk derived ingredients.
Other plant-based ice cream bases include coconuts or almonds. We should mention that most brands only manufacture tubs, not individual cones- something we can’t understand in summer!
Tesco sell their dairy-free version of a Cornetto in two flavours, fruit splits plus chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream, whilst Swedish Glace has recently launched a chocolate-coated strawberry ice cream (think mini Magnum).
In 2017 we were delighted to hear the news that ice-cream giant Ben & Jerry’s were launching their range of dairy-free ice-creams into UK supermarekets, in three delicious flavours: Chunky Monkey, Peanut Butter & Cookies and Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
- Swedish Glace (soya based)
- The Coconut Collaborative (coconut based)
- Almond Dream (almond based)
- Tesco’s Free From range (soya or coconut based)
- Marks and Spencers Made Without Dairy range (coconut based)
- Perfect World (mixed nut and egg based)
- Booja-Booja (cashew based)
- Smooze! (coconut based)
- MiiRo vegan magnums (coconut milk)
When it comes to chocolate, vegans are spoilt for choice with deliciously dairy-free options!
Most brands of dark chocolate lack dairy, although this isn’t gospel (Lindt, for example, can contain milk fat). As a rule of thumb, the darker the chocolate, the less likely it is to contain dairy (Green & Blacks), but brands do offer dairy-free labeled dark chocolate.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get a milk chocolate alternative. Some brands such as Moo Free or Plamil make rice milk chocolate for those who can’t bear dark chocolate. Find Moo Free or Kinnerton in the Free From aisle of most supermarkets, or your local health food store for a wider array, like Booja-Booja’s range of luxury truffles. Asda sometimes stocks Choices dairy-free confectionary.
If you’re a fan of white chocolate then you’ll LOVE iChoc’s white vanilla chocolate bar which is creamy, sweet and reminiscent of Green & Black’s white chocolate bar in taste.
- Moo Free
- Beyond Dark
- The Raw Chocolate Co.
- Almighty Foods
- Cocoa Loco
- Loving Earth
Possible the most elusive of all non-dairy items, only three brands offer an alternative to single cream- cream that cannot be whipped. Alpro and Provamel provide a fresh or UHT soya based cream or a coconut cream, whereas Oatly make an oat cream alternative.
Soyatoo! do make a GMO-free soya based whipped cream spray, but we’ve only found it in independent health food stores or online, alongside dairy free whipping creams (online only).
If you’re looking for a double cream alternative,
- Alpro (soya based)
- Oatly single cream (oat based)
- Sojade (soya based)
- Soyatoo Whipped Spray Cream (soya based)
- Soyatoo Whipped Topping cream (soya based)
- Schlagfix Schlagcreme Spray Cream (soya based)
- Schlagfix Schlagcreme Whipping Cream (soya based)
It’s worth looking at the lowest priced packages of cereal bars, chocolate bars, biscuits and cakes as many skip the dairy to lower the cost. Free from ranges often skip the dairy but it’s not a given. However, supermarket own brands such as Asda and Tesco have started selling dairy free pasta bake sauces in their free from ranges.
Eating on the hoof is probably the hardest part as unwanted dairy shows up in so many unexpected places and you do have to read the labels to be 100% sure that you’re avoiding it. Eating out is even harder, but not impossible, as many foods are cooked in butter- be sure to ask beforehand or ask to see an allergy menu where possible. Dessert menus are sadly harder to navigate, but if there’s any dairy-free option, it’s usually sorbet or fruit unless you live in an area where mainstream menus offer vegan desserts.
Don’t be afraid to ask or email manufacturers for your dairy-free dream product: the more demand there is for it, the better the chances of it hitting the shelves in the future.
About the author: Michelle is a postgraduate journalism student based in Manchester. She has a keen interest in health and fitness with a bachelors degree in human biology. When she’s not running, she can usually be found drinking coffee or making a mess in her plant-based kitchen.