One of the most common concerns when you remove dairy from your diet is: where will you get your calcium? This is a valid concern that everyone, not just vegans, should be aware of. Calcium is an important nutrient for many reasons. For those that are concerned about their calcium intake, I am including an informative link to calcium sources in the vegan diet at the end of this post in addition to some links to articles about the effects of dairy on your health and the heart-breaking lives of dairy cows. For now let's get on to the substitutions!
Replace dairy milk in baking 1:1 with any liquid: water, juice, rice milk, soy milk, or nut or seed milk. The higher fat plant-based milks will have a thicker, creamier texture and richer flavour. I replaced dairy milk in Spiced
Apricot Brown Rice Pudding with straight soy milk with delicious results.
When making gravies, sauces, and soups, replace dairy 1:1 with any non-dairy milk as in baking. Unless I am going to use a blender, I heat soy milk a bit before adding it to hot liquids to prevent curdling. The other milks seem to be fine to add to hot liquids. Or, you can make soups and sauces creamy without any milk by blending 1 cup of the soup or sauce base with 1/2 cup of cooked rice, beans or lentils, or sprinkling with 1/2 cup or so of mashed potato flakes or, pureeing half the solids. Examples include Creamy Carrot and Parsnip Soup and Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Gremolata.
Replace buttermilk 1:1 with plant-based milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar. Mix 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and let it sit for about 5 minutes. A mild tasting vinegar such as distilled white, apple cider, or rice works best. Buttermilk is added to things like pancakes or muffins to react with the baking powder / soda to create a little more lift. The soured soy milk adds a beautiful richness to my favourite recipe, Cinnamon Roll Biscuits.
Replace yogurt 1:1 with any plant-based yogurt you love. Try flavoured yogurts in muffins or pancakes. Use plain, unsweetened yogurt in dressings and dips. But any of the cream or sour cream substitutes will work as well.
Replace dairy-based cream 1:1 with a cream made from soaked and pureed nuts or seeds (use a ratio of 1:2 nuts to water), avocado pureed with a little lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloration, or tofu (soft or silken) blended until smooth.
Replace sour cream 1:1 with plant-based yogurt (strained if you can), cashew cream blended with lemon juice (to taste), soft or silken tofu blended with lemon juice (to taste) or avocado pureed with a little lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloration (again to taste.)
Replace butter 1:1 with fruit or vegetable purees such as applesauce, canned pumpkin, mashed sweet potato or regular potato. Blended soft or silken tofu works well as does dried fruit pureed 2:1 with warm water. Pureed beans make a great butter replacement. Puree cooked beans, peas or lentils with a small amount of warm water (about 4:1). For crispier cookies and pie crusts, places where you want a little fat, try substituting a combination of apple sauce and nut butter for the amount of butter in the recipe. For example, I like to replace 1/2 cup butter with 1/4 cup almond butter mixed with 1/4 apple sauce, feel free to play with the ratio if you want less fat. For a nut-free option, an equal amount of pureed avocado (add water as needed to facilitate blending) is also a good butter replacement. I used mashed sweet potato to replace butter and add moisture and a little sweetness to Sweet Potato Oat Biscuits. For Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies, I used the applesauce and almond butter combination with fantastic results.
Cheese is not simple and will probably need its own post. Until then, replace cheese with any of the great products on the market or find a recipe for cheese sauce or hard cheese that you love. Nutritional yeast will add a cheesy flavour to most dishes. Make Parmesan cheese-like sprinkles by blending equal amounts of nuts or seeds and nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt (optional.) Try my recipe for Soy Feta.
To your health and happiness,
Beans and Rice
Calcium and Vitamin D — veganhealth.org
For information on the effects of dairy on your health:
Health Concerns About Dairy Products — Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
When Friends Ask Why Don't You Drink Milk — Dr. McDougall
Dairy / Health Topics — nutritionfacts.org
For information on the lives of dairy cows:
Cows — Farm Sanctuary
"Milk Life" is No Life at All for Dairy Cows — onegreenplanet.org
The Emotional Lives of Dairy Cows — wired.com