How to replace dairy
REPLACING DAIRY? IT’S EASY!
More and more plant-based products are becoming available for us to replace animal products! The offer of plant-based alternatives is growing steadily, and nowadays it’s really easy to find them in supermarkets and in organic and vegan stores.
We have plant-based milks, creams, margarines, yogurts and even cheeses at our disposal to prepare the dishes we want! These products make it possible for us to easily replace dairy products in a myriad of recipes. Choose them according to your taste, habit and budget.
Their nutritional composition is variable and can be very different from the one of milk and other dairy products, but there’s no need to worry: a varied plant-based diet will provide us with all the calcium our body needs!
CALCIUM WITHOUT DAIRY? NO NEED TO WORRY, IT’S POSSIBLE!
Calcium, an essential nutrient for bone growth and strength, is often associated with dairy products. Nevertheless, many plant-based foods are sources of calcium as well!
Most plant-based milks and yoghurts are fortified with calcium to a level similar to what we find in dairy products. Tofu made from calcium salts is also a good calcium source: 3.5oz tofu covers approximately 50% of our daily requirement. Green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, celery or green beans are good sources of calcium. Other plants are less rich in calcium but they nonetheless contain it in significant amounts, especially nuts and seeds, oranges and legumes. Finally, certain calcium-rich waters (Contrex, Rozana…) are also sources of calcium, sometimes to levels up to 500mg/L, which is absorbed as well as that from food!
The World Health Organization established many years ago that a daily intake of 525mg of calcium is necessary irrespective of our diet: under this threshold, bone fracture risk increases. By drinking a glass of fortified soy milk we already get almost 50% of this daily recommended intake: there’s no need to consume dairy to have strong bones!
For a good bone health, calcium should be complemented with an adequate intake of vitamin D. In our temperate countries, sunlight can cover our needs during summer. Nevertheless, it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements during winter, irrespective of our diet: the majority of the population doesn’t get the recommended levels.
TO HAVE IN THE KITCHEN CUPBOARD!
· Plant-based milk, ideal to replace milk in any of its uses. The taste varies among different brands: try different ones to find your favorite. Certain milks have added sugar, sometimes cane sugar or fruit juice, especially those fortified with calcium. Be careful: plant-based milk can’t replace breast milk for babies.
· Plant-based creams: soy, rice, oat, almond, coconut… try them to find your favorite! Soy cream is the most versatile and the one most easily found in stores and supermarkets.
· Margarine or vegetable oil to replace butter.
CAN PLANT-BASED MILKS CURDLE?
Soy milk, like animal milk, curdles when we add vinegar or lemon juice to it: you only need to mix 1 cup soy milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar, boil it and let it rest for several minutes. You can use this mix for multiple recipes, such as this plant-based cheeses.
PLANT-BASED MILKS FOR ALL TASTES
Soy milk, easily found in supermarkets, is the one whose taste varies the most between different brands. It can fit any recipe. You have to be careful when cooking it: it can spill over, just like cow milk!
Rice milk has a rather liquid texture and a sweet taste. We usually find it in combination with other cereals or nuts: rice-hazelnut, rice-coconut, rice-quinoa, rice-almond, etc., adding a bit of smoothness to its texture.
Almond or hazelnut milk’s gourmet taste is perfect to make desserts. They’re true delicacies!
There are many plant-based milk varieties, some with a cereal base (oat, spelt, millet, barley, quinoa) and some with an oleaginous base (chestnut, hemp, coconut, etc.). Each one has its own particularities. To be tried!
Infant formulas are specifically designed to satisfy the nutritional needs of a baby. Multiple plant-based versions of infant formulas exist, with a rice, almond or soy base. Fortified with vitamins and minerals to satisfy specific needs, they’re equivalent to infant formulas with a cow milk base. Just like feeding plain cow milk to a baby before they’re 1 year old would be dangerous for their health, plain plant-based milks are not adapted to their needs, either.
To know more about vegan infant feeding: www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/vegetarian-and-special-diets/feeding-vegetarian-and-vegan-infants-and-toddlers
PLANT-BASED CREAMS AND BECHAMEL
There are some products similar to liquid cream in the form of little ready-to-use cartons. Their degree of sweetness and thickness and their taste can vary depending on the brand and type of cream. Soy, coconut, oat, spelt, rice, almond… you can find these creams in your supermarket or organic or vegan store.
Either lactic acid fermented soy (it doesn’t require any dairy product) or blended silken tofu can be used as an equivalent to thick fresh cream.
As for bechamel, some brands offer a vegan mix ready to be cooked in the oven. Home-made soy-milk-based bechamel is very easy to make, too.
Nut butters (almond, hazelnut, cashew, sesame) are perfect to use as spreads and they provide a creamy touch in the kitchen: they add taste and smoothness to soups, sauces, potato purees and pie fillings.
Margarines, some of which are vegan, are the simplest alternative for pastries. Other fats, such as oils or nut butters, can also be used in some recipes. It’s better to use oils with a neutral taste that can withstand cooking: ideally peanut or sunflower oils, or even olive oil in some recipes.
Nut butters are also true plant-based butters, perfect to use as spreads!
YOGHURTS AND CREAMS: PLENTY OF CHOICES!
We can find soy, rice or hemp-based creams and yoghurts both in supermarkets and in organic stores. We can find plain yoghurts as well as fruit, chocolate, vanilla, pistachio or coffee-flavored ones, among others. Soy milk can also be used as a base for home-made yoghurts.
WHIPPED CREAM AT YOUR DISPOSAL!
We can buy ready-to-use whipped cream in vegan stores and in most casher stores. To get the best results, just like in the traditional whipped cream recipe, cool the bowl and the cream before whipping the mix for at least 5 minutes. We can also whip thick coconut milk (the thick part that we find on top when we let coconut milk rest in the fridge and it gets separated into two parts with different densities) just as it is.
Specialty stores (organic or vegan) offer products similar to different varieties of cheese. Some of them, like the ones ressembling fresh cream cheese or cheese slices, are already becoming available in supermarkets.
Nutritional yeast is a good alternative to grated or powdered cheese. It can perfectly replace cheesy tastes in sauces, gratins, pastas and vegetable spreads. Its taste can vary depending on the brand: don’t hesitate to try several ones to find your favorite!
Lactic-acid-fermented tofu has a strong taste and a texture similar to feta cheese. We can either eat it directly or use it in recipes (seasoned and transformed into a spread, into marinated cubes…). We can find it in specialty stores.
Finally, more and more vegan recipe books include plant-based “cheese” recipes made with cashews, almonds or tofu. Internet, where you can find multiple recipes and reviews, is still a prime source of inspiration for cooks.
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