If you are new to the dairy-free life or perhaps are faced with the task of cooking for your child who has been diagnosed with a dairy allergy, you may wonder where to start….! Don’t panic as I have listed below my top 5 must-have dairy-free food staples to get you going when starting a dairy-free diet!
Where to start…
Firstly let’s start by facing facts that there are milk/milk products in almost everything these days so your best bet to ensure there is no dairy in your food is to cook from scratch! Now I know we’re not all Nigella and you are not expected to be (trust me I certainly am not) but you will need an element of basic cooking skills to cook from scratch to utilise these items to cook totally dairy free…
Alternative Milk – Oat, Rice, Soya or Almond?
These days there are a whole host of alternatives available when it comes to milk, From oat to rice, to soya to almond. Obviously, as we need to use milk in lots of things like our morning cuppa, breakfast cereal, often in our mash potatoes and some cooking sauces etc so it’s key to find one that you like. Once you have decided on one you’d like, you are then tasked with finding which brand you prefer. To be honest their tastes tend to vary quite a lot. Personally, I prefer Sea Breeze-Almond milk on my cereal and in my tea. For lattes and in my cooking I use Oatly Oat Milk as it tends to be a little creamier (plus my eldest has a nut allergy so we can’t use Almond milk in the meals.)
A lot of recipes will have milk in so just substitute this with your favourite alternative.
A few things to consider: If you or your child is allergic to nuts then it may be wise to avoid the almond milk for obvious reasons. It is also advised not to give babies/children rice milk until age 5.
- “Children under 5 years old shouldn’t have rice drinks as a substitute for breast milk, infant formula or cows’ milk as they may contain too much arsenic. “ NHS England. (See more here).
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This cupboard staple is great for adding to pasta sauces/mash/gravy etc basically anything that you want to be creamy. We use so much of this in our cooking whether we opt for a ‘dairy-free carbonara’ or ‘dairy-free Katsu curry’ it’s a firm favourite. The other thing to add is that my husband isn’t ‘dairy-free’ so we need alternatives that don’t taste ‘alternative’ if that makes sense. He is more than happy to use dairy-free products so long as they taste good. He is a bit of a foodie and loves to cook so we opt for the Oatly Cream alternative – you literally can’t taste the difference. (We have also used the Alpro soya one too which is also nice but just find the Oatly one creamier.)
Again, in recipes just substitute the cream for this alternative cream and your bakes/makes will taste so good and be dairy free!
Butter is one cupboard staple we couldn’t live without! To be honest there are so many dairy-free spreads on the market these days it really is a case of finding one you like the taste of. It’s also important however to find one that’s right for the job in hand i.e one that’s good for frying, one that’s good for baking and of course one that tastes good on your toast. I find the ‘Live free-Pure’ dairy and gluten-free sunflower spread the best for frying and the ‘Flora Free’ spread the best all-rounder. Tastes great on toast and also works well when baking. There are some that are not in the ‘free-from’ section that are still dairy free as they are made with sunflower oil instead so it’s worth checking the labels.
Swap cows milk ‘butter’ in your recipes to your ‘free from’ spreads and you will be enjoying dairy free cakes and biscuits before you know it!
(P.s Have you read my ‘Treats-that-are-accidentally-dairy-free‘ blog It’s got a great dairy-free ready mix cake mix!!)
Luckily for us, companies are cottoning on to the sheer amount of people living a dairy-free/vegan lifestyle so more and more are coming up with new products. The free-from brands like ‘Violife’ have some great cheese alternatives but as well as them, a number of supermarket brands are producing their own ‘free-from’ ranges. A lot of the dairy free cheeses can taste good, but not all melt. (Not sure about you but I dream of melted cheese on toast and nachos so it’s important to have one that melts right?!?) I have to say Tesco’s free-from cheese range is my favourite so far! I find that the ‘Tesco Free-From cheese – smoked‘ is the best for everyday food like sandwiches and toasties or grated on top of pasta. It’s got a lovely rich smoked taste and what’s more, it does melt!!! Another plus is it has added calcium which is a winner in my eyes as it’s really important to keep your calcium levels up when living a dairy-free/vegan life! (It’s also free of Gluten and wheat too!).
They do a ‘Jalapeno and chilli cheddar‘ one which is perfect grated on nachos to give them a little kick (not one for the kiddies though!). Violife does a ‘cheese spread’ which is also worth trying – Perfect for kiddies with a dairy allergy.
I use these products in my day to day cooking and will feature them in my recipes in the coming months so you will get familiar with them I promise… Again, let me remind you that these are not obscure ingredients that are hard to find… These are 5 dairy free cupboard staples that you can get in your supermarket and should help get you well on your way to transitioning to a dairy-free life!
What are your favourite Dairy free cupboard staples? I’d love to know!
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Make sure that you consider the following…
*…If you have severe allergies to dairy, some of these products may not be suitable due to manufacturing methods. Please be aware that all products are subject to reformulation at any given time. Consequently, it is recommended that you always check the ingredient lists on the packs of all products prior to purchase to determine product content.