by Sonnet Lauberth: I remember the day I finally admitted to myself that I was lactose intolerant. dairyIt was my second quarter of college, and I was sitting in a giant lecture hall drinking my tall non-fat latte when that familiar stomachache started. It was the same stomachache I had gotten the week earlier when I’d eaten ice cream, and the same stomachache I’d experienced earlier that day when I was enjoying dairy milk in my cereal at breakfast. Ugh.

This was many years ago, and at that time there wasn’t the variety of non-dairy milk options that line grocery store shelves today. I knew that soy milk was an easy substitution, so I made the switch and my body was much happier. Well, that was until several years later, when I began to notice that my body was having reactions to soy as well. Then it was time to get creative.

Over the years I have found a variety of ways to replace dairy in my kitchen while using whole foods and real ingredients. Here are my top 3 easy substitutions for dairy:

1. Use homemade coconut milk sour cream instead of dairy-based sour cream.

I discovered this switch earlier this year, and it’s changed my life.

To make coconut sour cream: mix 1 cup of full-fat canned coconut milk with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Mix well, then let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to thicken up a bit. Serve over your favorite Mexican entrée.

2. Use a vegetable puree instead of heavy cream in sauces.

In a pinch, full-fat canned coconut milk makes a great swap for heavy cream in sauces, but I really enjoy pureeing vegetables into my sauces, which helps to thicken them while adding extra flavor and nutrients. My favorite puree involves blending steamed sweet potatoes or cauliflower with a little broth to make a thick sauce, then incorporating this into recipes in place of heavy cream.

3. Use a nut-based cheese instead of dairy cheese.

Nuts make a fabulous mock-cheese that can be used as a spread, dip, or creamy topping on any recipe. Here is my favorite recipe that requires less than five minutes of hands-on prep!

Non-Dairy Nut Cheese

Makes ½ cup


  • 1 cup raw, unsalted nuts
  • ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
  • ⅓ cup water (or more as necessary)


Add nuts to a glass jar or container and cover with water. Let soak for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

Drain nuts and discard the soaking water. Add nuts to a food processor along with the nutritional yeast, salt, and water.

Puree, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary, until the cheese is a smooth, creamy consistency.

Depending on desired consistency and the length of soaking time, additional water can be added as needed.

Store in the refrigerator and use within 5 days.


What are your favorite substitutions for dairy in your kitchen?