How to Go Dairy Free Part 3: Adapting Recipes

In this final post of my recent dairy free series I would like to tell you about recipes I have converted to being dairy free.  I hope it will inspire you to try dairy free versions of your favorite recipes.  You can read the first two posts in this series here:

How to Go Dairy Free
How to Go Dairy Free Part 2:  Substitutes

Next week I will share a book review of Go Dairy Free and have a book giveaway!

In the recipes below I have made only a couple of simple substitutions.  I used almond milk in both baking and cooking recipes that called for milk.  For butter, I substituted Earth Balance buttery sticks or shortening sticks or Spectrum organic shortening.  I have also successfully used coconut oil at times.  Other than using Daiya cheese on pizza, that’s all it took to make these recipes.  Going dairy free has been much easier than I ever expected.

Pizza – I have two pizza recipes on this site.  The first is a large recipe and is a favorite of my family.  The crust uses powdered milk.  I have adapted it by omitting the powdered milk and using almond milk instead of water.  I always hold back some of the milk and add the rest as needed to get the right consistency.  My second pizza recipe makes a single crust and was simplified by using milk instead of powdered milk.  I also substitute almond milk in this recipe.

pizza dough in bowl
When making pizza for the family, I make all of the crust dairy free.  I then use Daiya cheese on part of the pizza and regular cheese on the rest of it. I’m careful to not let the cheese overlap and to cut within the dairy free line.  My family has not minded the switch to a dairy free crust at all.  The last couple of crusts I have made have been wonderful.

Cookies – I made several cookies at Christmas time using butter substitutes.  I was doing most of my baking at my sister’s house.  She was unable to find the Earth Balance buttery sticks and bought the shortening sticks instead.  They worked great and everyone enjoyed the cookies.  I made spritz cookies and snickerdoodles that way.  I also made sugar cookies and thumbprint cookies before I went to my sister’s and used a combination of butter substitutes. They both turned out great, but the coconut oil I added to the sugar cookies did add some coconut flavor.

spritz cookies on plate(Yes, I know that icing is full of nasty food coloring.  It was a once a year treat.)

Breads – One of my favorite bread recipes is gluten-free focaccia bread.  I also use it to make hamburger/sandwich buns.  It has always been a favorite in my family and it happens to be naturally dairy free!  If you haven’t tried the recipe, you really need to.  The bread is soft and moist and stays that way for a couple of days, making it great for lunches.  I have also made French bread rolls (another favorite) using Earth balance buttery sticks.  I tried the recipe once using Spectrum shortening and wasn’t as pleased with the results.  A little of both might work well, though.

humburger bun cut
Cinnamon RollsCinnamon rolls are a Christmas morning tradition at our house.  Since we were at my sister’s for Christmas this year I prepared a mix of the dry ingredients at home.  I used Spectrum shortening sticks and almond milk to make the rolls.  They turned out great and everyone enjoyed them.  I don’t have a picture of the dairy free version, but they really didn’t look any different.

cinnamon roll
Pumpkin Pie – I really thought this would be difficult for some reason.  I guess I didn’t have enough experience with converting recipes, because I learned that dairy-free pumpkin pie is very easy to make.  I cut back the amount of liquid in my original recipe, increased the pumpkin puree by the same amount and used almond milk.  My brother in law enjoyed the pie so much at Thanksgiving that he asked me to make one for Christmas. 

pumpkin pie slice GFDF
The pie crust I used in November was made dairy free by substituting Spectrum organic shortening for the butter.  In December, I made the nut crust that I used to use for cheesecake.  I used Earth Balance shortening sticks in place of the butter.  Both crusts turned out well.

Soup – A couple of our favorite soups are chowders.  The first time I made our favorite potato chowder dairy free, I really thought I would hear some complaints.  I made the recipe as usual but used almond milk instead of cow’s milk.  I didn’t say anything when I served it, and everyone ate it up as usual.  It wasn’t until the end of dinner that I mentioned I had used almond milk, and everyone responded with “Well, it was still good.”  Since then I have used almond milk in other soups also.

There have probably been other recipes I have converted, but hopefully this is enough to help you see how easy it is.  I admit that I have not made any of my old favorite cheesy casseroles.  I know they could be made using Daiya or some other cheese substitute, but I know it won’t be the same.  For dinner meals I tend to go with more naturally dairy free recipes or at least cheese free (except for pizza), and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

blue question mark
What are some of your favorite recipes that you have converted to dairy free?

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  1. gfe--gluten free easily says

    Great post, Linda! I have really enjoyed this series. Now I just need to get in the habit of stocking up on almond milk and non-dairy butters when in town. I'm grateful that my super basic grocery store carries canned coconut milk and do use that a lot, often cut with water. I did use almond milk in the clam chowder I made recently and was pleased with the results, too. Anyway, thanks for showing everyone it doesn't have to be hard. I certainly appreciate the encouragement.


  2. Alisa Fleming says

    These all look amazing Linda! I have to admit, I'm not a fan of almond milk in savories … for some reason I can always really taste the almond through everything (even with unsweetened), but really, there are so many different options!

    Years and years ago the first thing I converted to dairy-free was chocolate chip cookies. I made them using oil, and to this day everyone loves them. Mmm, I need some of those now.

  3. Michelle Schreier says

    I don’t know how I stumbled on to your site but I am so glad that I did! I have been gluten free for about a month now and am just going dairy free. I have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease too – and I have known for years to stay away from soy. I am so grateful for all of your ideas and suggestions. I use SO Delicious Coconut Cream in my coffee and love it. I just noticed the other day that they have the Coconut Milk in cartons in the dairy section of my grocery store and I was very excited. I am going to try using both Almond Milk and Coconut Milk in my baking – for now I am trying to stick with baking that is already gluten free to make things easier for my family to get used to this transition (did I mention that I’m a pastry chef ?!!!) Thank you again!

    • says

      Hi Michelle. Welcome to my blog. I’m sure that being a pastry chef and being gluten free has its challenges! It sounds like you are getting things figured out pretty well though. I’m glad you found me and took the time to say hello.

  4. Peggy says

    Thank you so much these great tips. I have been dairy free for many years, and have recently had great success with coconut milk as a replacement for cow’s milk in baking, just an option for people to experiment with. My family is the opposite of yours and can taste the almond milk in foods, but not the coconut milk. It could be the brand. I always use Trader Joe’s unsweetened coconut milk that comes in a carton, and I think it has very little flavor, but the consistency of whole cow’s milk.

    • says

      I need to try different coconut milks and will look for Trader Joe’s the next time I’m there. I have found that not all almond milk is the same. I definitely prefer Blue Diamond brand. I am using coconut milk more and more, though.

  5. Kelly A. says

    Hello Linda;
    I recently FINALLY surrendered to eliminating dairy because I have had IBS for years and been fighting the inevitable.. Giving up cheese and chocolate. But the consequences got bigger and bigger in my tummy and it became down right miserable and I would be in so much pain at night I couldn’t even sleep. I found your blog and site very informative and the recipes give me hope.

    Thank you for showing up! :)


    • says

      Hi Kelly,

      I was very very surprised that giving up cheese was not as difficult as I thought. Once my taste buds adjusted, I realized that food really could be good without cheese! As for chocolate, there is dairy free chocolate. I used to be a milk chocolate person but have learned to enjoy dark chocolate. Powdered cocoa, of course, is dairy free. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m always happy to “meet” a new reader!

If you have a question about a recipe (especially substitutions and nutritional information), please read my FAQ page before asking the question in a comment.

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