Ditching the Dairy: Delicious, Healthy Alternatives and Recipes

If you listened to my podcast this week, you would have heard why I no longer consume dairy products. In a nutshell, the results of going dairy-free are: I no longer suffer from daily sinus issues, colds and flus have diminished dramatically, my eczema is under control, cystic acne is a thing of the past and debilitating PMS symptoms no longer stop me from enjoying life (staying off sugar, gluten and animal products, and taking a high quality omega supplement has also helped enormously with this).


Besides the amazing health benefits (and as you’ll hear in my podcast, we do not need dairy to keep us healthy!!) I am relieved to know that I am not contributing to the cruelty that usually accompanies dairy farming.


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If you’re thinking of going dairy-free but are worried about your calcium intake, you needn’t be. Did you know that studies have shown that cow’s milk can actually deplete calcium in you bones? On the other hand, our bodies are able to more fully absorb plant-based sources of calcium. In combination with exercise (especially strength/body weight training) and vitamin D from natural sunlight, you will have the perfect “recipe” for building strong and healthy bones. If you would like to research the topic further, check out the links at the end of this article.


Going dairy-free is much easier than you may think. Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned over the last few years:


Milk alternatives:


This is the easiest diary product to substitute. For cereal you can use the following:

  • Almond/nut milk – if buying from the store, make sure it is unsweetened and contains as little preservatives and unnatural ingredients as possible (I use unsweetened Almond Breeze). Even better, you can make your own nut milk. It takes a bit of time to prep but is super easy (see recipe below). There are tons of recipes on the internet as well.
  • Hemp seed milk – this is currently my favourite. It is super easy and requires minimal effort as it doesn’t involve soaking or straining. See recipe below.
  • Banana milk: simply blend a banana with some water in a blender – start with about ½ – 1 cup water per banana and adjust according to preferred thickness. Make fresh when needed. ***If you love bananas or have extra click here for a great article on 10 Must-Try Banana Bread Recipes***
  • Coconut milk – use store bought variety (again, with as little preservatives and chemicals as possible – ideally organic). Or make your own – see recipe below.


For baking, I usually just use unsweetened Almond Breeze milk and substitute milk in the recipe one to one. You could also use oat milk, coconut milk or rice milk.


However, please avoid soya milk (and all other soya products for that matter – especially non-organic and non-fermented soya). Soya products can wreak havoc on your endocrine/hormonal system, especially your thyroid gland. You can read an excellent, well researched article on this topic here: http://womanthrive.com/is-soya-a-miracle-food/ And soya-based formula for your baby? Don’t even go there! As the article above quotes, “Babies on soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least 5 birth control pills per day” – scary!!



Yogurt alternative:


There are a variety of amazing alternatives available today: nut-based yoghurts, coconut yoghurt etc. You can even make your own – search for homemade vegan yoghurt recipes on the internet, there are plenty.



Cheese alternatives:


Although there are quite a few vegan cheese products available in the stores, read the labels carefully. Many are just as processed and filled with unnatural ingredients as dairy cheese.

I have found that the best alternatives are nut cheeses such as almond/macadamia nut “cheese” – it may be an acquired taste for some, but its been a relatively easy transition for me. These nut cheeses can be pricy though, so if you have the time to make your own, search for an easy recipe on the internet.



Béchamel/cheese sauce alternative:

You won’t believe how easy and tasty this alternative is. I have used the below recipe for plant-based lasagnes, macaroni cheese, creamed spinach, as a burger topping (“mayonnaise”), as a “cheese” topping for pizza,  and even as a dip.



Dessert alternatives:



Since adopting a plant-based diet, this is something I have not missed. I have had amazing coconut and nut based ice creams which have been pretty hard to tell apart form the “real thing”. Coconut yoghurt can also be made at home, but again, this takes some time.

For a quick and simple “ice-cream” recipe, blend frozen bananas in a food processor and add flavours such as maple syrup, cinnamon, carob/cocoa, vanilla, berries, fruit etc. Serve immediately. Die-hard ice-cream fans may not be convinced, but this “ice-cream” is so delicious, I have even had it for breakfast! 😉


Check out my recipe for delicious vanilla icecream with berry coulis here: https://z4zest.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/vanilla-nice-cream-with-berry-coulis/


Or this chai cashew icecream:  https://minimalistbaker.com/vegan-chai-ice-cream/




There are so many amazing raw “cheese”cake recipes available (mostly nut-based) and the best part is  – they are completely guilt free (no sugar, gluten, dairy, eggs etc). Check out the recipe for raw carob/choc tart on my blog –  it is amazing!!  https://z4zest.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/raw-carob-tart/


Also, check out the Unconventional Baker for more delicious healthy dessert recipes: http://www.unconventionalbaker.com




For savoury recipes which require cream, you can easily substitute using the below cashew/sunflower seed cream. For sweeter/dessert recipes, adapt the  cashew/sunflower seed cream by blending just the nuts/seeds and half the amount of water, then add ingredients such as vanilla extract, cinnamon, dates/maple syrup etc. You can also blend other nuts/seeds such as brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds etc. Check out the delicious Maca Cream recipe below.


So without further ado, here are some of my favourite non-dairy recipes. Enjoy!!



Cashew/Sunflower Seed Cream/Mayo/Béchamel

This amazing recipe works as a salad dressing, béchamel sauce or as fake cheese when baked e.g: on pizza or with nachos. In fact, this will most likely become your new “go-to” recipe!

NB: I prefer to use half cashews and half sunflower seeds as I find this is the perfect balance – not too rich (if using only cashews) but still creamy.


Recipe one – Basic



  • 1 cup raw cashew nuts/sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ¾  – 1 cup of filtered water (add more/less according to desired consistency)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • quarter to half a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp herb salt



Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy. Freeze any leftovers, then defrost and mix/blend again to reuse.



Recipe two – “Cheesy”



  • 1 cup raw cashew nuts/sunflower seeds
  • ¾  – 1 cup water
  • Juice of ½ – 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 TBS nutritional yeast (gives it the “cheesy” flavour and great source of Vit B12!)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1/2 -1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp garlic powder



Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy.

Use as a sauce for mac & cheese/lasagne, spoon over pizza bases for a delicious cheese alternative or add to anything needing a cheese sauce.

Freeze any leftovers, then defrost and mix/blend again to reuse.



Creamy Vanilla Cashew Drink

A creamy drink with hints of vanilla and spices. A delicious and healthy alternative to eggnog.



  • 1 cup almond/cashew milk(or coconut milk for a richer, creamier drink)
  • ¼ cup cashews
  • 1 TBS nut butter (eg: macadamia)
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • a dash of nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TBS chia seeds



  1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend for a few seconds until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into a glass, decorate with a sprinkle of vanilla powder or cinnamon and serve.



Almond Milk



    • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight – rinsed and drained
    • 1 litre/4 cups spring/filtered water
    • optional: add a tsp vanilla, dried figs/dates/maple syrup


  • For chocolate milk: add 1 tsp raw cacao/carob powder and sweetener such as maple syrup




  1. Place all ingredients in a blender (high speed blender works best for super smooth milk)
  2. Strain through a nut milk bag/cheese cloth (you can keep the pulp for extra fibre in smoothies, dehydrate and blend to make flour, or use in cookies etc.
  3. Store in the fridge and use within 2 days.



Coconut Milk



    • 1 cup dessicated/flaked coconut (unsweetened)
    • 1 litre/4 cups warm water (boil water beforehand, but allow to cool slightly)


  • optional: add a tsp vanilla, dried figs/dates/maple syrup




  1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend for a few seconds until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour through a sieve. If you don’t want any “bits” in the milk, pour through nut milk bag/cheese cloth to remove the last few bits.
  3. Refrigerate and use up within 3-4 days (shake before using as it will separate)



Hemp Milk

This is my current favourite! When making a smoothie, I will simply add hemp seeds and spring water to the blender along with the other smoothie ingredients – no need to make the milk beforehand (as there is not straining required)



    • ½ cup shelled hemp seeds
    • 2 cups spring/filtered water


  • optional: 1-2 tsp maple syrup and ½ tsp vanilla extract




Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.



Maca Cream

Recipe from the book “Rawlicious”  by Peter and Beryn Daniels.

This “cream” is divine poured on top of fruit salad. It makes a delicious and filling breakfast when served with fruit.



  • 1 ½ cup spring/filtered water
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1 TBS maple syrup/honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 TBS Maca powder



Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Store in refrigerator and use within 2 days.


For more info on this topic be sure to check out the following:


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