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Recipe Substitutions for Lactose Intolerance

Dairy trouble got you down? Don’t worry! You can still enjoy some of your favorite foods. Here are a few simple recipe substitutions that will allow you to eat the foods you love.

Milk Options
If a recipe calls for 1 cup of cow's milk, you can replace it with reduced lactose or lactose-free cow's milk or rice or soy milk. Just remember: Rice milk is thinner and soy milk is thicker than cow's milk, so you may need to make minor adjustments to the amount used in cooking and baking.

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Closest to milk. Reduced lactose or lactose-free milk is treated with lactase to break down the lactose. It is the closest cousin to regular cow's milk in terms of taste and offers the same nutrients, such as calcium, as regular cow's milk.

Flavor changers. The most popular alternatives used for drinking and cooking are almond, rice, and soy milk. Taste the alternative milk to make sure you enjoy it and keep in mind the flavor of the milk may affect the final taste of the recipe. Here are some newer options:

  • Cashew
  • Hemp
  • Oat
  • Potato

No-Nos. Goat, sheep, and buffalo milk are not suitable because they all contain lactose.

Cooking Tips. The safest bet, in both sweet and savory recipes, is to choose a light, plain, and unsweetened product.

  • When a recipe calls for fat-free milk, choose an unsweetened plain product without fat.
  • In bread, cake, cookie, or sweet recipes, you can successfully choose flavored or sweetened milks.
  • When buttermilk is an ingredient, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of plain milk substitute to make your own. Some commercially prepared cow's milk buttermilk, if made with active bacteria cultures, may be low in lactose.
  • When dry milk powder is an ingredient, use an equal amount of coconut, potato, rice, or soy milk powder.

Cream Substitutes
There are a few alternatives to heavy cream, light cream, or half-and-half that have similar mouth-feel and thickness to the real thing.

  • Coconut cream is a good alternative to half-and-half when you blend it with half soy milk. Another option: Create your own light cream by mixing 3/4 cup of a plain milk substitute with 1/4 cup of canola oil.
  • Coconut milk can be a substitute for evaporated milk or heavy cream in soups and stews. You can also make your own heavy cream with 1/2 cup plain milk substitute and 1/2 cup canola oil.
  • Dairy and lactose free half-and-half substitutes work well in many recipes.

Experiment with nut butters made from almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, or macadamias as a replacement for dairy cream in traditional recipes. Make a nut cream by whisking 1 cup of water into 1/4 cup nut butter.

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