Foods that Contain "Hidden" Dairy Products

Many seemingly dairy-free food products actually contain some form of dairy, whether it be in the form of casein, lactalbumin, whey or another dairy derivative. This list will help guide you through some of the less obvious food products that contain dairy.

  • 01 of 11

    Boxed Cereals and Cereal Bars

    Pan of Fruit and Nut Chewy Cereal Trail Bars
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    More boxed cereals than you'd ever suspect actually contain some form of dairy, even "health food" and "natural cereals." Usually, these will contain casein, nonfat milk powder or whey protein or whey protein isolates. These products will list in bold what allergens are present within, namely milk, nuts, and soy, to make label-scanning a little easier.

    Aside from the obvious "yogurt" varieties, many cereal bars also contain some form of dairy, typically butterfat,...MORE casein, milk powder, or whey. While there are some dairy-free varieties available, you can also try making some of your own dairy-free cereal bars for breakfasts on the go.

  • 02 of 11

    Breadcrumbs, prepared

    Breaded Chicken Breast with Linguine
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    Prepared breadcrumbs more often than not contain some form of dairy, be it butterfat, casein, dry milk powder, whey or some combination. An easy and delicious solution is to substitute traditional prepared breadcrumb varieties with panko breadcrumbs, which are usually not only dairy-free but also lower in sodium content. You can also use make breadcrumbs from dry, day-old dairy free bread simply by crumbling the bread with your hands.

  • 03 of 11

    Breads, Processed Sandwich

    Food Lunch
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    Processed sandwich breads, both white and wheat varieties, often contain casein, whey or nonfat milk powder and sometimes all three. Although there are exceptions, it is a good idea to seek out sandwich breads that are located in the refrigerated or frozen section of your local health food grocer, such as Ezekiel bread, as these rarely contain any dairy and are delicious, too!


  • 04 of 11

    Breads, Quick Breads

    Close-Up Of Corn Bread
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    Quick breads, such as banana nut, corn, and pumpkin, almost always contain butter and milk. While some processed varieties may not contain actual butter, they will usually contain whey protein isolates and nonfat milk powder. Generally, if quick breads are non-dairy, they will be advertised as such. The nice thing about quick breads, however, is that they are, indeed "quick" to make and "quick" to bake.

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  • 05 of 11

    Breads, Yeast Breads

    Handmade rustic bread
    Viktorné Lupaneszku / Getty Images

    While many yeast breads do not typically contain dairy products in their actual dough, such as French bread and sourdough, bakers will often bake these loaves in buttered pans or brush the crusts with butter as they bake. The only way to really be sure if this has been the case is to ask the baker.

    There are, however, many yeast breads that almost always contain dairies, such as Babka, biscuits, Brioche, cinnamon bread and croissants. While it is rare to come across these items without dairy, it...MORE is possible to make these dairy-free and so satisfying when they come out of the oven. Try some of my dairy-free yeast bread recipes, like this vegan chocolate babka recipe for some dairy-free ideas!

  • 06 of 11


    Tetra Images / Getty Images

    Store-bought crackers almost always contain butter, butterfat or nonfat milk powder, although some natural and organic companies have started producing non-dairy alternatives that can be found at natural and health food stores. Crispbread crackers are an easy and healthy cracker replacement as well, such as Kavli and Wasa crispbread crackers, that rarely contain dairy.​

    Making your own dairy-free crackers, however, is really easy and gives you the ability to make festive shapes and add the...MORE seasonings and flavors of your choice.

  • 07 of 11

    Deli Meats

    Deli sliced meat
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    Dairy products such as lactose, casein, and caseinates are often added to processed meats and deli meats to act as an emulsifier or contribute to the flavor of the meat. Reading labels for most of these products is imperative in determining if they are dairy-free or not, but to make label-reading easier, look for meats labeled "Kosher" as these will be dairy-free.

  • 08 of 11


    Plate of homemade granola
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    Granola is traditionally prepared with a mixture of raw grains, dried fruits, nuts and seeds that have been tossed with a sweetener and either butter or oil. While there is no rule of thumb as to which granolas will use which fat, it is often the case that those that are oil-based will be labeled as such. Luckily, granola is incredibly easy to prepare and will make your home smell wonderful as it bakes. 

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  • 09 of 11

    "Non-dairy" or "Vegetarian" Cheeses

    Chunks of Maasdam Dutch cow's milk cheese
    MAIKA 777 / Getty Images

    While it is often the assumption that soy, nut, and rice-based "cheeses" are non-dairy, it is also often the case that these contain some form of casein or whey proteins. Usually, these products will be labeled as "vegan" if they are dairy-free. Some dairy-free varieties to try are "Follow Your Heart," "Tofutti" and "VeganRella." You can also try making your own dairy-free cheese.

  • 10 of 11

    Protein Bars and Energy Bars

    Granola Bar
    4kodiak / Getty Images

    Countless brands of protein bars consist of primarily whey protein, but even many soy protein bars contain dairy in the form of casein, lactose, and milk powder as well as whey protein or whey protein isolates. 

  • 11 of 11

    Vegetarian "Meat" Products

    Vegan meatless balls in tomato sauce in a cast iron pan
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    In order to provide additional protein and act as an emulsifying and stabilizing agent, many vegetarian "meat" products contain casein or whey protein isolates. Typically, these products will be labeled as "vegan" or "casein-free" if they are dairy-free, and you can also look for vegetarian meat substitutes labeled as Pareve, as these will contain neither meat nor dairy products. Some good non-dairy vegetarian meat products are made by Health is Wealth and White Wave, but...MORE making your own seitan meat products is really easy and fun!