Soy-Free Dairy Substitutions

Substitutes for Dairy and Cheese

Rice milk
Michael Brauner/StockFood Creative/Getty Images

Many dairy and cheese substitutes use soy as a base, but, like dairy, some persons have allergies and intolerances to soy products, which makes things a bit difficult for dairy-free gourmands with soy intolerances. Have no fear-- it is possible to bake and cook dairy-free without soy products! While many of my recipes include such soy-based products as soymilk, soymilk powder, and soy margarine, this list will give you some ideas on how to replace these and still produce delicious dairy-free meals.

  • 01 of 08

    Coconut Milk

    Thai Kitchen's Coconut Milk
    Thai Kitchen

    Prepared from fresh coconut meat, coconut milk is a great option for richer dairy-free dishes. Although it is high in fat and saturated fat, coconut milk is a delicious way to add creaminess to any number of dairy-free and vegan dishes, from curries to creamy soups to pasta sauces to puddings to dairy-free whipped cream. I've tried zillions of coconut milk over the years, but my pick for the best, accessible coconut milk on the market is Thai Kitchen's Coconut Milk both the lite and original varieties.

  • 02 of 08

    Coconut Milk Beverages

    In the past few years, the public has been made increasingly aware of gluten and soy allergies as well as allergies to dairy, and so coconut-based products that are soy-free, gluten-free and dairy-free have been making their way onto grocery shelves more and more. Turtle Mountain, the manufacturers who make some of my favorite dairy-free ice creams, also make my favorite coconut-based milk substitute, So Delicious Coconut Milk. The name is accurate: it is so delicious! Rich and creamy, So Delicious Coconut Milk is great in cooking and baking, and it's my preferred dairy-free milk substitute when I want to drink it straight from the glass.

  • 03 of 08

    Daiya Cheese

    For pizzas, strombolis, and baked pasta dishes, I have yet to find another dairy-free cheese that I like more than Daiya Mozza Shreds. It melts, it stretches, and its flavor is balanced in savor and richness. And, best of all, it's dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, so it's suitable for a variety of diets.

  • 04 of 08


    Nuts work well to add dimension and texture to recipes that lack the protein and fat found in dairy products and, to a lesser degree, soy products. Rice milk and other rice-based products taste great on their own, but they are very low in fat and have virtually no protein. When replacing soy in recipes that use soy in place of dairy, nuts can account for the density disparity. I like to keep a small air-tight container of finely ground cashews and almonds on hand for quick baking and cooking solutions.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Refined Coconut Oil

    Refined Coconut Oil is great for replacing butter, soy-based dairy-free cream cheese and soy margarine in rich baking recipes such as cakes, cookies, quick bread, and pie doughs. I have found that refined coconut adds a slightly nutty flavor to whatever I use it with, so I especially like it with chocolate baked goods like brownies.

    Many people choose to stay away from using refined coconut oil because of its high saturated fat content (12 grams in one tablespoon), but if used in moderation, it can work really well for soy-free dairy-free "treats".

  • 06 of 08

    Rice Milk

    Rice Milk can often replace soymilk in baking recipes such as cakes and quick bread with very little difference in results. However, in recipes such as sauces and soups, some sort of a thickener or stabilizer is usually necessary, as rice milk is significantly thinner and lower in fat and protein than soy milk. For sauces that call for milk or soymilk, I recommend using egg yolks, cornstarch, flour, xanthan gum or another thickening or stabilizing agent with the rice milk to accommodate for the differences in density and act as an emulsifier. Rice milk also is significantly sweeter than most soymilk varieties, so, especially when cooking savory dishes, keep this in mind and be sure to do a "taste test" and adjust your seasonings accordingly.

  • 07 of 08

    Vegetable Shortening

    Vegetable shortening stands in nicely for butter, soy cream cheese and soy margarine in baking recipes such as cookies, pie dough, and cakes, though it is not to be used in cooking in place of butter in such recipes as sauces or sauteed dishes. (For these, simply use canola oil or another soy-free oil.) Although high in saturated fat (6 grams per tablespoon), it is still lower in saturated fat than butter (7 grams per tablespoon)! A non-hydrogenated, non-dairy, vegan shortening that I recommend is Spectrum's Organic Vegetable shortening, produced from 100% non-hydrogenated, organic palm oil.

  • 08 of 08

    Xanthan Gum

    Xanthan Gum is a microbial polysaccharide that is typically found in commercial salad dressings, ice creams, and other suspensions or liquid products that require an emulsifier, but it can be bought for home use and is a great way to thicken and stabilize rice milk-based sauces, soups, and ice creams. It may seem expensive at about $10-$12 for 8 ounces, but a very little bit goes a long way! To use xanthan gum in your dairy-free and soy-free recipes, use about 1/8 t. per cup of rice milk and combine these in a blender, not by hand, as it will "gum" almost instantly. (I have found that blending the xanthan gum first with a bit of oil before adding the rice milk produces the best taste and texture for sauces.)