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Going Dairy-Free: Expert Advice And Tasty Recipes

6 MIN READ • 26th October 2021
Sian Bunney by Sian Bunney

Good news! Going dairy-free is pretty common nowadays, and supermarkets are catching on. In fact, supermarket giant Tesco has set a target to sell 300 percent more meat alternative protein by 2025, as demand for vegan products and dairy-free meals, such as dairy-free pizza and dairy-free chocolate, rises. Going dairy-free can be a little controversial, so before we reveal our delicious recipes, let’s uncover some dairy-free myths and explore expert advice.

Dairy-free myths, busted

We asked the experts to bust the biggest myths around what giving up dairy products means for your body. It’s also worth pointing out that if you’ve searched the web to ask ‘is vegan dairy free’, the answer is yes, vegans don’t consume dairy products. However, ‘vegan’ and ‘dairy-free’ are not the same, because although vegans don’t consume dairy, they also don’t eat eggs or any other animal-derived foods.

A dairy free diet plan can lead to a calcium deficiency

“This is a common myth among those who are critical of the vegan diet, although less is said about those that are eliminating dairy for reasons of milk allergy or lactose intolerance,” says Rob Hobson, Healthspan registered nutritionist. “While dairy foods are one of the richest sources of calcium, this mineral can be gleaned from many other foods. The recommended intake for adults aged 19-64 years old is 700mg per day, which can be obtained from plant foods including tofu, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini and fortified plant milks.”

Cow’s milk is the only rich source of calcium

“While dairy is the most obvious source of calcium, it’s still absolutely possible to get enough calcium on a vegan diet,” states nutritionist Pixie Turner, for Discover Great Veg. “If you’ve swapped your dairy milk for dairy-free versions, make sure to check that it’s fortified with calcium as well as vitamins, such as vitamin D and B12. This makes alternatives more nutritionally equivalent to dairy, so you’re not missing out. 

“In addition, you can also make sure to include more calcium-rich plants into your diet; for example soy products, such as tofu, and chickpeas or kidney beans. Finally, people tend to forget that leafy greens, such as kale, cavolo nero and spinach are good sources of calcium. You might want to consider lightly cooking these, though, to ensure the calcium in them is more available to your body. Luckily this also tends to make them more delicious and versatile, too.”

Dairy-free milks

Dairy-free milks are now a big staple on the supermarket shelves. With the likes of Alpro, Oatly and Innocent, you’ll be spoilt for choice. But what are the nut milk options, and other types of milk alternative? Almond milk is rich in healthy nutrients, coconut milk is fantastic when it comes to cooking, and other options such as oat milk, rice milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, soy milk, and even hemp milk are available too. Have a read of our guide to dairy-free milks to pick your favourite.

Read the label: watch out for sugar

Many food manufacturers have opted for sweet substitutes to give their dairy-free products a similar taste. Often, they use xylitol, which is plant-based, but more recently, other sugar substitutes such as coconut sugar have taken the market by storm, and can be found in foods such as dairy-free coconut yoghurt. Coconut sugar is made from coconut palm sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. While it might be plant-based, it doesn’t necessarily make it any better than other food products containing sugar. “It’s still a form of sugar,” says Sarah Anderson, Harley Street nutritionist. “This means it’s full of empty calories that your body will store as fat.” If you do want something sweet to snack on, foods that contain naturally occurring sugars instead of added ones are your best bet – try berries, bananas, mangoes and dates for that afternoon-slump sweet hit.

Dairy-free recipes

What springs to mind when you think of your morning meal? Pancakes or porridge? Sometimes, the key ingredient for those breakfasts can be cows’ milk, but they can also be made free-from! We’ve also got some delicious dessert recipes for those times where you need to indulge.

Dairy-free porridge

This warm and spicy porridge is the perfect dairy free recipe for a cold morning. It’s also ideal if you’re avoiding gluten, too. Spiced with cardamom and lemon zest and drizzled with almond butter, this porridge is packed with plant protein.

You can pan-fry the pears ahead of time and warm in a low oven when you need them. If you’re going grain-free, you could use a mixture of ground almond and coconut and cook it for half the time.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pears, peeled
  • 75g coconut oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp vanilla bean extract
  • 1 lemon
  • 160g rolled oats
  • 400ml water
  • 300ml plant-based milk of choice
  • 1⁄2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsp Pip & Nut Almond Butter
  • 50g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Half, core, then slice each peeled pear half into six, so you have 12 pieces cut lengthways. Add the coconut oil to a large frying pan and place over a medium heat, and fry the pears for five minutes on each side. Halfway through, add the vanilla bean paste and a squeeze of lemon juice and move on to the porridge.
  2. Place the oats, ground cardamom, water and milk in a large pan over a low heat. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring continuously. This slow and low method will give you the creamiest porridge.
  3. Ladle the porridge into bowls, top with pears, pecans, a little lemon zest and a large dollop of almond butter. Keep the jar extra close as you’ll want to keep topping up!

Dairy-free pancakes

PSA: Dairy-free keto is a thing! Try these delicious pancakes that pack a protein punch.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, to coat the pan

Method:

  1. Prepare the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients separately. Mix them together quickly.
  2. Heat a pan on a low heat and add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Pour a spoonful of batter into the pan. Wait for bubbles to form, and when firm enough, flip.
  3. Serve the pancakes with almond butter and low-GI berries. If required, add a drizzle of chicory root syrup for an extra bit of sweetness.

Dairy-free cookies

Ingredients:

  • 150g cashew nuts
  • 250g white or wholegrain spelt flour, or a mixture of both
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 130g extra virgin coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • 40g tahini
  • 250g light brown soft sugar or palm sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt, plus more to scatter over
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and line 2-3 large baking trays with parchment. On a separate baking tray, roast the cashews for 6-8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
  2. Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil (or butter) in a saucepan over a low heat, then add the tahini, sugar, salt and vanilla, stirring to form a soft mixture (don’t worry if it looks a little separated). 
  3. Take off the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Cool for 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the eggs quickly until the mixture is thick and glossy. Stir in the flour mix, chocolate and cashews until everything is just combined. Chill for at least an hour.
  4. Divide into 20 equal portions (about 50-55g per cookie). Roll each piece into a ball and place on the baking trays with at least 6cm between each. Lightly flatten the balls, sprinkle with a little more sea salt, and bake, in batches if needed, for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have crispy edges and slightly soft centres. Transfer to a wire rack and cool before eating. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Dairy free apple crumble

A classic fruity pud with a nutty oat crumble topping, this apple and blackberry crumble is sure to be the warming hug you need after a tough outdoor training session! 

For the fruit filling:

  • 2 cooking apples, peeled and cored
  • 200g frozen blackberries
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp (30g) soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble topping:

  • 60g almonds
  • 40g walnuts
  • 100g jumbo rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp (30g) butter/vegan spread, such as Flora dairy free
  • 3 tbsp honey/maple syrup

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. To make the filling, place the blackberries in a saucepan with two tablespoons of water and juice from half a lemon. Add the apples, chopped into very small cubes and sprinkled with cinnamon. Add the sugar, stir, and warm through for around 8-10 minutes on a low heat, until the fruit is soft and the sauce bubbling. Then add more water, if needed.
  3. To make the topping, blitz the almonds, walnuts and half of the oats in the food processor. Pour into a mixing bowl along with the rest of the oats and the spices, and toss together.
  4. Rub the butter into the mixture to form a crumb. Then pour in the honey or maple syrup, mixing until it becomes slightly sticky.
  5. Pour the fruit mixture into the bottom of a 20cm pie dish, and gently scatter the crumble mix on top. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the crumble is lightly golden brown and crispy, and the sauce begins to bubble. Serve with your favourite dairy-free ice cream!

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