Veganism is becoming more and more popular, and for a lot the most notable change is avoiding dairy products.
You may cut out dairy because of health reasons like allergies and intolerances, or because you simply don’t want to eat animal products. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of vegan substitutes readily available these days – swapping is easy!
One of the first dairy items we think of is milk. Us Brits use it a lot in everyday life. We splash it on our cereal in the morning, add it to tea or coffee during the day and use it to make a sauce for dinner. There are so many alternatives to dairy milk now. I’ve been dabbling in veganism and have noticed a massive increase in the number of dairy-free and plant-based options. Choose from:
Soya milk has been around for a while, and one of the best known brands is Alpro, although most supermarkets do their own version now which usually works out cheaper.
My personal favourite is oat milk. It was a firm favourite in the early days of breastfeeding as I used it to build my supply. Oatly is my go-to brand for oat milk and their chocolate oat milk makes a fantastic hot chocolate. The regular and organic versions work well added to tea and coffee and they even do a special barista version for coffee shops.
Rude Health has a great variety, including tiger nut milk(!). They’re not the cheapest but they skip out any additives, meaning you know exactly what you’re getting.
I love cream. I’ll add it to mash, coffee and of course, on desserts. I noticed Oatly had made an alternative to single cream but I was very sceptical about it. Surely it couldn’t taste creamy?
Well I was wrong. You know it’s not “proper” cream and if you’ve ever had oat milk, it’s got that oat aftertaste but there is a creaminess and when added to things, you’d never know the difference. They also do a crème fraiche which is great on a jacket potato with chopped spring onions – I couldn’t tell the difference!
One of the things I would miss if I went fully vegan would be custard. Again, Oatly make a vanilla custard substitute and it is amazing. I actually prefer it to normal custard now.
It’s thick, so not easily pourable, but who wants a runny custard anyway? The little black flecks of vanilla in the custard give it such a nice flavour. Honestly, if you haven’t tried it, go and buy some!
Tesco have recently launched their own range of vegan cheeses to try and keep up with their competition. The only other vegan cheese I know of is Violife and Sainsbury’s have a range too. Tesco’s range is pretty extensive. They offer the “basics” such as cheddar and mozzarella, as well as smoked cheese, wensleydale and cranberry, and jalapeno and chilli.
My vegan friends like Tesco’s for flavour but they don’t melt so well. Violife did melt well but the flavour wasn’t as good as Tesco. Sainsbury’s range are the best I’ve tried so far. They have a good flavour and melt pretty well, so they’re good for sauces or cheese on toast.
I still prefer regular cheese but melted into a sauce or as cheese on toast, it wouldn’t be too bad. I think it’s a case of trial and error and finding one that you like the best.
If you’re looking to swap yoghurts, you can now find coconut and almond based yoghurts alongside the soya alternatives.
I’ve tried CoYo and Coconut Collaborative yoghurts. They both had quite thick textures and tasted a bit like Greek yoghurt. The yoghurt I bought had a strawberry compote at the bottom which when mixed in, gave it a lovely sweetness and took the edge off the bitterness of the yoghurt.
Nush yoghurts are available in natural or blueberry. It’s made with a base of almond milk so if that’s your vegan milk of choice, definitely try this yoghurt.
There was only one ice cream that I’ve been recommended as a non-dairy option, and that was Walls’ Swedish Glace, available in vanilla and chocolate. Just like the custard, the flecks of vanilla made it look like a proper ice cream and the taste was pretty perfect. It even smelled like ice cream. My 3-year-old who has ice cream every night after his dinner said it was his “favourite ice cream ever”!
They also make ice lollies which have a vanilla ice cream middle coating in chocolate. I haven’t found it locally yet but I also can’t wait to try new vegan Ben and Jerry’s, which will be available in three different flavours; chocolate fudge brownie, chunky monkey and peanut butter and cookies. I can’t wait!
A cheap and healthy alternative is to freeze peeled bananas and blend to make “nice cream”. You can add any fruit or sweeteners you like, but as the base is just bananas, it’s dairy free. Not so great if you don’t like bananas though!
Finally, chocolate. I know it’s a horrible cliché but chocolate really does make me happy. This was the biggest challenge for me, finding a chocolate that I liked.
I tried Tesco’s ‘free from’ chocolate in white and milk. The milk chocolate wasn’t bad at all – it tasted like those chocolate coins you can get at Christmas. However, the white chocolate had no taste at all. It was quite bizarre eating it because there’s usually a hint of taste but this had nothing.
If you’re after some more interesting flavours, try Moo-Free, available from Holland and Barrett. It’s available in varieties like Orange, Mint, Caramelised hazelnut nibs, Crunchy banana and Cranberry and hazelnut.
And of course, a lot of dark chocolate is vegan anyway – just check the label to see if milk or milk powder has been added. It’s also considered good for you. One square a day of dark chocolate is actually recommended (if you can stop at one)!
Give It a Try
I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years and a dabbling vegan for about six months and even I had no idea how many substitutes there are available until I started researching. Once upon a time, vegans had to miss out on things like cheese or even treats such as chocolate. Not anymore!
It’s never been easier to ditch the dairy and go vegan. Even making a couple of swaps could be better for you and for the planet – and they’re pretty tasty too.