Creating dairy-free dinners doesn't have to mean giving up creamy sauces or your favorite meals. Alternatives to dairy products are becoming more common at the supermarket as more people switch to lactose-free food. You can still make favorites like fettuccine Alfredo, beef Stroganoff and macaroni and cheese without relying on dairy products. With a little know-how and creativity, making dairy-free dinners is not as challenging as you think.
Use non-dairy milks such as soy or rice in place of regular milk. Some natural food stores also have almond and oat milks available, if you would like to experiment. These milks won't have the texture of dairy, but you can create a creamier sauce by adding an ingredient or two. Soy yogurt can be whisked into nondairy milks to provide bulk and added texture. Stir in roasted and pureed root vegetables, such as onions, carrots and potatoes, for added flavor and color. Blended tofu also works well, because the somewhat bland taste of tofu won't distract from the primary food.
If you enjoy milk-based sauces such as ranch dressing on your dinner salad, try blending a combination of avocado, tofu, plain soy milk and chives for a nondairy dressing alternative.
Nondairy cheese is becoming more available and can be used where you would normally use dairy cheese. These alternatives, made primarily from soy, are textured and colored to have the look and feel of dairy products. They come in block form, shredded or presliced for sandwiches. These products do react a little differently when it comes to melting. Melting nondairy cheese requires a longer cooking time than regular cheese, but it will generally do well if mixed into sauces, whisked frequently and cooked. For making a grilled-cheese sandwich, try microwaving the sandwich for a minute before putting it in the pan or on the grill. This will start the cheese melting without overcooking or burning the bread.
Butter is great tasting, but sneaking in just a little won't work for a completely dairy-free meal. Use a good quality olive or vegetable oil for sauteing instead. Nondairy margarine or soy butters are also available if you would like a good mimic.
Getting Your Calcium
Many people rely on dairy products for their recommended daily allowance of calcium. Many soy and rice milks come calcium-enriched for this reason. You may also want to increase your intake of of vegetables, many of which, particularly the dark-green variety, are loaded with calcium. Aside from eating lots of broccoli and spinach, sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage and peas are also good sources of this mineral.