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The Best Substitutes for Milk and Cheese

Created January 26, 2017
Looking to avoid milk or cheese? Plenty of new substitutes taste great and are easy to find.

More and more people are finding that they are lactose intolerant, meaning they have problems digesting dairy-based foods. This has led to a massive increase in sales of soy milk and goat’s cheese over recent years as demand has skyrocketed.

But these two items are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to good substitutes for milk and cheese. There are many other products that offer better taste and have more flexible use—and they can easily be found in your local supermarket.

Basic Milk Substitutes

The most obvious substitutes for traditional milk are rice milk, almond milk and soy milk, all of which are derived from plants. They can be used just as easily as real milk in cups of tea, bowls of cereal, the preparation of sauces, etc., but their unusual flavors are enough to put a lot of people off from drinking them like a regular glass of milk.

These products usually cost around a third more than cow’s milk, and can be purchased from natural food stores, high end supermarkets and specialty stores online.

Cooking with a milk substitute is fairly straightforward, although boil times may be shorter so watch the temperature when making sauces. Also, bear in mind that the flavor of rice, almond and soy milk can be somewhat overwhelming for those who aren't used to them.

Other Milk Alternatives

Rather than using milk substitutes, a lactose intolerant diet may benefit more from cow’s milk alternatives. Milk from other farm animals has a much lower lactose content and, therefore, can be more easily digested. One popular alternative is goat’s milk, which you will generally find on refrigerated supermarket shelves close to cow’s milk. The flavor of goat’s milk is a little sweeter than that of cow's, and the milk is also used in the treatment of many other conditions—such as asthma and eczema.

Lactose-free milk, meanwhile, is basically cow’s milk with the lactose removed. This is a relatively new product and may not be an attractive option to anyone who has spent years getting used to the taste of soya milk or rice milk—both of which are slightly sweeter than cow’s milk. However, using lactose-free cow’s milk removes the need to cook a sauce with soy milk for one person and then another sauce with cow’s milk for three or four other people.

Basic Cheese Substitutes

Like soy milk and rice milk, dairy-free cheese has become popular beyond its vegan target market and is now enjoyed by those on lactose-free diets. These cheeses are usually soy-based and may also include a rice-based ingredient. Dairy-free cheeses have evolved a lot over the years and can now be found in a lot of different flavors—including Gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar.

Other Cheese Alternatives

Like milk, there are several cheese alternatives that you may want to try in your quest for a good substitute.

Goat's cheese is a strong tasting, soft cheese that can be purchased in quite small quantities. It has something of an acquired taste, so you may want to try a piece before buying! Another cheese made from goat's milk is Greek feta cheese, which has a milder, saltier flavor and a crumbly texture.

Buffalo mozzarella is also (virtually) free from lactose, and like feta, is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. Finally, just like lactose-free cow’s milk, there are cheeses available that are made by the same process.

The best way to find out which substitute works better for you is to purchase one or two small samples of these alternatives and use them when preparing your own favorite dishes. After trying a few, be sure to leave a comment and let us know which is your favorite!