Recipe Substitutions for Lactose Intolerance

Milk Options

If a recipe calls for 1 cup of cow's milk, you can replace it with reduced lactose or lactose-free cow's milk or rice or soy milk. Just remember: Rice milk is thinner and soy milk is thicker than cow's milk, so you may need to make minor adjustments to the amount used in cooking and baking.

Closest to milk.

 Reduced lactose or lactose-free milk is treated with lactase to break down the lactose. It is the closest cousin to regular cow's milk in terms of taste and offers the same nutrients, such as calcium, as regular cow's milk.

Flavor changers. 

The most popular alternatives used for drinking and cooking are almond, rice, and soy milk. Taste the alternative milk to make sure you enjoy it and keep in mind the flavor of the milk may affect the final taste of the recipe. Here are some newer options:

  • Cashew
  • Hemp
  • Oat
  • Potato


 Goat, sheep, and buffalo milk are not suitable because they all contain lactose.

Cooking Tips. 

The safest bet, in both sweet and savory recipes, is to choose a light, plain, and unsweetened product.

  • When a recipe calls for fat-free milk, choose an unsweetened plain product without fat.
  • In bread, cake, cookie, or sweet recipes, you can successfully choose flavored or sweetened milks.
  • When buttermilk is an ingredient, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of plain milk substitute to make your own. Some commercially prepared cow's milk buttermilk, if made with active bacteria cultures, may be low in lactose.
  • When dry milk powder is an ingredient, use an equal amount of coconut, potato, rice, or soy milk powder.

Cream Substitutes

There are a few alternatives to heavy cream, light cream, or half-and-half that have similar mouth-feel and thickness to the real thing.

  • Coconut cream

     is a good alternative to half-and-half when you blend it with half soy milk. Another option: Create your own light cream by mixing 3/4 cup of a plain milk substitute with 1/4 cup of canola oil.

  • Coconut milk

     can be a substitute for evaporated milk or heavy cream in soups and stews. You can also make your own heavy cream with 1/2 cup plain milk substitute and 1/2 cup canola oil.
  • Dairy and lactose free half-and-half substitutes

     work well in many recipes.

Experiment with nut butters made from almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, or macadamias as a replacement for dairy cream in traditional recipes. Make a nut cream by whisking 1 cup of water into 1/4 cup nut butter.

Butter Substitutes

Fruit purees.

 In baked goods (other than cookies), you can substitute fruit purees like applesauce, prune, or banana for part or all of the butter. Usually ¾ cup of fruit puree replaces 1 cup of butter. This is a popular approach by many chefs to lower fat and calories while improving the nutritional quality of muffins, brownies, and cakes.

Dairy-free margarines or oils.

 You can also use dairy-free or soy margarine, coconut oil, shortening, olive and canola oil for part or all of the butter.

Yogurt Substitutes

You may be able to tolerate some cow's milk yogurts because they have very little lactose. Choose ones with live, active bacterial cultures for the least amount of lactose.

If you cannot tolerate regular yogurt, look for yogurts made from soy or coconut milk, soy sour cream, or unsweetened fruit puree.

Sour Cream Substitutes

Soy based or lactose-free sour creams are available to sub in your favorite recipes. Pureed silken tofu and plain soy yogurt are also suitable replacements.

Cheese Substitutes

Aged cheeses such as cheddar, Colby, Parmesan, and Swiss cheeses have very little lactose, only about 0.1 gram per 1 ounce. American cheese, cream cheese, and cottage cheese are also low in lactose.

You can use hemp, rice, reduced or lactose-free, or soy cheese in recipes to replace cheese.

Ice Cream Substitutes

There is a wide variety of diary-free ice cream and frozen yogurt options made from soy, rice, hemp, coconut, and lactose-free milks.

Sorbet, made from fruit, sugar, and water, is another option.

Sherbet is made with milk but only contains a small amount of lactose, about 4-6 grams per cup.

Chocolate Substitutes

Most dark chocolate is lactose-free and comes in a wide variety of shapes and sweetness levels. Check the label to be sure it does not contain any dairy ingredients.

Carob chips and rice milk chocolate are two options for lactose-free recipe substitutions.

Article courtesy of, found here.

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