Top 3 Must-Have Dairy-Free Ingredients + 21 Recipes


It amazes me how my tastes have changed over the years. When I was a kid, the three dairy-free ingredients below rarely crossed my lips, and I certainly wasn’t cooking or baking with them. But as I learned to expand my palate, a whole world of rich, creamy deliciousness opened up.

I hope that my niece follows suit (soon!) with more healthy adventurousness in her diet. In the meantime,  many of the dairy-free recipes listed below are “sneaky” ones that she and other kids are likely to enjoy without knowing anything about the “unusual” grown-up, dairy-free ingredients within.

Coconut Milk

Dairy-Free Recipes from Alisa Fleming

I’m not talking about coconut milk beverage here: this is full fat, delicious canned coconut milk or cream. Its versatility is bar none: fluff it into whipped “cream,” stir into a rich savory sauce, use to make cream pies or ice cream, and even bake with it. Need something lighter on a budget? Simply water down full fat coconut milk to create light coconut milk (1/3 cup coconut milk + 2/3 cup water). For coconut milk beverage, thin it even a bit further.

Though I could send you on your way at this point, I must emphasize that not all brands of canned coconut milk are created equally. See my Guide to Coconut Milk for more detail on using this amazing dairy-free ingredient.

Dairy-Free Recipes Using Coconut Milk:

Dairy-Free Whipped Coconut Cream with Chocolate and Berries | Alisa Fleming


Dairy-Free Avocado Recipes | Alisa Fleming

My primary memory of avocado as a child was smashed in pita pocket sandwiches from a sandwich shop my mom worked for. By the time the sandwiches came home later in the day, the avocado was slightly browned and had made the bread a bit soggy – unappetizing to say the least. After banishing this green fruit from my life for nearly a decade, I rediscovered it in sushi. Since then, it has become a staple in my cooking AND baking.

I know that many of you will be hesitant to use avocado in anything but Mexican food, but trust me, it’s time to branch out. This fruit is mild in taste and has a creamy texture that even works in sweets when properly paired. Yes, it really does. Try it, you won’t regret it. Avocado also acts as an egg-free binder and even provides a gelatinous texture on its own.

Dairy-Free Recipes Using Avocado:

Dairy-Free Shamrock Shake Recipe | Alisa Fleming


How to Use Cashews in Dairy-Free Recipes from Alisa Fleming

I couldn’t stand nuts as a kid. Their knobby presence in brownies, quite frankly, annoyed me. And my mother’s dark chocolate-covered almonds were far too adult and boring for my tastes. But as my palate has evolved, I’ve learned to appreciate nuts, with a special fondness for the creaminess of cashews. I frequently blend them up to create quick milk alternative, luxurious nut butter, a sweet cream, or the base for a rich dinner sauce.

Some people soak cashew prior to blending, but I’m rarely that planned in advance. This soft nut powders beautifully in a spice grinder and can then be blended seamlessly into a creamy recipe. Can’t do nuts? Though not exactly the same, I find that in many recipes, you can grind up sunflower seeds or use sunflower seed butter in an equivalent amount.

Dairy-Free Recipes Using Cashews:

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cheesecake Graham Cracker Sandwich Recipes from Alisa Fleming

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