Gluten-Free Dairy Substitutions

Many people on a gluten free diet are also intolerant to dairy products. In addition to gluten-free food, these folks need gluten-free dairy substitutions.

This is specifically about dairy or cows milk substitutions that will fit with your gluten free diet.

For an overview of how dairy or lactose intolerance relates to celiac disease go here

For substitutions for products containing gluten go here.

split coconut with a bottle of coconut milk and a wooden spoon

If you’re eliminating both gluten and dairy products from your diet, you’ll be looking for some substitutions that are safe for your gluten free diet. Here are a few ideas.  Remember though, these substitutes don’t replace the important nutrients that come from dairy products so you’ll have to find other ways to get what your body needs. 

Gluten-Free Dairy Substitutions for Milk 

Fluid Milk: On the overview page we discussed lactase enzymes and lactose free milk, but if that doesn't work for you and you like milk on your cereal or to drink there are lots of plant-based milks you can try.  Rice milk, oat milk, soymilk and nut milks like coconut, almond or cashew are the most common.  Try the different offerings and see what you like.  Some jurisdictions don’t allow non-dairy products to be labelled as “milk” so these will be labelled as “beverages” instead.  My favourite of all these is oat milk.  The consistency and texture are closer to cows milk than some of the other options which I find a bit watery.  If you're going to use oat milk as part of your gluten and dairy free diet however do remember to check the label and make sure it's made with gluten free oats. 

Gluten-Free Dairy Substitutions for Cream

Cream: For your coffee and tea you can use any of the milk substitutes above.  If you’re used to the richness of cream in your coffee, you can try canned coconut milk.  There are several liquid and powdered coffee whiteners on the market just check the labels.  Some have sodium caseinate made from milk.  It's well tolerated by folks with lactose intolerance but if you have a casein allergy you should avoid it. It’s easy to travel with a container of powdered coffee whitener in your car or purse for when you stop at the coffee shop.  Many places will offer soy or almond milk as a substitute.

For Cooking and Baking: Substituting plant-based milks work just fine here too.  

Coconut milk also makes a good substitute for cream in gluten and dairy free cooking or baking.  Creamy sauces can be made with coconut milk.   In fact it's a staple in many Asian and Caribbean recipes.  If you need sour milk, just add a tablespoon full of lemon juice to a cup of coconut milk and let it stand for about 10 minutes. 

Gluten-Free Dairy Substitutions for Cheese

Cheese: Hard cheeses are low in lactose but do contain casein.  There are many vegan cheese substitutes on the market.  Slices that are good on sandwiches and shreds that work well on pizza or anywhere else you would use shredded cheese.  Most of these will be both gluten and dairy free but check the label just to be sure.  Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor.  Mix with a little sea salt, garlic powder and ground nuts or seeds and sprinkle over your pasta or potato dish.  

Gluten-Free Dairy Substitutions for Yogurt and Ice Cream

Yogurt: Yogurt has the lactobacillus pro-biotic so may be well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.  If that doesn't work for you there is coconut yogurt which is very good and will give you your probiotic benefits just like regular yogurt.

Ice cream:  The higher the fat content the lower the lactose content so you may be able to tolerate a small amount of premium ice cream.  Is that a great excuse to go for the good stuff or what?  If not then look for coconut ice cream or ice cream made from other sources like cashews, soy or bananas.  You can also have sorbet as there is no dairy.

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash

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Milk from Other Animals:  Goat and Sheep milk along with milk from other mammals like yak or water buffalo and cheeses made from them are becoming more and more popular and for good reason.  They are delicious.  They are not suitable substitutes for a lactose free diet though as they contain about the same amount of lactose as cows’ milk.  Some people who have trouble with cows’ milk do tolerate other milks quite well.  It’s not clear exactly why but it may have to do with the type of casein or milk fat in these alternatives.  One study showed that about 25% of people with a casein allergy were able to tolerate goat and sheep’s milk.  I happen to be one of those people.  I consider myself lucky as so many great cheeses are now available made from alternative milks.  I love goat cheddar.  I use goat mozzarella on pizza and lasagna, Pecorino Romano from sheep’s milk is a perfect parmesan substitute and creamy goat cheese adds a beautiful texture and richness to many dishes and sauces that you might use cream or yogurt for. 

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