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5 Best Staples for Dairy-Free Cooking and Baking

I never thought I’d have to cook and bake dairy-free but our oldest son changed all that.
One night when he was 10 months old, I was feeding him some of our dinner and he was loving it. We were having meatloaf, homemade mashed potatoes, green beans, and a fruit puree…everything he had before. We had almost finished eating when he started coughing, like a lot. Then he started gagging, his face got super splotchy, and he started swelling. He was having an anaphylactic reaction to something he ate.

A few weeks later, we found out he had severe allergies to dairy and beef.

No one in either side of our families have had food allergies so this was brand new territory for us. Life just got a lot more stressful. I mean beef is a pretty simple one to avoid but dairy….dairy is in EVERYTHING. Literally everything.

I’ve always done a lot of cooking and baking for our family so I had a new mission of figuring out how to do it all without any kind of dairy. But 4 years later, I feel like a pro. I’m still figuring out some good substitutions but thankfully the food industry is starting to make more and more dairy-free and plant based products that make life a whole lot easier.

There are a few that have become staples so I always have them on hand for cooking and baking. I’ll list my staples of what I keep on hand so I can easily turn recipes into dairy-free versions and what brands are my favorite. So if you’re new to this non-dairy world, hopefully this list will be of help!

Non-dairy Milk:

First up on the list, a non-dairy milk. Almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, soy milk…whatever you fancy! They all kind of differ in texture and taste but always having one on hand is helpful in all things cooking and baking. 

We always keep almond milk on hand, sometimes cashew as it’s a bit creamier, but almond is mild in flavor so it works in just about everything! 

  • Side note…I get asked quite often what we gave Axxle when he turned one and weaned off breastmilk. After trying several with him, we landed on Silk Almond/Cashew Protein milk. It has good fat content unlike regular almond milk, and it has a good serving of protein, which was extremely important for him as he was struggling to gain weight with his heart condition. 
  • Ripple milk is another popular plant-based milk that has similar nutrients but Axxle would not drink it, not to mention it is quite expensive. 

Dairy-free Butter:

There are several brands on the market now so there are so many to choose from and at many different price points. I use butter in just about all my cooking and baking so having one that’s dairy-free for Axxle is a huge help. 

Our favorite is Country Crock! They do both sticks and tubs that are dairy-free and unlike other dairy-free brands, the tub butter is soft and spreads so easily. 

Country Crock came out with their plant based line a while back but after months and months of buying it, I discovered that the tub of original actually contains no dairy…AND it’s cheaper! 

Heavy cream alternative:

Finally, a dairy-free heavy cream! Country Crock released their plant cream a little bit ago and I love it! No, it’s not EXACTLY the same as the real deal, but it’s quite close.

I come across so many recipes that use heavy cream and now we have an easy option to make it dairy-free. 

Chocolate chips:

So I don’t ALWAYS keep these on hand 😉 but I wanted to include them and give you my thoughts on all the options since more and more brands are offering dairy-free versions now. Using good chocolate chips can be key to making some really tasty dairy-free treats. 

Ghirardelli FINALLY released a dairy-free brand and it’s our new favorite! They are just as good as their regular stuff. 

Nestle makes some good ones now too, but they’re a little harder to find in store where we are. 

Enjoy Life has been the most popular dairy free brand but it’s actually my least favorite. And it’s the most expensive. The flavor is okay but the dry texture is what I’m not crazy about. 

And if you have a Kroger nearby, their organic store brand makes semi-sweet chocolate chips that don’t contain any dairy. They’re the cheapest I’ve found and they taste great! 

Cream Cheese:

I am not a fan of dairy-free cheese but there are so many recipes I love that call for cream cheese so I tried a few out! 

Philadelphia finally made a non-dairy version and it’s pretty good! But our favorite is still KiteHill. Neither taste like the real deal on their own but they work really well in all the recipes I’ve tried them in. 

So there ya have it. My 5 best staples to have on hand for dairy-free cooking and baking. I hope it’s helpful!
Pin it for future reference and be sure to check out my dairy-free recipes!

Kalie Thomas



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