Keto Substitutes For Dairy [How To Recreate Your Favorite Dishes Dairy-Free]
Finding dairy-free keto recipes can be tough –
It seems like most of the keto recipes out there contain large amounts of dairy products and every keto blogger is obsessed with cheese…
Snack on cheese sticks! Use cheese as a pizza crust! Turn cheese into crackers!
But if you’re going dairy-free to improve your health (giving up dairy can clear up digestive issues and get rid of troublesome acne) or you’re dairy-sensitive, don’t despair.
This article will walk you through the best substitutes for butter, milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. And we’ll include links to plenty of recipes for you to try!
But first: why would you avoid dairy when it’s low carb?
It’s true that dairy is low in carbs, and high in fat. So it sounds like the perfect Keto food.
But dairy (especially processed forms of dairy) isn’t very necessarily good for your health.
Here are 3 quick reasons why you should avoid dairy on Keto:
1) Processed dairy is missing nutrients
Most forms of dairy we eat is highly processed. It’s not the original raw form that has been nourishing humans for generations.
Instead, we destroy the enzymes that help us digest dairy, we change the fats in them, and we often load them with other chemicals like preservatives, colorings, and flavorings.
So, while dairy can be very healthy, most of what you buy in the supermarket is not.
2) Dairy products are easy to eat too much of
As you probably know if you love cheese, it’s tough to only eat one small bite.
And that’s one of the main reasons why we suggest people cut out the dairy on Keto. If you doing Keto for weight loss, then dairy can be the sneaky ingredient that’s causing your weight-loss to stall.
3) Dairy could cause underlying health issues you’re unaware of
Most of us don’t think we’re sensitive to dairy, but the fact is, you might be and just not know it.
I have met so many people that insisted they were not sensitive to dairy only to finally admit that they feel so much better without it years later.
I’m one of those folks!
I swore I wasn’t sensitive to dairy – after all, I had been drinking milk my whole life. And I love cheese and heavy cream in my tea.
Giving up dairy seemed like one of those things that was trendy but totally impractical as well as unnecessary.
I was severely wrong.
Not only does avoiding all dairy clear up my acne, but it also gets rid of my digestive issues. And many other folks say it clears their sinus problems, bloating, joint pain, arthritis, etc.
Plus, dairy may not have all the health benefits we think it does. Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. says, “Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to the Nurses’ Health Study dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent!”
So, if you’re suffering from any of these long-term issues that you didn’t think could be related to dairy…
Then I suggest giving up dairy for a month and seeing the effects.
And if you’d like a more detailed run-down of why dairy may not be that great for your health, check out our article here.
Keto Swaps for butter
Butter seems to find its way into almost every keto recipe, whether you’re baking a batch of sweet treats or watching herby garlic sauce melt into the surface of a juicy steak.
However, there are some great Keto substitutes for butter:
1. Keto substitute for butter: Ghee
Ghee is perfect for roasting veggies, using in scrambled eggs, blending into coffee or drizzling onto steaks. And it’s ideal for baking sweet things, like cookies and cakes.
What is ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter popular in Indian cuisines. The milks solids are essentially cooked off leaving a deliciously creamy and yellowish fat that is solid when it’s cold. It has a high smoking point, is very nutritious, and tastes almost just like butter.
And because it’s had the milk solids removed, it’s almost completely lactose-free and casein-free. And that means you’ll get to enjoy ghee even if you’re sensitive to dairy.
Jewels Doskicz, RN, a Registered Nurse living with autoimmune conditions says, “If you have celiac disease and are lactose intolerant this is the product for you. Ghee can be found at most natural food grocery stores and is well worth the extra money spent. Because of the rich flavor imparted in this oil, ghee can be used sparingly and is suitable to all diets.”
You can find ghee online and in health food stores or make it yourself at home!
Recipes for making your own ghee:
Making ghee in the slow cooker
Flavored Ghee Infusions – 3 Ways
How to Make Ghee (and how to make garlic infused ghee)
2. Keto substitute for butter: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used instead of butter for most recipes. You won’t get that same buttery flavor, but you’ll instead get a creamy coconut flavor in your dishes.
Coconut oil has a high smoking point and is also solid at colder temperatures like butter.
Use coconut oil for baking and sautéing.
3. Keto substitute for butter: Lard
Lard is a great keto butter alternative especially in savory dishes (like when you’re making low carb rolls or pie-crusts).
Just be aware that it can have a slight pork flavor if you buy leaf lard – that’s why most folks stick to savory recipes or use ghee instead.
Keto Swaps for milk/cream
Milk is one of the easiest dairy products to replace, and there are a couple of different options you can go for
1. Keto substitute for milk and cream: Coconut milk/cream
Coconut milk is a creamy and delicious alternative to regular milk. You can use it if you’re making a crustless quiche, preparing a chia pudding or whipping up a low-carb dessert.
Coconut cream is thicker and richer version than coconut milk. You can stir it into your coffee instead of creamer, use it to make sauces, and substitute it into recipes as an alternative to heavy cream.
You can either make coconut milk yourself or buy canned or cartons of coconut milk from the store, just try to avoid ones with preservatives, additives or emulsifiers like guar gum.
And remember to double check the ingredients on anything you buy – in particular, check it doesn’t contain any added sugars as some cocktail mixtures are called coconut cream but contain added sugar.
Confused about the different types of coconut milk/cream/oil/butter?
Here’s a quick rundown:
Coconut milk typically comes in 2 forms:
- In larger cardboard cartons. These are sometimes in the refrigerated section of a supermarket near the regular milk. Look for ones that say unsweetened and check for added sugar. These are great for adding into coffee/tea/smoothies. They should contain around 45 calories per cup (240 ml).
- In cans (we like this brand). These are typically creamier coconut milks than in the larger cartons. They are often found in the foreign foods section of supermarkets in the US. Double check ingredients for sugar. These are basically more concentrated (i.e., less water) versions of the cartons. So there is usually 400-450 calories per cup (240 ml).
Coconut cream usually comes in cans (we like this brand). You can sometimes find smaller cartons of these as coffee creamers. These are just even more concentrated versions of the cans. So there’s usually 480+ calories per cup (240 ml).
You can also get coconut cream by refrigerating or chilling a can of coconut milk for half a day. This lets the cream settle on top and you can then scoop it out with a spoon. This will usually create an even higher-fat and calorie-dense version of the coconut cream found in cans.
Coconut oil is the pure oil that comes from coconuts (we like this brand). Like we mentioned above, this can be a great substitute for butter or other cooking oils. It can also be added to coffees and teas and smoothies (but best blended as otherwise, it’ll float on top of your drink).
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Megan Ware, RDN notes that coconut oil can help you control your blood sugar, make your hair shiny, and even reduce your stress. “It has antistress and antioxidant properties, which could make it useful as an antidepressant, according to research in rodents.”
MCT oil is medium-chain triglycerides and is often extracted from coconut oil. It’s been linked to various health benefits and is often suggested for folks on Keto diets.
And while we think adding a few drops of MCT oil to your morning smoothie or Keto coffee is a great idea, we don’t think you should be cooking with it.
The main issue is that if you’re unused to MCT oil, then it can cause digestive issues like diarrhea. So, start using it by adding a few drops or ¼ teaspoon into your drinks and work up from there.
Coconut butter/manna (we like this brand) is a combination of coconut oil with dried pieces of coconut. It’s dried pieces of coconut processed until the oils come out. These are great for making fat bombs and desserts, but they don’t work as a cooking oil or as a creamer for drinks.
2. Keto substitute for milk and cream: Nut-based milks
Almond milk is the most popular nut-based milk. But there are other alternatives too, like cashew milk, and even pistachio milk.
Whichever type you go for, they’re all great for substituting into cake and cookie recipes, adding to your coffee or using as the base for a smoothie.
A word of warning, though: most store-bought nut milks contain sugar, preservatives, flavorings, colorings, thickeners and other additives. So you’ll need to check their labels very carefully before you buy them.
Or you can make your own nut-based milks at home, to guarantee they’re additive free. It’s easier than you think!
3. Avoid using these milks on Keto:
Even though these are dairy-free and usually labeled gluten-free as well, we suggest you avoid these on a Keto diet: soy milk, rice milk and oat milk.
Many folks on Keto add in a lot of soy (especially if you’re trying to stay Keto vegan), but too much processed soy products can be problematic.
And soy milk is a highly processed soy product. Here’s an article with more detail on why soy milk should be avoided on a keto diet.
Rice milk and oat milk usually have a lot more carbs (depending on how watered down they are). They may also have leftover proteins that can cause gut irritation in some people. So best to avoid these.
Keto Swaps for cheese
Many people on Keto load up their meals with cheese.
In fact, searching for dairy-free Keto recipes can often be painful as you have to scroll through pages and pages before finding one that doesn’t feature cheese.
On our website, all of our cookbooks and meal plans are dairy-free (except for ghee as explained above). We hope that makes your browsing for recipes a lot easier.
However, if you miss that cheesy texture and flavor, then there are some great Keto cheese substitutes:
1. Keto Substitute for Cheese: Cashew Cheese & Other Nut Cheeses
Cashew cheese is perhaps the most popular type of dairy-free “cheese.”
It’s easy to make. Just soak the cashews overnight in cold water and then blend really well the next day. You’ll be left with a creamy cheese (a bit like ricotta). It’s perfect for spreading on Keto pizza bases or using as a dip.
Here’s the full recipe for cashew cheese.
Lots of other nuts are great for making dairy-free “cheese” with as well.
The main thing to note is that nuts are easy to overeat and do contain a surprising amount of carbs. So don’t eat too much of this.
2. Keto Substitute for Cheese: Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast comes in flakes or as a powder, and it’s perfect for sprinkling on top of veggies, mixing into scrambled eggs, or stirring into your soup to add a cheesy flavor.
It’s easy to find nutritional yeast in health food stores or online, but be sure you check the ingredients and choose a brand which is gluten-free!
3. Keto Substitute for Cheese: Cauliflower “Cheese”
Cauliflower is one of my favorite foods – you can use it to create so much! Plus, it’s healthy and Keto-friendly.
So check out this recipe for a nut-free, sliceable dairy-free cheese.
And how about this cauliflower nachos dip recipe to go with your keto crackers?
4. Keto Substitute for Cheese: Zucchini “Cheese”
This zucchini cheese recipe uses zucchinis and gelatin to create a sliceable cheese that’s a light yellow in color. The cheesy flavor is provided by the nutritional yeast in the recipe.
Keto Swaps for yogurt
Instead of Greek yogurt, try these dairy-free options instead for Keto yogurt.
Note that fermented yogurt will need a bit of sugar to get the fermentation going, but that sugar is converted so there’s very little left in the end yogurt.
1. Keto Substitute for Yogurt: Coconut Yogurt
The main Keto dairy-free substitute for yogurt is coconut yogurt.
It’s delicious and creamy and you can even make your own.
It’s great to enjoy with Keto “granola” or to use as sour cream and creme fraiche.
2. Keto Substitute for Yogurt: Nut-Based Yogurts
And if you don’t like the coconut flavor, then give these nut-based yogurts a try. You basically just pick your favorite nut-milk and use that as a base instead of coconut milk.
Keto Swaps for ice cream
This is the one we’ve all been waiting for: how to make keto-friendly ice cream! Because although we all want to improve our health, no one really wants to give up ice cream….and with these Keto substitutes and recipes, you won’t have to!
The basic idea is to use a dairy-free milk/cream as the base for your ice-cream.
From almond milk to coconut milk to cashew milk, you have plenty of options for your ice cream.
Egg yolks also help to add additional creaminess to your Keto ice cream.
And by making your ice cream at home, you can control exactly what goes into it. So you’ll avoid artificial coloring, flavoring, and hidden sweeteners.
Instead, you can use 100% dark chocolate and/or small amounts of berries to flavor your ice cream.
Check out our roundup of Ketogenic ice cream recipes here for ideas.