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Top Tips for a Dairy Free Thanksgiving


From the lactose intolerant to vegans, Thanksgiving celebrations can be a challenge. Luckily, non-dairy foods and ideas have finally hit the mainstream. The following substitute ideas should now be fairly easy to find on supermarket shelves, and will help to maintain the tradition of a homemade holiday feast that everyone can enjoy:

Milk: When preparing bread and desserts, plain almond and rice milks will work beautifully. For savory fare, the unsweetened versions of Almond Breeze, Organic EdenSoy, or Silk Soymilk (the green package) are each good options. Some feel that the flavor of soymilk doesn’t quite jive with mashed potatoes. For this dish, you may wish to experiment with oat milk. It can be purchased in stores, or very easily prepared at home. See for a simple recipe.

Butter: For the rich flavors of holiday cooking and baking, the new Earth Balance Natural Buttery Sticks are a top choice. Earth Balance and Spectrum Naturals also produce non-hydrogenated shortenings to keep that piecrust flaky. Of course, oil (olive, canola, or vegetable) is an excellent replacement for butter or margarine in practically every application. When a recipe calls for butter or margarine, around ¼ less oil (give or take) can typically be used in its place.

Cream: Coconut cream (the thick portion skimmed off the top of whole fat coconut milk) and tofu are fantastic alternatives. Coconut cream can be used as a straight substitute for dairy cream in your favorite whipped cream recipe. Tofu offers versatility, based upon the type you purchase. Soft will yield a light cream when pureed, while extra-firm will produce your thickest option. For a truly creamy texture, always choose varieties that are labeled as “Silken.” Though for pumpkin pies and cheesecakes, the non-Silken tofu selections will give your dessert a more traditional texture.

Cheese: For some, scalloped potatoes just aren’t the same without a topping of cheese. Admittedly, creating a good dairy-free cheese is not an easy feat. Most soy cheeses (particularly the most popular ones) do in fact contain dairy. Nonetheless, there are a few good brands on the market. One of particular note is Vegan Gourmet. Rumor has it that this stuff really melts. If cheese flavor is really all you are seeking, try some nutritional yeast. It tastes much better than it sounds, and offers a Parmesan-like flavor to most meals.

For further guidance, check the recipe section at With over 250 recipes and growing, there are a number of selections for pies (from pecan to pumpkin), potatoes (mashed and scalloped), stuffing, and gravy sans milk. If you suddenly become allergic to the kitchen as Thanksgiving approaches, don’t despair. Many prepared foods are also at your beckon call:

Pies: Wholly Wholesome and Mother Nature’s Goodies both offer a vegan/dairy-free pumpkin pie, fruit pies, and several pie shells. Most of their products can be found in the frozen (ready to bake) section of Whole Foods markets. Whole Foods is also selling three of their own vegan pies for the holidays: pumpkin, cherry-blackberry, and apple-cranberry-currant. For those with additional dietary requirements, Fabe’s Naturals and Natural Feast sell a variety of gluten-free / egg-free / dairy-free pies.

Dessert Toppers: A la mode is a must this pie…I mean holiday season. You won’t need to look far for Turtle Mountain’s Purely Decadent and Soy Delicious lines. This incredibly popular brand has made it into most supermarkets in North America (even Walmart). For a good non-soy choice, Good Karma’s Organic Rice Divine™ can be found at Trader Joe’s and other natural food retailers. If low fat is your goal, then take a chance on up and comer Whole Soy & Co. They offer a deliciously creamy line of soy frozen yogurts. Their vanilla bean and French vanilla flavors will be a welcome addition to any warm fruit pie. For a dollop of whipped cream atop that pumpkin pie seek out Soyatoo (in spray cans).

Side Dishes & Full Dinners: Both Whole Foods and Wild Oats (also known as Henry’s, Capers, and Sun Harvest) Markets are offering full vegan meals for Thanksgiving. Be sure to choose the cinnamon-orange yams over the mashed potatoes at Wild Oats to keep the dinner dairy-free. If you are a carnivorous non-dairy consumer, order an all-natural turkey along with your vegan feast. Both will be prepared in advance and ready for your pick-up. Prices may vary by location, but expect to pay just $15 to $25 per person for this fully catered meal.

For more non-dairy ideas, visit Go Dairy Free is an informational website offering recipes, product reviews, substitute ideas, resources, extensive product lists, and a new non-dairy guidebook.


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