How to Cook and Eat Dairy-Free Entrees

Eliminating dairy from your favorite entrees may be somewhat challenging. Your entree is the foundation of the dining experience. If the entree tastes good, you’ll remember that meal for a while, and it may become part of your collection of family favorites.

Some entrees are dairy-free without even trying, such as stir-fry over rice or spaghetti with tomato sauce, for instance. They don’t have any dairy in them unless you reach for a glass of milk or the Parmesan cheese shaker.

Many entree recipes do contain a lot of dairy as a result of North Americans’ love for cheese and other dairy products. Think about some of your favorite comfort foods, like grilled cheese sandwiches, creamy casseroles, and lasagna smothered in cheese.

Just because you’re eliminating dairy from your diet doesn’t mean you have to change your love for these types of creamy comfort dishes. All you have to do is use your newfound dairy-free cooking skills and a few secret ingredients — nondairy alternatives — to replace the dairy in the traditional recipes.

Manicotti and many other pasta dishes freeze well. Consider making a double batch and freezing half. That way, you’ll have a quick, dairy-free dinner (or lunch!) ready to reheat when you don’t have time to cook from scratch.

Hot sandwiches have a common ingredient that works like glue to help the fillings and bread stay together. That ingredient — you guessed it — is cheese . . . warm, stretchy, melted cheese. The good news is that just because you’re going dairy-free doesn’t mean you have to avoid cheesy sandwiches. Many nondairy variations of cheddar, American, mozzarella, jack, Swiss, and others are available. Experiment with them to recreate your favorite cheesy sandwiches, such as the following:

  • The Reuben: You can also make it with sauerkraut, nondairy Swiss cheese, and rye — no meat. Thousand Island dressing is a great addition if you like the taste. (Just be sure the brand you buy doesn’t contain milk. Read the ingredient label to find out.)

  • The patty melt: Try using a veggie burger patty and nondairy Swiss cheese. Add your favorite burger toppings (ketchup, a pickle, a scoop of salsa), as desired.

  • The grilled cheese-and-veggie: One nice variation uses nondairy mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, and spinach.

Soy cheese works well in these sandwiches because it melts so well. However, if you use it, be aware that some brands contain casein, a milk protein, which you want to avoid if you’re allergic to the milk protein.

Dairy ingredients characterize many of the foods prepared in Northern and Northwestern Europe as well as in North America. In other parts of the world, though, these ingredients play a much smaller role — or none at all. If you’re up for trying some different ethnic foods, going dairy-free doesn’t have to be as dramatic a change as with most traditional entrees you may eat. Your reward will be a much bigger collection of recipes to draw from as you plan meals. As you experiment with new foods, expect to find a few duds along the way, which is okay because you’ll also find some new favorites, too.

The great thing about these recipes is that you won’t have to shuttle around town trying to find unusual ingredients. You can find most of the ingredients in these recipes at your local grocery store.

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