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How to Go Dairy-Free with Dips, Sauces, and Dressings

Customizing your condiments makes it a cinch to create meals with all the flavor you want but without the dairy ingredients you want to avoid . Your imagination is all that stands between you and a vast collection of condiments that can add flavor and interest to meals.

Homemade dips, spreads, sauces, and dressings taste extra good, because they’re fresh. And because you make them yourself, you can easily leave out — or add — the ingredients you prefer. Instead of paying premium prices for specialty products, such as those sold in natural foods stores, you can make your own for a fraction of the cost.

A dip is a type of sauce used to add flavor to foods. Rather than being poured over the food, though, like other sauces, foods eaten with dips are, well, dipped into it. Foods eaten with dips usually are those you can hold in your hand. They’re finger foods, such as carrots and other cut vegetables, crackers, bread sticks, tortilla chips, pita bread points, fruit slices, and others.

Dips commonly are made with sour cream, yogurt, or melted cheese as the base, but many can be made with nondairy substitutes or no dairy-like ingredients at all. Recipes for Baba Ghanouj (pronounced ba-ba ga NOOSH) and Spinach and Artichoke Hummus — both traditional Middle Eastern foods — include nothing but puréed vegetables or beans, tahini (sesame paste), and some spices to create delicious creamy dips.

Sauces are liquid or semi-solid toppings added as a complement to a wide range of foods, including meats, casseroles, and other main dishes — even pancakes and desserts. Sauces add color, moisture, and flavor to other foods. Think of them as accessories.

You can take full advantage of the power of sauces to elevate the appeal of many of the foods you serve. Sauces that traditionally contain milk, butter or cheese can be prepared with the help of nondairy substitutes, but some sauces, like marinara or other tomato sauces, don’t call for dairy at all.

The good news for anyone who wants to go dairy-free is that some of the best salad dressings are made with nothing more than vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices. Using your imagination and adding bits of fresh fruit or fruit juices, ground nuts and seeds, and other wholesome ingredients can make delicious variations.

If you’re more into creamy dressings, you’re still in luck. You can make creamy, nondairy salad dressings just by thinning plain soy yogurt with a bit of fruit juice or nondairy milk and adding your choice of fresh herbs. Experiment with your favorite ingredients and create other unique dressings of your own.

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