NO cheeses for this missus
June 28, 2012 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Help me pretend I am not missing cheese horribly! Suggestions for cheese & milk free dishes & resources.

Realized I have a pretty serious dairy allergy which only came to light after doing an elimination diet a few months back. Along with trolling past threads here, I have been online looking for resources.

So far, I am really struggling with the following:

- finding foods I like that don't involve dairy to start with (as opposed to, say, having a cheese-less pizza, which makes me weep for humanity)...I really love cheese. Happy for suggestions!

- finding good cheese alternatives - I have a good grip on the liquid side (love rice, soy & almond milks, soy creamer, etc), and generally ate more dairy solids than liquids to begin with. I know that I like soy cream cheese and find nutritional yeast a reasonable sub for parmesan cheese.

- to generally stop thinking about cheese all the time

- finding good resources for dairy-free living which are non-vegan (tho I acknowledge the debt to that community), not lactose (or 'curing lactose intolerance') focused, or just too chock full of hippie/alternative wellness stuff.

As this is an allergy, 'lactose-free' solutions won't really work, please do not suggest any homeopathic or chiropractor-y solutions or allergy shots.
posted by SassHat to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My wife took a break from dairy a couple of months ago and we found that Daiya "cheese" "shreds" were an acceptable substitute in things like mexican food and grilled cheese and so forth. I would not at all be surprised if they worked well on pizza.

I'm a huge cheese nerd and former cheesemonger, and I'm not going to tell you that they're an exact substitution or that you won't miss real cheese, but they're not bad.
posted by gauche at 11:37 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just for clarification, is it all dairy products, including sheep and goat's milk? My mother was recently diagnosed with an allergy to cow's milk, but the others are okay, so I thought I would check.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In hopes of helping you stop thinking about cheese all the time:

My understanding is that cheese is a good source of good quality salt. Consider buying kosher salt or a good quality sea salt. Cook it with a good quality carb (potatoes, organic noodles, etc) and a healthy oil like olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee (if you can have ghee). My experience is the carbs and fats are required to absorb it properly, and that may be why some people are cheese fiends (because cheese basically has all that naturally combined, which is unusual). See if that helps you stop longing for it like a bad relationship you cannot get over.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 11:43 AM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I can't do dairy from any animal. Lard (saturated fat and lots of other fats) keeps me from going insane from dairy craving. (Like, I have no dairy craving at all, down from desperation, though I miss pizza.) You can spread it like cream cheese and add it to stuff just like butter. It stops being gross very fast, and now I don't really think about it, and it's an essential part of my diet.

For some reason, olive oil and coconut oil don't do anything to the dairy craving. Only animal fats. Tallow worked too, but it doesn't sit with me quite as well as the lard does.

I get it from a butcher that goes through a pretty awesome farm. (USDA inspected, etc., etc.) You don't want anything hydrogenated.
posted by zeek321 at 11:43 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: (Re Michele, above, I need my salt too. Interesting. I use himalayan pink salt and "Real Salt". If you try them, make sure you're getting iodine from somewhere. You probably are, but IANAD.)
posted by zeek321 at 11:45 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Daiya is - for certain applications - a really excellent cheese substitute. The shreds make a superlative childhood-type grilled American cheese sandwich - add some thin-sliced tomato or avocado and some mayo or mustard. It also works pretty well in mac and cheese. It has almost no actual nutritional content and doesn't sub well for cheese in fancier settings, but I have had to ban it from my house because it reduces me to eating nothing but grilled cheese if I have it around.

Also, the following has convinced someone that it contained parmesan:

Cook some pasta. Drain, reserving 1/2 C. water.

Chop a bunch of garlic. Heat a bunch of olive oil. Cook the garlic until it is bordering on crisp (this is important, actually) but not burnt/dark brown. Add nutritional yeast to form a thin paste. Add a little fresh lemon juice and a little of the pasta water and some salt. Keep on tweaking the balance of ingredients until it tastes the way you want it to. Add to pasta.
posted by Frowner at 11:53 AM on June 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Also, the people at Vegan Menu are obsessed with Daiya. I have not tried many of their recipes, but they seem really into incorporating it into cheese-like things, far more so than many vegan blogs.
posted by Frowner at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Do you like Asian food? Thai, Japanese, Korean, regional Chinese - deliciously dairy free all the way (well, most of the way, look out for weird fusion thing like cream cheese in wontons or sushi rolls and cheez food in budaejigae, but that stuff is pretty specific and avoidable).
posted by peachfuzz at 11:57 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: I can't do dairy from any animal. Lard (saturated fat and lots of other fats) keeps me from going insane from dairy craving. (Like, I have no dairy craving at all, down from desperation, though I miss pizza.) You can spread it like cream cheese and add it to stuff just like butter. It stops being gross very fast, and now I don't really think about it, and it's an essential part of my diet.

You could also try schmaltz, which is super delicious!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing that will help you stop thinking about cheese is finding other foods --- just as luscious and nourishing --- that fit into the same dietary slot, filling the gap that cheese would otherwise fill in your meals. In this thread, people offers suggestions for dairy-free spreads and dips that will offer some of the same luxurious, flavorful richness that cheese does.

A suggestion I made there and will make here: romesco sauce. So luscious and full of flavor, rich in good fats and nutritionally dense, and so versatile! I made some today, as it happens, to serve over white bean dip, and I'll use the leftovers in a zillion ways: spread on a sandwich, served as a dip with crudites, tossed with hot cooked green beans or broccoli, drizzled over pasta, or atop a frittata --- I can't even count the ways I can use it up.

say, having a cheese-less pizza, which makes me weep for humanity)...I really love cheese. Happy for suggestions!

See, this is where romesco would be handy. I can and do eat cheese, but tonight's dinner will probably be a piece of fresh pita bread topped with romesco and sauteed vegetables --- pretty close to a cheeseless pizza, and completely, utterly delicious.
posted by Elsa at 12:04 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Extra soft tofu (soondubu in a Korean grocery, Silken if you're in a North American supermarket) is creamy and works very well in simple pudding recipes among other things.
posted by thatdawnperson at 12:08 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Sorry, SassHat. I share your predicament. Over the years, I've broken down my cheese cravings into three categories: umami flavor, the sensation of creaminess, and the sensation of meltiness.

- For umami, you can try things like miso, seaweed, etc.
- For creaminess, I've found that the best options are things that have sufficient fat content to be smooth on the tongue: namely, coconut milk, egg yolk emulsions, and avocados. Egg yolk emulsions can include everything from Avgolemono soup thickened with egg to homemade mayonnaise to zabaglione custard. Avocado can be blended into a variety of things to make them creamier -- see avocado chocolate smoothie or avocado alfredo sauce. They don't taste like guacamole, I promise.
- For meltiness, the only satisfactory substitute I've found is Daiya shreds, which I find at my local health food co-op. If you spray the shreds lightly with oil, they will melt and even toast. This is also the most passable cheese substitute I have found. It's not real cheese, but it's ok, and it doesn't have that weird soy taste.

As for resources, I find that vegan food blogs are generally my best source for recipes, even though I'm not actually vegan. I find it's not too difficult to adapt these recipes for a non-vegan (hint: add bacon). One I like: Level Five Vegan.

Oh, who am I kidding? What I miss most about cheese is ... cheese. Oh, for a bowl of mac & Velveeta! Oh, for a luscious triple-cream brie! Oh, for a cheddar so sharp it stings! You will never get over cheese. Never. I'm sorry, I feel your pain.
posted by ourobouros at 12:09 PM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Nacheez is a delicious nacho cheese sauce substitute. it's good on veggies as well as chips. It's pretty spendy though.
posted by Duffington at 12:09 PM on June 28, 2012

Strict paleo doesn't have any cheese but it does have lots of delicious meat and fat! You might want to check out some of those recipes. (one of my favorites is nomnompaleo)
posted by vespabelle at 12:18 PM on June 28, 2012

I find that bacon or kale chips do a good job of satisfying my cheese cravings.
posted by hishtafel at 12:37 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: I used to be allergic to milk (also corn, wheat, eggs and peanuts) and it sucks.

If you're craving creamy comfort food, don't forget that mayo is dairy-free. You might not be able to have cheesy goodness, but you can have potato salad, coleslaw, creamy pesto pasta salad (use nutritional yeast for the parm) and those sorts of things.

Definitely check out non-dairy cheeses like Daiya, you may find that they work for you. Melting is usually where the cheese substitutes can get a little funky. To combat that, I used to mix the shredded "cheese" with the sauce or other ingredients before melting. For example, mix the shreds with pizza sauce, spread on the crust and top with all the delicious toppings you can round up.

Good luck!
posted by annaramma at 1:09 PM on June 28, 2012

I feel your pain. In my experience, the cravings do go away after a couple of weeks of strict abstinence. (There's a theory that casein, the protein in dairy, breaks down into an opiate-like molecule that binds to opioid receptors in your gut, leading to an actual addiction. I have no idea if the science is at all valid, but it certainly sounds plausible to this cheese fiend.)

Definitely check out paleo recipes/blogs/sites (not primal, which allows cheese) - there are a ton of them and a lot of them are really good. Asian food is great, since you won't be expecting it to taste like cheese (and Thai curries, that are coconut-milk based, have a definite dairy-like mouthfeel.)

I would strongly recommend avoiding fake cheeses as much as you can, because that will just make you want real cheese more. If you're just dying, though, Amy's dairy-free mac and cheese is totally acceptable. (I occasionally get it when all they have is dairy-free gluten-free, not just regular gluten-free, and it fills the hole just fine.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:26 PM on June 28, 2012

Consider looking up cheese substitutes for a raw diet. You'll find lots of recipes involving blending up cashews and the like, and that, to me, is much more satisfying than most commercial cheese substitutes. In particular, Veganomicon has an enchilada recipe that involves a lime cashew creme, and it's pretty much to die for.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Avocado + soy sauce hits a similar spot for me, in sandwiches and similar applications.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone! I knew Metafilter could help me with this.
posted by SassHat at 2:07 PM on June 28, 2012

Thirding or fourthing Daiya. It's so far the best cheese substitute I have found but it only works in dishes. There is no replacement yet for cheese and crackers, though I am hearing excellent things about Daiya's new wedges.

Also, I eat nooch (nutritional yeast) on just about everything!
posted by Kitteh at 2:45 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: I am so sorry for your loss.

Cashew butter is pretty good. You can make it savory or sweet.

Can you do eggs at all? If so, learn how to make olive oil or lard-based hollandaise sauce. (WARNING: this is very dangerous! It's a stupid easy recipe and you'll end up eating delicious sauce for a week straight, at minimum)

Mashed up avocados are good for a creamy, blended paste. Consider adding hot sauces or flavor cubes to a batch.

Slow cook a pork roast and save the melted fat for warming on toast and's got a similar rich, delicious flavor to a baked brie.

Oh, I forgot...paté! Tapenade. Mustard mayo. Caramelized onions. Roasted...and I mean slooooow roasted garlic. That is divine.

If you want a sweet dessert cheese, mascarpone-like, mash up a banana and cook it down with coconut or almond milk and flour into a pudding-like consistency. Yum.

These are the things I've done to recreate cheese when I've been cheeseless.
Best of luck to you.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:02 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

For things like pizza, try the vegan cheese - Daiya was listed above and I think it is supposed to be one of the best. I had a slice of vegan pizza once that had roasted veggies and some of this cheese, and it was delicious. I'm even sort of a cheese snob and I thought it was really good.
posted by fromageball at 3:54 PM on June 28, 2012

I hear you! No dairy for me either. Luckily, after about 8 months on a Paleo diet, plus a whole lot of supplements, I've improved to the point that I can now have goat milk products. But still no cow dairy. No way. Give it a try, the casein in the goat milk is more similar to that of human breast milk so some people can tolerate it better.
posted by Neekee at 4:51 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Avocadoes and salt. In an omelette it filled the same slot as cheese. I imagine it would also work for pizza and mexican. But you need the salt.

Nut butter on toast. Melty and sticky and salty. And easier than cheese on toast! Not to mention nuts. Preferably salted.

Strongly flavoured dips with tahini in them. Hommus and baba ghanoush specifically.

Also daal (with enough salt), thai curries (coconut milk) and slow cooked meaty casseroles. Oh, and roasts. For summer salads, add fruit, lentils, marinated veges or nuts instead of cheese.

You'll probably find that adding more salt than you are used to helps.
posted by kjs4 at 6:31 PM on June 28, 2012

3rding nut butters, subtly added to stews etc for richness and mouthfeel.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:05 PM on June 28, 2012

I've found that when I'm craving cheese, it's usually Cheddar that I'm craving, and often it's the sour component that I want. Sour foods, especially ones with lime juice, hit that craving for me.
posted by telophase at 8:23 PM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Check out this blog entry about umami; disregard the part about veganism if you're not interested, and just read about what umami is, its link to cheese cravings, and what other foods have it.

Also, if you can find it, try American Flatbread's Vegan Harvest Pizza, which is made with Daiya. It's in the freezer in the health food section of my local grocery store and OMG IT'S FUCKING DELICIOUS.
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:38 PM on June 28, 2012

Oh I guess ourobouros already said umami. In that case, what ourobouros said!
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:48 PM on June 28, 2012

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