When I first found out that I could no longer eat dairy products, I didn’t know how to replace butter with other products. Non-dairy fats are sometimes hard to find at stores, or are very expensive, or they don’t taste at all like butter. I needed a fat source that the entire family could eat, fit my budget, and tasted good. I learned that with a little creativity I could cook without butter and still have delicious food.
- SHORTENING. My first try was shortening. I was able to get shortening that is dairy-free, and I used it for a while. Baking products like cookies and biscuits turned out great. However, there were two things I didn’t like about shortening: the trans fats from the partially hydrogenated oil and the mess. I don’t like scooping it out of the container and then having to scrub the measuring cups afterwards. It’s not really a big deal, but it was something that I didn’t enjoy. The shortening sticks were a new product and were a lot more expensive.
- CANOLA OIL. So, I decided to try canola oil in my baking recipes. I was impressed by the results. The batter would often be different in texture than with butter or shortening, but the finished product would have a nice texture after baking. I still use canola in a lot of my baking now. It is a healthier alternative to shortening, and the family can all eat the same food. It is also available at every grocery store I have ever visited. (I do realize that canola oil isn’t the perfect health food, but considering balancing a budget, avoiding allergy outbreaks, and eating healthier–it works for me).
- SPREADS. Lot of spreads and margarines contain whey, which don’t meet the non-dairy criteria. I have found some spreads that are dairy free, but they don’t use they don’t work well in some baking recipes because of the high water content. Some don’t taste like butter because they’re filled with healthy oils, and at this point in my life I would rather eat my biscuits dry than use a spread when I don’t like the taste. If I need fish oil I will take it in a pill, but I suppose I am biased because I am not a fish fan.
- NUCOA. My favorite margarine that is completely dairy-free is Nucoa buttery sticks. Not all stores carry it, I have been able to find it at WinCo, Smith, Albertson’s, and other chains that carry the “essential everyday brand”. It is a little more expensive than dairy margarines, but it is cheaper than butter. It is the closest thing to butter that I have found.
(Update 3/14/2017: I can no longer find Nucoa buttery sticks. It seems company merged with Smart Balance, and phased out Nucoa. Now, what I can find in the stores is “Smart Balance dairy free Original.” This margarine actually reminds me more of butter than Nucoa, but it is also more expensive and comes in a tub instead of sticks that you can put on a butter serving platter. It passes the popcorn test–where melted and poured on popcorn, the popcorn stays crisp instead of turning soggy).
- COCONUT OIL. Another option I’ve started using is coconut oil. It is more expensive than most oils, but you can find it at lots of stores. If you want to buy in bulk you can try Tropical Traditions.com. Stores like Costco often sell coconut oil at a cheaper price than your local grocery store. I really like the baking goods made with coconut oil. Also coconut oil is a healthy choice. The health uses for coconut oil are seemingly never-ending. So, I would definitely keep it in my pantry.
- BACON FAT. And let’s be honest, sometimes dairy-free food is not as flavorful as food with dairy. I like cooking bacon and saving the fat and drippings from the bacon to cook other foods and boost their flavor with bacon grease-like fried potatoes.
- OLIVE OIL. I have come to love the taste of olive oil. Not all olive oils have the same taste, so if you find it too strong I suggest you start with a light olive oil that has a very mild taste. Then you could try some different brands and find your favorite We love doing blind taste tests at our house for fun to see which product is really our favorite. I enjoy roasted vegetables with olive oil or garlic toast with olive oil instead of butter. It is also fantastic on noodles or brown rice with salt and pepper.
These are tricks that have worked great for me. What kind of oils have you tried?