Healthy Eating

The Best Dairy-Free Alternatives For Your Favorite Dairy-Rich Comfort Foods

Just because you’re going dairy-free doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite comfort foods.

By: Lauren Panoff MPH, RD

Just because you’re going dairy-free doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite comfort foods. In fact, dairy-free alternatives have come a long way in the last few years. You may be surprised by just how deliciously similar they are to your conventional go-to’s, in both taste and versatility. 

If you need some great ideas for how to make your favorite dairy-rich comfort foods without the dairy, we’ve got you covered. 

Dairy-Free Alternatives to Use in Your Favorite Comfort Food Dishes 

Step aside, dairy. It’s never been easier to replace cow’s milk in recipes — even when it comes to the rich and creamy comfort foods you crave. Here are some of the best dairy-free alternatives, including simple homemade options and top-notch non-dairy products you can grab at most grocery stores.

Dairy-Free Sour Cream Alternatives 

If you’re used to topping your baked potatoes, hash browns, breakfast scrambles, or tacos with sour cream, you’re probably wondering what you could possibly use instead. After all, sour cream has a unique, slightly tart flavor with a smooth and creamy texture. 

One of the best ways to mimic sour cream without dairy is to make your own at home. As long as you don’t have a tree nut allergy, cashews are a great option. Here’s how to make it.

Dairy-Free Cashew Cream

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 squeeze of Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Water, to blend (as needed, about ½ cup)


Step #1: Soak a cup of raw, unsalted cashews in hot water for 10-15 minutes, and then drain the water. 

Step #2: Add your cashews to a high-speed blender or food processor, along with the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sea salt, and just enough water to achieve the consistency you want (usually around ½ cup).

Need a nut-free option? No problem. Here’s how to make a tofu-based blend. 

Dairy-Free Tofu Sour Cream

You’ll need:

  • ½-pound of soft or silken tofu
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt, to taste


Step #1: In a high-speed blender or food processor, blend the silken tofu avocado oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt to taste. 

There are also plenty of great sour cream alternatives at the store if you just want to pick one up. You will generally be able to find it right next to the traditional sour cream in the dairy coolers. 

Some plant-based sour cream brands to try include: 

Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Substitutes 

Who doesn’t love a bagel smeared with cream cheese for breakfast? Or those spinach cream cheese puff pastry bites you always make for parties? Rest assured that you can still enjoy both of these recipes and more, with dairy-free alternatives to cream cheese. 

Similar to sour cream, raw, unsalted cashews also lend themselves well to homemade dairy-free cream cheese. Here’s how to make it:


  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • 1 tbsp vinegar 
  • 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice 
  • ¼ unrefined melted coconut oil 
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste 
  • Water as needed, to blend 

Step #1: Soak the cashews in hot water for 15 minutes, then rinse and drain. Next, blend with unsweetened plain non-dairy yogurt, nutritional yeast, vinegar, lemon juice, coconut oil, white miso paste, a pinch of salt and pepper, and as much water as you need for your desired consistency.

For a nut-free version, tofu makes a great base. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 block of extra-firm tofu, drained and thoroughly dried
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste 
  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • Seasoning or spices of choice, optional 


Step #1: Drain and thoroughly dry a block of extra-firm tofu. Crumble it up and toss it into your food processor with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper, avocado oil, and seasonings of choice. For instance, if you want herbed cream cheese, consider additions like chives, garlic, onion powder, basil, dill, or a combination of these. 

Step #2: Refrigerate for a few hours to help your tofu cream cheese set before using.

Alternatively, head to your grocery store and look for these brands: 

Dairy-Free Heavy Cream Alternatives

Heavy cream is a staple ingredient for things like whipped cream, creamy pasta sauce, heavier cream-based soups, and even some pudding recipes. How can you replace heavy cream — which is made of nearly 40% milk fat — with a plant-based substitute? 

Try blending together these combinations:

  • ¾ cup full-fat soy milk + ¼ cup melted vegan butter
  • ⅔ cup full-fat soy milk + ⅔ cup firm tofu
  • 1 can of full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight to set
  • 1 cup full-fat oat milk + 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted soaked cashews + 1 ¼ cups unsweetened non-dairy milk

If you don’t feel like making a heavy cream alternative at home, there are also several pre-made vegan heavy cream products, such as: 

Dairy-Free Butter Substitutes 

There’s nothing quite like a fresh slather of butter or the rich creaminess it contributes to a comfort food recipe. Fortunately, there are ways to replace conventional butter with a dairy-free alternative. 

The most obvious option is using a plant-based spread instead. Some of the most comparable products are: 

Alternatively, you might be looking for a simple substitution for butter in a recipe that you already have in your kitchen. The options below can work well in recipes to provide a similar creaminess when you don’t have butter on hand. 

  • Melted coconut oil 
  • Applesauce
  • Mashed avocado
  • Mashed banana
  • Cashew butter
  • Plant oils, like olive, avocado, or flax oil
  • Canned pumpkin puree

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Dairy-Free Comfort Without Compromise

There’s a misconception that in order to make our comfort foods as good as we’re used to, we have to stick to traditional ingredients — like dairy. But the truth is that whether you’re going dairy-free or need a non-dairy dish to bring to a gathering, comfort foods can be made just as stellar with plant-based alternatives. 

Use raw cashews, tofu, and non-dairy milk to make sour cream, heavy cream, and cream cheese. Simple ingredients like applesauce, mashed banana, or coconut oil can be used to replace butter in recipes. And there are a ton of plant-based dairy alternatives that are comparable and fun to try.