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Gluten-Free Basics & Beyond

Chapter 4

Removing the Dairy from GF Recipes

All of the Flavor, None of the Dairy

These ingredient substitutions will help you cut the dairy and gluten from your favorite recipes.

Many people on a gluten-free diet also have other food allergy issues, including the inability to digest dairy. In fact, one of the comments we heard most from gluten-free home cooks is that they’d like to know more about how to make recipes that are both gluten-free and dairy-free.

So, in response, we provide dairy-free variations for many of our gluten-free recipes. (Note: We used only the ATK gluten-free flour blends in our dairy-free testing; we don’t recommend using a store-bought flour blend when making recipes dairy-free.)


When it comes to dairy-free baking, we thought that replacing the butter would be the biggest hurdle since its texture and flavor play such a big role in many baked goods. To better understand this issue, we began by testing a number of dairy-free butter options in a handful of gluten-free recipes. The vegetable oil and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks both worked quite well in the recipes. The coconut oil also worked well but had a distinctive flavor that we knew would work only in coconut-flavored baked goods. Earth Balance Shortening Sticks and Coconut Spread fell short on flavor or tasted plasticky.

Vegetable oil is our preferred substitution for melted butter and browned butter in most recipes. It works particularly well when the recipe has another strong flavor. Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks are a good substitution for solid or softened butter. It also works well when a “buttery” flavor is important to the recipe; however, this product tastes fairly salty (so reduce or eliminate salt called for in the recipe). Coconut oil is a good replacement for solid, softened, or melted butter in recipes, although it has a distinctive coconut flavor.

Bring Back Bagels

Recipe Gluten-Free Bagels

All too often, the best part of a gluten-free bagel is the cream cheese meared on top. We wanted to change that.



There are a number of dairy-free milks on the market today, including those made from soy, rice, hemp, oats, quinoa, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and coconut. Right off the bat, we took hemp, oat, quinoa, and cashew milk off our list because they were just too difficult to find. We tested the remaining milks in gluten-free muffins and cookies, and found that soy milk and almond milk worked best. Soy milk is leaner than almond milk, which makes it an ideal replacement for low-fat milk. Rice milk is more watery and gave the baked goods an overly starchy and gummy texture. The flavor of coconut milk is too specific to make it a basic milk substitute.


We found it easy to make a buttermilk substitution by combining soy or almond milk with a dash of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. This works best when the buttermilk is not the main flavor but rather just a background note.

TO MAKE 1 CUP OF DAIRY-FREE BUTTERMILK: Mix 1 cup of unsweetened soy or almond milk with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or fresh lemon juice.

Heavy Cream

There are dozens of dairy-free cream options, including coffee creamers made of hydrogenated oil as well as more natural creamers made of soy, almonds, cashews, or coconut. We tested these more natural creamers and preferred the mild flavor of plain soy creamer. None of them can be whipped.

Whipped Cream

Since none of the heavy cream replacements we tried can be whipped, we tested several store-bought whipped products, including Soyatoo! Soy Whip and Soyatoo! Rice Whip, and homemade coconut whipped cream made using the thick layer of coconut fat found at the top of a can of coconut milk. Tasters didn’t like Soyatoo!’s Rice Whip but found their Soy Whip to be a decent substitute for whipped cream. The homemade coconut whipped cream was also a decent substitute, although it uses a partial can of coconut milk and has a noticeable coconut flavor. Note that while soy whip is naturally gluten-free, the Soyatoo! brand is not labeled gluten-free.

TO MAKE 1 CUP OF COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM: Refrigerate a 10-ounce can of regular (not low-fat) coconut milk for a few hours, and chill a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Using a spoon, skim only the top layer of cream from the coconut milk (about ¾ cup) and combine with 1½ teaspoons sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt in the chilled bowl. Beat the mixture on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture thickens and forms light peaks, about 2 minutes.

Muffins with Real Corn Flavor

Recipe Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

By using almost equal parts cornmeal and flour blend, we were able to create a moister crumb with a more powerful corn flavor.



We tested coconut milk yogurt, soy milk yogurt, and Greek-style almond milk yogurt in several of our gluten-free recipes. The almond milk yogurt was the least successful, producing biscuits with a strong, funky flavor and a gummy texture, and muffins that were mushy. Soy milk yogurt worked fine in the muffins, but the biscuits turned out drier and crumbly. In general, however, we found soy milk yogurt to be a decent substitution for plain whole-milk yogurt even though it produced slightly dry baked goods. We prefer coconut milk yogurt, which performed well in both recipes; surprisingly, we could not taste the coconut flavor.

Sour Cream

A number of our gluten-free recipes rely on sour cream to add richness and moisture. We found a variety of dairy-free brands on the market, including Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, Weyfair, Vegan Gourmet, and Green Valley, and put them all to the test using some of our own gluten-free recipes. Although these products are thicker than regular sour cream, they all worked well.

Cream Cheese

We use cream cheese in some gluten-free cake and cookie recipes to help add structure, richness, and chew. We tested two brands of dairy-free cream cheese in our recipes: Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Vegan Gourmet Cream Cheese. Both seemed more rubbery than regular cream cheese, but they worked equally well as dairy-free substitutes. In frosting recipes, they both produced a frosting with a slightly thinner, silkier texture.


Finding dairy-free chocolate is not easy if you want to make sure that it was produced in a gluten-free facility. We did find a few brands online (including Scharffen Berger and Milkless) and tested them in several of our chocolate chip cookie and chocolate cake recipes. In the end, we found that all of the dairy-free bar chocolates worked well in our gluten-free cake recipes. We also found that the bars could be chopped and used in place of chips in cookies. Dairy-free chips worked well as stir-ins for the cookies but didn’t work as a swap for the bar chocolate in any of the cakes. Look for dairy-free chocolate products online.

Fill the Cookie Jar

Recipe Gluten-Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

We wanted gluten-free chocolate crinkle cookies that lived up to their name.