WIKA-Paleo Episode 3: Substituting Dairy

My coconut oil, almond milk, and canned coconut milk

My coconut oil, almond milk, and canned coconut milk

Dairy is tricky.  Some people can have it without issue, some can’t have it at all or are intolerant or can’t have just a part of it. When I say part of it, I mean some people have a problem with just one or the other protein in milk products:  casein or whey.  Personally, I have a sensitivity to whey isolate.  That means my body can’t deal with whey when it’s by itself like it is in many protein powders and shakes.  (If you want more info, I found an article that helped me understand them…  http://tasterie.com/blog/2012/10/dairy-allergies-casein-and-whey-what-are-we-talking-about/)

It’s tricky, tricky, tricky.  (SQUIRREL – Does anyone else have RunDMC in their head right now?)  Whatever your sensitivity/intolerance/allergy, if you need to substitute I have some suggestions.


If you want to hear why you should never ever ever drink regular cow’s milk off the shelf, ask my friend Angie K.  She has the best anti-milk rant I’ve ever heard.  🙂   But if you just need to stay away from milk, here’s what I suggest.

  • Coconut milk (in the carton) –  WATCH OUT for the flavored ones.  They contain A LOT of sugar.
  • Nut milks – I pretty much stick with almond milk.  WARNING – I’ve found that some of these contain gluten.  If you’re super sensitive to gluten, read those labels!  And just like coconut milk, watch out for sugar content.  Meijer sells their brand of an almond milk that has no gluten ingredients, is relatively low sugar, and costs less than the others.
  • Rice milk – Not entirely paleo, but a good substitute.  Same rules apply here with sugar content.


I love me some butter.  Real butter.  At the moment, I’m super into Kerrygold butter.  And I have it often because I don’t have a problem with dairy.  However, I have tried several other things that could be used as a substitute.

  • Coconut oil – I use this in almost everything.  It’s really good for you, most brands don’t taste like coconut, and it can withstand high temps without breaking down and creating carcinogens… like olive oil does… oh yes, it does.  (SQUIRREL – Olive oil cannot withstand high temps like cooking in the oven and sautéing or frying in a pan.  I stick to this rule:  Olive oil for cold or flavor, but coconut oil for cooking.)
  • Alternative spreads – Like this coconut one.  These are iffy to me.  I’ve had this one and it is good.  But for some reason it just doesn’t feel right to me.
  • Bacon grease/lard – OK, don’t freak out thinking about fat grams.  Fat grams are not something to be concerned about when they come from an animal.  I’ll get into that whole topic some other time.  But until then, just trust me.  These are totally fine.  (Related SQUIRREL note:  Since I started paleo over 2 years ago, I’ve eaten more fat grams than the rest of my adulthood combined and it has worked WONDERS for me.  Don’t believe me?  See “Before and After” pic.)
  • Not dairy free but another alternative…  Ghee – Ghee is a hidden treasure!  It is kind of like clarified butter.


I have renewed my love affair with heavy cream since I started eating paleo.  I keep organic half and half or organic cream on hand.  But if you need to eliminate the dairy or want to be more of a paleo purist, try this.

  • Coconut milk (in the can) – This stuff is friggin’ genius.  I use it as coffee creamer, in place of cream in sauces or any ol’ recipe, and to make ice cream.  If you put the can in the fridge overnight then take off the top creamy part and whip it up, it is a fantastic substitute for whipped cream!  This one is my favorite but this one is pretty good too and I tend to find it in more stores here locally.


If you flat out cannot have dairy, it’s probably smart just to go without cheese.  But these might get you through a cheese craving.

  • Dairy-free cheese – Like these.  They don’t have the same texture and you can’t exactly cook with them in the same way as regular cheese, but they’ll do in a pinch.
  • If you can get away with it…  Feta cheese – Especially organic.  OR Goat cheese – Some people are less sensitive to goat milk than cow milk.

Hope that helps!  Please let me know if I can help answer any questions.


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