Cream, milk, and butter lend velvety smoothness and mouth feel as well as wonderful taste and nutrition to food, but if you are lactose intolerant or vegan, these are not an option. You don’t have to forego creamy textures and flavors, however, as many non-dairy foods lend this quality to your favorite dishes.
Here are a few ways to achieve creaminess using non-dairy foods…
Blended cashews make an amazing “cream” that you can use as a dessert topping, in salad dressings, to compliment soups or to make a cheesy filling for ravioli. Here is how to make cashew cream:
2 cups whole raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours
Place cashews in a blender with enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. Your blender blades should be sharp to achieve a smooth result. Vitamix works well for this. For a dessert cream add honey or maple syrup to taste and pinch of sea salt. Makes about 3 ½ cups cream
Coconut Milk or Cream
Coconut not only tastes great, but it has useful healing properties and has been used for generations in tropical cultures. You can substitute coconut milk for cow’s milk or cream in soups, use it in stews and curries, and enjoy it in frozen desserts, puddings, as a substitute (coconut oil) for butter in cookies, etc.
Miso is a flavorful fermented soy bean paste and is the primary ingredient in miso soup. Miso has a creamy texture and you can use it in salad dressings and gravies. Miso comes in various flavors; the darker they are, the deeper and more intense the flavor. Here is a recipe for a miso dressing.
Creamy Miso Dressing
1/4 cup white miso
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
water, as needed
Whisk ingredients together until smooth. Add a little water if needed to thin.
Avocados get a bad rap for being high in fat and calories, but they are highly nutritious. Avocadoes boost levels of HDL or good cholesterol, have anti inflammatory properties, are an excellent source of carotenoids, and provide all 18 essential amino acids. They are also just plain satisfying to eat! Enjoy the creaminess of avocado in dressings, dips, spreads, and even desserts! Here is a recipe for guacamole. And here is a recipe for an avocado pudding! Delicious!
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup almond milk
pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until very smooth.
Pureed beans are an easy way to add starchiness and creaminess. Use white beans for neutral color. Use any type of bean to make a dip or spread like hummus or refried beans. Here is how we recommend cooking beans.
If you miss ice cream, you can make a tasty raw, vegan version using frozen bananas. They are awesome in smoothies too. Here is how to make banana ice cream:
Banana Ice Cream
4 very ripe bananas (that’s it!)
Peel and freeze bananas until frozen solid. Cut into thin slices, no more than ½ inch, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.
Optional flavors: cocoa powder, strawberries, cherries, peanut butter…
Similar to bananas, mangos added into smoothies or made into sorbet or sauces impart a sweet, creamy texture. If you combine mangos with other non-dairy creamy ingredients such as coconut or cashews, your dish will be to die for! Make a mango smoothie.
Did you know you can make “milk” from oats and then use the oat milk as you would cow’s milk, for puddings, gratins, pancakes, etc. Here is a recipe for oat milk.
And here is one for Carrot Ginger Soup that uses oats as a thickening and “creamifying” agent.
Nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried. Nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, which is a product of the beer-making process and very bitter. Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins and is gluten-free. Add it to gravies and sauces, as a buttery flavoring for popcorn or kale chips, add it to pasta or macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes for a “cheesy” flavor. Here is a recipe for a basic gravy:
Nutritional Yeast Gravy
2 cups cold vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup nutritional yeast
soy sauce to taste
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook a few minutes.