Easy Dairy-Free Substitutions Plus A Perfect Coconut Eggplant Recipe

Here at the chalkboard, we embrace every type of diet and lifestyle that aims folks toward greater health and well-being. For those who keep a diet of traditional foods, raw or organic butter, cheese and milk are daily staples and great sources of vitamins and protein. For vegans, and others who choose to eliminate dairy, there are plentiful alternatives that provide the rich flavors and creamy textures that dairy is often relied on for.

Whether you are allergic, lactose intolerant, vegan or simply don’t have consistent access to quality organic dairy products, this list of delicious alternatives from reader and blogger Annette Lin will help you to limit your dairy intake without limiting the indulgence factor.

Soy is the most obvious substitute for dairy, but, as some cannot have either, and as more of us grow concerned with potential issues surrounding soy products, these super-easy substitutions are both soy and dairy-free – not a bean in sight!

Coconut cream

…instead of yogurt and milk. When a recipe just needs a little bit of creaminess, coconut cream can be a lifesaver. Keeping a can or two on hand can be the thing you need for thickening soups and sauces, or even adding to desserts in place of milk. A can of full-fat coconut cream makes the perfect yogurt or icing substitute, too. Here’s how: pop the can in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the liquid to separate and scoop the cream out of the top. If you’re replacing Greek or European yogurt, add a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar! For cake icing, whip the cream up with a bit of coconut oil and sweetener before allowing it to set in the fridge again for a light and fluffy frosting.

Pour that left-over coconut water into a glass and enjoy. Cake frosting and a beverage from one can? You can’t get much better than that.


…instead of ice cream. Bananas and ice cream – two totally different things, right? Try freezing two bananas (without the skin) before popping them in a blender and you’ll be amazed at the creamy perfection! Add your own mix-ins for something super gourmet: cinnamon, walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, anyone?

Vegetable oil

…instead of butter.  This is an obvious tip for the dairy-free, but a few words of warning here: when baking, sub only ¾ cup oil for every cup of butter used or you may have one very well-greased pan on your hands. Otherwise, go for the gold – drizzle and toss a few teaspoons of olive oil over freshly grilled corn for a heart-healthy take on that ol’ buttered treat – or even better, dot dabs of coconut oil amongst chopped veggies before roasting, tossing briefly after a few minutes to ensure the oil spreads evenly before returning to oven.

Nutritional yeast flakes

 …instead of cheese. Yes, you could whip up a batch of cashew cheese – which often has nutritional yeast in it as well, let it set and then crumble carefully into a salad and enjoy. But when you need something quick, nutritional yeast provides a last-minute dash of flavor to your meals, stirred through a pasta sauce or blended into a salad dressing. Nutritional yeast not only provides that umami flavor of cheese, but an extra serving of B vitamins, as well!

This traditional eggplant recipe originally called for yogurt; here I’ve substituted coconut cream – chilled in the fridge to get the extra-creamy part only! Laced with turmeric, garlic and an extra punch of lemon, no one will be any the wiser. Hint: it’s also the perfect dinner party recipe if you double or triple the recipe! Make the sauce and grill the eggplants up to 3 days in advance and assemble before serving, allowing the pomegranate seeds, walnuts and mint to tumble prettily over the base. Enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant with Turmeric ‘Yogurt’ Sauce
Serves two


1-2 medium-sized eggplants olive oil for brushing
2 Tbsp walnuts, roughly crushed
a large handful of pomegranate seeds
a large handful of basil leaves
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Turmeric yogurt:
150g /5 oz coconut cream, the thick part only
1 garlic clove, finely crushed
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ – ½ tsp Himalayan salt – or to taste


Combine the coconut cream, crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and some salt. Whisk well to get a smooth, golden sauce. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.

Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Brush both sides with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a very hot griddle pan until soft and golden brown, then flip over and fry the other side until golden brown as well. Alternatively, roast for 20-30 minutes at 425 F.

To serve, layer the roasted eggplant slices onto a serving dish, slices slightly overlapping. Drizzle with saffron yogurt, sprinkle with toasted walnuts, torn basil leaves and pomegranate seeds.

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