Tips for a Shared Kitchen #4 – Replacing Cow’s Milk

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Hello everyone!

I wanted to share how I convert some recipes to be plant-based. A lot of my recipes come from whatever sounds good to me, or from family recipes that I’ve converted some way to make them plant-based/vegan. There are so many vegan recipes out there that use different methods that you don’t know which ones to make. Or for me and my soy allergy, a lot of the recipes I found 3 years ago used highly processed/soy ingredients and I’m wasn’t sure where to go from there. Then with family recipes that I love, I wanted to keep it as close to the original as I can.

Although I’m not great at substituting everything, there are a lot of things I have learned. One thing I’m still trying to get right is replacements when baking, mainly eggs. I’ve tried things that work and then in other things they don’t work so well. One example was when I was trying to make the brownie recipe that I posted a few days ago, the story is here. So I’ll have to get back with you on what egg replacements work best with what recipes…whenever I figure it out.

I’ll be doing this in sections. So this first one will be talking about replacing cow’s milk, the different alternatives, and why some might work better than others.

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REPLACING Cow’s MILK:

With most recipes you can replace cows milk for any plant-based milk and the outcome and taste will be similar. And usually, unless milk is the main ingredient, it has a slightly different taste but doesn’t take away from the original dish. But at times there is a difference depending on the protein content and fat content of the plant-based milk. So I wanted to break down the different plant-based milks from what I understand, to help you decide which one to use to replace in your recipes. I hope it’s helpful!

NOTE: There are many varieties within plant based milks – unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla, etc. I usually buy the unsweetened for cooking purposes and then use the sweetened or vanilla to use for smoothies, cereal, or coffee. There was a funny story with one of my first encounters with making a vegan mac n cheese, and I used vanilla almond milk… Oops! James has lived through a lot of those moments.

  • Soy Milk – I stay away from soy, but soy milk is the closest comparison to cow’s milk when it comes to proteins. This is part of the reason why there are so many soy-based dairy-free products out there like cheese and butter. It’s how the process happens with the proteins. Don’t ask me in detail, but I know it makes a difference. However, we are starting to see more and more soy-free products and I’m very grateful for that!
  • From Low Fat Milk to Whipping Cream Substitutes: To go from the thinnest (less fat) to the thicker (more fat) of the milks, here is the order from lowest to highest fat from my understanding of working with them.
    • Non-Fat to 1 % Milk Replacement: Grain Milks – Rice, Oat, Quinoa, Etc.
    • 2% Milk Replacement: Soy Milk, Nut Milks (some of the grain milks can be thicker and can be more like 2% milk, but from my experience it depends on the brand)
    • 2% – Whole Milk Replacement: Nut Milks – Almond is lowest in fat, Cashew is highest in fat – which means it’s usually thicker/creamier.
    • Whole Milk Replacement: Coconut Milk in the Carton or Cashew Milk. Coconut milk in the carton usually has the consistency of what Whole Milk would be. Coconut Milk has one of the highest content of fat, along with cashew milk being the highest in fat for nut-based milks.
    • Half & Half Replacement: Coconut Milk Can Full Fat – thicker than carton coconut milk and has the consistency more of half and half when shaken. It will still have a slight coconut taste however.
    • Whipping Cream Replacement– Coconut Fat from “Full Fat” Can. Different brands of coconut canned milk can differ in the amount of fat it has, but when you get the full fat canned coconut milk, cool it off in the fridge (not freezer), and then open it a few hours later, DO NOT SHAKE, the cream (fat) will rise to the top and the water will sink to the bottom. You can use this in place of whipping cream. The only thing I know about whipping cream is that it’s very cold full-fat cream that is whipped to allow air in so that it gives it it’s fluffy texture. So using that same logic, you are replacing the full-fat cow cream and replacing it with coconut fat. Same rules apply – keep it cold, keep the bowl cold, and whip, whip whip! The water holds most of the coconut flavor, so the cream doesn’t have much flavor which is great for substituting creams in any recipe – sweet or unsweet – like creamy pastas, homemade ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc.

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I hope this helps when you are trying to replace or convert a recipe that you have to replace a form of cow’s milk. This is one of the easier things to replace, but knowing the slight differences between them can sometimes make all the difference.

Have fun cooking, remember not to use vanilla almond milk in your mac n cheese, AND HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, AND cow’s milk-free KITCHEN!

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