As with many of the most visible diets these days, eaters follow a dairy-free diet for all kinds of reasons. Some are allergic to the dairy proteins themselves, while others lack the enzyme lactase, which is the body’s workhorse for digesting lactose, the sugar in milk. Still others keep kosher, which means if there’s meat anywhere on the menu, dairy is out. You might think that dairy-free is the purview only of the lactose intolerant, but in fact that’s only one of the reasons for avoiding milk, cheese, butter, cream, and yogurt.
Those who are lactose intolerant simply do not have the ability to digest the milk sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. They do not produce enough of the lactase enzyme required to completely digest the lactose and the undigested lactose is left in the small intestine to ferment–an uncomfortable process we won’t go into here.
Allergies, on the other hand, can have symptoms that are far more extreme. These can include hives, vomiting, and even anaphylaxis. Although the milder symptoms associated with a dairy allergy are similar to that of lactose intolerance, the reactions in the body are very different. A food allergy is triggered by an immune response – in this case, the dairy proteins – and over time they can intensify and become life threatening, which is why people with food allergies should work hard to avoid dairy in their diet.
All in all, there are countless people who’ve stopped eating dairy and found that their chronic congestion, digestive problems, ear infections, or acne vanished within a few weeks. For those of you interested in experimenting with dairy-free eating or have friends who eat dairy free, whom you’d like to invite over without any drama, we have consulted the Blue Apron Culinary Team to help us plan a dairy-free menu.
Q: If you had to plan a dairy free dinner menu, what would that menu look like?
A: Why not have a taco party to celebrate the last few weeks of this hot weather and summer’s bounty? You can serve a platter of Mini Zucchini Tacos with Guacamole (omit or replace cheese with dairy free brand), Grilled Steak Tacos with Roasted Salsa Verde and Black Quinoa Pilaf, and for something different and fun; Nopales Tempura Tacos with Chipotle Veg (omit or replace the cheese).
Not forgetting about dessert – we’d love to serve a Coffee Granita, skipping the whipped cream (honestly: you don’t need it) and adding in a splash of Kahlua.
Q: What is your inspiration for this menu? Is there a reason why you have chosen to pair these dishes together?
A: Mexican food in the late summer and early fall–that’s a no brainer. Something for everyone whether you are vegetarian, dairy free or flexitarian.
Q: Can you offer our readers some simple tips to adapt a recipe to make it dairy-free?
A: In any recipe where sour cream or cheese appears as a topping–like parmesan on pasta or sour cream on tacos–you can honestly just skip those garnishes for those who avoid dairy (serve them on the side for everyone else). If you’re baking, experiment with soy, almond, coconut and rice milks until you find a brand and type you like. There is a wealth of dairy-free cheese products on the market, but those get more mixed reviews than the milks. For desserts, coconut cream whips up just like whipped cream. Here’s how to make it.
Q: Do you have favorite dairy-free product alternatives, e.g go-to dairy free cheese?
A: We have been known to make homemade almond milk sometimes. It’s very tasty and refreshing, and all you have to do is soak almonds overnight in water, then blend at high speed until creamy. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer to remove the bits of almonds, then drink!