When we found out that a reaction our daughter was having in late summer was due to dairy consumption, we immediately stopped purchasing anything with any dairy in it whatsoever. But then my quest for a good dairy-free cheese began, and after multiple tries, I think I’ve found one the whole family will love and wanted to share it with you!
Dairy can cause many reactions, and as our daughter’s doctor said: “many kids are sensitive, they and their parents just don’t know it.” That means their little bodies are getting inflamed, but never to the point that a doctor’s office visit was warranted. That wasn’t the case for us though…
In late summer, our daughter was active and competing and performing in cheerleading. She’s small for her age and is one of the flyers on her team. She tumbles and loves the sport, so when she started complaining of cramping and discomfort after eating, we brushed it off as “maybe she ate too much” because she’s highly active. But not long after that, her belly began protruding so much that it was scary. When we took her to the doctor, we were told she most likely has developed a severe reaction to dairy and we were to cut it out immediately. After several rounds of prescription laxatives and probiotics to get the “rotting” and “fermenting” fecal matter out of her, and her belly went down, we decided to try to find alternatives to her favorite food: mac and cheese.
*Keep in mind, this whole thing is about trial and error. Just because it was a “fail” for me, doesn’t mean it will be for you. We all have different taste buds.
My first attempt was a “cheesy sauce” made out of cashews that she could put on tacos or over her pasta in order to get a “cheese-like” experience. It wasn’t good, and she hated the cashew milk, so we scratched that. The next attempt was to try to have her top her sauces and salads with nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy flavor to it. She will do this sometimes, but the flakes just don’t give her the same effect. I then boiled potatoes and carrots and mushed them into what looked like cheddar cheese, but this was my daughter’s least favorite thing yet. So I decided to combine several recipes I came across online to create a cheese out of coconut: the plant milk she actually likes. After several tries, here is what I’ve come up with, and I must say, the whole family eats it!
Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Cheese
- 1 can of FULL FAT coconut milk
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tsp salt (add more if you prefer a saltier flavor)
- 1 1/2 Tbs nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp agar agar powder
- 1 tsp tapioca flour
- 1/2 tsp of lemon juice (you can add more if you prefer a more acidic flavor)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (you can add less if you loathe garlic, or more for added garlic flavor. I added more)
Grab a cheese mold. I used a silicone bread pan (as seen left because it’s what I had on hand), but use what you’ve got! Use some avocado oil, olive oil, or non-stick spray to cover the bottom and side of your cheese mold. I used avocado oil. The flavor is neutral and can be dabbed off with a dry paper towel once the cheese has set.
Put the entire contents of the can of coconut milk into a saucepan on medium heat. Add the 1/2 cup of hot water to the can to get the remainder of the contents out and add that to the coconut milk. Meltdown the coconut milk, then add all the remaining ingredients to the saucepan. Stir this frequently with a whisk until it boils, then turn the sauce down to barely simmering and stir constantly for about 6 minutes. If you let it go a little longer the cheese will get slightly more firm. Pour this sauce into your cheese mold and let it cool for 15 minutes. Then put this in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so it can set up. After two hours, remove the cheese from the mold, and wrap it in plastic wrap.
This will keep for about a week in the fridge, but we go through it much faster than that!
Our daughter has been on a strict dairy-free diet for almost three months now and thanks to dairy-free recipes like this on, she has improved a lot. Her belly is a normal size and her tumbling has gotten faster and better. She also flies much lighter now and has more energy to get her through her cheer classes. She still misses cheese a little but she has grown to understand that avoiding it prevents painful cramping.
This coconut milk cheese is “cheese-like” in flavor and that’s honestly the best description I can give. It’s good though, and even my son, who is not sensitive in any way to any foods asks for this on his wraps for lunch instead of cheddar! The consistency is similar to mozzarella. It’s soft and you can press into this cheese, much like mozzarella, and it will cut in the same manner. It does melt a little, but don’t expect it to give the gooey grilled cheesiness we all love.
While the cheese isn’t an exact replica, those who have had to go dairy-free for health concerns like our 8-year-old understand that nothing is going to taste like cheese, but you can get close enough and actually enjoy eating it!
The best advice I can give based on my experience in having to make a big dietary change is to manage taste and flavor expectations but never stop experimenting. Whether you are going vegan, gluten-free, keto, or whatever, just make sure you understand that replacements for some foods won’t be exactly the same, but with time, you’ll be able to enjoy them just as much, if not more in the long run.
*This is based on my family’s personal experience. I am not a medical doctor and this article is for informational purposes only. It isn’t meant to treat, cure, or diagnose any medical or health condition. If you have questions about your diet, gut health, or any other concerns, please speak to a medical professional.