While we all love creamy dishes and desserts, not all of us can indulge in actual cow’s milk cream. Perhaps you are lactose intolerant, or maybe you’ve just made some dietary choices to avoid dairy. In either case, it can be tough to find dairy-free recipes for creamy, satisfying dishes.
Coconut milk can be an excellent alternative, and because it’s also high in saturated fats (don’t worry, these are the good kind), it cooks up a nice and thick just like cream.
These are two of our favorite dairy-free recipes, and we hope you will find them comforting and satisfying without the heaviness and discomfort many people feel after they’ve eaten dairy.
How to Buy Coconut Milk
To get the richest texture, you want coconut milk that has a high fat content, so make sure that nothing you get is labeled “light” or “reduced fat.” We like Thai Kitchen coconut milk (a brand that is typically widely available in grocery stores). Look for the organic option. If you open the can and the contents are solid, this is a good sign. Like any fat, it will soften up when you cook it.
Creamy Leek Pasta
This is a vegetarian alternative to spaghetti with a prosciutto and creamy leek sauce. It will be a bit pink from the smoked paprika, but that smokiness takes the place of the meat. Note that you are going to first “steep” the coconut milk in leeks. The rosemary and leeks help mask some of the nuttier, fruity flavors of the coconut milk so what you’re left with is a robust, Italian-style dish and instead of a dish that’s more reminiscent of Asian-style curries.
- 1 pound of your favorite spaghetti
- 1 13-14 ounce can of coconut milk
- Peanut or olive oil
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary
- 2 medium leeks
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta according to the directions, rinse and set aside.
- Clean and coarsely chop the leeks
- Heat the saucepan over medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of oil
- Add only one of the leeks to the oil, stirring occasionally, until they start to get transparent
- While the leeks are cooking, rinse and chop the rosemary
- Add rosemary to leeks
- Add can of coconut milk
- Let this mixture come to a low simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
- With a fine mesh strainer, strain the leeks and rosemary
- Discard cooked leeks
- Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil
- Cook the leeks and the paprika in the oil until leeks start to brown
- Add the seasoned coconut milk and cook until it starts to bubble
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Add the pasta and stir gently with a pasta fork until it’s coated
Coconut Milk Panna Cotta with Berry Syrup
Panna Cotta is an easy Italian-style pudding that’s typically made with cream.
Note that this recipe calls for gelatin, so it’s technically not vegetarian. Feel free to experiment with agar agar for a veggie option.
- One envelope of unflavored gelatin (1 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 14-once can of full-fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar or turbinado sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- “Bloom” the gelatin by sprinkling the contents of the envelope over 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl.
- Heat the coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan to a boil.
- Strain into a mixing bowl.
- Whisk 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the warm coconut milk mixture into the bloomed gelatin until the gelatin dissolves completely.
- Add the dissolved gelatin mixture into the remaining coconut milk and whisk gently.
- Pour evenly into desert cups.
- Refrigerate for at least four hours or until panna cotta sets firmly.
Serve panna cotta with berry syrup (see recipe below) or your favorite berries lightly tossed in sugar.
- 1/2 cup water
- 12 ounces of blueberries
- 12 ounces of raspberries or blackberries
- 1-cup sugar
- Bring water, berries, and sugar to boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Boil 1-2 minutes.
- Strain in a fine mesh sieve, pressing to separate liquid from the pulp.
- Let cool.