Food Allergies: Dairy (including recipes)

This is a guest post by Jill Miles our Team Assistant. To learn more about Jill check out “Our Team” page or her first post about gluten allergies.

Did you know that food intolerances affect approximately 10% of Americans, whereas food allergies are thought to affect 4% of teens and adults and 5% of children?  Cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in American children, affecting approximately 2.5%, however many will outgrow this allergy by the time they reach school age (about 80%).


So, what’s the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy?  According to WebMD, a food allergy is an immune system response. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. Food allergy symptoms develop when the antibodies are battling the “invading” food. Milk is one of the eight most common food allergies.

A food intolerance on the other hand is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.


Symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea are characteristic of both allergies and intolerances.  Additional allergy symptoms may include rash or hives, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the airways to the lungs and anaphylaxis.  Intolerances may also cause additional symptoms to those already noted above such as gas, cramps, bloating, vomiting, heartburn, headaches and irritability or nervousness.

Diagnosing milk allergies in adults is not always straightforward since adults can develop them in the absence of any childhood history of allergies.  In addition to clinical allergy tests, many doctors are now recommending elimination diets as an effective diagnostic tool for dairy allergies and intolerances.  They have found that this method is simple, free, highly effective, and tailored to the individual.


So, you or someone you love is dairy free.  Now what?  Some individuals who are lactose intolerant may still be able to consume dairy by using a product such as lactaid. This product is said to help break down the lactose found in dairy products such as milk and cheese to allow digestion without stomach discomfort.  But for those with a dairy allergy or for whom this type of product is not effective, eliminating dairy may be the only option.  That was the case for my husband who, in addition to being gluten free like I mentioned in my last post, is also dairy free.  He has personally chosen to simply eliminate dairy from his diet and add very few dairy alternatives in its place.  The number one dairy free item we use is almond milk.  I have found it to be a great replacement in pancakes, waffles and baking, as well as for smoothies.  I always recommend using the plain, unsweetened variety.  Or, better yet, you can make it yourself as I have recently started doing after reading several articles about some questionable ingredients used in the name brand products.  I have included the recipe below if you’d like to give it a try.

We also use rice milk (again, look for ones made from brown rice and unsweetened), but, much less often.  I find rice milk to be better for cooking as opposed to baking, such as for making dairy free mashed potatoes.

And, finally, I’m sure you’re wondering about butter.  Luckily, my husband has not had a problem with butter and, as such has not eliminated it from his diet.  I couldn’t figure out why that was, but, according to Wikipedia, the butter making process separates the majority of milk’s water components from the fat components and, as such, lactose, being a water soluble component, is largely removed from the butter.  Clarified butter (a.k.a. Ghee) has an even lower amount of lactose and may be an even better alternative.

Living with a dairy allergy or intolerance, especially if diagnosed later in life, does require some adjusting.  But just like everything else, it can be done and still allow you to enjoy a variety of foods.  To help you along the path, I’d like to leave you with a few recipes that are both gluten-free and dairy-free, as well as the recipe for the almond milk.  I hope you will enjoy them.


Almond Milk
  • 2 cups blanched almonds
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Almond Milk Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food
  1. Soak almonds overnight.
  2. Discard soaking water and rinse almonds until water runs clear.
  3. Place almonds, 4 cups water and vanilla extract in blender.
  4. Blend for approximately 90 seconds.
  5. Line fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. Pour blended milk through cheese cloth. Squeeze remaining milk through cheese cloth.

    Don’t discard the almond mixture. You can dry it out in a low oven (around 200 degrees) to make almond flour (which is gluten free).

Buckwheat Pancakes
Adapted from Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)
  • 2 cups almond milk

    Pancake Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food
  1. Mix buckwheat flour, oats, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Mash the banana in another bowl, and add vinegar, maple syrup, and milk. Stir and add to the dry ingredients.
  3. Cook over medium heat until bubbles form. Flip, cook another few minutes on the other side.
  4. Enjoy plain or with fruit and maple syrup.

Fruit Crisp
Adapted from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
  • 4 cups fruit of your choice (I try and use what's in season, but apples and peaches are the ones I use most often)
  • 4 tablespoons almond flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter (if you can not tolerate butter you can use a non-dairy alternative such as coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ½ cup pecans
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Peach Crisp Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and cut fruit. Toss with 1 tablespoon almond flour and dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
  3. In a food processor, combine oats, pecans, remaining 3 tablespoons almond flour, salt, muscovado sugar, granulated sugar, remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter and vanilla. Process until crumbs form.
  4. Sprinkle topping over fruit and bake for 20 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown on top (note: I usually bake the apple crisp a bit longer to get the apples to soften more).
  5. Serve warm. You can also serve with vanilla ice cream for those that can have dairy.


Almond Butter Brownies


Lisa has been raving about these brownies to me and I have yet to try them (although I plan to).  Here is the link to the recipe if you’d like to give them a try:  They are both gluten and dairy free.

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  • Comments

    1. Megan |

      I’m a little confused why there is sugar in most of the desserts? I thought the rules mentioned to cut out refined sugar and only use honey and syrup. Thanks.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy) |

        Hi Megan. Lisa uses refined sugar in just a handful of recipes. Most of her sweet recipes are made with honey and maple syrup. ~Amy

    2. michelle |


      If I do not have almond flour on hand, may I substitute whole wheat pastry flour instead? And if so, in what amount?


      • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy) |

        Hello Michelle. We haven’t tried, so it would be a bit of an experiment for you. :)

    3. michelle |

      (The comment above is in reference to the fruit crisp.)

      Also, not sure what size pan the recipe is intended for…guessing an 8×8?

      Lastly, I’m using ripe but firm peaches, so guessing I’ll cook longer since apples take longer…


    4. Joann Rosenbaum |

      what is the difference between blanched almonds and raw almonds?

    5. Michele |

      Are the almonds in the Milk recipe whole or sliced?

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi Michele. They are whole but sliced is fine, too. ~Amy

    6. Tracy |

      I just received Lisa’s book and I love it. My son has egg and dairy allergy. I use earth balance butter and I read in the book why it was bad. My question is what can I use in place of earth balance butter. He loves it on his pasta and toast.

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi Tracy. I would experiment with olive oil and/or coconut oil and nut butters or fruit spreads are always an option for toast. Pastas are very good tossed in olive oil. It may take some trial and error to find the right combo and a bit of taste bud adjustment, too. If you continue to use Earth Balance, try phasing it out by using less of it less often (maybe combined with other oils) and choose the organic version. ~Amy

    7. Nicole |

      How long can the almond milk keep for? And approximately how much almond milk does the recipe make?

      It sounds really easy so I’m eager to try to it but want to make sure I can use it all without it going bad.


      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi Nicole. I can usually squeeze most of the liquid out of the cheese cloth and end up with about 3 3/4 cups of almond milk. We go through that amount pretty quickly but it should be good in the fridge for 3-5 days. ~Amy

    8. Leslie tutty |

      What do you use as a substitute for cheese?

    9. Leslie |

      I have heard a lot of good things about nut cheeses. Unfortunately my son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, so it is not an option for us. :(. The only real food substitute that we have for cheese is nutritional yeast.

      I was buying my son some of the vegan cheeses but when I read the ingredients, it grossed me out so I guess we are just going to do without cheese for now. Homemade pizza won’t be the same anymore! :(

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Yes, nut cheeses make it a little easier but honestly most of the time I just go cheese-less. I’ve looked for “better alternatives”. Example: I’ve found that with Mexican, an avocado is a great replacement for cheese. I also use nutritional yeast where I once would have used Parmesan. It is good on pizza.

    10. Leslie |

      We loooove avocados! My children have fallen in love with avocadoes and homemade guacamole since we have tried to cut out dairy.

      I need to make a homemade pizza for my son’s Valentine’s Day party at school next Friday. He is allergic to wheat and eggs, so I have to cook it from scratch. Do you think I could just sprinkle nutritional yeast on top or leave the cheese off completely? I have thought about finely grating carrots to give the appearance of cheese on the pizza and add some nutrition (he likes carrots). Any thoughts?

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi again Leslie. While I do not think I’ve ever had carrots on pizza, I don’t see why they would be a bad idea. ;) I like nutritional yeast on pizza but I go pretty lightly on it.

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