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How to Cook a Dairy-Free Thanksgiving

Credit: Iain Bagwell/Getty

A dairy-free Thanksgiving is easier to achieve than you think, and your guests likely won’t even notice what’s missing.

Thanksgiving is a time when most dietary restrictions go out the window, but if you have a sensitivity to dairy or follow kosher dietary laws, a dairy-free menu is exactly what you need. Fortunately, there are plenty of traditional (and non-traditional) holiday dishes that use no milk products and easy ways to swap in non-dairy products for ones that do.

  • Flip the fats. If butter is the medium for cooking or is used to finish a dish, swap for extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil. Avoid margarine and shortening as these can contain trans fats. Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Change up milks. Instead of using milk as your liquid for mashed potatoes, substitute unsalted chicken stock or unsweetened non-dairy milk. Or, skip the mash altogether and simply roast baked potato or sweet potato wedges until browned and tender. Recipe: Truffled Roasted Potatoes
  • Find safe, flavorful choices. Remember that hard, aged cheeses, such as Parmesan, contain next to no lactose (the sugars have turned into fat crystals at this point). If you have a lactose sensitivity, you can still build a cheese board with a couple of hard cheeses or finish dishes with a sprinkle of grated aged cheese for richness. Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash with Parmesan-Garlic Breadcrumbs
How to Make Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto
  • Do the dollop. Replace a whipped cream dollop on dessert with dairy-free yogurt or ice cream, or simply skip. You can also whip whole coconut milk until thick. Just be conscious of the added saturated fat per serving.
  • Sort out sneaky dairy sources. Piecrusts typically contain butter. Try crust-less pumpkin custards with coconut or non-dairy milk in place of milk. You can also opt for an apple crisp with a butter-free streusel topping. Or go beyond pumpkin and apple with simply poached pears and store-bought gingersnap cookies. Recipe: Hibiscus Poached Pears

A dairy-free Thanksgiving is easier to achieve than you think, and your guests likely won’t even notice what’s missing. Just know when to swap (oil for butter, non-dairy milk for milk) and when to simplify (roasted spuds instead of mashed, crisps or poached fruit instead of pies). This will be the Thanksgiving everyone, dairy weary included, can enjoy.