I’ve been unable to find an acceptable dairy-free cream cheese. This one, made by Kite Hill, uses almond milk, and although I wouldn’t call it inedible, it’s not good. A long time ago I tried their chive cream cheese and gave it a somewhat positive review. So it’s surprising how much I disliked the plain version.
First I tasted it straight up — the best test for any dairy-free alternative. There was nothing to mask its pasty texture and odd, artificial aftertaste. Thankfully, it has no detectable almond flavor, but it also lacks the sharpness that is the hallmark of cream cheese. Overall, epic fail.
Spread on a toasted poppy seed bagel, Kite Hill Almond Milk Cream Cheese was slightly more tolerable. Still, I could only stomach a few bites before deciding it wasn’t worth the calories.
Scanning the dairy shelves at Ralphs, I ask myself, “Do I really need to try another dairy-free milk?” I’ve already had soy, almond, coconut, almond-coconut, cashew, macadamia nut, hazelnut… How many more things can you make fake milk out of?
First of all, you’ve got to give them points for creative packaging. My favorite part of the carton is not the hippie font or the wacky artwork, but the part that says, “You are one of us now.” It sounds so sinister that it cracks me up. This is the kind of carton that will entertain you while you’re eating cereal.
When I drank it straight up, it did actually taste like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cereal. It’s slightly sweet, and the oat flavor is reminiscent of Cheerios.
But in coffee, Oatly loses its cereal-ness and has a smooth, inoffensive flavor. It’s thicker than almond milk, which is my usual go-to in coffee. I added it to iced coffee, and its lack of a distinctive flavor allowed the coffee to really shine.
I also made a latte by foaming Oatly in a manual milk frother. Because of its thickness, this was far more successful than trying to get almond milk to foam. Coconut milk is even thicker, but it tastes like coconuts — not what everyone wants in a latte.
My next mission is to make a dairy-free chocolate pudding using Oatly. Stay tuned!
I’ve loved passionfruit ever since I was ten years old and went on a family trip to Taiwan. It was a hot summer and everywhere we went, we were given fresh passionfruit juice served over crushed ice. It’s not easy to find passionfruit in L.A., but passionfruit juice in a can is a decent substitute.
Now that summer is here, treat yourself to a taste of the tropics with this easy dairy-free smoothie. You can use plain Non-Dairy Chobani yogurt, the best non-dairy yogurt I’ve tried — or if you prefer a less sweet smoothie, Green Valley Lactose-Free yogurt (okay for lactose-intolerant people, but not suitable for those with dairy allergies).
DAIRY-FREE PASSIONFRUIT MANGO SMOOTHIE RECIPE
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt, such as Chobani
1 cup passionfruit juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Chill until cold. Makes one serving.
I’ve tried a lot of non-dairy yogurts, and most of them have been terrible. Some, inedible. But this new coconut-based yogurt from Chobani exceeded my expectations. I used to like the coconut-based Coyo — which was better than any of the almond milk-based yogurts — but its texture can be grainy, and when cold it tends to solidify. Not appealing.
Chobani’s coconut-based yogurt, on the other hand, has a smooth consistency and a nice white color. The only problem I noticed upon opening it was how little product there was in the cup. It looked only about two thirds full. But I suppose this would be convenient if you were throwing some fruit or nuts in there.
The flavor of Chobani’s non-dairy yogurt is similar to Coyo, but a little less strong on the coconut. This is a good thing, in my book. You can still taste the coconut, however, and after eating an entire container, I was kind of over it. But I’d still buy this yogurt again. It’s perfectly fine when consumed with berries and granola, and would probably work great in smoothies or a mango lassi.
Keep in mind that this yogurt is pre-sweetened with cane sugar. I don’t usually like pre-sweetened yogurt, preferring to adjust the sweetness on my own with honey, but it wasn’t cloyingly sweet. It has a nice tartness to it, as yogurt should.
Finally, a dairy-free yogurt that doesn’t suck! To read my reviews of other dairy-free yogurts, click on the “yogurt” tag below.
If you’re a tea lover, you probably know that PG Tips is the gold standard when it comes to English breakfast tea. I once had a British co-worker who always made sure the office kitchen was stocked with it. I usually like to drink organic teas, but every so often I make an exception for a box of PG Tips because it’s so delicious.
Most supermarkets in Los Angeles carry regular PG Tips, but if you want more of a selection, visit a store that sells British imports, like Ye Olde King’s Head Shoppe near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I found a box of Decaf PG Tips there, and for weeks I enjoyed a guilt-free “cuppa” in the afternoons. Decaffeinated black tea is notoriously weak in flavor, but PG Tips’ decaf actually tastes just like the regular kind.
That’s when I discovered that PG Tips also makes a “Perfect with Dairy-Free” tea, specially blended for dairy alternatives. I love a splash of milk in my breakfast tea, but almond milk — my current go-to dairy alternative — is often too light to stand up to a strong black tea. So I wanted to see if PG Tips had cracked the code.
I looked online for PG Tips Perfect with Dairy-Free and couldn’t find it available anywhere but Amazon. I ordered a box of 70 tea bags for about $7, not realizing that it was being shipped all the way from England and would take weeks to arrive. When it finally got here, I eagerly brewed a cup, letting it steep for a full five minutes, and added a splash of Almond Breeze Almondmilk Creamer, which is just slightly thicker than regular almond milk.
I wasn’t blown away at first. I couldn’t really tell the difference between this PG Tips blend and the regular one. But I have to admit, it works. I’ve been having a cup of PG Tips Perfect with Dairy Free with this creamer every morning for the past few weeks, and I’d have to say I’m hooked.
That’s how PG Tips gets you. It sneaks into your life without making a fuss, and before you know it, you can’t live without it.
Daiya makes a lot of dairy-free products and they’re not all created equal. I like to review as many of them as I can, so you’ll know which ones are worth eating and which aren’t.
When I saw Daiya’s Swiss Style Slices, I was optimistic. I love the Cheddar Style Slices in this same product line. Swiss was one of my favorite cheeses back in my dairy-eating days — it’s the only cheese I would want in a turkey, pastrami, or corned beef sandwich. I started having fantasies of being able to eat chicken cordon bleu and double-decker Reubens.
I tried not to be bothered by the appearance of this “cheeze.” Its uniform roundness and lack of distinctive holes that Swiss cheese is known for make this stuff look like it was manufactured on an assembly line. It reminds me of Oscar Mayer bologna, that round “mystery meat” cold cut that I loved as a child. I used to fold the circle into quarters and strategically take bites out of it so when I opened it back up, it would look like a snowflake. Ah, fun with processed foods.
But I digress. Daiya’s Swiss “cheeze” unfortunately tastes as artificial as it looks. It melts as nicely as Daiya’s cheddar slices, but it has a decidedly weird, chemical aftertaste. It was so unappealing I threw out the package after trying only one slice, in a ham-and-Swiss omelet.
So much for the dairy-free chicken cordon bleu. For now.
If you’d like to read my other reviews of Daiya products, click on the Daiya tag below.
I spread it on a freshly toasted everything bagel from Bagel Factory, a bagel shop on National and Sepulveda that makes a pretty convincing approximation of a New York bagel.
The texture of Go Veggie’s cream cheese is quite good: smooth and dense, as a cream cheese should be. The taste is unoffensive: not too sour like Miyoko’s, not reminiscent of bleu cheese like Daiya’s. I was halfway through my dairy-free bagel and the Calendar section of the Sunday paper when I thought, This may be the One.
Then I reached over to my husband’s plate and took a bite of his bagel, spread with actual cream cheese, the classic Philadelphia stuff with onions and chives. And my dreams were shattered. My vegan cream cheese tasted nothing like the real thing. In comparison, it was bland, lacking that essential tanginess. Eating my Go Veggie was like the first fifteen minutes of The Wizard of Oz that’s in black-and-white, and tasting his Philadelphia cream cheese was like when Dorothy steps into Oz and everything is in Technicolor.
For me, it’s not a worthwhile tradeoff to eat vegan cream cheese when its flavor is so inferior to the real thing. I would rather forego bagels altogether.
Here’s a recap of the dairy-free cream cheeses I’ve reviewed so far. I’m listing them in order of good to bad. Technically the first one is not dairy-free, only lactose-free, but if you’re just lactose-intolerant this is your best bet.
Success! This dairy-free cheese melts beautifully and doesn’t have a weird aftertaste. It works perfectly in Mexican-inspired dishes like Skillet Taco Pie, a deconstructed crispy taco that is one of my go-to weeknight recipes because it’s quick and easy. (Stay tuned… I’ll post that recipe soon.)
This dairy-free pepperjack is also great in omelets and scrambled eggs. It has a nice stretchy texture and just a hint of sharpness and spiciness that gives the eggs some pizazz. Add some salsa and you’re good to go.
Getting the pepperjack this weekend was perfect timing because the Super Bowl happened yesterday… and we all know that the Super Bowl is just an excuse to eat your weight in guacamole. I used the Daiya pepperjack to make Kalua Pig Quesadillas.
If you’ve never had Kalua pig, it’s like carnitas but moister. And it’s incredibly easy to make: You simply rub a pork shoulder with minced garlic and Hawaiian Alaea sea salt and cook it on low for nine hours in a Crock-Pot lined with three strips of raw bacon. When it’s done, shred the meat, and you’ve got the basis for all kinds of pork-centric entrees.
Now, I’ve actually eaten quesadillas without cheese — if the meat is flavorful enough, it can be done — but I have to admit that quesadillas without cheese are a little sad, not to mention structurally unsound because there’s nothing to hold them together. The Daiya pepperjack was the answer to my quesadilla woes.
Keep in mind that this stuff isn’t good for snacking straight out of the bag. When I tried that, the texture made it obvious that it wasn’t real cheese. You must melt it. The application of heat is the key to its success.
My love-hate relationship with Daiya products is on a upswing with this Cutting Board Collection. If they can get these vegan cheese shreds right, maybe there’s hope for their vegan cream cheese.
Searching for a dairy-free cream cheese that tastes like the real thing? Me too.
Unfortunately, Daiya Cream Cheeze Style Spread isn’t it. After trying it a long time ago and hating it, I was hoodwinked into trying it again because the label claimed this recipe was “new and improved.”
Here’s what it’s made of: Filtered water, coconut oil, tapioca starch, coconut cream, vegan natural flavors, pea protein isolate, sea salt, chives, white onion, xanthan gum, potato protein isolate, lactic acid (vegan), vegan enzyme, lemon juice concentrate, guar gum, locust bean gum.
Here’s what it looks like on a bagel.
Its texture isn’t bad. Less creamy than real cream cheese, but not too grainy.
The problem is the flavor. Simply put, it tastes like bleu cheese. This is the same problem that Daiya Caesar Salad Dressing has. Bleu cheese is fine in certain contexts, but on a bagel? Uh, no.
So I’m going to make this short. Daiya vegan cream cheese: Don’t do it.
For more of my reviews of dairy-free cream cheese products, click on the “cream cheese” tag below. The search continues…
This gorgeous breakfast was from Steampunk Coffeebar & Kitchen in North Hollywood, a little café that’s easy to miss but hard to forget. When I lived in Burbank, I always had a hard time finding good breakfast joints. Now it seems like they’re popping up all over that part of the Valley.
Here’s what I love about Steampunk:
Delicious dairy-free options
Really good coffee
Three words: breakfast all day
I got the meal in the photo above at 2 p.m. on a Thursday. It’s their Egg In The Hole (a dish traditionally called “toad in the hole”), a slice of grilled sourdough bread with a fried egg cooked into a hole in the middle. It came with bacon and home fries on the side.
Everything about this dish was perfect. The egg was neither under- nor overcooked. The bread was hefty enough to support the egg and had just the right amount of sourness. The bacon was crispy, salty, and fatty — everything bacon should be. And the home fries were crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside; the bits of onion and bell pepper mixed in added a nice dimension.
And the almond milk latte I had was also excellent.
Nowadays, I’m seeing almond milk as a dairy alternative at a lot more coffee shops. This is progress. But not all lattes are created equal. You have to start with good coffee, and Steampunk does.
What’s interesting about Steampunk is that they have plenty of vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options, but they’re not strictly a “health food” restaurant. For instance, their house specialty, The Stack, consists of buttermilk fried chicken, bacon, sunny-side-up egg, and Belgian waffles drizzled with cayenne maple aioli. That’s not what you would call a healthy dish, although it is served with sautéed kale and onions on the side.
But on the same menu as the chicken and waffles, you can also find healthy stuff like granola, a beet-and-carrot veggie burger, and a vegan porcini mushroom cutlet. Plus, ethnic foods like puri, an Armenian bread. It’s this eclectic menu that makes Steampunk rise above most coffee and breakfast joints.
They also have a nice inviting vibe. Don’t be scared off by the “steampunk” name. This small space feels warm and lived-in. The walls are adorned by eclectic art by local artists, most of which is for sale.
And they don’t care how long you linger at your table. It’s a great place to plug in your laptop and work, or hang out with friends and play a board game.
But I’d go back just for the Egg In The Hole and almond milk latte. For a lactose-intolerant breakfast enthusiast like myself, this place is a godsend.
STEAMPUNK COFFEEBAR & KITCHEN, 12526 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, CA 91607