Dairy-Free Passionfruit Mango Smoothie


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).



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.


Chobani Non-Dairy Coconut-Based Yogurt


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.

Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese


In my perpetual search for the perfect dairy-free (and soy-free) cream cheese, I picked up a tub of Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative. I liked Go Veggie’s American cheese slices, so I thought their cream cheese might be decent, and its main ingredient is coconut, which I have no trouble digesting.

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.

  1. Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free
  2. Kite Hill Vegan
  3. Trader Joe’s Vegan (contains soy)
  4. Miyoko’s Vegan
  5. Daiya Vegan

If there’s a dairy-free cream cheese you love, please let me know in the comments!

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coconut Seven Layer Bar


This pint of Ben & Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar was one of the five-pack of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams that I received as a birthday gift. It’s got a coconut-flavored base with fudge chunks, walnuts, and swirls of graham cracker and caramel. Now, I wouldn’t have bought this for myself as I don’t like the taste of coconut (with the exception of pina coladas), but since it was part of the gift, of course I had to try it.

The verdict: Everything’s great about it except that it tastes like coconut! All of the stuff embedded in this ice cream is good — even the walnuts, which I’m usually not a huge fan of, were in such small quantities as to be innocuous. If all of that stuff were in, say, a vanilla base, I would give this an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

But I just don’t like coconut, despite my penchant for most tropical things.


This also made me wonder why they would bother making a coconut-flavored ice cream with almond milk. I mean, all of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams are made with almond milk, but for a coconut-flavored ice cream, why not use coconut milk?

Coconut Bliss makes non-dairy ice creams using a coconut cream base, and they’re exceptionally smooth and creamy. If you’re into coconut ice cream, I’d recommend this brand. (Vanilla Island and Naked Coconut are two of their most coconutty flavors.)

But of course, nobody does chunks of stuff in your ice cream like Ben & Jerry’s. They are the masters of chunks. So if that’s your thing and you love the taste of coconut, their Coconut Seven Layer Bar will probably delight you.

Let’s hope Ben & Jerry’s rolls out more non-dairy flavors soon. In fact, they’re taking suggestions on their website for non-dairy flavors, so put in your requests here!

Sweet Rose Creamery


Summer’s coming to a close, which means that I’m eating all the dairy-free ice cream I want and telling myself it’s okay because it’s the last huzzah. In actuality, summer in Southern California lasts until October or so, but we have to find some excuse for our vices, right?

There’s no dearth of artisanal ice cream shops in the Los Angeles area, and most of them offer some dairy-free options. This is how spoiled I am: If an ice cream shop has three or fewer dairy-free flavors, I don’t consider it special. And if it only has sorbets and no “creamy” flavors, I’m like, “What good are you?”

So when I stopped in at Sweet Rose Creamery in Studio City, I was pleased to find that they had five dairy-free/vegan flavors, and two of them were of the “creamy” variety.


I sampled all five flavors from cute little metal spoons (they get bonus points for not using disposables), and they were all good, with the exception of the vanilla coconut which I didn’t like because it contained flakes of coconut. Coconut flakes have a waxy texture that I do not enjoy.

The fruit sorbets were all fresh and smooth. But the dark chocolate was the clear winner. Despite its creamy texture, it contains no milk or cream of any kind. It’s just chocolate and water — essentially a sorbet. But you’ll swear it has cream in it!

This dark chocolate ice cream was a lot like the chocolate sorbet from Il Gelato at Eataly, but the atmosphere at Sweet Rose Creamery is much more relaxing and interesting. It’s a tiny storefront on a pedestrian-friendly stretch of Tujunga Avenue, not far from the Italian restaurant where overdue pregnant women go to eat a salad that’s supposed to make you go into labor, and just a few blocks from that other Italian restaurant where Robert Blake (allegedly) killed his wife. How’s that for neighborhood character?


In case you’re curious, here are the not dairy-free flavors offered at Sweet Rose Creamery on the day I visited. Pretty standard fare, other than the grape buttermilk sherbet (sounds weird but intriguing) and the blueberry muffin. The flavors change each month, so if you’re in the mood for something specific, you might want to call or check online first.


And by the way, the cones are dee-licious. I usually get my ice cream in a cup because I hate it when melting ice cream drips down my hand, but this time I threw caution to the wind and got a mini cone and I’m so glad I did. There’s something about eating ice cream from a cone that brings you right back to childhood.

And having sticky hands gave me an excuse to visit the restroom out back. There’s an adorable little courtyard with ivy covered walls and picnic tables where you can eat your ice cream and watch movies on Wednesday nights. More bonus points for creating community activities!

I will definitely be stopping by the next time I’m in the neighborhood — or at one of their other locations — and hoping that they bring back the vegan horchata I read about on Yelp. Sí, por favor.

SWEET ROSE CREAMERY, 4377 Tujunga Ave., Los Angeles, CA 91604

Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Coconut Whipped Topping


FINALLY! A non-dairy whipped topping that tastes like real whipped cream!

For years I’ve been searching for non-dairy whipped topping that approximates Reddi Wip. (Yeah, I know it’s low-brow, but sometimes you just want to shoot whipped cream out of a can.) Last Christmas I tried a rice-based one called Soyatoo! that was awful. But I’d never seen a coconut-based one until I found this all-new offering from Trader Joe’s.

You may have noticed that Trader Joe’s is hit-or-miss. Some of their products are keepers, like their Oreo Cookie knock-off, Joe-Joe’s. Some, not so much — like their Indian papadum in a Pringles-like can. (Not surprisingly, that one went away years ago.)

But this one is a hit. It tastes just like whipped cream, except a little more coconutty. And although making whipped coconut cream isn’t that hard, you can’t beat the convenience of the nitrous-propelled stuff. The hissing sound it makes when you squirt it reminds me of old-fashioned ice cream parlors. In fact, I put some on a sundae topped with chopped nuts and a cherry, and it was a sight to behold.

Under the topping: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie.

If you want a midcentury throwback dessert that will delight people of all ages, make Jell-O and decorate it with this whipped topping. This stuff is perfect for Jell-O!

And you can always squirt some whipped topping on a mug of hot chocolate or coffee. Add a light dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder, and you’ve got an Instagrammable beverage that puts Starbucks to shame.


NadaMoo Dairy-Free Ice Cream


I’m always looking for dairy-free ice creams, especially vanilla ones. I guess because vanilla is like the crisp white button-down shirt of ice creams — it goes with everything and never goes out of style.

I found NadaMoo at Gelson’s and was immediately charmed by its name. For anyone who doesn’t speak Spanish, “nada” means “nothing.” Indeed, this ice cream contains “nothing cow.” It’s made from coconut milk but looks like the real moo.


There’s not much to report about this one except that it’s smooth and creamy and  tastes like Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island, only less coconutty. Ideally, I don’t want my vanilla ice cream to taste like coconut at all. But so far I haven’t found a dairy-free vanilla that achieves this ideal.

As I did with Coconut Bliss, I tried using NadaMoo to make a root beer float and it just didn’t taste right. The coconut flavor was too strong.


But when I used NadaMoo to make a sundae topped with fresh raspberries and chocolate syrup, the result was much better. The coconut flavor went well with the fruit and the chocolate.

I imagine that NadaMoo would be great served alongside a slice of banana cream pie… Now if only someone would make a dairy-free banana cream pie.


Creamistry Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream


Have you heard of liquid nitrogen ice cream? It’s all the rage now. I know, it sounds frighteningly scientific, but all you need to know is that the liquid nitrogen is used to flash-freeze milk and turn it into ice cream right before your eyes.

Why do you need this in your life? Well, first, it allows you to have customized flavors. And second, the rapid freezing process keeps the milk particles from forming into ice crystals, producing an ultra creamy texture that I have never experienced in traditional hard ice creams. Imagine a cross between hard ice cream and soft serve.


Creamistry is a popular chain of liquid nitrogen ice cream shops — they have over thirty locations in California alone. Most importantly, they have dairy-free options, and not just sorbet. You can have your ice cream made with a coconut milk base.


Plus, you have a pick of many different flavors, some of which I’ve never seen in dairy-free form. Like Nutella. I’ve never had Nutella ice cream, let alone dairy-free Nutella ice cream. So at the first Creamistry I went to, in Montclair, CA, I ordered a coconut milk base with Nutella mixed in. One topping is also included, so I chose chocolate chip cookie dough. The “creamologist” asked if I wanted it sprinkled on top or mixed into the base, so I chose mixed in, hoping for a Ben & Jerry’s-like result.


Unfortunately, the Nutella flavor was barely detectable, and the cookie dough was so macerated that it was also too subtle. But the creamy texture of the ice cream was amazing! I would absolutely try this flavor combo again, next time asking for extra Nutella and the cookie dough sitting on top, not mixed in.

But the next time I went, I got a different flavor: green tea (matcha). I used to love green tea ice cream — especially the mochi desserts you get at sushi restaurants — but I’ve never seen a dairy-free version. So this time, at a Creamistry in Costa Mesa, I ordered a coconut base with green tea as my flavor and mochi balls as my topping. The result tasted very much like a green tea mochi. And it was smooth as silk.


My two caveats about Creamistry are that (1) the taste of coconut can be a little strong, especially upon the first few bites, and (2) this shit is expensive. You will spend about eight dollars on a small cup, more if you get extra toppings or upgrades like a waffle cone or bowl made of chocolate (yeah, I gotta try that one).


But keep in mind that part of what you’re paying for is the fun of watching your ice cream being whipped up in a giant cloud of white mist and hearing the hiss of the liquid nitrogen evaporating. It’s like a science experiment. It’s cool — pun intended.

CREAMISTRY, 9359 Central Ave., Suite F, Montclair, CA 91763
CREAMISTRY, 3033 Bristol St., Suite F, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(And many other locations across the country)


Homemade Dairy-Free Chai Tea


I’ve always loved chai tea, the kind that you get in Indian restaurants, not the kind from Starbucks or the pre-made chai tea that almost every tea brand now sells. At worst, those chai teas taste like candy, and at best, they’re too intensely spicy. Once I asked an Indian friend how to make real chai tea and she gave me a masala mix, but it still didn’t taste like the chai tea I got in restaurants.

Then I went dairy-free and couldn’t drink chai tea at Indian restaurants anymore because they always make it with cow’s milk. After years of deprivation, I became determined to figure out how to make my own chai. I did some research and was able to put together this recipe using just three key spices easily obtained in most grocery stores.

Cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cardamom pods.

Instead of cow’s milk, I used coconut milk. (I thought the coconut would work better in chai tea than almond milk.) For desserts and coffee, I like to use Kara coconut milk because it’s thick and creamy. But for this tea, I wanted a milk that was thinner, so I used Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk.

You can brew your chai with just about any unflavored black tea. I used my usual breakfast tea, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. I’ve tried almost all the organic breakfast teas available at my neighborhood Ralphs, and this one is the most flavorful and affordable.

Keep calm and chai on!


Dairy-Free Chai Tea Recipe

2 cardamom pods
1 cup water
2 bags black tea
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup coconut milk

Crack the cardamom pods by tapping them with a mallet or other heavy object. Put the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods in a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes.

Pour the tea through a strainer to remove the solids. Pour the strained tea back into the pot and add the coconut milk (and sugar or other sweetener, if desired). Warm over medium heat, stirring, until hot. Makes 2 servings.

Dairy-Free Mango Lassi


Less than a week after I swore off dairy-free yogurts because all the ones I tried were horrible, I bought another one. Go ahead and laugh. But I finally found a good one! Hooray!

It’s called Coyo Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative and I found it at Bristol Farms, an overpriced gourmet supermarket in LA that you should never shop at unless you have money to burn. This 5.3-ounce cup cost $3.69. But you know… research.


I was willing to give this one a shot because it only has four ingredients and they all sounded reasonable: coconut cream, tapioca, pectin and probiotic cultures. It’s dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and GMO-free.

And I’m happy to report that it tastes great!


It tastes mostly like coconut, with a good dose of yogurt-y sour. Unlike the other dairy-free yogurts I’ve tried, it’s actually white, rather than an unappetizing beige.

It’s also super thick and creamy. In fact, you can even use it in place of whipped cream, which I did with the leftovers after I made my mango lassi. Just add some honey to take the edge off the tartness and you’ve got a healthy dessert topping.


This yogurt was perfect as the base for my mango lassi. Just as I was resigning myself to a life without lassi, along comes Coyo! At $3.69 a cup, it’s a “sometimes treat,” but I encourage all you lassi lovers to try it at least once.

Here’s the recipe. The rose water is optional, but adds a lovely flavor. You can find it in most Persian markets.

Dairy-Free Mango Lassi

3/4 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup Coyo Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative (Natural)
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 pinch cardamom
1/2 teaspoon rose water

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Makes one serving.