I recently shared some of my tips for going dairy and soy free, and one of them was to keep it simple and look for meals and recipes that are already dairy and soy free. I bet you already have a handful of meals that either are dairy and soy free, or can be with minimal adjustments. Here you will find ten ideas of meals that are easily prepared without buying any special substitutes, or doing anything more than just leaving off the cheese.
Pasta with Red Sauce: Of course you can make your own marinara sauce, but the reason this is such a great option for us is the ease with which we can find jarred sauce that is dairy free, soy free, and organic. Nowadays we always have a jar on hand for nights that we need something quick and simple. We usually brown some ground beef or turkey, stir in a jar of sauce, and pour it over our pasta of choice (always double check ingredients). It really doesn’t get much easier than that. If you are really missing the parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, you could try using nutritional yeast as a substitute. As with any substitute, I won’t tell you that it’s exactly the same and you won’t notice a difference, but it does add a nice salty flavor and slight creaminess.
Chili: This might not fall into the “fast” category, since many recipes suggest simmering for an hour or two, but it’s pretty simple to chop some ingredients and throw them on the stove or in the slow cooker. I think during the winter we eat chili about once a week. It’s such great cold weather food, and makes a lot of leftovers for lunches. Pretty much any basic cookbook will have a recipe for chili, and you can find hundreds of recipes on the internet. You should have no trouble finding a good recipe that doesn’t call for dairy or soy, but you can also find my basic chili recipe here, and a variation that also makes a great dip or condiment here.
Chicken Soup: Like Chili, this one might not be a fifteen minute meal, but the preparation is relatively simple, and can be made even easier by using things like boneless skinless chicken breasts and frozen mixed vegetables. Also, if you make a large pot, your efforts can stretch pretty far to either serve a large group or to make some delicious leftovers for several meals. Again, you should be able to find basic chicken soup recipes all over the internet and in many cook books. Watch out for any dairy ingredients that may be used for sautéing or thickening.
Tacos: This is another quick and easy meal that can be varied a lot to satisfy your specific needs. We use either ground beef or ground turkey, and season it a variety of ways. We have found taco seasoning packets that area dairy and soy free, but these can be challenging; they often contain ingredients like caramel coloring, natural flavors, or soy ingredients. Depending on the level to which you avoid dairy and soy these may be fine with you, but we have started using other ways to season taco meat more naturally. You can simply add seasonings like chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. We have also tried a homemade taco seasoning that we found online and like the way that worked, too. Tortillas can be a little difficult. Corn tortillas are the easiest to find dairy and soy free and without disturbing ingredients. For flour tortillas, we have tried a few different brands of lavash, including one from Trader Joe’s. Our favorite tortillas are Stacey’s brand , but they are hit or miss at our grocery store. For toppings, a lot of people will say that they can’t eat Mexican without cheese, but I honestly don’t miss it. We typically top our tacos with black beans, lettuce, avocado, and salsa or hot sauce. For me the avocado replaces the creamy texture that I used to get from cheese and/or sour cream. You can try out several other toppings to see what works for you… sautéed vegetables, refried beans, pico de gallo, rice, etc.
Fajitas: If you are intimidated by making your own taco seasoning, you might like the idea of fajitas. We typically slice up a boneless skinless chicken breast, and lightly season it with spices like chili powder and cumin. You could grill the chicken or pan fry it in a little bit of olive oil. Tortillas and toppings for the tacos certainly apply here as well. I love topping fajitas with sautéed onions and peppers just like at a Mexican restaurant. Then I usually add some avocado and hot sauce as well. The great thing about tacos and fajitas is that they can be made to fit many different needs. If we are feeding a large group we often serve a taco or fajita bar so that guests can pick and choose what they would like to eat. We usually do provide some of the dairy options for those that choose to eat it, but I question if we really need to do that.
Sautéed Chicken: If this sounds really general, it’s because it is. Our favorite way to simply prepare chicken is rosemary chicken, and while this is a delicious recipe, there is nothing spectacular about it. Is it fast and easy, and is simply seasoned with rosemary, salt, and pepper. You could really adjust this recipe for any flavors that you like. Try seasoning chicken with your favorite herbs or seasoning blends, and sauté in olive oil. As I mention in the Rosemary Chicken Recipe, chicken prepared in this way can be used for many different purposes- as an entrée, on top of a salad, in a wrap, over pasta, etc.
Hamburgers: This is pretty self explanatory. The most difficult part about hamburgers is finding buns that are dairy and soy free. You may be able to find options at your grocery store, but our favorite are from Big Sky. The link here is for the Wilmington location, but I believe they have several independently operated locations.Check to see if they have a location near you. If you have trouble finding buns, you can always make your own, but this might be more than some want to do. You can also enjoy your burger with out a bun, which I do often. Some of our favorite burger toppings include ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, bacon, egg, avocado, fresh or fried onions, and Homemade Russian Dressing. Be creative and think of some of the gourmet burgers you have seen on restaurant menus. Cheese is not the only burger topping out there!
Grilled Chicken, Fish, or Steak: Again, this sounds general because it is. Grilling meat requires no dairy or soy and can be absolutely delicious. Like sautéed chicken, you can use simple herbs and spices, you can make a homemade marinade, or you can look for some bottled options. We have found some bottled sauces that have pretty high quality ingredients, are dairy and soy free, and taste pretty good. We even like steak just seasoned with salt and pepper. This is another example to show that going dairy and soy free does not have to be complicated.
Kabobs: This is really just a different way to present grilled meat. We made some kabobs when we hosted a fall cookout and they were great. I like entrees like this where no one expects to see cheese or other dairy, so it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. Peppers and onions are classic additions to kabobs, but there are many options to try. Squash, pineapple, and apples are some other tasty options. Again, be creative and try your favorite fruits and vegetables.
Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner): Everyone loves brinner, right? I know I do. There are a lot of breakfast options that are easily made dairy and soy free. Sure, you can use a milk substitute to make things like French toast, pancakes, and waffles, but I am talking about things that are already dairy and soy free. Eggs can be prepared in many ways without dairy – they can be poached, hard boiled, fried, scrambled… all without the need for butter or milk. For added flavor and variety, you can serve them with things like salsa, avocado, and sautéed veggies. Omelets are another great way to prepare eggs for brinner and can be made with so many different veggies and flavors to vary it up. Other protein choices include bacon, sausage, and ham steaks. Just make sure you are not using processed meats, as they are unhealthy and can possibly include hidden dairy and soy ingredients. Some yummy brinner sides can be fresh fruit, oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, and fried or roasted potatoes.
I don’t expect that every one of these ideas sounds good to everyone, but I hope that you find a few that work for you. More importantly, I hope this illustrates how easy it can be to eat well and entertain without the need for dairy and soy. Changing your diet doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t have to mean settling for anything less than delicious food. If you have other ideas for common meals that are already dairy and soy free, please share them in the comments!