5 Ways to Make Your Cheesecake Dairy-Free

Vegan, Vegetarian, and Lactose-Free

Corrie D.
ByCorrie D.

More than 9.7 million Americans follow a plant-based diet (Ipsos) which means a growing demand for meat and dairy alternatives. So what does a vegan or lactose-intolerant consumer do when they are craving something smooth and creamy for the holidays or just want to celebrate National Cheesecake Day?

Christine Jacobsen, a Digital Marketing Manager at Denby has some tips you can use year-round. "Times have changed," she says, "gone are the days of watery rice milk as a poor dairy substitute. A wide variety of new options are out there that are packed full of flavor! With so many of us now following a vegan diet, we're constantly finding new ways to adapt our favorite recipes without compromising their flavor." 

Slice of cheesecake with blueberries on top, sitting on a plate

1. Try tofu 

If you're looking for an alternative to cream cheese, why not try tofu? Due to its soft, smooth texture, silken tofu is best for this. Not only can it be used as a dairy alternative, but also a substitute for eggs. So, if you follow a vegan diet, this is a great option for you.

For a cheesecake-like treat, mix one pack of silken tofu with one cup of sugar and a little vanilla extract, plus any extra flavorings you like, then blend it until smooth. For an extra velvety texture, mix in some coconut cream. If you like a slightly tangy dessert, add a dash of lemon juice

2. Try a vegan cream cheese

One simple way of making your cheesecake dairy-free is by choosing a vegan cream cheese (like Tofutti or Daiya or Kite Hill). You can buy these in most grocery stores, and they're all made from plant-based ingredients, such as cashews and soy. Many brands produce flavored versions of their vegan cream cheese too, including strawberry. The best part is, you can use your favorite cheesecake recipe and just substitute the cream cheese for your vegan version.

Alternatively, you could make your own by blending two cups of cashews with two tablespoons of dairy-free yogurt, plus a dash of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. To get that ultra-creamy texture, be sure to soak your cashews in hot water for 30 minutes first. 

Most no-bake cheesecakes will set without gelatin if you make it firm enough. If you're worried your cheesecake mixture looks a little runny, add a dash of cornstarch to thicken it and make it more stable. Alternatively, you can serve your cheesecake in individual ramekins — not only do you not have to worry about the set, but you can also choose to freeze some (just make sure your ramekins are suitable for freezing). 

3. Substitute the butter

A cheesecake wouldn't be complete without the crunchy base, but unfortunately most traditional options also include dairy here. To help make the base firm and sturdy, the cookies are usually mixed with melted butter. Luckily, you can easily make a dairy-free version using plant-based butters such as coconut spread or your favorite nut butter

Due to their sticky texture and sweet, caramel taste, dates are another great option for bringing your base together. If you're after an ultra-luxurious dessert, dates are the way to go!

A spoon cutting into a slice of cheesecake with red fruit on top

4. Try dairy-free cookies

The butter isn't the only part of your base that may not be dairy-free, because cookies can also contain lactose. You'll be pleased to know that many of your favorite cookies are dairy-free, including chocolate sandwich cookies and graham crackers, but be sure to check the label before you add them to your grocery cart. 

If you'd like to be certain that you're not using dairy in your base, then you could always forgo the cookies completely and use nuts instead. Any nuts would be great for this, so just choose your favorite. Peanuts, pistachios, and pecans would be perfect.

5. Choose dairy-free toppings

Going dairy-free doesn't mean you need to miss out on the most luxurious cheesecake toppings. Fruit makes a delicious, sweet addition, and you can slice them fresh or make a sweet berry compote to go alongside your dessert. Just boil two cups of berries in 1 tablespoon of water, 2 tablespoons of sugar (you can add more if you prefer a sweeter sauce), plus ½ a tablespoon of cornstarch until it thickens, then drizzle some over the top of your cheesecake before serving.

If you're a caramel fan, don't worry! While most store-bought caramels do contain dairy, you can easily make your own dairy-free version at home. Simply mix together five tablespoons of coconut milk, a cup of sugar, and about ½ cup of condensed coconut milk or vegan butter, plus a dash of vanilla for flavor. You can also sprinkle in a little sea salt if you prefer.

We want to see what you're cooking up! Upload your sweet creations to our #EasyDessert Gallery! (Influenster app required to upload photos to Galleries.) 

About the Author
Corrie D.
Corrie D.
I like to interview founders, share inspirational stories, and highlight unique products. I was a member of Influenster for many years before I joined the company. To see my reviews and product insights, follow my OG Influenster account: @corriedavidson. IG: @corrieatinfluenster
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