Best Dairy Free Products and Vegan Restaurants in Vancouver
Going vegan seems to be the latest food craze, but for some of us, we have no choice due to food allergies. I am no means a vegan but would label myself paleo as I can’t survive without meat, as my cupboard contains such staples such as almond milk and coconut oil. The following is a summary of the best dairy-free products and vegan restaurants in Vancouver which I’ve tried and liked. .
I laugh whenever people tell me that they could never give up their dairy products. Because that was me when I had a slight lactose intolerance problem 10 years ago. Since that time, my sensitivity has matured causing me to develop a condition known as allergen bronchitis which lasts for five horrendous weeks of coughing and coughing. So to that end, I’ve done numerous hours of research and taste testing to find that there are dairy-free products that taste like the real thing. The two best places I found to buy dairy-free products are Whole Foods and Vegan Supply. Whole Foods seems to have the better prices than Urban Fare, Safeway or IGA which will sell the same product for $3+. Vegan Supply though has a better selection and you can sign up for an alert to inform you when your product is available.
Butter: Earth Balance Buttery Spread which comes in a variety of flavours such as Original, Soy-Free or Coconut Oil. It tastes and spreads exactly like butter.
Coconut oil. Whenever I fry foods, I never use canola or olive oil but use coconut oil. The best place to buy coconut oil is at Costco who sells it for $24.99 for 454 g. I also use this whenever I get a massage as I find the products that spas use sometimes have fragrances that irritate my skin as I have eczema.
Cheese: Earth Island makes coconut oil based cheeses which melts due to the fact that it is oil based. I’ve tried the Cheddar, Provolone, Smokey Gouda and Jack Cheese. It is sold in a block or slices although I prefer the slices so its’ the perfect size for melting. Blue Heron Cheese who is the only vegan cheese shop in Vancouver, just opened its door in February 2018. The owner, Karen McArthy used to be the chef at Graze Vegetarian where she made and sold her nut-based cheeses using the traditional fermenting process. She also teaches classes on how to make vegan cheese at Cook Culture and the Italian Centre. Click here to read my review of of a media event I attended at Graze where I sampled Karen McArthy’s Herbed Coconut Kefir, Smoked Cashew Cheddar and Caraway Seed Coconut-Cashew Gouda.
Cream Cheese: Spread’Em Kitchen Co makes cashew cream cheese in many flavours which has the consistency of cream cheese and I loved the savoury flavours of Jalapeno and Lemon, Clove and Garlic and Beet Cashew Balsamic. I can see myself spreading this on crackers or even on bread for sandwiches as a substitution for butter.
Cream Sauces: Use any brand of canned coconut milk that has 17g+ saturated fat listed on the nutrients label. You could also use coconut milk found in the dairy section but the sauce won’t be as creamy. Avocado is another good substitute as it has the texture and when you use avocados, you can hardly detect its flavour over the other ingredients.
Ice Cream: My all-time favorite dairy free ice cream to buy would be Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss ice cream. It is coconut milk based ice cream that tastes just like the dairy version and is just as decadent but without the dairy and processed sugar as they use agave. I’ve tried the following flavours: Chocolate Walnut Brownie, Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge, Caramel Ginger Cookie, Naked Coconut, Salted caramel and so on. By the way, I’ve sampled them all and give all the flavours thumbs and toes up! Whole Foods offers the lowest price at $7.99 while others such as Safeway sell it for $8.99 and up. I wait until Whole Foods has a sale.
Milk: There’s so many alternatives out there from coconut milk, almond, hemp, hazelnut, rice, etc.. Silk has a great almond milk or coconut milk coffee creamers in different flavours such as vanilla or hazelnut. Non-dairy coffee creamer powders do contain a small trace of dairy so I only use them when I travel, as some countries don’t have dairy free alternatives available at coffee shops or restaurants.
Whipping Cream: You can actually buy whipped cream made from rice milk or coconut mil in an aerosol contain rice milk from Whole Foods or Save-On-Foods, but if you’re making a dessert like trifle which has a lot of whipped cream, you can make it with little effort. Buy a few cans of coconut milk which have saturated fat of 17g + (don’t use the ones with less fat). Leave the cans in the fridge overnight so that the liquid can separate from the solid. On the next day, drain the watery liquid in a sieve and use the solid to whip. The trick to making whipped cream is to leave a stainless steel bowl and whisks overnight in the freezer as the cold steel bowl reacts with the warmer cream to allow you to whip the cream faster.
Yogurt: I find that the ones made with coconut milk are thicker and have the closest texture to that of the dairy versions I used to eat probably due to the fact that coconut milk has more saturated fat than other type of vegan milks. Daiya makes a Greek style yogurt with tapioca starch and coconut cream that’s pretty tasty, but they only sell their yogurt in individual serving sizes at supermarkets. You can get it by the case at Vegan Supply.
Edible Flours: Their menu not only features dairy-free products such as cinnamon buns and cupcakes, but are also gluten-free. I’ve only had their cupcakes at the annual Dairy-Free Living Event which taste just as decadent as the dairy enriched versions
Fairy Cakes: This is another bakery that is vegan and also doesn’t have nuts and which I’ve only had their cupcakes which were also just as delicious as Edible Flours. They also have a nut-free cheesecake which I’d love to try as I’ve only had the nut-based ones.
Panne Rizo Bakery & Cafe: This is a bakery in Kitsilano which has been around since 1998. You can have nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free products here. I’ve come here for coffee and had a few baked goods, some of which I liked and some I didn’t as I find some gluten-free products are too dense. But then again, I’m only lactose intolerant and can have gluten products so I am a little biased when it comes to gluten-free products. But it used to be the only place in town which offered non-dairy milk for their specialty coffees.
Two Daughters Bakeshop: For those people who won’t cross the bridge to go downtown, this bakery offers products which are both dairy-free and gluten-free. I’ve had chocolate chip cookies here which were simply delicious.
B&P Ice Cream and Coffee:. If you ever find yourself in Steveston, make your way here as they not only have over 20 flavours of gelato, but about 8-10 sorbets which are very flavourful. They also offer bubble tea and fruit slushes which I get with coconut jelly.
cartems Donuts: Donut fans, don’t cry because the vegan and gluten-free donuts here taste just like the real thing. Cardems just added Cinnamon Buns in January which I tried. They’re not buttery, but have enough caramel sauce to send you over the top happy.
Eternal Abundance: This is a grocer/cafe where you can enjoy gluten-free and dairy free hot chocolate, salads, juices and an abundance of delectable dairy desserts such as ice cream sandwiches. I’ve been here and had the key lime cheesecake which was made from avocado and lime and tasted just as decadent as the ones made from cream cheese. They sell other health foods such as gluten-free crackers, nuts and gluten-free flours.
Koko Monk Chocolates: Besides Paul Dincer’s wonderful vegan bars which are made from raw chocolate and organic sweeteners, Koko Monk is a haven for hot chocolate lovers as you can choose from 13 selections from lavender, olive and pineapple. Although, the menu states some are vegan, you can ask for either almond or coconut milk as both are available. My personal favorites are the Cold Testament (pineapple) and the Brunette Bangle (coconut and curry).
Umaluma: This is at the top of my list for ice cream, since they only offer vegan ice cream made from nut milk or coconut milk. I’ve tried Coffee Toffee, Drunken Cherry, Lime Mojito, Pumpkin and the verdict – OMG x 1000. Even my Asian giggle twin who can have dairy, gives them 10 stars out of 10 for their Pumpkin Pie flavour.
Virtuous Pie: Not only is this is a vegan pizza establishment, but they do have seven vegan ice creams available every day and you can have a flight of three for just $8. My favorite is their Pumpkin Pie. During happy hour, Tuesday-Friday 2:30 – 5:30pm, Friday and Saturday 10pm – 11pm and all day Monday, a flight of ice cream (3 scoops) is just $6 while pizza is $10.
La Grotta Del Formaggio: Although this is an Italian deli that sells cheese and charcuterie, not only does this Italian deli sell Italian cheeses and charcuterie, but also a pizza bread that has tomato sauce and Italian herbs which I use as the base to make my own pizza. First I buy Earth Island cheese, hot capicollo from La Grotto Del Formaggio and then I head to a salad bar where I can buy small quantities of red peppers, olives and mushrooms. Place salad toppings on top on pizza with cheese, put on bottom rack of oven and heat for about 10-15 minutes and voila – home made pizza. If you’re not close to Commercial Drive, buy Amy’s Cheeseless pizza from Whole Food as a base.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread: This is a pizza establishment that not only has regular pizza but also a vegan pizza that is not only dairy-free but nut-free as their caulicheese is made from cauliflower, lemon juice and nutritious yeast. You can also request to have your crust gluten-free. The consistency of the cheese is not as chewy as regular cheese, but then again, if you have an allergy to nuts and dairy, it’s the next best thing.
Virtuous Pie: If you miss pizza with cheese, come here as their vegan pizzas with nut cheese are the next best thing. My personal favorites are the Grandma Pie which has three vegan cheeses, so it’s extra cheesy for those of us who are tired of ordering pizza with just tomato sauce. Being the only vegan pizza place in town, this place does get super busy, but you can order your pizza online for pickup. After dinner, make room for their vegan ice cream. During happy hour, Tuesday-Friday 2:30 – 5:30pm, Friday and Saturday 10pm – 11pm and all day Monday, a flight of three is just $6 while pizza is $10.
Chau Veggie Express: plant-based Vietnamese food with gluten-free choices. I’ve only had the red sand dunes soup which is so flavourful that you don’t miss the meat and it’s also one of the best Asian noodles dishes I’ve ever had.
Chickpea: Chickpea started as a food truck that peopled loved so much that they established a brick and mortar establishment on Main Street. I’ve only had their food once, but it was delicious and tasted fresh. I’m anxious to go to the Main Street location to have French toast as they serve it with coconut whipped cream and no butter.
Meet on Main: There’s a reason why Meet on Main has expanded to Meet on Gastown and now to Meet in Yaletown as this vegan establishment offers vegn and gluten-free comfort food such as chili and wings (cauliflower) at reasonable prices. There’s even a Cronut with coconut Bavarian creme and vegan ice cream. There’s usually a lineup so be prepared to wait or come during happy hour from 3-5pm or 10pm to close when corn fritters and fries are $5 and sleeves of Phillip Lager are $4.
The Naam: This place is Vancouver’s first vegetarian and vegan restaurant. I’ve been here a few times quite a few years ago afer partying all night since it’s open 24 hours. I remember being impressed that the vegan food actually tasted good. Vegan and Gluten-free items are marked on the menu items. They are also one of the few places where you can enjoy happy hour 3-6 pm Monday to Friday (excluding holidays) on their patio.
Smak is a casual take out or eat in establishment has many gluten-free and dairy-free choices such as their butterless chicken which doesn’t really taste like butter chicken but more like vindaloo but is still pretty good.
Zend Conscious Lounge is a vegan restaurant that apparently donates all their profits to charity. The only bad thing or could be good thing for some people is that they don’t offer alcohol but have smoothies and juices. Come for brunch for buckwheat pancakes or try their Coconut NY-style “Cheezecake” with coconut caramel.
Chocolate Covered Katie: Although this website is dedicated to dairy free and gluten-free desserts, it does contain some recipes for meals. Subscribe to get a recipe a day
Eating Bird Food: A website run by a health coach and personal trainer who focuses on a paleo diet. If you subscribe to her newsletter, you will be sent healthy recipes.
Go Dairy Free: Another great website which has a lot of useful information such as what diseases are linked to dairy, a grocery guide, a list of substitutions for dairy and a database of over 2,000 dairy free recipes. You can also subscribe to be informed of updates.
Happy Cow: A website which finds the vegan restaurants near you when you type search criteria utilizing city, region or zipcode. When you log in, it automatically knows your location, so a list of nearly vegan restaurants appear on the page
Jamie Oliver Dairy Free Recipes: Here’s a link to 291 dairy-free recipes from Food Network star Jamie Oliver.
Minimalist baker: A website that has plant based receipes, with 10 ingredients or less that you can make in 30 minutes. Subscribe to the newsletter and get a recipe a day sent to you.
Steve Carper’s Lactose Intolerance Clearinghouse: This website is very useful as it tells you everything you wanted to know about dairy and more. It not only lists what ingredients in supermarkets contain dairy but what percentage of dairy are in various cheeses and other products. If you know anyone with a lactose intolerance problem, this is the best site for information.
Undairy Me: Facts and Myths: This is a blog post I wrote dispelling some of the myths surrounding having a lactose intolerance problem. You’d be surprise to find out how many people don’t really know what dairy is and even consider eggs to be a dairy product.
Vegan Richa: A website that has plant-based flavourful recipes inspired by the Indian background of the author. Subscribe to her newsletter.
VegDining.com: A website which finds vegetarian restaurants all over the world when you type search criteria utilizing city. It also allows you to write a review about the restaurant. You can also purchase the International VegDiningCard for just $20.00 U.S. a year which offers discounts at vegetarian restaurants around the world.