Does Vegan Mean Dairy Free?

In this article, we will discuss the key similarities and differences between vegan and dairy-free diets.
Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN

Written by Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN. Updated on December 19, 2022.

Diets that exclude dairy and animal products, such as veganism, set restrictions on the kind of goods produced from animals that may be consumed.

Restricting dairy products in dairy-free diets also applies to veganism. Even though both diets have a number of things in common and are often mistaken for one another, these are not the same at all.

As such, you may be interested in learning about the distinctions between them.

In this article, we will discuss the key similarities and differences between vegan and dairy-free diets. You can also find out how to distinguish vegan-friendly foods and what vegan dairy alternatives are.

Vegan vs Dairy-Free: What’s the Difference?

Although dairy-free diets and veganism share certain fundamental ideas and limit your consumption of a few of the same items, the two types of diets are not the same.

What Is a Vegan Diet?

Veganism is a lifestyle that strives to eliminate all types of animal use and suffering, whether for the goal of obtaining food, clothes, or any other reason. This includes the use of animals in testing and research.

Because of this, a vegan diet abstains from consuming any foods that come from animals in any form, including meat, eggs, and dairy products.

Consumer goods that include animal-derived substances that have been tested on animals are often not included in vegan diets and lifestyles because of this. These include specific clothes, makeup, and other forms of personal care products.

There are many different motivations behind people’s decision to adopt a vegan diet. Concerns relating to ethics and the environment are often among them, although a desire to better one’s health may also be a motivating factor.

Foods to Avoid

Vegans do not consume any foods derived from animals, including all meat, poultry products, fish and seafood, eggs, bee products, dairy, and other animal-based ingredients such as whey or casein, gelatin, etc.

Foods to Eat

Vegans can replace their use of animal products with alternatives derived from plants, such as:

  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, soy, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, texturized soy protein, soy yogurt or milk)…
  • Whole grains: Rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, millet, wheat…
  • Nuts and nut butter: Peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnut, pecans
  • Seeds: hemp, chia, flaxseeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds…
  • All fruits and vegetables
  • Algae, spirulina

What Is a Dairy-Free Diet?

All dairy products are left out of a dairy-free diet. This group includes animal-based milk, along with yogurt, butter, cheese, and cream, which are all produced from milk.

Individuals who consume this way can still consume fish, shellfish, meat, and eggs, among other animal foods.

People often choose dairy-free nutrition for medical reasons, like lactose intolerance, or allergy to cow’s milk.

Some individuals may also avoid dairy because of ethical grounds.

How to Find Vegan-Friendly Products

Veganism is not just a diet. Disables all products where animals are used or exploited.

There are certain signs to tell if a product is vegan. Let’s take a look together:


Examine the product’s label as well as its container to get started. In recent times, there has been a growth in the popularity of veganism, which has led to an increase in the number of items that are branded as vegan.

Keep an eye out for items that either have a label that has the “Certified Vegan” logo or states “Suitable for Vegans”.


Look toward the bottom of the product’s ingredients to find details on allergens and other potential reactions. If the product includes milk, shellfish, or eggs the words “Contains Milk, Shellfish, and Eggs” will be prominently displayed on the packaging.

This may not work very well for items that include meat.


There are various by-products that are animal-based, and some of them might initially lead to some misunderstanding. For instance, casein, whey, and modified milk components are all types of dairy products.

Animal Testing

Search for items that include the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) jumping bunny emblem or the cruelty-free bunny logo, PETA.

Some items may have the phrase “Cruelty-Free” or “Not tested on animals,” however these words are unregulated.

Your best chance is to follow the CCIC and PETA purchasing recommendations to find items that are assured to be free of animal experimentation.

Be aware that non-animal-tested items and plant-based products are not always mutually incompatible; for example, certain cosmetics may be “cruelty-free” yet include animal-based components.

Vegan Dairy Alternatives

If you’re considering replacing dairy products in your kitchen with plant-based alternatives, there are actually many options available.

For example, you can try swapping Paneer with tofu or tempeh.

Almond Milk

As a substitute for cow’s milk, almond milk is becoming more popular since it is simple to prepare, can be purchased at a low cost, and many people feel that it tastes quite good.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is another milk substitute often preferred for vegan diets. Because it is made from water and oats, it does not include any nuts, soy, or lactose.

Unlike other alternatives, there is a risk of gluten contamination. This is not because oats contain gluten, but because wheat can also be processed where oats are exposed to processes.

To prevent the risk of contamination in the oat milk you buy, you should use gluten-free labeled oat milk.

You also have the option of making your own oat milk at home using oats that have been verified gluten-free.

Soy Milk

Individuals who struggle to digest dairy products, follow plant-based diets, or are trying to reduce their calorie intake, may get advice from their healthcare professionals to drink soy milk.

Individuals who are not used to the taste of soy milk could find that it has an unusual flavor.

However, it is available both sweetened and unsweetened, giving consumers the opportunity to experiment with a range of flavors.

Coconut Milk

Because coconut milk is inherently quite fatty, it is able to offer a consistency that is comparable to that of cow’s milk.

Because of its velvety consistency, coconut milk is a popular addition to coffee for a lot of people.

A luxurious and velvety cup of hot chocolate may also be made by heating cocoa powder with coconut milk.

Full-fat coconut milk is often seen in curries, but there are also other options for a curry, such as cashew cream, or other plant-based milks. Even blended pumpkin could be an interesting replacement in some cases.

Rice Milk

Rice milk has a more naturally sweet flavor than other dairy substitutes. Although it is more liquid than other alternatives, it is available in a wide variety and may be used as an excellent substitute for milk in cereals.

Other Options

Additional alternatives to dairy-based milk include:

Butter is another dairy product that is often used. Even though margarine made from plants is readily accessible, there are still many who prefer to use natural alternatives. These consist of:

Coconut Oil

In many recipes, butter may be easily replaced with the same amount of coconut oil. To cut through the sweetness of the coconut taste, some people suggest heating the oil and mixing in a little amount of salt.

Cheese, a dairy product, also has a variety of alternatives, including the following.

Soft Cheese

Making soft cheese is simple. Plant-based cheeses are usually made with coconut or soy milk.

Also, soft cheeses are simple to create at home. A lot of people like sour cream cheese with cashews.

Soft silken tofu may be used to produce nacho cheese. It may become a vegan dip by adding onions and chives.

When making a sandwich, you may also use smoked tofu instead of provolone cheese.

Hard Cheese

The salty-sour flavor of hard cheese might be tough to duplicate at home, however, there are several cheese substitutes available in stores.

Crumbled hard tofu baked with truffle oil, and salt makes a wonderful topping for spaghetti or other recipes requiring hard cheeses.

Nutritional Yeast

The taste of nuts and cheese is what you’ll get from the nutritional yeast and many companies add important vitamins to it.

If you want to add a cheesy taste, to let’s say garlic bread or pasta sauce, a very good idea is to add nutritional yeast. You can also add it to many other dishes of your choosing too.

Yogurt Alternatives

You are able to find lactic acid, bacteria, as well as milk because they are all parts of dairy yogurt. The almost same thing happens with alternatives to milk.

Many of the options you can buy in stores are made with cultured soy, while others employ other sources, like coconut milk.

Individuals can also buy a kit to make their homemade yogurt and make dairy-free yogurt that way. Bacteria culture that yogurt includes, can be used over and over again to produce new quantities.

Ice Cream

Multiple ice creams exist that don’t have dairy in them. Most of the time, they are made with nut milk like coconut, almond, or cashew milk. There are also fruit sorbets that don’t have any dairy in them either.

A simple vanilla ice cream can also be made at home by blending vanilla, previously frozen bananas, and a tiny quantity of plant-based milk.


Vegan and dairy-free diets have a lot in common. However, they are two very different diets.

The common products that both diets do not consume or accept are dairy products.

While a vegan product must be dairy-free, a dairy-free product does not have to be vegan.

There are several ways to tell if a product is vegan. Labeling, allergens, ingredients, and animal testing controls will be useful for you.

There are many vegan products that you can substitute for dairy products. These products are plant-based and can be offered as alternatives to products such as milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt.

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