5 Tips for Being Lactose Intolerant in the South

Because living in the land of pimiento cheese is a curse and a blessing

Photo: Hector Sanchez

There is perhaps no worse region to take issue with dairy than the South. From cream cheese frosting to crab dip, a typical Southern potluck can feature a host of metaphorical potholes for anyone looking to avoid lactose. Although there are varying degrees of intolerance from those who are merely lactose sensitive to those who must avoid it at all costs, there are some ways to make eating and cooking in the South a little less dicey.

1. Use Almond Milk
Almond or any kind of nut milk can typically be substituted in classic recipes like New Orleans-style milk punch, rice pudding, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, or bread pudding. Just make sure that you’re using unsweetened, plain nut milk for savory recipes. For sweeter dishes, try vanilla unsweetened so you can still control the amount of sugar.

2. Swap Out your Sour Cream
Although it might take some experimenting, you can often swap sour cream in many recipes for mayonnaise (mayo is dairy-free) or Greek yogurt with active cultures, which has a lower lactose factor and good bacteria that helps with digestion.

3. Try Coconut Milk (the Canned Kind) or Cream
Used correctly, these coconut byproducts can make magic. You can whip coconut milk into a crazy convincing whipped cream or use it in place of regular milk for ice cream if you don’t mind the addition of a mild coconut flavor. Add it to pureed sweet potatoes or a creamy cocktail. You may even be able to use it as a substitute for canned condensed milk in key lime or icebox pies, but make sure to find a recipe from a source you trust who thoroughly tests their recipes too.

4. Go for Hard or Aged Cheeses
Depending on your sensitivity to lactose, you may or may not feel the effects from pimiento cheese, but when in doubt with any dish involving cheese, hard and aged cheeses both have low lactose levels so go ahead and get grating.

5. Carry Lactaid
There will be tailgates with questionable dishes, showers with spreads comprised solely of dips, and parties where cream cheese might be the common denominator amongst the available food. For those moments, and those where life seems too short not to have a scoop of peach ice cream, there is Lactaid and a wide variety of other chalky pills to aid in digesting lactose.

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