Everything you need to know about cooking without lactose

What is lactose?

Lactose is a sugar naturally contained in mammalian milk, and by extension in dairy products. Among the different dairy products, human breast milk is one of the richest in lactose. In addition to its energetic role as a sugar, lactose allows the absorption of calcium by the body. The latter is essential for many functions of the human body such as the formation of teeth and bones, but also blood clotting or the release of hormones.

Nowadays, many external factors of the modern world irritate our intestinal flora, sometimes leading to lactose intolerance. As a result, lactose-free diets are increasingly followed in many countries around the world.

Intolerance or allergy: how to differentiate them?

Many people have no choice but to say “goodbye” to dairy products forever, or almost forever. “Unlike people suffering from food allergies, those suffering from intolerances can nevertheless tolerate small doses without showing symptoms,” explains Déborah Ohana, dietitian nutritionist. Indeed, food allergy is a reaction of the immune system to an allergen, seen as dangerous by the rest of the body, which will cause the release of specific antibodies. Food intolerance, on the other hand, occurs when the body does not digest the food, which often causes abdominal pain or a general feeling of discomfort.

In the long term, certain factors such as industrial food or antibiotic therapy can lead to food intolerance. “(These factors) lead over time to digestive sensitivity and lactose then becomes poorly tolerated and digested. (…) Otherwise, if we wrongly eliminate lactose, we increase the risk of becoming intolerant,” adds Déborah. Indeed, except in cases of intolerance or allergy, there is absolutely no reason to remove lactose from your daily diet. “Worse, removing it can lead to digestive difficulties or intolerances,” insists the nutritionist. Contrary to common beliefs, intolerance is in no way directly linked to the age of individuals.

Depending on your situation, however, always remember to check product labels before purchasing them, especially when it comes to industrial products, in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

How to cook without lactose?

Whatever the reason that pushed you to take the plunge, certain actions can help facilitate the transition to a lactose-free diet. It's easiest to first start by cooking dishes that don't require dairy in their original recipe. This allows you to get used to it little by little, before using dairy product substitutes in your preparations. Throughout the world, certain diets, such as the cuisine of Asian countries for example, contain very few recipes requiring the use of dairy products.

Substitutes for dairy products

Once you feel ready to take the next step, there are many substitutes on the market for the dairy products consumed on a daily basis. It is always important to check the labels of each product to ensure their lactose content. Ice cream, cold meats, or most chocolates, for example, contain significant doses. The amount of lactose in dairy products also varies from one food to another.


Plant-based milks are undoubtedly the most obvious choice, due to their very similar appearance to cow's milk, even if they are not “milk” strictly speaking! Soy, rice, almond, oats, coconut, hazelnut… The many flavors, available in supermarkets, guarantee that you will definitely find what you are looking for. Soy milk, quite similar to cow's milk with its neutral taste, can be used without fear in all types of preparations. Almond milk, for its part, has a slightly sweet taste in the industrial version, which makes it the ideal solution for lactose-free desserts, provided of course that you also replace the butter. Be careful, however, with the sugar dosage, indicated on the label, of certain supermarket plant-based milks.


This time, vegetable butter is in the spotlight. The latter, made from oilseed puree, is available in a ready-made version in most supermarkets. For the preparation of lactose-free recipes, we opt for vegetable oils, favoring those with a neutral taste, such as sunflower or rapeseed oil, in order to avoid changing the taste of the recipe. As for dosage, there is no need to worry since the butter can be replaced by an equal quantity of vegetable oil.


Saying “goodbye” to cheese is without a doubt the most difficult step when it comes to starting a lactose-free diet. Between its comforting taste and its creamy appearance, cheese is one of the most addictive foods. Don’t panic though, the “false mage”, imagined by our vegan friends, is there to keep us company. It is made from oilseeds, such as cashew nuts for example, which provide this soft and creamy texture. Some also add butternut squash puree to recall the orange color of our beloved cheddar, or nutritional yeast for the slightly acidic side of classic cheeses. And to satisfy parmesan cravings, you can sprinkle it on our savory dishes. Be careful, however, as its taste is much more pronounced than that of parmesan.


“Yoghurts are lactose-free because they contain an enzyme, lactase, which hydrolyzes lactose,” explains Déborah. For those concerned about animal welfare, for example, plant-based yogurts are available in supermarkets, and can also be prepared at home, in the same way as classic yogurts, simply using plant-based milk, such as soy milk. .

Thanks to Déborah Ohana, dietitian nutritionist specializing in sports nutrition, micro-nutrition and eating disorders.

Deborah Ohana

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