:: Living Gluten and Dairy (casein) Free!

Some of us face the double challenge of being on a dairy or casein free diet and a gluten free diet, often times called the GFCF diet.  

There is difference between lactose intolerance and a true dairy allergy. 

Lactose is the sugar that is present in dairy products. The body produces lactase at the tip of the intestinal villi.  Lactase is the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose. If the villi are damaged, as can happen with Celiac Disease, not enough lactase is made and a person develops lactose intolerance.  Some people with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate dairy on occasion and can treat it with lactase replacement digestive enzyme before meals.  As such, some foods labeled lactose free may contain milk derivatives such as caseinate and butter fat or butter oil.

Some people who avoid dairy are actually allergic to casein. Casein is the protein found in milk.  People who are on a Casein Free diet for medical reasons will usually avoid all dairy products.  In addition, some people pair a casein free diet with a gluten free diet to treat Autism Spectrum Disorders and difficult to treat digestive disorders like Crohn's Disease or IBS. 

The information provided here is for those on a Casein Free diet who are avoiding all forms of dairy.  

Foods that contain casein include but are not limited to:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Half & Half
  • Yogurt
  • Sour Cream
  • Cheese 
  • Butter
  • Sherbet
  • White or Milk Chocolate
  • Ice Cream
  • Ice Milk
  • Creamed Soups and Vegetables
  • Soup Bases
  • Puddings
  • Custard
  • Whey

All bovine milk and milk products
contain casein.

Foods that may contain casein include but are not limited to:

  • Margarine
  • Tuna Fish
  • Dairy-Free Cheese (most brands)
  • Cosmetics, Medicines
  • Lactic Acid
  • Artificial Flavorings
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • Hot Dogs
  • Lunch Meats
  • Sausage
  • Ghee

For an even more extensive list of foods that may contain casein, click HERE.

Kosher is good. Foods certified as kosher non-dairy or pareve are free of dairy proteins.  Of course, Kosher free does not equate to gluten free, so you still need to check on the gluten content. 

Casein-Free Alternatives:  By experimenting with our recipes, we have found that many can be converted to also be casein free.   There are also many over-the-counter casein free alternatives. 

  • Cow’s milk: Try a non-dairy alternative milk such as a GF Coconut, Almond, Soy or Rice Milk.  My first choice is coconut milk but it can taint some foods with that coconut flavor.  To avoid that, use almond milk.  Both have the consistency of a whole milk.
  • Coffee Creamers: So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer is heavenly.
  • Butter: Earth Balance non-dairy spread.  Tastes, spreads and bakes like real butter.  For baked goods, try Spectrum Organic Shortening.  Olive Oil is another great dairy stand-in.  Pour it on your baked potato.  Pour some on a plate and add garlic salt and pepper and dip your gluten free/casein free bread sticks in it.  Top a pizza with olive oil, red peppers and some tomatoes.  Pour over your favorite buttered noodles and add garlic salt.
  • Buttermilk:  Take GF Soy milk and mix with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Let it sit until it thickens.
  • Chocolate Chips: Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Tropical Source Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.
  • Cream Cheese: There are non-dairy versions available at natural food markets.  Make sure and check that they are GF as well.  Try Tofutti Brand Better Than Cream Cheese® but read about what they say about being GF HERE.
  • Dry Milk Powder:  Dari-Free Non-Dairy Milk Alternative-Original, from Vance's.
  • Sour Cream:  There are non-dairy versions available at natural food markets.  Make sure and check that they are gluten free as well.  Tofutti also makes a non-hydrogenated Better Than Sour Cream that is casein free. Best Foods Mayonnaise can also substitute for sour cream. When making tacos, I mix it with salsa for the taco topping. (My entire family does this now, even the ones that do not have a dairy allergy).  I use it in the same way when we go out to dinner.
  • Yogurt: There are many casein free yogurts.  I love the So Delicious Dairy Free Cultured Coconut Milk “yogurts.”
  • Cheese:  Daiya and Go Veggie make a GF and CF cheese that comes shredded and in slices.  The flavor is fine but it takes some extra heat for it to melt.  If making a pizza, place under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the cheese topping.
Gluten and Casein Free Recipes

Many of the recipes listed on this site are naturally casein free or easy to convert.  I include casein free alternatives in the recipes when available.  Additionally, visit the Strictly Dairy Free page for recipes specifically formatted for those on a Gluten Free and Dairy (Casein) Free Diet - aka Gluten and Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese.