What Are Dairy-Free Brownies?

Judith Smith Sullivan

Dairy-free brownies are a chocolate, cake-like dessert which do not contain any dairy or dairy derived products. This includes ingredients like lactose, whey, butter, milk, cream, casein, and other modified food chemicals. Traditional brownie ingredients, like milk chocolate and butter, are replaced with non-dairy alternatives to create dairy-free brownies. Dairy-free brownies are available ready-made and in dry mixes, but there are also many homemade recipes available.

Dairy-free brownies are made without any dairy products.
Dairy-free brownies are made without any dairy products.

Foods and recipes that are dairy-free are not vegan, although there are many vegan brownie recipes that are also dairy free. A vegan recipe must be free of all animal products, including eggs and milk. Dairy-free products can include animal products like eggs but not milk derived ingredients.

Carob can be used in brownies as a dairy-free alternative to chocolate.
Carob can be used in brownies as a dairy-free alternative to chocolate.

Since brownies need butter for proper consistency and chemical reactions while baking, dairy-free brownies use a butter substitute. Butter substitutes can be created from vegetable oils like margarine as long as they don't include milk proteins like whey. Puréed fruits are also commonly used as butter substitutes because the texture and mass of the purée reacts well with other ingredients. Semi-sweet chocolate is a good alternative to milk chocolate, although carob can also be used. Carob is similar in consistency to chocolate but tastes significantly different.

Although many brownie recipes don't call for milk or cream, there are dairy-free milk substitutes. Most are derived from nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Coconut, almond, soy, and rice milk are some of the most popular milk substitutes, but there are also lactose-free versions of cow's milk.

Many dairy-free brownies use several substitutions to enhance flavor. They may include multiple fruits and vegetables, like bananas, dates, and even zucchini and avacados to create the perfect combination. When making dairy-free brownies at home, it is important to follow a recipe to the letter. Usually, the results won't be very good if a traditional brownie recipe is used with substituted ingredients because many substitutions are not used in an amount equal to their dairy counterparts.

Some specialty bakeries produce ready-made, dairy-free brownies. When purchasing dairy-free goods, it is important to review the ingredients carefully. For instance, "lactose-free" is not synonymous with dairy-free.

Store bought brownies are typically more expensive than homemade brownies, but homemade brownies can be tricky to make. Some companies produce a dairy-free brownie mix to simplify the process of baking while keeping costs down. These are typically as easy to use as regular brownie mixes and faster than making brownies from scratch.

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