Dairy Free Chinese Food is a hot topic, with many people looking for healthy and tasty options. For many years most of us were told that Chinese food is dairy-free and it has been a staple in the diet of many Americans.
Do you love Asian food and wish you could have it as often as possible? Did your doctor tell you to cut out dairy? Well, this post is for you!
In this blog post, we break down the best dairy-free Asian dishes and explain how to enjoy them without any dairy at all.
Is Chinese Food Dairy-Free?
Many Chinese dishes are completely dairy-free. Not milk, cheese or butter. Most Chinese dishes are made using cooking methods like stir-frying, steaming and boiling rather than using dairy products in the actual cooking process.
Dairy Free Chinese Food: Best 15 Dairy Free Items
Disclosure: We’ve compiled a list of the best 15 Chinese foods that can be enjoyed while avoiding all traces of dairy! And these are no ordinary dishes — they’re still just as delicious as their full-dairy counterparts.
Whether you’re going out to eat or cooking at home, you can enjoy these mouthwatering Chinese dishes without having to worry about your dairy substitution. Now, onto the list!
1. Fried Rice
Fried rice is probably one of the easiest things to make dairy-free. The key is in the preparation: Make sure to get a good non-dairy substitute for soy sauce, like tamari or liquid aminos. This will give a rich soy flavor without the pesky lactose content.
2. Tom Yum Kung (Hot And Sour Soup)
Tom kha gai is another soup made with chicken and lemongrass. Some people might prefer the taste of this dish with coconut milk in place of a few tablespoons of water, which makes it dairy free.
However, if you’re following a dairy-free diet, you’ll have to get creative and find a very reasonable non-dairy substitute for coconut milk. We found that soy sauce works well enough as a replacement.
3. Gai Lan (Spicy Green Beans)
Gai lan (also known as Chinese string beans) is one of the most popular green vegetables in China. It’s similar to peas, but they’re a bit sweeter and have a more crisp texture.
If you don’t mind the peppery spiciness of gai lan, you can serve it with soy sauce to cut down on the salty flavor of soy sauce.
4. Vegetable Dumplings
If you’re in the mood for some Chinese take-out, this is a safe bet. Most restaurants will let you order vegetable dumplings without any dairy substitutes or modifications to the cooking process. These vegetable dumplings can be steamed or fried, depending on your preference.
5. Wonton Soup
Wonton soup is another Chinese staple, and it’s pretty standard across many different Chinese cuisines. Wonton skins are available in a variety of flavors, and you can vary the toppings. If you’d like to avoid dairy, try using a soy sauce substitute when cooking these dumplings.
6. Chow Mein
Chow mein is a classic Chinese take-out dish. This one relies on wheat noodles instead of rice noodles, which is probably why it’s easier to find a dairy free version of this dish at many Chinese restaurants.
7. Ma Po Tofu
This vegetarian dish is filled with savory and spicy flavors. This tofu dish uses red pepper powder, chili oil, and dark soy sauce, giving it a strong flavor that carries through regardless of whether or not you’re using dairy substitutes.
If you want to cut out the spice entirely, try using soy sauce as a substitute for chili oil and black bean paste instead of chili powder for the Chinese five-spice powder.
8. Vegetable Egg Rolls
You can ask for these egg rolls without any modification to the cooking process. Just be sure to tell them not to add any dairy sauce to the dish.
9. Vegetable Lo Mein
Just like vegetable egg rolls, you can order vegetable lo mein without modifying the cooking process. Tell your server that you need a dairy free dish, and they’ll make sure to cook it properly with no dairy.
10. Moo Shu Vegetables
This classic dish is normally made with pork and egg, but you can ask for a vegetable-only version that’s much easier to make dairy free. All you have to do is ask! This dish makes for a great dinner because it’s made to order.
11. Lemon Chicken
This delicious chicken dish is actually quite simple to modify — just ask that they use soy sauce instead of butter in the coating.
They’ll mix the soy sauce into the batter, and you’ll end up with a crispy, flavorful chicken that’s just as good as their dairy-filled counterparts.
12. Chow Mei Fun
This noodle dish is completely dairy-free as long as you get it without any meat or seafood toppings. It’s made from wheat noodles, which are usually found in dairy-free packaged meals. Don’t forget to tell your server that you need a dairy free dish!
13. Steamed Dim Sum
Dim sum is another great Chinese take out dish — and it’s easy to modify! Just ask your server to use soy sauce in place of chicken stock or butter, and they’ll make sure that their dim sum doesn’t contain any dairy either.
14. Szechuan Eggplant
Szechuan eggplant is another easy dish that’s often made with egg, but you can ask them to make it without eggs and it will still be delicious. If you’re allergic to eggs, ask them to make it without the egg substitute.
15. Egg Tarts
Since this Chinese dessert is made with a lot of butter, they can actually make it dairy free if you ask them to use a soy sauce alternative instead of some of the butter in the dish. They’ll just need to eliminate the dairy ingredients and use more oil or flour as a replacement.
Just let them know that this is your dairy free dish, and you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious egg tart without any dairy in the recipe!
Is Dairy-Free Chinese Food Healthy?
You might be wondering how to do dairy-free Chinese takeout, but the truth is that it’s actually quite healthy. Many of these dishes are steamed instead of fried, and the lighter side dishes are usually made from vegetables instead of fried foods.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule — like dim sum. But if you’re like most Americans, you probably aren’t eating dim sum every week, so these recipes should work for you!
If you’re a vegetarian who craves Chinese food, it can be hard to find dairy free alternatives that are flavorful enough to satisfy your cravings.
The good news is that there are some awesome restaurants out there that specialize in vegetarian and gluten free meals — so once you figure out how to make your favorite dish dairy free, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
What Can’t You Eat On A Dairy-Free Diet?
If you’re used to eating dairy products, it can be hard to find alternatives that are tasty and healthy. Most of the food in your cupboards will be safe for you to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — with a few exceptions.
You’ll want to avoid any pre-packaged foods that contain casein, whey, or lactose unless they’re labeled as being okay for people with allergies or intolerances.
The only other thing you’ll want to avoid are condiments or sauces that contain milk, cream, or butter — this includes ketchup, mayonnaise, mayonnaise substitutes (not margarine) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
These condiments won’t make you sick, but they’re not good for your health. You can still add flavor to your meals with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and lemon juice in the place of regular liquid dairy.
How Do I Start A Dairy Free Lifestyle?
Once you decide that you want to start eating dairy free, the first thing you’ll want to do is find out how much milk, cream, and butter you’re actually consuming.
Look at your grocery list and make sure that only dairy-free foods made it inside the home. Then, find out how much dairy you’re actually consuming in one meal.
Chances are, you didn’t eat that much dairy in one sitting — so make sure to check out your meal plan and try to estimate how much dairy it contains. Look at the listed ingredients on the nutrition label and write down the amounts of each ingredient in your meal.
The Bottom Line
The best way to start eating dairy free in Chinese restaurants is just to ask your server about the ingredients in their dishes.
Most of the ingredients used in these Chinese recipes contain just a little bit of milk, cream, or butter — so you can ask if they can put those ingredients aside and make a dish that’s free from dairy for you.
Don’t be afraid. You won’t need to make any drastic changes to your diet. You can still enjoy tasty, delicious Chinese takeout with a dairy free twist — just ask your server to make sure you don’t eat any dairy in the sauce or on your dish.