How to Survive Lactose Intolerance and be African American

calm black woman walking with dog on street

Lactose intolerance is very common in African American communities. Studies estimate that 75% of African Americans are lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance can bring a world of discomfort if you are unprepared. This usually comes in the form of stomach aches or diarrhea. And the severity depends how lactose you can handle.

There are a few ways to stop the effects of lactose intolerance by using pills or avoid dairy all together. But who wants to avoid dairy all together?  Who wants to take pills all day?

Here’s how to survive being African American with lactose intolerance while drinking juice in the hood. 🤣 Lmao! If you get that reference you know that movie from the 90s. Below are classic soul food recipes that are lactose intolerance friendly and perfect for any African American holiday, family reunion, and Sunday dinner.  

Lactose Free Soul Food Recipes

Hoppin’ John

You may know this as just black eye peas or Carolina peas and rice, is a great side dish if you find your meal needing more body or simply love a rice dish at your table. This rice-based dish draws a lot of flavor from hearty beans and other add-ons like bacon.

https://www.connoisseurusveg.com/smoky-vegan-hoppin-john-with-chard/

This dish is a great if you have a variety of guests because it can very easily be made gluten-free or vegan by simply swapping out a few ingredients.

https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/vegan-hoppin-john/

Collard Greens

This is a healthy and nutritious staple in soul food. This dish is delicious with the addition of smoked meat and chicken broth, but if you want to make a healthier or vegan version, substitute these ingredients out for vegetable broth and whatever add-ons you might like.

https://divascancook.com/vegetarian-southern-collard-greens-recipe-healthy/

https://sweetpotatosoul.com/2017/04/vegan-southern-collard-greens.html

Biscuits

Biscuits are a comfort food that you might feel like you would have to miss out on. But the truth is, butter is usually very low in lactose, making it basically lactose-free. Many people can look past butter if they have an intolerance to lactose.

https://sugarspunrun.com/easy-homemade-biscuits/

However, if you are still wary of any lactose content at all in your food, try substituting the butter for a vegan or lactose free butter for incredibly flakey and buttery biscuits.

https://minimalistbaker.com/the-best-damn-vegan-biscuits/

Cornbread

Cornbread is another amazing addition to your table that will warm all of your guests. It can easily be made vegan but is a great dish for those who are lactose free with the use of a lactose free milk for a rich and homey comfort food.

https://www.thetasteofkosher.com/dairy-free-cornbread/

https://www.thekitchenmagpie.com/the-ultimate-jiffy-cornbread-recipe/#wprm-recipe-container-65005

Fried Chicken

Every family has their own beloved fried chicken recipe. However, in most traditional recipes, the most common ingredient used to marinade chicken is buttermilk. This is used to ensure a moist and juicy bite in your chicken. This can easily be subbed out for any lactose free milk of your choice with a small splash of lemon juice or white vinegar to make your own DIY lactose free buttermilk.

https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/crispy-buttermilk-fried-chicken

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/buttermilk-fried-chicken-recipe0-1937895

Candied Yams

These are indispensable to a full dinner spread. This dish is a deliciously sweet and comforting side with the addition of spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. These are a great lactose free dish that you can add to your plate.

https://iheartrecipes.com/baked-candied-yams-soul-food/

https://www.staysnatched.com/candied-sweet-potatoes/

Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of the biggest culprits for those who are lactose intolerant. But who can resist it? It is incredibly indulgent with its creamy and cheesy base that everyone loves. The trick with mac and cheese is to use cheese with low lactose.

The lactose intolerant friendly cheeses are cheddar cheese, Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano), Asiago, provolone, Swiss, Romano, Gruyere, and Gouda.

However void high in lactose cheeses like American cheese, Velveeta, Colby, Monterey Jack, Pimento cheese, Pepper Jack, and mozzarella.

For these mac and cheese recipes just swap out the whole milk for lactose free whole milk.

https://www.momontimeout.com/best-homemade-baked-mac-and-cheese-recipe/#wprm-recipe-container-18917

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/mac-n-cheese-with-bacon-and-cheese-recipe-1917317

Bonus:  Lobster Mac and Cheese.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lobster-mac-and-cheese-recipe-1948798

Lactose Free Desserts

Desserts can be the best part of the meal but if you are lactose intolerant, many people tend to feel like this can be a dangerous area to venture into. But you can substitute regular milk for lactose free milk. Lactaid and Fairlife are common brands found in most grocery stores at relatively affordable prices.

Pies

Sweet potato pie is another traditional favorite. Substitute the evaporated milk for Nestle’s almond cooking milk to make the perfect sweet treat to end off your night. Pies can be a tricky dish to nail but using lactose free butter for a flakey pie crust is incredibly easy. Then fill the crust with your favorite, whether it is pecan, apple, cherry or whatever you fancy.

https://lovingitvegan.com/vegan-sweet-potato-pie/

https://cooknourishbliss.com/2019/10/01/dairy-free-apple-pie/

Banana Pudding

Banana pudding is a delicious dessert. We all love its layers of custard and cookies mixed with the sweetness of bananas. Substitute the milk in the custard for coconut milk to get that creamy texture that everyone loves.

https://strengthandsunshine.com/southern-vegan-banana-pudding-gluten-free/

https://www.mysequinedlife.com/dairy-free-banana-pudding/

Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is one of the ultimate soul food desserts. To get that perfect moist cake texture, many recipes call for buttermilk. But use our favorite trick of substituting this with any lactose free milk with a splash of lemon juice or white vinegar to get the same effect.

https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/vegan-red-velvet-cake/

https://flippindelicious.com/2018/12/gluten-free-dairy-free-red-velvet-cake-recipe.html

Peach cobbler

Cobblers are a delicious way to take advantage of the season’s best fruit. Whether you love peach, blueberry, strawberry or even a mixed fruit cobbler, this is a great dessert that can be quickly whipped up. Peach cobbler is one of the most common cobblers.

https://www.noracooks.com/vegan-peach-cobbler/

https://www.thespeckledpalate.com/dairy-free-peach-cobbler/

Strawberry Cobbler

This dish is also another favorite all year round. Served warm with lactose free or dairy-free ice cream, you will have the perfect end to a meal.

https://www.theroastedroot.net/vegan-strawberry-cobbler-gluten-free/

https://www.paleorunningmomma.com/strawberry-cobbler-paleo-vegan/

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is another heartwarming and indulgent dessert that is the favorite of many. One of the most important components of carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting. Substitute the cream cheese for a lactose free brand or consider trying a dairy-free alternative.

https://cooknourishbliss.com/2019/04/10/dairy-free-carrot-cake/


If you find that you are missing out on cream cheese frosting on your cakes, this can easily be solved with lactose free cream cheese that is usually found in the same section as you would cream cheese. You certainly don’t compromise on flavor here. Here is a vegan cream cheese frosting that you can use for your next bake.

https://greenvalleylactosefree.com/product/lactose-free-cream-cheese

The Substitutions

In each dish and recipe above we talked about the different substitutions you can do. But if you don’t need the recipes, here are just the substitutions.

Butter

Depending on the level of your intolerance, butter is very low in lactose. Many people can handle butter found in things like cobblers and cakes. But if you want to be safe buy dairy free or vegan butter. These butters are made with oil instead of milk.

Buttermilk

You can make this yourself by using any lactose free milk of your choice and a small splash of lemon juice or white vinegar to make your own DIY lactose free buttermilk.

Heavy Cream

Heavy whipped cream is low in lactose. So if you use this then there is really no reason to substitute it.

However you can just make it by melting 1/3 cup of butter (or vegan butter) and heat up 2/3 cup of lactose free milk for 20 seconds in the microwave and combine.

Cream Cheese for Cakes

If you find that you are missing out on cream cheese frosting on your cakes, this can easily be solved with lactose free cream cheese that is usually found in the same section as you would cream cheese. You certainly don’t compromise on flavor here.

Cheese

If you are lactose intolerant you can eat cheese without it hurting your stomach. You can eat cheese as long as you choose the right cheese. The right cheese is low in lactose content. The lactose intolerant friendly cheeses are cheddar cheese, Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano), Asiago, provolone, Swiss, Romano, Gruyere, and Gouda.

African Americans and Lactose Intolerance

Soul food and its dishes are staples in households, with recipes that have been passed down for generations. These recipes are sacred to each family as they represent ancestry and tradition. So all hope is not lost if you are African American and have lactose intolerance.

When it comes to cooking and substituting ingredients, the food industry has certainly gotten better over the years, with the rise of healthy eating and food consciousness. There are plenty of alternatives on the market that will not compromise taste, flavor, or even authenticity.

Making a few changes you can help your entire experience and make enjoying food a stress-free experience.

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