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Trailworthy Cheese Alternatives

With a little creativity, dairy-wary hikers can find tasty and satisfying alternatives to cheese.

For lactose-intolerant folks like me, cheese is a double-edged sword. We love the taste, but our bodies can’t handle it because we don’t produce the enzymes needed to digest milk sugar. Sure, we can take over-the-counter lactase supplements to help reduce symptoms (abdominal cramps, bloating, and diarrhea), but I’d just as soon not tempt the gastric gods when I’m miles from modern plumbing.

So what’s a fat-craving backpacker to do if string cheese, Cheddar on a bagel, and mac ‘n’ cheese are off the menu? Try these substitutes and new recipes.

Instead Of… Try…
Cheddar and salami on a bagel Soy cheese* or instant hummus on a bagel
Alfredo sauce on pasta Pasta tossed with olive oil & bacon bits
Monterey Jack on quesadillas Tortillas with grilled onion & portobello mushrooms
Western omelette with Cheddar Western omelette drizzled with balsamic vinegar
Cheesy tuna, rice, and peas Tuna, rice, and peas with mayo & a pinch of flour

*Many soy cheeses are made with casein, which is not lactose, but is a dairy product.

Tangy Chicken Pasta

The eggs, oil, and vinegar in mayonnaise give this dish the tartness and creaminess of a cheese casserole. Be sure to use real mayonnaise rather than a low- or no-fat version.

1 scallion, coarsely chopped


4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces chunk white chicken meat

4 individual-serving packages of mayonnaise

8 ounces macaroni

1 single-serving envelope dried vegetable

soup mix

salt and pepper

1⁄4   cup chopped pecans or walnuts

In camp: Sauti scallion and mushrooms in olive oil until softened. Mix in the chicken, including the liquid, and mayonnaise and set aside. Cook pasta according to the package directions. When the pasta is al dente, remove from the heat and drain off all but a half cup of water. Add the soup mix and chicken mixture. Stir and cover for 3 minutes to rehydrate the vegetables. Top with salt, pepper, and nuts. Serves 2.

Ersatz Eggs and Cheese

Like mayonnaise, which is basically eggs and oil, tofu (soybean curd) is often thought of as a dairy product. This tofu-based dish contains no cheese, yet looks and tastes remarkably like eggs with cheese because the carrot turns the tofu the color of scrambled eggs.

2 large carrots, finely grated

16 ounces firm tofu

3 single-serving packages of soy sauce

dash sesame oil

In camp: Cook carrots over low heat until soft. Crumble tofu and mix in. Add soy sauce and sesame oil and simmer until hot. Serves 4.

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