Lactose free Shavuot

Mark Mietkiewicz

The Jewish Internet by Mark Mietkiewicz, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

Unlike other Jewish holidays, only one festival, Shavuot, has become synonymous with dairy foods. There are people who would be happy to sit down to a table groaning under the weight of blintzes and kugel and onion soup and quiche and cheesecake. The problem is that they are lactose intolerant and all that dairy food can leave them with an upset stomach and worse. Or perhaps they can’t indulge on dairy because they are watching their cholesterol. What to do? Check out the dairy substitute advice on the web.

How serious is lactose intolerance among Jews? Surprisingly so according to a study published in the journal American Family Physician. It says that 60 to 80 percent of Ashkenazi Jews are lactose intolerant.

“Common symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating…” and some other unpleasant effects which you are all too aware of if you are a sufferer ( A study cited in a Wikipedia entry on lactose intolerance suggests that the rate among Sephardic Jews is slightly lower (

Phyllis Glazer writes in the Jerusalem Post, “soy milk is one alternative to regular milk…Other possibilities are coconut milk, rice milk, oatmeal milk and quinoa milk (though after tasting I personally wouldn’t buy any of the last three).”

Glazer continues, “for dessert, it’s easy to find non-dairy ice creams in every supermarket (non-dairy, but chemical rich). Ichh. But if you’re allergic to milk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put up with chemical additives; especially when it’s so easy and good to make things like virtual ‘feta’ or ‘ricotta’ out of wholesome ingredients like tofu.”

She then provides recipes for “Feta” Cheese In Seven-Ingredient Olive Oil Marinade and Vegetables Stuffed With Non-Dairy Ricotta Cheese ( presents a blintz recipe with an assortment of non-dairy fillings including apple, nut, low-carb potato (“Mix equal amounts of cooked potato with cooked cauliflower and some fried onions”) and parve “cheese” (“In a small pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Drop in small amounts of egg white, breaking up with a fork. They will look like curds of cheese.”) at

As for that emblematic cheesecake, I came across several recipes that call for tofu cream cheese (aka Tofutti), along with non-dairy heavy cream and soy milk (

Interestingly, the recipe for Parve at Sinai Cake uses “silken” tofu and advises against a cream cheese substitute product like Tofutti. This cake “can be made gluten-free, too, with tapioca flour which is made from cassava, a tuber of the bitter variety of yucca (”

As points out, levels of lactose intolerance can vary and some people can tolerate (and enjoy) aged cheeses such as cheddar or Swiss. That’s what they put into their Portobello Personal Pizza Pies. There are recipes for Cheesy Baked Ziti with Less Cheese (with lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk), and Greek Salad (“Feta cheese, cottage cheese, farmer cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese seem to be medium-lactose products that can often be eaten in small amounts.”) at

If you know someone who just can’t stomach cheesecake but loves it in theory, here’s a solution for you. Just go to, where you can send off an electronic version complete with a delicious photo of a virtual slice. It’s painless and the calories are virtual, too (

Finally, a halachic (Jewish legal) reality check. If dairy makes you ill, don’t feel guilty about skipping it. As an Aish HaTorah rabbi explains: “Eating dairy on Shavuot is only a custom, whereas ‘enjoying Yom Tov’ has the status of Torah law. So when the two ideas conflict …it is better to preserve your enjoyment of the Shavuot holiday and not eat dairy (”

Mark Mietkiewicz may be reached at

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