Here are some of my favorite substitutions and what I have found they work best for.
Soy Milk: I generally try to avoid large quantities of soy, but if you don't mind soy it is a good replacement for milk in many recipes because it is thicker and creamier than a lot of dairy-free milks.
Rice Milk: This is what I use for everyday use with cereal, etc. It is sweet and pretty thin in consistency. It is best for sweet dishes and good in smoothies or "milkshake" type of drinks.
Almond Milk: Another milk that is good for everyday use. Like rice milk it is sweet and thin in consistency. Also like rice milk, it is best for sweet dishes and I personally love it for smoothies.
Coconut Milk: This is a good milk substitute for cooking and baking. You can buy it in cartons like rice and almond milk or in cans that you can store in the pantry. It is good for both sweet and savory dishes and has a Thai or Caribbean kick to it (though in baking it usually doesn't give off a strong flavor of its own).
Soy Creamer: Silk has a good soy creamer (they even make different flavors if you are using it for coffee) but there are many other brands as well. Trader Joe's has one that is actually pretty cheap. I will generally use soy creamer in recipes that call for half and half as well.
To Make Evaporated Milk: If you are using a soy or rice milk powder, you can combine 1 cup of the powder with one cup of boiling water until well mixed. You can also use regular soy or rice milk and reduce over the stove by half. Do not let it boil and stir occasionally so it doesn't burn to the pan. I can imagine that this would also work for most other milks, especially almond milk.
To Make Sweetened Condensed Milk: To make 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk, combine 3 cups non-fairy milk with 1/2 cup white sugar or 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice. Cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly until it is reduced to one cup. Once reduced, add a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Cool completely before using and store in the refrigerator.
To Make Buttermilk: For one cup of buttermilk, combine one cup milk alternative with 2-3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar and let sit for at least 15 minutes before using.
*Some of this information was obtained from www.godairyfree.org, which is a good resource for dairy-free cooking.
Other Dairy Substitutes:
Earth Balance: This is my favorite vegan butter. I use it as a 1:1 substitute for any recipe that calls for butter.
Vegan Gourmet: They make good gluten and dairy free cheeses.
Daiya: They also make good gluten and dairy free cheeses.
Gluten Free Flours:
Almond Flour: This is a good flour that I use as my main flour in many recipes. It is high in protein and digests more slowly, so it is a healthful choice. It is also high in vitamin E and calcium.
Sorghum Flour: This is one of my favorite gluten-free flours. It is sweet and medium in texture.
Tapioca, Potato, Arrowroot, or Cornstarch: These are light in texture and are good to balance out the heavier gluten free flours.
White or Brown Rice Flour: These are good medium texture flours and I personally prefer the brown rice flour.
Millet, Buckwheat, and Quinoa Flours: Each of these are heavier textured flours with pretty high amounts of protein.
Teff Flour: This is an Ethiopian flour that is traditionally used to make Injera. It is high and protein, slightly heavy textured and good for baking.
Coconut Flour: This is a medium textured flour that is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates meaning that it has a low glycemic index making it particularly good for diabetics. It is naturally sweet, so it is good for baked desserts.
* When mixing flours together, you will usually want one light textured flour or starch, one medium textured flour, and one heavier textured flour.
**I do not like bean flours, for one reason only: I have noticed a metallic taste to them. The bad thing is that many pre-made all-purpose gluten free flour mixes contain bean flours therefore I do not like them either. Since most gluten-free recipes are best with a mix of flours it is good to have some pre-made mixes on hand, so I suggest you mix up you own. This is my favorite right now, but I will tell you more as I come up with them and of course each of my recipes will tell you what ratio of flours I used:
1 part almond flour
1 part sorghum flour
1 part tapioca flour
*** Also, with gluten free baking you need a binding agent, since that s what gluten does in "normal" baking. This means that whenever you use gluten free flours you need to add a gum. I usually use xanthum gum but you can also use guar gum.
Refined sugar can spike blood sugar and is generally over-processed. Here are some healthier substitutions for refined sugar.
Agave nectar: This can replace both white and brown sugar. Substitute 2/3 cup agave nectar for 1 cup sugar. If substituting agave for white sugar, reduce liquids by about 1/4 cup per cup. If substituting agave for brown sugar you most likely do not need to reduce liquids.
Honey: You can substitute honey for sugar in the same way as agave, but it has a more distinct honey taste so it may not work well in all recipes.
Maple Syrup: Another liquid substitution, but it also has a distinctive flavor.
Evaporated Cane Juice: This can replace white or brown sugar in a 1:1 substitution rate.
I hope some of these substitution notes are helpful to you, and I will be adding to the list as I experiment with more substitutions and combinations.
Gluten and Dairy Free Fats
Many recipes need fats and oftentimes butter is the fall-back. Of course, vegan butter can be used but sometimes other fats are a better option.
Earth Balance: My favorite vegan butter
Coconut Oil: My favorite oil for baking
Shortening: Its kind of gross if you think about it but it does have its place, such as pie crusts and certain baked goods
Olive Oil: My favorite oil for savory cooking. It is a very versatile oil. When cooking with it do not use extra-virgin olive oil, but if using it in a dressing or something uncooked, EVOO is the best option.
Grapeseed Oil: This is a great oil with a buttery taste. Random side note: it is m favorite oil for popping popcorn.
Vegetable Oil: Always a classic with a mild taste, but make sure you know what its actually made from.