6 Things To Put On Your Bagel When You’re Lactose Intolerant


If you live in a city with decent bagels, you know how hard it is to avoid carb-loading. But for those who can’t stomach cream cheese, bagel shops can be a sad place. Your standard cafe or bodega will have the basics, but there usually isn’t a plethora of dairy-free options. It sucks because you probably have to sit there and watch your friend indulge in a sesame bagel with scallion cream cheese and lox, meanwhile you’re sitting there with a muffin. The next time you’re craving a bagel, buy a half-dozen and then go home and try one of these dairy-free spreads. You can still enjoy the bagel life, we promise.

1. Avocado 

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Instead of making avocado toast with your ripe avocado, you can spread it on your bagel. This is the perfect dairy-free solution when you’re craving a bagel with smoked salmon. Mash up the avocado with a little olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Spread it on both halves of your bagel and layer the salmon on top. It’s basically like a salmon and avocado roll on a bagel. If you really want to go full-out Jewish deli-style, add some capers and red onion to the mix.

2. Coconut Butter

Here’s another healthy topping for your bagel when dairy isn’t in the cards. You can find coconut butter at natural health food stores or vitamin shops. Unlike coconut oil, coconut butter includes shreds of the actual coconut meat. The spread is made from the ground coconut just like peanut butter is made from ground peanuts.

There’s a natural sweetness to the butter, but you can actually feel good about eating this version. Depending on the brand it can be on the expensive side so you’re better off making your own. All you need is unsweetened shredded coconut. Coconut butter works best with a sweet bagel like cinnamon raisin, blueberry or chocolate chip.

3. Baba Ganoush 

You’ll find this Middle Eastern staple on just about any menu that has hummus. It’s cooked eggplant mixed with tahini (a paste or sauce made from ground sesame seeds). The eggplant is baked or broiled over an open flame until it’s soft and smoky. Baba ganoush is usually served with pita bread at Middle Eastern restaurants, but you should try this creamy spread on a toasted bagel for breakfast. Add some fresh chopped tomatoes on top and you’ll forget all about cream cheese.

Hummus serves the same purpose on a bagel and adds a good dose of protein, heart-healthy fats and dietary fiber to your breakfast.

4. Tofu Cream Cheese

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When you can’t part with the texture of cream cheese, there’s tofu cream cheese. The biggest brand is probably Tofutti, whose slogan happens to be “Better Than Cream Cheese.” This by no means has to do with the nutritional value of the dairy-free spread, but it’s the closest you’ll find to the real thing. It has the same mouthfeel as real cream cheese and you can find it in different flavors, so you basically feel like you’re indulging. A lot of bagel shops do offer tofu cream cheese so be on the lookout next time you’re passing by.

5. Muhammara

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With roots in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, muhammara is a hot pepper spread. It’s made with Aleppo pepper, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs and olive oil. Sometimes it has salt, garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and mint leaves. Just like baba ganoush highlights the beauty of the eggplant, muhammara embodies all the best flavors of roasted red peppers.

This recipe for chia muhammara is smoky with a little protein and some healthy fats from the nuts and seeds. Try it on a sesame or onion bagel and you’ll be sold. No need to toast the bagel because unlike cream cheese, muhammara is silky smooth on its own.

6. Cashew Cream Cheese 

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You can have your cake and eat it too with cashew cream cheese. This vegan spread can be mixed with all kinds of spices, fruits or herbs to create different flavors. Companies like Miyoko’s Kitchen make artisan cultured vegan cheeses including vegan butter and spreadable vegan cheeses like double cream chive, sundried tomato garlic and Herbes de Provence.

You can buy cashew cream cheese from the store, but some brands are overly processed and it’s easy to make your own. Here’s a recipe for garlic cashew cream cheese that’s pretty ideal for your bagel.