Substituting the Top 10 Allergens in the Kitchen
Hey all! I figured it might be fun to do a quick post on tips to substitute the Top 10 Allergens in your kitchen… Most of the time if there’s one allergy in your home, there’s probably a couple others too, which makes cooking a bit of an adventure. Hopefully you might find some ideas in here that are helpful.
Before we start, a heads up that this is not an expert thesis…. One day I’ll be an expert ;) For now, its a collection of a few tricks that I use and have found to be really helpful- plus, its a great excuse to pull some fun recipes out of the archive you may not have seen yet. So, here they are- ideas for substituting the Top 10 Allergens in your cooking/ baking. Feel free to add more to the discussion!
NOTE: This is part of the Substitution Series: Part 1 is Understanding Gluten Free Flours, Part 2 is How to Substitute Eggs, Part 3 is How to Substitute Sugar, Part 4 is How to Substitute Fats/ Oils, Part 5 is How to Substitute Dairy and Part 6 is Substituting the Top 10 Allergens in Baking.
How To Substitute the Top 10 Allergens
In place of milk, when you are baking use the equivalent amount of nut or grain milks (Nut Milks: Almond, Cashew, or Coconut milk. Grain Milks: Rice, Hemp, Oat milk) plus 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, or use equivalent of apple juice because of the natural acidity, sweetness for flavour, and natural pectin for binding plus a tsp or two of a nut or seed butter for fat content. To substitute cream, use coconut cream plus 1-2 tsp of unflavoured gelatin or agar powder. Some more detail on subbing dairy you’ll find over here:
Instead of eggs, to bind your baking you can use unflavoured gelatin (1 tbsp for 2 eggs), agar agar powder (2-3 tsp for 1 egg), or a combination of nut or seed butters with a starch like tapioca or corn or arrowroot for cookies. You can also use pureed soaked dried fruit (dates, figs, prunes), 1-2 tbsp ground flax seed or ground chia seed added to the wet ingredients of your recipe, or 1/3 to 1/2 cup applesauce or mashed banana for cakes or cupcakes (add a tsp or so more baking powder for lift). You can also use extra oil in cakes (try 1/4 cup per egg), but I find that works best for gluten-based recipes. Some more detail on replacing eggs and binding agents you’ll find over here:
Although it seems pretty obvious to simply not include fish or shellfish in a recipe if its a known allergen, there are hidden places where fish/ shellfish may actually be a problem. For example, in various asian-inspired recipes, fish sauce or oyster sauce is used for flavouring. In that case, you can use coconut aminos plus rice vinegar and a touch of agave nectar to give a similar flavour. Coconut aminos is a soy sauce replacement made from raw fermented coconut and it has a similar flavour.
Substituting wheat and gluten takes some getting used to. As a beginner, try to stick with an all purpose GF baking mix. Pamela’s brand pancake mix is actually a great starter as an all-purpose flour. If you are making your own flour blend, use several flours to get an even taste- a light flour (such as 2 parts white rice or sorghum), a heavy flour (such as 1 part almond flour or teff, or 1/4 part coconut flour) and a starch (such as 1 part tapioca or arrowroot, or potato or corn starch). The proportions totally depend on what you are making and what flours you are using. You’ll need a binding agent as well such as xanthan gum, eggs, or one of the egg replacements suggested above. If you are entirely grain free, nut and seed flours plus a starch and pureed cooked beans with eggs works well- I highly suggest you check out the Spunky Coconut blog (www.thespunkycoconut.com ) or Elana’s Pantry (www.elanaspantry.com) if you are totally grain free. Want to know more about GF flours? Check out this link here:
Sulfites are a very sneaky preserving agent used to prolong the shelf life of almost all pre-packaged foods. From coconut milk and other non-dairy milks, to dried fruits, dry cereal, packaged cookies / treats, and lunch meat to almost all prepared sauces, pickles, soups and soup stock- even molasses- its kinda endless. Working around this can seem a bit daunting but one quick rule of thumb – make your own as often as you can, or check out the organic version of the product. For items such as coconut milk and dried fruit, definetly go for the organic versions since they are almost always sulfite free.
NUTS, TREE NUTS and PEANUTS
Nut allergies seem to be the most difficult. Most chocolate products are processed in nut-containing facilities, and for vegans, most recipes with dairy replacements use cashews or other nut butters. For chocolate, buy the EnjoyLife chips since they’re processed in a nut free facility. For a peanut replacement in sauces like asian-style peanut sauce, use almond butter, or use sunflower seed butter plus a touch of molasses and honey to even out the flavour. Look closely at the labels- the US and Canada have different rules about whether coconuts qualify as tree nuts and therefore some coconut products may still be deemed as nut free. By and large, whenever you see a nut butter in a recipe, you can often replace it with seed butter (sesame, sunflower, etc..) plus a little honey or agave or molasses to round out the flavour.
Soy is another sneaky ingredient. You would think that by simply eliminating soy milk or soy sauce you’d be safe, but that isn’t really the case. Soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier for everything from rice milk to chocolate, and soybean oil is used as part of the ‘vegetable oil’ for making prepackaged chips and nachos and other products using ‘vegetable oil’. The regular ‘vegetable’ oil and ‘vegetable’ shortening you buy at the grocery store? Same deal. Soy is in there.
Here are some suggestions to help you remove soy from your diet:
Soy sauce: Replace it with Coconut Aminos, a similar tasting sauce that is made from raw fermented coconuts. Crazy, I know- but really good!
Non-dairy milks: Try making your own almond milk or cashew milk- Cashew is the easiest- soak a bunch overnight, then throw in the blender with water and sweeten to your preferance.
Chocolate: Go with EnjoyLife brand chocolate chips, they’re the only ones that I’ve found soy free. Alternatively, in baking you could use a mix of cocoa powder plus coconut oil or unhydrogenated organic palm oil plus honey or agave.
Vegetable oil: Substitute grapeseed oil- its light and flavourless and doesn’t turn into a trans fat at high heat.
Shortening: Substitute coconut oil or unhydrogenated organic palm oil or Spectrum Organic spread.
Although sesame is less common in food than you would find soy, it does make a difference if you are eating stirfry or other asian or middle eastern-inspired dishes because of the sesame oil and tahini sauce often present. When you are cooking, try substituting flavoured olive oil for sesame oil, or fresh nut oils like almond or hazelnut plus some garlic or ginger to give your dish that extra kick. For dishes requiring tahini, try using sunflower seed butter thinned out with olive oil, and add in extra lemon juice plus any other seasoning you wish to give it that lift.
And there you go! Hopefully you”ll find these tips a decent starting point in your kitchen experiments- if you have any additional suggestions I’d love to hear about your creative ways around the kitchen as well :)