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Food Allergies? Try These Substitutes!

Are you allergic to nuts? Dairy? Gluten? Eggs? Try these helpful substitutions for less culinary stress!

Does it seem like every other child in your daughter’s third grade class has a peanut allergy? Maybe shellfish and its iodine component give you hives? Do gastrointestinal issues or even respiratory distress result from your son consuming wheat, eggs or dairy? And what about your spouse and strawberries?

More than 12 million Americans have food allergies, many of them children, and it can be a dizzying challenge to keep your family healthy and satisfied especially without preparing multiple dishes for the same meal. What’s more, people suffer varying degrees of sensitivity to foods where consuming wheat, for example, may make one individual only mildly uncomfortable while putting another in the hospital, necessitating a gluten-free lifestyle.

What compounds the food allergy issue is that families often use recipes handed down from generation to generation, lovingly prepared by Grandma Ida or Grandpa Leo, or Great Aunt Liddy whose fragrant strudel precisely mirrors that of five family members who preceded her. Young children learn to prepare these cherished recipes–perpetuating the culinary confab well into the family’s future. As such it may be challenging to find substitutions for ingredients in favorite dishes that reflect one’s heritage, but a little research and some trial and error will often result in a scrumptious dish that doesn’t compromise taste and legacy.

These substitutes provide viable (and often delicious!) alternatives to popular ingredients, and in many cases will not noticeably alter your family’s favorite recipes.

Egg allergy: Generally in cooking and baking, eggs are used either as a binder or leavening agent, or sometimes as both. If going with a commercial product to replace eggs, make sure to determine that you are buying an egg replacement and not just the usual egg substitute–which may still contain eggs and is geared toward lowering cholesterol only. If eggs are being used as a binder, try using one-half mashed banana, one-quarter cup unsweetened applesauce, 3 ½ tablespoons gelatin blend (add two teaspoons unflavored gelatin to one cup boiling water, using 3 ½ teaspoons of mixture per required egg), xanthan gum (a white powder available online or in some stores; use one teaspoon per recipe), or a commercial egg replacement product. If needed to leaven, use 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil mixed with 1 ½ tablespoons water plus one teaspoon baking powder per egg.

Wheat/gluten allergy–flour:
Some believe there is no single substitute flour that can take the place of all-purpose flour, pastry flour, or cake flour and their properties in baking. Blends of wheat-free and gluten-free flours do exist, but you may have to do some homework and/or contact the manufacturers to evaluate their performance (alone or combined with others) in breads, cakes, cookies, etc. For wheat flour, try ground rolled oats; oat flour; rye flour; rye meal; potato flour; potato starch or buckwheat.

Wheat/gluten allergy–pasta:
Though most pastas are made with wheat and eggs (challenging for some on both counts), pastas made from rice, quinoa, beans, and other grains are finding their way from specialty and health food stores into more and more markets that serve the general public. Wheat- and/or gluten-free pastas are also more readily found now that gluten-free diets are becoming pervasive.

Dairy allergy–milk: There are lots of versatile non-dairy milk substitutes on the market today to be used easily in cooking, baking, on cereal and more. These include lactose-free milk, soy and nut milks (use caution if allergies extend to these sources), rice milk, hemp milk, and oat milk (not always recommended for baking or for those with celiac disease, however). Goat’s and sheep’s milk do exist but are said to have similar proteins to cow’s milk so may not solve the problem.

Dairy allergy–butter:
While margarine is often recommended in place of butter, not all margarines are dairy-free so be certain to read the label. Also, some margarine products do better in baking than others, so trial and error may be needed here. There are a few dairy- and soy-free baking alternatives on the market. Canola and safflower oil can also be used in baked goods.

Dairy allergy–cream:
Try coconut milk, soy coffee cream or soy milk thickened with soy powder in your recipe, or even melted margarine.

Dairy allergy–sour cream:
Think you have to forego Aunt Irma’s sour cream coffee cake? Not so fast! Today there are vegan sour cream alternatives on the market sold in health food stores and even in larger supermarkets.

Note: Sometimes dairy in recipes can be replaced by extra eggs and water.

Chocolate allergy:
For baking chocolate, use three tablespoons dry unsweetened cocoa with two teaspoons brown sugar and one tablespoon water

Corn allergy: If allergic to corn and corn syrup is called for, maple syrup or honey may be used in its place.

Peanuts and Tree nuts allergy: Though peanuts are a legume, and not a nut, many who suffer from peanut allergies also have allergies to other nuts. Substitutes can include sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, the latter of which can even be used for almonds in some recipes.

Peanut butter allergy: If you are allergic to peanuts exclusively and not to other nuts, try substituting sunflower seed butter, pumpkin seed butter, almond butter or soy butter.

Mayonnaise allergy: Because it contains eggs, mayonnaise is a danger to those with egg allergies and can be replaced with a vegan mayo. Another alternative is to make your own, sans eggs, using olive oil instead with many recipes available online.

Experts say to remember that when substituting certain ingredients, you’ll be more effective in doing so when the allergy culprit is not a key component of the recipe. For instance meringue is largely eggs, but muffins and cake are not, so you’ll have more success replacing the eggs in the last two.

Also, depending on the dish, the ingredient in question may be used for different purposes, for instance to thicken, bind, moisten, leaven, etc. Egg whites, tofu, and milk are just protein with water; flour is protein with starch. If you know the make-up of your replacement foods, you can better substitute what was required in the original recipe.

Beth Herman is a freelance writer with interests in healthy living and food, family, animal welfare, architecture and design, religion, and yoga. She writes for a variety of national and regional publications, institutions, and websites.

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i have anaphylaxis to pork. Our American society has a love affair with pork especially bacon. I don’t have to eat it to react. Simply being in the air it was cooked in causes a reaction. Pork fat is in marshmallows, puddings, gravy, jello, refried beans, hard candy, buttons, and concrete among other things. Amazing what you learn when you have an allergy and are forced to read labels.

Wendy Wetzel

I’m allergic to mold and can not eat any pre-packaged foods,{ chips, carrots, salad, mushrooms, crackers, bread, ect. because of the mold spores. Tell me what is “not” prepackaged now days 🙁

Sherry Hamby

The carob tree, known as the Locust Bean and St. John’s Bread, is related to plants like beans and peas. The pods have been used as a food source for over 5,000 years and it is thought to be the only source of food used by John the Baptist when he was in the desert. Commercially prepared candy is full of sugar and fat just like chocolate, so it isn’t a much better alternative for a treat unless you are allergic to chocolate or want to avoid the caffeine.

Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Carob is most frequently used medicinally as a treatment for diarrhea. The fiber, also known as locust bean gum, helps prevent dehydration, especially in children. The fiber is also showing promise for lowering cholesterol. It also is showing potential to help weight loss and to control blood sugar levels. Powder is used for prostatitis and prostate infections. The powder was used in the 1950s as an additive to infant milk formulas to help them keep their food down. It also helped cure the infants of diarrhea.

Externally – Carob powder is also used to remove warts.

Other Uses – Carob is used as a chocolate substitute, as cocoa powder and as a natural sweetener. People who are allergic to chocolate can generally use this herb. It does not contain caffeine and theobromine like chocolate, and it is lower in fat. The powder lowers the glycemic index of foods when it is added, making it a good diet additive. Opera singers once used it to save their voices when performing on a strenuous schedule. The powder is also used in veterinary medicine to relieve diarrhea in livestock. Flour made from the herb is used cosmetically to make an herbal face-pack to tone and cleanse the skin. Carob wood is used to make walking sticks and in marquetry work.

Parts Used

Seeds, pods – Both the seed and pods are used from the tree.


While rare, it is possible to have allergic reactions to carob. Overall however, it is considered safe to take. There are no known drug interactions. While it is considered safe for infants, its medicinal use should always be supervised by a skilled care provider.

Preparation and Dosage

The herb can be taken as a tea, an extract or a capsule. Children can take this herb mixed with apple sauce or sweet potatoes with water to treat diarrhea. They should have no more than 15 grams of powder per day. Adults can take at least 20 grams per day for diarrhea. Carob should always be taken with plenty of water.

Alec Mckeand

If you have an allergy, your body is reacting to something you inhaled, touched or ate. The substances that trigger an allergic reaction are called allergens. Reactions to these allergens range from annoying to life-threatening.Many people with untreated allergy symptoms aren’t aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed and managed by an allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist.

Donna McFarland

It’s WILD …the proliferation of allergies alone…not to mention so MANY other diseases. We’ve GOT to get seriously involved in demanding of our food suppliers that they don’t carry GMO foods. The Monsanto/ roundup worldwide contamination crisis is killing us ALL…read, or check you tube video’s for more info friends…its SHOCKING!


I am allergic to wheat. There are several excellent recipes for baking with Spelt and Kamut flour on Google. I prefer the spelt flour. It rises well and is easy to knead. Imagine I hadn’t had a pizza in years ! Now I can make my own .At the health food store here ,spaghetti and macaroni made with corn flour is available. This pasta is the closest to white wheat pasta in texture and no strong taste like some of the other pasta alternatives.Breakfast cereals claimed to be ‘oat cereal’.Beware ! Read the box ! There is wheat in them.Not to mention brand names…the crick crack rice cereal is safe. Healthier is oat meal and corn mush.


I notice that you have not mentioned the soy allergy. You are telling people to use the little poison bean. Soy is in everything. I have been wondering why there is so much soy has been put into food. It messes with the mind to make you think the product you are eating actually tastes good. I would suggest you read up on the use of soy bean and how the use of soybean got started. Yes chocolate also has soy protein put into it!


I recently underwent allergy testing by the skin prick method. On the food allergy section the thing they test for directly related to chocolate was cacoa bean. If that is the allergy, the cocoa powder would not be a good option. The way your information is worded may need to be looked at. Also, from what research I’ve found that the allergy to cocoa is usually related to a cockroach allergy, due to residue of cockroaches left from processing in the fields.

Beth Herman

According to current research, most people who report chocolate allergies are actually allergic to another ingredient, such as milk or other forms of dairy, that go into the manufacture of what we know as chocolate. Using it in its most basic or distilled form — pure cocoa or cacao — eliminates the possibility of a reaction. -Beth Herman, Farmers’ Almanac


If I’m allergic to chocolate (which I am), then why in the world would I want to substitute cocoa…*which is chocolate*… for chocolate?? You might want to re-do that one… I wouldn’t suggest replacing chocolate with carob, either, because that crap is NASTY.

MaryAnn Brower

I would re-think the idea of suggesting someone with a chocolate allergy use unsweetened cocoa in anything as it is simply chocolate that has been treated and defatted. Perhaps you meant carob? While not very close in flavor to chocolate, it does look like it and the flavor is pleasant once you get used to it.

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