My biggest hope for this blog is for every reader, regardless of their food sensitivities, allergies, and other dietary needs, to be able to find a selection of recipes that they can not only safely eat, but also genuinely enjoy. While creating recipes, I try to be mindful of common food allergens I might be using and if it’s possible to use a substitute. By keeping all of these recipes paleo-friendly, they are not only gluten free but also free from many common allergens such as dairy, wheat, soy, and peanuts. From there, I start thinking about additional allergens such as nuts and eggs as well as other dietary needs like vegan or low carb. While I can’t make a single recipe to please everybody, I can provide a variety of recipes to choose from based on a reader’s particular needs.
Naturally, when a certain ingredient gets omitted, a new ingredient will usually take it’s place. Some of these ingredients might be new to my readers. Below, I’ve provided useful details on several ingredients I like to use in hopes that it makes your cooking experience as easy as possible.
If you ever see me use an unfamiliar ingredient that isn’t listed here, feel free to ask me about it and I’ll be happy to explain. You can either use my contact form or send me an email at Meagan@eatsomethingdelicious.com.
As with any recipe, double check all ingredients to ensure they are free from all your food allergens and sensitivities. I’ve tried to be as helpful as possible in my descriptions below but with variations between brands, companies changing their processes and recipes, and even product recalls, you should not assume that any of the products and ingredients I’ve listed below are free from any allergens until you’ve double checked for yourself. Usually, a product manufacturer can be very helpful answering your questions about potential allergens in their products.
Almond cheese is simply cheese made from almond milk. It doesn’t melt or stretch but it’s delicious cold on top of crackers or salads. The texture is very soft and light and has a mild flavor. I personally enjoy Kite Hill brand. Be sure to read about potential allergens carefully on their FAQ page as their herb containing products may have cross-contact with gluten at this time. Always contact the manufacturer with any questions.
A thin beverage made from blending almonds with filtered water. It is often fortified and can contain added sweeteners or flavors. It can be made at home but my favorite is unsweetened Almond Breeze.
It turns out, cashews are great for making cheese substitutes because they are so easily softened and can be pureed very smooth. I buy Treeline Cheese brand which sells both soft/spreadable cheeses and hard cheeses. These are denser than the almond milk cheeses I recommended above and have a stronger flavor. Neither melts but they are great for replacing cheese slices and spreads.
If you ever see coconut cream in a recipe, it’s referring to the fatty layer that accumulates at the top of a can of full fat coconut milk. To use it, you simply open the can from the bottom and pour off the liquid. The solid layer that remains in the can is the coconut cream. You can also purchase canned coconut cream to avoid wasting the water from a can of coconut milk.
There are several variations of coconut milk and because they’re so different, the variation you use can drastically change a recipe.
Chances are, if a recipe simply calls for “coconut milk”, it’s likely referring to the type found in a carton. This is similar to almond milk (described above) as it’s very thin, not much fat, and might be fortified, sweetened, or flavored. Unless specified, use unflavored for a recipe.
Sometimes a recipe will call for “full fat coconut milk”. This type of coconut milk is very thick due to the high fat content and tends to separate during storage (useful for when you need some coconut cream, see above). It typically isn’t fortified, sweetened, or flavored.
“Lite coconut milk” is the same as “full fat coconut milk” except that the fat content has been reduced, making it thinner.
This is a personal favorite of mine as it melts, stretches, and has an incredible cheesy flavor. It comes in slices, blocks, shreds, and even cream cheese. Since it’s not strict paleo, I try to provide other options in my recipes for my paleo readers but they do seem very allergen-conscious and are completely vegan and soy-free if that’s a concern.
Side note: their Cheezy Mac is delicious!
I use so many different fats in my recipes. I just love the extra flavors they can add to a dish. If you don’t have a particular fat that a recipe calls for, no biggie. In general, the fats that are solid at room temperature can be substituted for each other 1:1. Additionally the fats that are liquid at room temperature are also usually good substitutes for each other.
Bacon fat is hands-down my favorite cooking fat. It just adds the best flavor. It’s not something you’d likely find in a store, rather, it’s simply the fat left in a pan after frying bacon. Allow it to cool a bit then pour into a container and save it to cook with later. I put a lid on mine and store it in the refrigerator. It’s great for sautéing and adding extra flavor. This fat is solid at room temperature.
Coconut oil, virgin
Coconut oil is great for frying, sautéing, and baking and gives food a mild coconut flavor. It can make a great butter substitute in baked goods. Refined coconut oil can be substituted if you need a neutral-flavored cooking fat.
Coconut oil found in a spray can behaves differently from the jarred variety as it is liquid at room temperature and is best for keeping foods from sticking to cookware. If the spray variety is needed in a recipe, it will be specified, otherwise assume you need regular coconut oil from a jar.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature but can start to melt at just slightly above room temperature.
Duck fat has a rich, savory flavor and is great for frying and sautéing. It is solid at room temperature.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter with the difference being it’s cooked until the milk solids are browned before it gets strained off. It has a rich, nutty flavor. You won’t see any of my newer recipes calling for ghee but some of my older ones do. I used to be convinced I could eat it but eventually, my body told me otherwise. Ghee is solid at room temperature.
Lard is a savory animal fat from pork that works well for sautéing, frying, baking, and makes a great butter substitute, especially in baking. It is solid at room temperature.
Macadamia nut oil
I don’t use macadamia nut oil very often but it lended the perfect flavor in my dairy-free butter recipes. The flavor is nutty and almost buttery. It’s best for cold applications such as dressings or low-heat cooking methods. Macadamia nut oil is liquid at room temperature.
Olive oil, extra virgin
Olive oil is like macadamia nut oil in that it’s best for low-heat cooking methods and dressings. I also like to use it to make certain recipes vegan-friendly. Extra virgin olive oil is liquid at room temperature.
In gluten-free baking, there are a lot of different flours to choose from because they all behave differently and are rarely used without being combined with at least one other flour. I have just a few that I use frequently that seem to meet all my needs.
Almond flour is finely ground, blanched almonds and is great for adding bulk to baked goods. It is not absorbent so moist baked good recipes will usually pair it with another flour. I always recommend sifting almond flour to keep baked products from getting too dense. In addition to adding bulk to baked goods, it also makes great breading. It cannot be used as a thickener for sauces and has a mild flavor.
Arrowroot starch works as a substitute for corn starch and makes a good thickener. However, if I need a starch for baking, I generally use tapioca starch because it tends to be cheaper.
Coconut makes a very high fiber flour that is dense and absorbent. In baking, it soaks up extra moisture and keeps the finished product soft, yet sturdy. Recipes will typically only call for a small amount since a little goes a long way! Too much can make the finished product dry and dense although you can sometimes get away with more depending on what you’re making and the amount of wet ingredients added. I always recommend sifting to keep products fluffy instead of dense. To my knowledge, coconut flour cannot be used as a thickener.
Pumpkin seed flour
Pumpkin seed flour is a great nut-free alternative to almond flour although, it tends to be a bit coarser. Like almond flour, it adds bulk to baked products and is usually used in combination with another flour. It has a nutty, “whole grain” flavor and texture and cannot be used as a thickener. I order mine from Nuts.com. They supply a large variety of nut and seed flours. I’m not sure if they have a process to prevent contamination of allergens so you should definitely look into their allergen information since they make a lot of other products.
Sunflower seed flour
I don’t think sunflower seed flour (sunflour?) is something you can just pick up at the store but it’s very simple to make at home. You’ll need to buy sunflower seeds with their shells removed which can often be found in the bulk aisles of grocery stores. Simply add these to a blender or food processor and pulse until they become the consistency of flour. You can sift out the remaining large pieces and pulse them again.
Sunflower seed flour behaves like almond flour but is nut-free which could really come in handy for those with nut allergies or sensitivities. It adds bulk without being absorbent.
Be aware that it may turn green in the presence of baking soda due to the high chlorophyll content but this doesn’t affect the taste. I would also be cautious when buying sunflower or any food from the bulk aisle as they are often cross-contaminated with several potential allergens.
This flour cannot be used as a thickener.
Tapioca starch is a grain free alternative to corn starch. In baking, it absorbs moisture and keeps products soft and light.
Tapioca starch does an excellent job at thickening sauces and gravies although, it should be used towards the end of cooking for the best texture. Simply whisk together equal parts starch and cold water then whisk into the hot gravy or sauce on the stovetop. Once the food comes to a boil, it should thicken up quickly and can be removed from the heat.
Nut and seed butters
Nut and seed butters are great for people with peanut allergies (provided the butters are produced using peanut allergy-friendly methods) but they also just taste great and are available in so many different varieties and flavors! Although I can eat peanuts, I rarely eat peanut butter because it’s just not as fun as the alternatives.
Almond butter is probably the easiest to find of all the peanut butter alternatives. It’s also available in lots of fun flavors.
As you would expect, plain almond butter does taste like almonds but the flavor is mild enough to make it great for baking without making the food seem almond butter flavored. I love making PaleOMG’s chocolate chunk cookies using almond butter and always get requests for them every year at Christmas.
Like a lot of nuts, almonds can be pretty expensive so the price tag on almond butter can get pretty high. If you are looking for plain unflavored, unsweetened almond butter, I’d recommend buying from Costco if you have a membership. You can usually find a huge jar for less than the price of the standard sized jars you’d get at a typical grocery store.
Cashews are by far my favorite “nut” (yes, I know they’re legumes) so a jar of cashew butter doesn’t last long in my house. Most nut butters tend to be pretty “wet” and runny but the texture of cashew butter is probably the most similar to traditional peanut butter – very thick and smooth. Like almond butter, the flavor is a bit milder making it good for baking. Danielle Walker from Against all Grain has a delicious recipe for sandwich bread that is made using cashew butter.
I threw coconut butter into this section simply because coconuts are technically considered tree nuts but coconut butter is very different from other nut and seed butters. It is very thick and only spreads when warm. I wouldn’t consider it a peanut butter substitute but rather a fun spread for snacks. You can find it plain or in various flavors. I think Nikki’s Coconut Butter has some of the most unique flavors around.
Sunbutter is simply a brand of sunflower seed butter but you’ll often hear the catchy name used to describe any brand of sunflower seed butter. It’s rich taste is arguably most similar to peanut butter. It’s absolutely delicious and I’ve come to enjoy it more than I ever liked peanut butter.
The Sunbutter brand is a great peanut butter replacement not only because it’s peanut free but because it’s also completely nut free. This means it’s usually “school safe” and most people can safely enjoy it. I love how allergen-conscious they are too. After reading their allergy information page, it’s obvious they know what they’re talking about and not just slapping trendy labels on their products. The sunflower seeds are even grown in an area where peanuts are not grown, meaning their product avoids cross-contamination from the very beginning. That’s seriously impressive! It’s also gluten free and free from the top eight allergens. I’m sure there are other good brands of sunflower seed butter too but I always recommend Sunbutter brand for people with allergies because they seem so trustworthy.
Many of my recipes call for baking powder but because it usually contains cornstarch and aluminum, readers with corn allergies or those following a paleo diet are sometimes disappointed that I include this ingredient in my recipes. I usually recommend Hain Pure Foods brand of baking powder. That is what I use and it’s both aluminum and corn free (they use potato starch in place of the corn starch).
If that is still not an option for you, you can replace each teaspoon of baking powder with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar to activate it.
Cauliflower rice *cooking instructions below*
Cauliflower rice, sometimes abbreviated “cauli rice”, is finely chopped and cooked cauliflower which turns out to be pretty similar to white rice because of it’s more light, almost neutral flavor. It pretty much just takes on the flavor of the dish you add it to, just like traditional white rice does.
People might prefer cauli rice for many reasons. They may have a sensitivity to rice, prefer to eat fewer carbs, want to get more vegetables in their diet, or simply prefer the taste to traditional rice.
You can often buy pre-“riced” cauliflower at the store which is a lot easier (and cleaner) than ricing it yourself.
If you want to make your own cauliflower rice, there are many ways to get it finely chopped. You can grate it, chop and add to a food processor, or I’ve even heard of people using a blender although I haven’t tried this myself. They add cauliflower pieces into a blender with cold water and pulse until the size of rice. Then they just strain off the water and keep the cauliflower pieces.
If the recipe calls for cooked cauliflower rice, simply heat a bit of fat in a skillet and sauté the “rice” in there until it is softened.
You’re probably fully aware of what chocolate is but I wanted to make a few notes and brand recommendations about it since chocolate often contains milk, soy, and traces of other allergens such as wheat, barley, and nuts.
Most often, I use the Enjoy Life brand of chocolate for baking because they are free from the top eight allergens and are certified gluten free. If I want something darker, I’ll chop up a dark chocolate bar but I usually prefer those for snacking rather than baking. I like Endangered Species 88% dark chocolate because it’s also certified gluten free and none of the allergens in it bother me but Green & Black’s 85% is probably my favorite based on flavor alone. These two dark chocolates are also great options for anyone wanting less sugar in the recipes.
Coconut aminos doesn’t taste at all like coconut. It actually tastes like soy sauce but much less salty. It’s a common soy sauce alternative since it’s free from gluten and soy but if you have a coconut allergy and can consume soy safely, you may try gluten free soy sauce instead. It’s commonly called “tamari” but always check to ensure it is gluten-free if you cannot have gluten.
Note that soy sauce or tamari should not be substituted 1:1 for coconut aminos because they are much too salty but I’ve heard you can dilute soy sauce with broth to taste then use the mixture as a 1:1 replacement for coconut aminos.
This is a minimally-processed, granulated sugar derived from coconut and no, it’s doesn’t taste at all like coconut. Instead, it’s flavor is somewhat caramelized like brown sugar but not nearly as sweet.