How to Find Substitutes for Common Food Allergy Triggers?
If you have a food allergy, you’ll develop a reaction every time you are exposed to a trigger, which means you should avoid any food products containing an allergen. People with one or several food allergies may have a hard time trying to substitute allergenic foods in popular recipes.
While there are various alternatives for common household foods triggering allergies, they often depend on the recipe. For instance, different products can replace the same food allergen in baking, in cooking or when eating raw. Below, we will mention some useful substitutes for common food allergy triggers, including dairy products, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, beer, cereal, etc.
If you are allergic to milk protein or lactose intolerant, you can find a lot of different non-dairy alternatives to milk in most large supermarkets. Thus, instead of dairy milk, you can use soy milk, rice milk, nut milk, oat milk or any other dairy-free alternative. These milk substitutes are great as for drinking or pouring over cereal, as for cooking. Depending on what you need (taste, consistency or a lot of protein), you can find the best option for you.
The most commonly used non-dairy alternative to butter is margarine. However, not all types of margarine are completely dairy-free. Some of them contain dairy derivatives such as calcium caseinate. Therefore, make sure to always check the food labels for any potential allergens.
There are also dairy- and trans-fat-free margarines available on the market. Some brands may not be suitable for baking, but almost all types are good for table use. If you are also sensitive to soy, you can use a dairy-free and soy-free alternative for baking (e.g. palm oil shortening from Spectrum Organics’).
Cream can be replaced by a variety of substitute products, including soy coffee cream, thickened soy milk, coconut milk, or melted margarine.
There are some vegan sour cream alternatives that are also suitable for people with milk allergy. For example, you can try Tofutti’s Sour Supreme.
If you are an ice cream lover, but also allergic to milk, you can still enjoy delicious dairy-free alternatives. Basically, there are two types of non-dairy ice creams: naturally dairy-free frozen desserts (such as fruit sorbets, frozen ices, or granitas), as well as vegan alternatives to dairy-based ice creams, many of which are made from soy. To avoid the risk of an allergic reaction, check the ingredients list every time you buy a new product, even if the label says “non-dairy”.
Eggs are one of the basic ingredients in baked goods, but you can also use egg substitutes, or egg replacers, for baking. However, egg replacers are not suitable for omelets or scrambled eggs, neither do they work in egg-thickened sauces.
Traditional types of mayonnaise contain raw eggs, but those with egg allergy can use vegan mayonnaise alternatives.
People allergic to soy, corn, or sulfites often contained in mayonnaise, can prepare their own mayonnaise without any problem ingredients.
Unfortunately, there is no alternative to soy sauce yet, which means that people with soy allergy avoid any foods containing soy sauce. However, a normally soy-free Thai fermented fish sauce can replace soy sauce in some cooked recipes
If the problem is wheat (gluten), which is usually contained in traditionally brewed soy sauce, there is a wheat-free tamari soy sauce available on the market. You can find a lot of various gluten-free soy sauce brands in larger supermarkets.
If you are looking for a soy-free alternative to tofu, you can try using seitan. Seitan is a meat substitute that is prepared using wheat gluten. Although the texture of seitan is not similar to that of tofu, it is also high in protein and can replace meat in various soups or chilis. However, experts recommend making your own seitan from wheat flour, since some commercial seitan found in supermarkets may contain traces of soy.
You can also use soy-free textured vegetable protein in some recipes, but you should be careful, because soy is contained in most of them.
Those affected by wheat allergy or celiac disease should avoid foods containing flour, which is an essential ingredient in baked goods. There are different types of wheat flour substitutes used for different recipes. Nowadays, you can find many alternative, gluten-free flours and baking mixes, such as white and brown rice flour, as well as flour made of corn, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, or soy.
If you are allergic to eggs, you may need to avoid some types of egg-containing pastas. However, there are still various egg-free dried pastas like spaghetti and fettucine that are made from semolina and water. If you are eating fresh pasta at a restaurant, ask the staff about the ingredients, as freshly made pasta is likely to contain eggs.
If you are looking for a substitute for traditional pasta containing wheat (gluten), there are pastas made from rice (which appear to be the most common), corn, quinoa, beans and various grains. All these pastas differ in taste and texture, so you will likely find the best option for you. Brands like Glutino, Ancient Harvest, Bionaturae, Tinkyada and Lundberg are some of the manufacturers of wheat- and gluten-free pasta.
If you have a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, you can find many wheat- and gluten-free alternatives to bread in most supermarkets. For instance, there are various gluten-free baked goods sold in Whole Foods stores. Brands such as GLutino, Ener-G and Kinnikinnick Foods produce wheat- and gluten-free breads. Usually, these breads can be found in the freezer section in the majority of supermarkets, and they are best when toasted.
If you need egg-free bread, you can find various alternatives in supermarkets. Make sure to check the ingredient list of the product label. For instance, Ener-G produces egg-free and yeast-free bread that leavened with rice. You can also bake your own bread using egg-free, yeast-free and gluten-free mixes by Orgran.
There are also various allergen-free alternatives to bread crumbles, if you need them for some recipe. Thus, you can crumble stale bread that you normally use, or use other wheat-free substitutes, such as potato starch-based peach crumbs or tortilla crumbs. In some supermarkets, you may also find wheat-free and gluten-free breadcrumbs like those from brands Ian or Aleia.
Traditional cake mixes contain eggs, gluten, dairy, peanuts and tree nuts, but you can also bake your cake using multi-allergen free mixes from Cherrybrook Kitchen. Grocery stores like Pamela’s and Whole Foods also sell wheat- and gluten-free cake mixes that may contain other allergens.
Tree nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc., are one of the most common causes of food allergies. If you are allergic, you can replace tree nuts with roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds as for snacking, as for certain recipes. However, many seeds and nuts are processed using the same equipment. Therefore, when buying seed products, make sure that there is no risk for cross-contamination.
Peanut butter can sometimes be replaced with sunflower seed butters, pumpkin seed butters, soy butters, as well as various tree nut butters. However, the latter are usually not safe either for people with peanut allergies. If you like to use peanut butter as a spread for sandwiches, you may want to consider such alternatives as guacamole, cream cheese, hummus, bean dip or others.
More and more brands (e.g. Enjoy Life, Zoe, Perky’s and Erewhon) are starting to produce allergy-friendly cereals that are free from major allergens. You can also avoid allergens in cereal mixes by preparing pure oatmeal, rice cereal or any other single-grain hot cereals for breakfast.
Trail mixes are mixtures of dried fruits and nuts, commonly eaten as a snack food. However, these are not recommended to people with allergies to peanuts or tree nuts. Besides, sulfites contained in dried fruits can also trigger an allergic reaction. To prevent this, you can make your own allergen-free trail mixes at home.
The good news is that there are more and more beers that are safe for people allergic to wheat or gluten.
If corn is causing your allergy, then it’s more difficult to avoid, since most types of beer contain corn. However, a lot of German beers are corn-free. Beers labelled as “Reinheitsgebot” are usually brewed without corn, using only barley, yeast, hops and water. Yet, you are always better off checking with the manufacturer before drinking.
If you have a tomato allergy, you won’t likely be able to find a tomato-free substitute for canned tomatoes. However, if your allergy trigger is corn, which is often used in canned tomatoes, you can prepare your own corn-free peeled tomatoes using instructions for home canning.
The Bottom Line
Cooking may be quite challenging for people with food allergies, since there are various ingredients you may need to avoid. However, there are more and more allergy-friendly foods appearing on the shelf of major supermarkets. You can keep experimenting with various substitutes or alternative foods and eventually learn to prepare delicious allergy-friendly dishes. All you need is a little bit of creativity!