Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cooking With Food Allergies

Cooking for those with food allergies can be tricky business, some offering more of a challenge than others, but it’s usually the safest route to take. When you make your own meals from scratch you know exactly what is in it, which greatly reduces the chance of an allergic reaction. The key is to know allergen replacements for most if not all of the common recipe ingredients. For example, anyone with a dairy allergy has to know what to use in place of milk, cream, butter, or even cheese if the recipe calls for it. This can become even trickier when you have multiple allergies to contend with, and being someone with a soy and dairy allergy I have dealt with this first hand. A soy and dairy allergy is unique in that many of the replacements overlap. You can’t use soymilk instead of milk, you can’t use margarine instead of butter, and you can’t use non-dairy creamer instead of cream. Add to that: no vegetable oil (Crisco for instance), no shortening, and no broths or bouillon cubes. So whether you’re cooking your favorite dinner or baking your favorite desert, you must know the allergy replacement basics.

Let’s start with milk. My favorite choice is oat milk (“Pacific” makes a great organic oat milk), and with it’s rich and creamy flavor it works well for both cooking and baking. For those who are used to skim milk rice milk may feel a little closer to home. If a recipe calls for cream, a nice alternative is organic oat milk with tapioca flour (the more flour the thicker the cream). As for butter, the proper ingredient replacement will depend on the application. If a recipe calls for a “pat of butter” then a good replacement could be organic clarified butter (or ghee), which is butter that has had the milk solids and water separated from the butterfat. It also works great for frying since the rendering process yields butter with a higher smoke point. Olive or canola oil can also be used, but since I use the organic unrefined olive oil I don’t recommend it for frying; the unrefined has a lower smoke point, but is much healthier for you. Goat products are also an option when it comes to finding dairy and soy replacements, assuming you’re not allergic to them. I am not a fan of the taste of either goat milk or butter (it’s kind of “goaty”, a term only familiar to those who have tried goat products), but I do like goat cheese, and it comes in many varieties. “Woolwich” makes a great tasting cheddar and mozzarella, and you’ll never know it’s not from a cow.

Now that we’ve covered the “soy free” dairy replacements lets take a look at the soy replacements. For any recipe calling for vegetable oil or Crisco oil, you can use olive or canola oil instead; coconut oil is also an option, and the flavor compliments certain foods nicely. I recommend making chicken broths from scratch, they’re not hard and always taste better than store bought, but if a recipe only calls for 1 cup or less use “Imagine” Organic Free Range Chicken Broth and/or Stock (read labels as some varieties may contain soy); this can also be used as a replacement for bouillon cubes. Now if you’re one who bakes often, than you will definitely need a replacement for shortening and butter, and for that I suggest palm oil; “Spectrum” makes a great tasting organic palm oil.

Food allergies should never be a reason to give up on meal ideas. Whether you’re cooking or baking, there are many great tasting ingredient alternatives available for both soy and dairy allergies. I’ve been dealing with food allergies for some time now, and despite the challenges I’ve never eaten healthier. Eating healthy is a choice I’ve made, but menu limitations were never an option.


  1. Thank you so much for the information. My 4 yr old has recently been diagnosed with a peanut, fish, soy and egg allergy. My 2 yr old twins have seperate milk and soy allergy. Cooking has been overwhelming lately!

  2. I am glad I could help! I recently updated my soy and dairy replacements links, so check them out for new products.

    Good luck and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.



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