Food Allergy-Free Substitutes for Your Kitchen

Alternatives to pantry and refrigerator essentials

The best substitute for a given food isn't always one-to-one — that is, sometimes the right substitute for an allergenic food depends on how you're using it. The best way to replace an ingredient for baking might be completely different than the way you'd replace it for eating raw, or for cooking briefly in a savory recipe. Nonetheless, here is a list of basic pantry staples and some useful substitutes for each. Even where brand names have been indicated, always read labels carefully, as ingredients may have changed.


Food allergy substitutes for cooking
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Non-dairy milk substitutes, widely available in most supermarkets, are excellent substitutes for people with dairy allergies and lactose intolerance, whether for drinking, pouring over cereal, or cooking. Which dairy-free milk alternative to choose will depend on whether you prefer a mild tasting milk and whether you need a lot of protein (as, for example, for baking). For more information, see my rundown of Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives.


Ice Cream

Alternatives to ice cream fall into two categories: Those that are naturally dairy-free, and those that mimic the texture of ice cream. Naturally dairy-free frozen dessert alternatives include fruit sorbets, granitas, and frozen ices, though you should always check labels to ensure that small amounts of milk protein aren't added for binding. These desserts are usually quite sweet, and they're most commonly made from fruit. Dairy-free ice creams are sold under brand names including So Delicious and Tofutti, and they can be found in specialty groceries and some larger supermarkets. While their texture is far closer to ice cream, many are made from soy (itself a common allergen and stronger tasting than milk).


Most dairy-free butter alternatives are margarine, but not all margarine is dairy-free. Many margarines are made from dairy derivatives like calcium caseinate, so do read labels carefully. Brand names that, as of this writing, are dairy-free include Earth Balance and Fleischmann's. (While most margarines contain trans fats, which are dangerous to your heart, the two brands mentioned here are advertised as trans fat-free.) You'll find that margarine varies greatly in different brands' suitability for baking, but virtually all are fine for table use. If you need a dairy-free, soy-free alternative for baking, consider Spectrum Organics' Palm Oil Shortening.


Try coconut milk, soy coffee cream, or soy milk thickened with soy powder or melted margarine to replace cream.

Sour Cream

At least one dairy-free sour cream alternative exists: Tofutti's Sour Supreme. This vegan sour cream is tangy. Do note that it is quite thick, so plan accordingly if you're using it in baking: you may want to thin it slightly with a little bit of a mild-tasting milk alternative before mixing it into a batter.


For baking, the best alternative on the market is Ener-G's Egg Replacer, a leavening mixture that mimics eggs' role in baked goods. This product, however, cannot be used to replace scrambled eggs and will not generally work in egg-thickened sauces like Hollandaise. For more information, see Using Egg Replacer


Soy Sauce

If you're allergic to soy, you should be aware that no product currently on the market is a terrific alternative to soy sauce, especially in dips or as a condiment. However, in some cooked recipes, you may like Thai fermented fish sauce (or nam pla), which is almost always made without soy. For replacing wheat in traditionally brewed soy sauce, look for tamari soy sauce that is made without wheat. San-J is probably the most widely available brand. Bragg's Liquid Aminos are also a fine, unfermented wheat-free substitute for soy sauce.


Consider seitan, which is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten, as a soy-free substitute for tofu in some recipes. While its texture is not quite the same as tofu's, both are high in protein and can be used like meat in some soups and chilis. Be aware, though, that some commercial seitan may be flavored with soy. If you're having difficulty finding safe seitan for soy allergies, try making your own from wheat flour using this technique. You may also be able to find soy-free textured vegetable protein. But read labels carefully, as the vast majority are made from soy.


Replacing flour for a wheat allergy or for celiac disease will require more than one flour, as there isn't a simple one-to-one substitute for all-purpose flour (or for other wheat flours, like whole wheat flour, cake flour, or pastry flour). You can learn about the properties of different flour in Using Wheat-Free Flours. Also available on the market are blends of wheat-free and gluten-free flours. Bob's Red Mill, Authentic Foods, and Glutano are among the manufacturers whose blended flours are available in some larger supermarkets.



If you're avoiding eggs, you can still use many dried pastas, which are made from semolina and water. Flat pastas, like spaghetti and fettucine, are most likely to be egg-free. Do be sure to ask about fresh pasta at restaurants, as they are more likely to be made with eggs.

Wheat- and gluten-free pasta is starting to become more widely available. The major options are rice pastas, corn and corn/quinoa blend pastas, bean pastas, and pastas made from many grains, with rice pastas being the most common. All have slightly different textures and tastes, so this is mostly a matter of preference and dietary need. Manufacturers producing wheat- and gluten-free pasta include Tinkyada, Lundberg, Bionaturae, Glutino, and Ancient Harvest.



If you're avoiding wheat or gluten, ready-made options are now widely available, even in mainstream supermarkets. Whole Foods maintains a gluten-free bakery and sells gluten-free baked goods in their store, while Glutino, Kinnikinnick Foods, and Ener-G are but a few of the makers of wheat- and gluten-free breads. In general, these breads are best toasted.

Egg-free breads are fairly common, but do check labels. Orgran makes mixes that are egg-free, yeast-free, and gluten-free, while Ener-G sells egg-free, yeast-free bread leavened with rice.


In addition to crumbled, stale bread that meets your allergy needs, several shelf-stable bread crumb alternatives exist. One wheat-free option is potato starch-based pesach crumbs, which are made by Paskesz and are available around Passover. Tortilla crumbs, available near breadcrumbs in some groceries, are also wheat-free. You can use cornmeal interchangeably with breadcrumbs in some recipes, and this is a safe option for anyone without a corn allergy or intolerance.

Cake Mix

Look to allergy-friendly manufacturers to replace this product for special occasions. Among the most widely available — and suitable for many allergy needs, including dairy, peanuts, eggs, gluten, and tree nuts — are mixes from Cherrybrook Kitchen. Dedicated wheat- and gluten-free mixes that are not multi-allergen free are available from Pamela's and Whole Foods.

Tree Nuts

For snacking, consider roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, which are salty, crunchy, and safe for those with tree nut allergies. When shelled, these are fine alternatives to pine nuts for pestos. Shelled pumpkin seeds can also be substituted for almonds in some recipes.


The closest substitutes available on shelves are Sunbutter (and other sunflower seed butters), pumpkin seed butters, and soy butters. Those who are not avoiding tree nuts can also find a variety of tree nut butters, but this is not an option for many people with peanut allergies. For sandwiches, consider some creative alternatives to peanut butter in addition to taste-alikes.



Allergy-friendly cereals are starting to become easier to find at mainstream supermarkets. Enjoy Life cereals are free from major allergens. Other allergy-friendly lines that are widely available include Zoe's (which are nut-free), Erewhon, and Perky's. You might also consider pure oatmeal, warm rice cereal, or other single-grain hot cereals as a quick breakfast alternative.

Trail Mix

Numerous trail mix options are on the market, but the major allergens that are difficult to avoid here are peanuts, tree nuts, and, in the case of mixes that are made with dried fruits, sulfites. Consider making your own with a simple recipe.

Canned Tomatoes

There is no tomato-free substitute for canned tomatoes, of course, but most are preserved with corn. You can make your own corn-free peeled tomatoes with minimal hassle. Cut an "X" into the top and bottom of a ripe tomato and submerge the tomato in boiling water for about five minutes. Remove until cool enough to handle. The skin should peel off easily. You can remove the seeds at this time also. Use immediately, store in a covered container in the refrigerator for about a week, or process immediately following manufacturer's instructions for home canning. (I don't suggest freezing these.)


Wheat- and gluten-free beers are becoming more and more widely available, with the most readily available nationwide being Anheuser-Busch's Redbridge. Most beer is made using corn. However, many German beers are not, and the term "Reinheitsgebot" on a German beer should mean that the brew is made from only barley, hops, yeast, and water. It's prudent, however, to confirm this with the manufacturer before drinking.



To avoid eggs in mayonnaise, try buying a vegan mayonnaise alternative like Veganaise. You can avoid corn, soy, or sulfites in mayonnaise by making your own. Mayonnaise is simple to make but does traditionally include raw eggs. 

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