How To

Simple alternatives for gluten, dairy, and egg-free cooking

Whether you're avoiding certain food groups due to allergies, intolerance or just dietary preferences, it's important to know these simple substitutes when cooking or baking.
Cooking substitutes

Ditch the dairy

Having a dairy intolerance means having to avoid all products labelled as containing milk, lactose, butter, margarine, cheese, cream, yogurt, whey, milk solids, non-fat milk products, skimmed milk powder, lactoglobulin, casein, lactalbumin or sodium caseinate. This usually applies to sheep, goat, buffalo and horse milk products as well as those made from cows’ milk.

You can use soy milk and any soy milk products as a substitute. Sometimes fat from butter can be replaced with olive or other vegetable oils and on other occasions, fruit juice can make up the liquid component supplied by the milk.

Rice milk and almond milk are other options for you to experiment with. You could try substituting both rice milk and almond milk in recipes where regular milk is used in small quantities. Unfortunately, when used in larger quantities the outcome will depend on the other ingredients in the recipe and how they react together.

Hold the eggs, please

If you have an egg allergy, you should avoid any products that are labelled as containing albumin, dried egg, egg white, yolk, protein or solids, globulin, livetin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovoglobulin, ovomucin, ovomucid, ovovitellin or vitellin and pasteurised, powdered or whole egg.

Sometimes you can leave out the eggs in a recipe that calls for only one or two and replace them by adding water. However this is not recommended with most baking recipes, so you will need to either use commercial egg substitutes (available from most supermarkets) or experiment with other substitutions.

If the purpose of the egg is to bind the ingredients, you can try substituting mashed banana, apple puree, soft tofu or gelatine dissolved in hot water. If the egg is required as a thickening or setting agent you could use wheat, rice or cornflour blended to a paste with a little water to do the job.

Going gluten-free

In many instances you can adapt recipes containing gluten flour. When substituting gluten-free flour for wheat flour, you usually get the best results with recipes that have a small quantity of flour in them.

Gluten is a sticky substance that stops baked goods from crumbling and improves their texture by trapping pockets of air. You can replicate the effects of gluten by adding xanthum/xanthan gum, pre-gel starch or guar gum in the approximate proportions of 1 teaspoon to 1 cup of flour. You can buy these gums from some health-food shops and The Coeliac Society. In some recipes it is possible to avoid flour altogether by using ground nuts (nut meal) instead.

Gelatin alternatives

There are a number of vegetarian setting agents on the market, agar is among them, however, you could also consider arrowroot, guar gum and xanthan gum. You can find these products in some supermarkets and health-food stores. Follow the directions on the package for optimum results.

No nuts allowed!

Regrettably, there is no substitute for nut meal that gives the same texture to cakes. If you have a nut allergy you could try substituting desiccated coconut (coconut is not a nut) in recipes where nut meal is used only in small quantities.

Looking for gluten and dairy free recipes? Check these out.

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