• Paleo Substitutions for Food Allergies

    Paleo Substitutions for Allergies—Ask Steph | stupideasypaleo.com

    Welcome to the first ever Ask Steph, a weekly feature where I answer a reader question in both an educational and entertaining fashion. *wink* You know what they say about questions: If one person has one, it’s guaranteed that others do, too. Want to submit your own question to be feature on Ask Steph? Submit it via the contact form, and use the subject line “Ask Steph!”

    Here we go! Yvonne writes:

    Hi Steph,

    This site is very informative and we’re excited to try this way of lifestyle. I do have a question. We’re a family of five, and have food allergies. Just wondering substitutions for some foods like eggs, shellfish, and tree nuts / peanuts.

    Thank you!


    When you’re new to Paleo—like Yvonne is—it can be hard enough to cut out a huge section of the foods you’re used to eating. When you add in pre-existing food sensitivities or allergies, stuff starts to get real. Suddenly, many of the foods that are common in a Paleo template are off-limits. (In my household, we deal with this because my hubs has a food sensitivity to eggs and beef.)

    Since you can’t realistically just get rid of your kids or spouse, the best solution is to find some substitutes. Exchanging allergenic ingredients for tolerable ones can make the difference between giving up on Paleo and finding a way to make it work with the limitations you’re dealing with. Here are some possiblities:

    Paleo Substitutions for Eggs

    If eggs are the main feature of a meal, there’s really no way to substitute them unless you toss in another protein. Example: Scrambled eggs with sweet potatoes could become shredded pork or chicken with sweet potatoes.

    If you’re using eggs as a binder, there are some substitutions you can try out.

    • Chia “egg”: Mix 1 tbsp ground chia seeds with 3 tbsp water for each egg you want to replace in a recipe. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before adding to a recipe.
    • Flax “egg”: Mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water for each egg you want to replace in a recipe. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before adding to a recipe.
    • Mashed starchy veggies or fruit such as sweet potato, white potato, pumpkin or banana. Use about 1/4 cup for every 1 egg.
    • Gelatin and water: Mix 1 tbsp gelatin with 1 tbsp cold water, then add 2 tbsp hot water to dissolve completely. Beat until frothy. This will substitute for 1 egg.

    To substitute eggs as a leavening agent, you can try out a mixture of 1 tsp baking powder (go for aluminum-free), 1 tbsp white vinegar and 1 tbsp water.

    Paleo Substitutions for Shellfish

    Generally speaking, if a recipe calls for shellfish, you can usually replicate good results using chicken breast. It may not have the same exact flavor, but it’s probably the next best thing. If you’re able to eat fish but not shellfish, a mild white fish such as cod would be a good substitute.

    If shellfish or fish are part of a seasoning component to a recipe, such as fish sauce or mashed sardines, coconut aminos are a great substitute. Fish sauce and similar ingredients are often used because they lend umami—savory flavor—to a dish. Coconut aminos, essentially fermented coconut sap, also give umami without the use of fish.

    Paleo Substitutions for Tree Nuts / Peanuts

    If you’re using tree nuts or peanuts for texture or to give something added crunch, consider adding seeds instead. While they tend to be high in pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, when bought fresh and kept refrigerated (to prevent the oils from going rancid / oxidizing), they can be a great alternative to nuts. If used in limited quantities—take the spoon out of the sun butter jar and back away slowly—they’re a fine substitute for tree nuts. Some examples: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.

    For sauces or in recipes, consider using tahini (sesame seed paste / butter) or sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) instead of peanut butter or nut butters.

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    Paleo Substitutions for Allergies—Ask Steph | stupideasypaleo.com

    Have other substitutions for eggs, shellfish and tree nuts that you want to share? Leave them in the comments below!

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    39 thoughts on “Paleo Substitutions for Food Allergies

    1. I am not allergic to any food that I know of, but I hate the taste of honey. A lot of the paleo recipes use honey as a sweetener. I have tried some of them and all I seem to taste is the honey. Is there anything else that can be substituted?

      1. Have you tried agave nectar? I’m not positive it’s Paleo as I don’t ever see it in Paleo recipes, but I use it. It comes from a plant that is not a grain AND it has a lower glycemic index which I like, but again, can’t promise it’s “strict Paleo.” It’s sweeter than honey so you’ll use less (1/3 cup agave is about as sweet as 1/2 cup honey).

        1. Hi Jaime! That’s a good suggestion. I personally stay away from agave and would much rather use a local honey (which at least has some benefit in terms of pollen, etc). I think that’s why you don’t see it in many Paleo recipes.

      2. I also had always hated the taste of honey, and then I tried local honey…it’s completely different, and amazingly delicious. If you find a local honey company/bee keeper, they can also suggest different types of honey that are milder in flavor. (For example, our local co. here on the CA coast sells sage honey, which is VERY mild, as well as a delicous raspberry honey, but also sells a buckwheat honey that is very strong and that I don’t like). Might be worth hitting a farmer’s market and seeing if you can have a taste?

      1. I make my own sunflower seed “meal.” It’s a bit labor intensive so I make up a pretty big batch and refrigerate it. Pulse raw, unsalted sunflower seeds in a blender, stopping to stir every so often. Sift through a wire mesh strainer, return the bigger pieces to the blender and pulse some more, repeating until you have it in “meal” form.

        I have found that it substitutes cup for cup in recipes calling for almond flour. Never had one it didn’t work with. A word of caution, though – it turns some recipes an emerald green. Not exactly an appetizing color, but tastes delicious.

    2. I’m allergic to garlic and tomatoes. Yes, sad, I know. I’ve been able to closely replicate tomato sauce by using a mixture of cooked butternut squash, roasted red bell pepper, honey, vinegar and seasonings – but I haven’t been able to find ANYTHING that satisfies my lust for garlic. I’ve asked some of my chef friends and the response is always the same: “Garlic is a tough one to replicate, let me play around and I’ll get back to you,” and then I never hear back from them.

      I don’t expect to replicate it exactly, but do you have any thoughts on a seasoning that might get us in the same game (if not the same ballpark)?

        1. I use onion powder regularly and love it, but sadly it doesn’t give the same “kick” as garlic. Horseradish… I hadn’t even thought of that one. What a great suggestion, thank you so much!

        1. ALL! I too am allergic to coconut and it is frustrating on a Paleo diet to find ways around it. Fortunately, I don’t have an issue with tree nuts or diary and that makes life a bit less challenging, but I never realized just how much I was relying on coconut in my baking/cooking and even hygiene products! Would be great if someone in the Paleo community could come out with a “coconut-free” cookbook or at least more recipes with options for all who struggle on this diet without coconuts. 🙂

    3. Any ideas for substitutions for bananas? I’m violently allergic to them. Any application, but I’m particularly interested in ice cream-like concoctions.

      1. try mashed avocado instead of mashed banana, as long as the flavour doesn’t clash with the other ingredients is works great.
        And I second the coconut-milk tip. Pureeing frozen fruit with coconut milk is as easy as it gets.

    4. I also cannot use any coconut products…..need subs for coconut cream and coconut flour (not nut meal/flour!)
      in many recipes in my paleo cookbooks.

      1. Hi Julie…it’s really hard to sub for coconut flour because it’s so absorbent and nut flours don’t really absorb moisture. Maybe try tapioca / arrowroot starch. Fro the coconut cream, are you asking for a milk-type consistency or more like a butter?

    5. Excellent suggestions. The only thing I would add is xanthum gum. A tiny pinch goes a long way and can be very helpful in holding things together. Keep sharing all the great ideas and inspiration! It keeps us “Moms-of-kids-with-food-allergies” going.

    6. Michelle, Do you have a substitute suggestion for eggs when making paleo mayonnaise? As I am unable to have eggs. Thank you

    7. When using sunbutter as a substitute to almond flour is it a 1 to 1 ratio? For example, if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of almond butter, would you use 1/2 cup of sunbutter?

    8. Hi, I’m allergic to ragweed and its cross contaminants (melon, cucumber, etc), latex and its cross contaminants (banana, avocado, tropical fruit, etc) and tree nuts. Unfortunately I’m also intolerant to eggs. If I’m trying Paleo, is it a bad thing to lean into the plan and occasionally eat flour rather than make some crazy concoction of a binder that resembles flour but can kill me?

      1. Hi Stephanie…lots of people who eat paleo cannot eat eggs. Substitute meat or fish instead of eggs. There are thousands of recipes for paleo foods that don’t need crazy binders and in recipes that call for egg as a binder, you can often just leave it out. My meatball recipes, for example, do not have any binder at all.

    9. Hi!
      I have SIBO & also seem to react badly to avocados & a lot of the recipes for healthy treats/ sweets seem to include avocado. Any suggestions for a substitute I can use instead of avocado?
      Also I am unable to use dates on my SIBO diet, any suggestions for replacements for dates in protein balls, slices etc?
      Thanks so much!

      1. Hi Alicia…hmmmmm…you could try coconut oil. But TBH if you’re trying to rectify SIBO, I would recommend avoiding things like protein balls and other desserts for the most part. Many are made with lots of sugar from dates and other, albeit natural, dense sugar sources.

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