Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ingredient replacement options for allergy free recipes

Cow's milk replacements:

  • Goat's milk - contains all that cow's milk does except the fatty acids are more flavourful and the lactose is a different sort. Goat's milk is fairly close to human milk so it is a gentle replacement for kids. Do test in small doses for any response to the lactose. Also, this milk is best for baking and doesn't match very well with cereals or drinks.
  • Rice milk - thin and watery, this can be used for breakfasts and baking but I find it adds no flavour and could as easily be water.
  • Water - the go to replacement for all liquids but a flavour replacement will need to be added somehow.
  • Oat, almond and soy milks - these are made using the main allergens removed from the recipes on this blog but if you happen to be fine with any of these you'll probably do well with adding such milks into your baked goods and maybe even use them for breakfasts as they have nice flavours. Please be aware though, that consuming too much almond or soy milk can either bring about a reaction anyway or may, in the case of soy, tip your hormones out of balance. The level of "too much", which is usually quite a bit, is personal as this would depend on your sensitivity and current hormonal balance.
  • Lactose free cow's milk - if lactose is the problem then this should give you a easy replacement for flavour in baking, for breakfasts and with drinks.
  • Coconut milk - this can be used as a replacement in some drinks, such as hot chocolates and smoothies, as well as baked goods.

Yeast replacements:
  • Baking powder and baking soda - these don't create bubbles as large as yeast in breads and doughs, meaning the baked good won't rise as much. They also have a bitter taste so use in moderation and also in combination as the soda is more bitter than the powder. If you are fine with gluten then the baking soda and powder will produce bubbles as expected for these products but if you are using gluten free flours in your baking expect even less reaction again. This is because the gluten normally traps the bubbles of steam in the bread etc. while a gluten free alternative won't and the steam escapes altogether. Still any reaction is often better than none and a balance between flavour and reaction can be found.

Oils replacements:
  • Nut oils - a flavoured olive oil, grape seed oil or flaxseed oil can be used, depending on the flavour desired. Olive oils heat quickly and to high temperatures so always monitor how your food is cooking and adjust the heat accordingly.
  • Soy inclusive oils - these can be replaced with any pure oils but olive oil is a cheap enough all-purpose alternative.

Tree nuts and sesame seeds replacements:
  • These can be replaced with other sorts of nuts but also seeds like sunflower seeds, poppy seeds or anything else acceptable.
  • Almond meal can be replaced with coconut flour, using quantities as noted on the packet.

Oyster sauce replacements:
  • Fish sauce or a salt water mixture.

Soy sauce replacements:

Shrimp and shellfish replacements:
  • Avoiding dishes where these ingredients are central is best as flavour replacement is hard but if the shrimp or shellfish ingredient is to be used sparingly then a fish or salt water with a pinch of sugar included may be your answer.
  • If only shrimp is to be avoided then langostina tails and lobster might be good replacements.

Egg replacements:
  • A floury egg replacer. The Orgran version is called No Egg but there's several different egg replacers available, some even claiming to replace the flavour. Test and choose which you prefer and follow their instructions of inclusion. No Egg is 1 tsp = 1 egg. There's no flavour change with its inclusion but when by itself it does taste a little floury after a while, say with meringues. No Egg whips like egg white and so can be used to create small bubbles.
  • A flaxseed and water mix is quite popular with vegans as a flavour replacement but I've not found it to be the right flavour for most situations. Still, if you're trying to produce an egg yolk flavour replacement this might be the option to try.

Wheat and gluten inclusive flour replacements:
  • Oat, rye and soy flours - often included in replacers but many people are also allergic to these too.
  • Corn flour, yellow pea flour, rice flour and buckwheat flours - the next most popular alternatives and are usually used in combination. These flours can have a bitter taste that requires some compensation but this doesn't have to be with sugar. You can use a flavourful milk or vanilla essence etc. to offset the bitterness.
  • Potato starch - good for creating crispy batters, as is corn flour although corn flour produces a slightly softer batter after frying.
  • Coconut flour - a good replacement for not only flour but almond meal, which is the most common go to for flour replacement. In fact, coconut flour has a finer grain and produces a pudding-like texture all while needing to be used in less quantity for the same recipe. If using it, add the coconut flour a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Flaxseed - can be used to replace a wholemeal flour but it is best used in combination with any of the above as the flavour is quite strong.
  • A variety or rarer flours can be used but be sure to taste test for bitterness or flavour matching.
  • You can always mix your own if you can't find the right pre-packed combination of flours.

Gluten replacements:
  • Agar - this gelling agent can be used as a thickener or gelitin substitute as well as a gluten substitute.
  • Guar gum - this can be used as a thickener like corn flour as well as an emulsifier and stabiliser. 
  • Gluten free gluten - Orgran's brand of gluten replacement. If you don't like this product or can't find it then use the above as required. There are likely other pre-packed multipurpose gluten replacement blends out there so shop around and find your favourite.

Gelatin replacements:
  • Agar - this gelling agent can be used as a thickener or gelitin substitute as well as a gluten substitute.
  • Pectin - this gelling agent is usually made using vegetable and plant extracts so it suits vegetarians and those avoiding all forms of red meat.

Alcohol replacements:
  • Essences, extracts and oils - these are highly flavourful and don't always include any alcohol as a base ingredient.
  • If you aren't allergic but shouldn't drink in quantity then using a wine or beer in anything to be thoroughly cooked is usually fine. A tiny bit of alcohol may remain after cooking but most is cooked away to leave the flavour of the alcoholic drink only.

Fish replacements:
  • As a flavour fish can be replaced with saltwater.
  • As an ingredient fish is difficult to impossible to replace so switching to white meat dishes is recommended.

Minor allergens (not of the top seven) garlic, capsicum, pepper etc. replacements:
  • These can be replaced with other vegetables of similar flavour or ones suitable for the dish you are making. If you have a problem with garlic but not onion then replace garlic or garlic powder with onion or onion powder. Alternatively, leek has a mild oniony taste, as do chives, shallots and spring onions. The aim doesn't always have to be to find the exact flavour. Instead, use whatever else works well with the remaining ingredients to make your own version of a dish. Few recipes, such as garlic bread or pepper chicken or stuffed capsicums, rely on these ingredients so unless you are eating pre-packed or restaurant cooked food you shouldn't have too many problems.

Red meat replacements:
  • There aren't many for flavour but eating a suitable amount of white meat or the "red" meat of chickens such as thigh can replace the iron content. For iron, also consider lentils (yellow pea flour will help you consume enough lentils) and legumes.
  • Salted or flavoured chicken can provide the burst of flavour needed when recipes call for bacon or other such meat, although the flavour will be different. It isn't recommended that you consume a lot of salted meat as this will affect your health, particularly your blood pressure and weight.
  • If fish and shellfish is acceptable then switching to a seafood and chicken diet can offer equal variety. Otherwise, when creating variety using white meat only the sauce is often key so stock up on vegetables, flours, milks, stocks, herbs and spices.

Noodles and spaghetti replacements:
  • There are several corn, buckwheat and rice noodles out there of several brands (including Orgran) so search through health stores, online or in the health section or your supermarket to find some that suit you. I prefer corn noodles but they shouldn't be reheated. If you have a problem with corn the rice noodles can come pre-cooked or dried and work well in stir fries and for spaghetti bases, although they don't have as much flavour. There are also some vegetable flavoured ones being produced although you will need to check what sort of flour is being used.

Chocolate replacements: 
  • Cocoa beans - these provide a raw chocolate flavour.
  • Cocoa powder - is an easy way to create a chocolate flavour without the added milk, soy or nut allergen worries.
  • Homemade chocolate - can be made from cocoa beans which are ground down until they release their own oils. Adding a little sugar and some spice can make for a tasty treat. While often grainier than store bought chocolate, it is great for mixing into hot chocolates and making other chocolate flavoured baked goods.
  • Chocolate essence - this may suit some recipes for baked goods.
  • If cocoa beans are the root of your chocolate allergy then caramel is often suggested but caramel doesn't taste like chocolate. So, if using caramel, make sure all the other ingredients will match. Also, please note that most caramels are made with cow's milk and possibly even soy.

Butter or margarine replacements:
  • Vegetable and olive oil spreads like Nuttlex work wonders in cooking and for serving. Only when using butter as an agent to solidify a mixture or to produce puff pastry does any other alternative fail to match up in results, if not taste. With Puff pastry, less steam is produced when other spreads are used, producing less puff. These spreads are likely to be healthier for you though, so for everyday use it is good to switch over.

Copha replacements:
  • Pure coconut oil is an excellent replacement as this is the main ingredient in copha.

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