Australia is home to some of the highest allergy rates in the world. With up to 2 percent of adults, 4-8 percent of children aged under 5 years, and 10 percent of children aged under one year affected, food allergies are becoming increasingly prevalent. Even if you’re not personally affected, it’s important to be mindful of common allergens, advise others of all ingredients in shared foods, and prevent cross-contamination in schools, workplaces and other group settings, as the implications can be life-threatening. Thankfully, it’s absolutely possible to omit common allergen(s) and create something delicious – there’s no need to miss out with our allergy-friendly baking guide.
Written by Caitlin Branch, student nutritionist & Amanda Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Allergies versus intolerances
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, food allergies and food intolerances have very different sensitivity reactions. An allergic reaction involves an immediate immune response, potentially causing anaphylaxis, and can therefore be life-threatening. Common allergens encountered in baking include wheat flour, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts (e.g. almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios).
On the other hand, food intolerances do not involve the immune system, are usually dependent on the amount of a particular food consumed, and typically onset more slowly. Although non-life threatening, food intolerances can lead to uncomfortable and/or distressing symptoms, such as diarrhoea, bloating, headaches, hives and mouth ulcers.
Be mindful of these things before baking
- Not all swaps are like-for-like. Some alternatives are better suited to certain recipes than others. For example, aquafaba (from chickpeas) is a fantastic alternative to egg white for use in meringue and cocktails such as amaretto sours, but it’s less suited to recipes where a whole egg is used as a binding agent (like in muffins or banana bread). Similarly, some flour alternatives are heavier/denser than others, which can affect the final result.
- Practice makes perfect. Many conventional recipes most likely won’t have been tested with an allergy-friendly alternative. Thus, the combined effect of multiple substitutions within a single recipe will be largely unknown before the finished product is revealed. It may also take some time to arrive at particular combinations of ingredients that you enjoy most – but it will be worth it!
- Search for it. If you’re short on time for experimentation or aren’t feeling particularly creative, a simple search for specific “vegan” (to avoid dairy and eggs), “nut free” (for peanuts and tree nuts) or “gluten free” (to avoid wheat) recipes may provide some further inspiration.
Allergy-friendly baking swaps
Scan our list of allergy-friendly swaps below to identify a suitable substitute for your baking needs.
WHEAT AND GLUTEN
Instead of wheat flour, try buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, amaranth flour, almond or hazelnut meal, sorghum flour, and/or teff flour. A combination of wheat and gluten-free flours often yields the best results. Adding a small amount of xanthan gum or guar gum can also help batters and doughs to bind and stretch. To keep things simple, a variety of dedicated gluten-free flours are available at most supermarkets, just be mindful to avoid unnecessary additives where possible.
Instead of regular oats, try quinoa flakes or shredded coconut. YUM!
– Instead of cow’s milk, try: non-dairy milks such as almond, macadamia, hazelnut, soy or coconut milk
– Instead of butter, try: extra-virgin olive oil (if melted butter required) or nuttelex
– Instead of yoghurt, try: soy yoghurt (or coconut yoghurt if soy is an issue)
– Instead of cream, try: coconut cream, vanilla soy yoghurt, or cashew cream. To serve, try lightly whipping with some vanilla powder or extract for subtle sweetness and extra flavour.
– Instead of ice cream, try: sorbet, soy or other vegan ice cream alternatives.
– Instead of cream cheese, try: silken tofu (for soft cheeses) or nutritional yeast (for hard cheeses).
When allergy-friendly baking, instead of a whole egg or egg yolk, try a flax egg or chia egg, apple puree, mashed banana, or cooked (and cooled) mashed pumpkin or sweet potato. To make a flax or chia egg, combine a tablespoon of flaxseed meal or chia seeds with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Wait for approximately 5 minutes, until the mixture develops a gel-like consistency.
Instead of an egg white, try 2 tablespoons of aquafaba (the liquid in canned chickpeas that would otherwise be discarded).
Dedicated egg replacer products (e.g. Organ) are also available, and can be used in place of whole eggs, egg yolks and egg whites.
Instead of soy milk, try a dairy or non-dairy alternative such as almond, macadamia, hazelnut, soy, coconut, or sheep’s/goat’s milk (if tolerated).
Instead of peanuts, try other nuts or seeds like buckwheat kernels, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pepitas or sunflower seeds if tolerated.
Instead of peanut butter, try an alternative nut or seed butter. There are plenty available at most supermarkets!
Instead of tree nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios), try seeds and seed pastes (such as tahini).
Tell us, what are your favourite allergy-friendly swaps? For personalised support navigating food allergies or intolerances, book your first appointment with one of our wonderful accredited practising dietitians. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn!