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Imagine going to a birthday party and not being able to eat the cake. For several people with allergies, intolerances and special diets, this is a normal part of life. 

It’s widely known by those who bake that there are key, staple ingredients used in most recipes. These include flour, eggs and dairy. Wheat flour helps create a light and fluffy texture, while the gluten in wheat helps bind things together. The eggs also assist with binding and structure, and sometimes act as a thickening agent. Dairy, which can include milk, butter and yogurt,  has a variety of roles, based on the type of dairy. Milk can add moisture to baked goods, while butter acts as a fat that not only adds flavor, but also is involved with the raising of a baked good. And, though they are not typically structural ingredients, tree nuts and peanuts are also commonly found in baked goods for texture and flavor.

All the ingredients mentioned have a good purpose, but there are more and more people nowadays who are finding themselves unable to eat some of these ingredients. In order to accommodate for more people, bakers need to be educated on simple substitutions. That’s where this guide comes into play. For each ingredient, a few alternative ingredients will be recommended. There are many different substitution options for each, but below are some of the most common ones. 

Wheat Flour Alternatives

Wheat is used in a huge array of products in the United States. Wheat flour is unique in the fact that it has gluten, which is largely responsible for the binding and fluffiness of baked goods. In order to get this effect from a gluten free source, it’s important to mix a variety of plant flours together. One alone is typically not sufficient. Both King Arthur’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour and Kinnikinnick’s All Purpose Flour Blend [Gluten Free] features a variety of plant flours that have already been blended for you. Plus, Kinnikinnick’s All Purpose Flour Blend [Gluten Free] has guar gum, which acts as the gluten in wheat flour does. Not all gluten-free flours have this already added to the blend, so this is definitely a perk of the Kinnikinnick brand.

– King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour 

Ingredients: Specialty Flour Blend (rice flour, tapioca starch), Potato Starch, Whole Grain Brown Rice Four, Vitamin and Mineral Blend [calcium carbonate, niaciamide (vitamin B3), reduced iron, thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2)].

– Kinnikinnick All Purpose Flour Blend [Gluten Free]

Ingredients: White rice flour, Potato starch*, Tapioca starch, Guar gum, Modified cellulose. May Contain Eggs. *Not a product of genetic engineering 

Egg Alternatives

There are several substitutions that can be used in place of eggs, but applesauce and “Just Egg” are two great options that I recommend. Any type of applesauce should work, but the one mentioned below is one I personally prefer. For each egg, substitute ¼ cup of applesauce. “Just Egg” is a vegan egg replacement that is just made from plants. It’s surprising how egg-like it looks!

– Applesauce

Ingredients: Apples, Water, Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C)

– Just Egg

Ingredients: Water, Mung Bean Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Contains less than 2% of Dehydrated Onion, Gellan Gum, Natural Carrot Extractives (color), Natural Flavors, Natural Turmeric Extractives (color), Potassium Citrate, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Tapioca Syrup, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Transglutaminase, Nisin (preservative). (Contains soy).

Dairy Alternatives

Cow milk, butter and yogurt are all considered dairy products. There are several non-dairy options out there due to the rise in veganism, but here are a few of my favorite substitutions. Both brands have several other non-dairy options that may be worth checking out too if you are dairy-free. 

– Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spreads

Ingredients: Vegetable Oil Blend (Palm Fruit*, Soybean*, Canola*, Olive* Oils), Water, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor*, Defatted Soy Flour*, Soy Lecithin*, Lactic Acid (To Protect Freshness), Annatto Extract (Color)*.

– So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Yogurt alternative

Ingredients: Organic Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Organic Cane Sugar, Rice Starch, Contains 2% or less of: Natural Flavor, Calcium Citrate, Pectin, Locust Bean Gum, Citric Acid, Live and Active Cultures, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12.

– So Delicious Vanilla Shelf Stable Coconutmilk Beverage

Ingredients: Organic Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Guar Gum, Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, L-Selenomethionine [Selenium], Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D2, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin B12), Natural Flavor, Xanthan Gum

Tree Nuts & Peanuts Alternatives

Though often confused as being a nut, peanuts aren’t actually nuts. Peanuts are legumes and are in the same family as beans, chickpeas and lentils. True nuts grow on a tree and peanuts do not grow on trees. In baking, tree nuts and peanuts are often used for flavor or texture. Though the previous ingredients mentioned are more essential, tree nut and peanut allergies are becoming more common so it’s important to have a few substitutions. To make something tree nut and peanut free, leave the nuts out of recipes that call for them. If a recipe calls for peanut butter or a nut butter, you can easily substitute that for “Sun Butter” and “WOWBUTTER.” While Sun Butter is made from sunflower seeds, “WOWBUTTER” is soy based.

– Sun Butter Natural Sunflower Seed Spread

Ingredients: Roasted Sunflower Seed, Sugar, Salt


Ingredients: Whole Toasted Soy, Pressed Soy Oil, Cane Sugar, Palm Oil (Sustainable), Sea Salt

Jess Carrillo is the Events Director for the SCU chapter of Her Campus. She is a 3rd year student majoring in communications and minoring in studio art. Jess loves educating about life with food allergies and is a passionate food allergy advocate. She also enjoys painting, visiting the beach, and snuggling up with her cats.
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