How to Stock an Allergy Friendly Kitchen

If you have recently discovered you or your child have allergies/intolerances, or you have known about them for a while but stuck to only a few 'safe' foods and are ready to start enjoying cooking again, there are some bare necessities you should stock your kitchen with. Of course, these are in addition to all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, and any meats, which in our case is only fish and turkey. This list does not contain the many great rice products that are available since Jack is allergic to rice also, but there are many many great ready to eat products (gluten free vegan cookies, anyone?) and ingredients containing rice that you should check out if you are able to eat them.

Remember, too, that if you set out to recreate the flavor and texture of 'regular' foods, you will probably be disappointed. But if you set out to make delicious food with what you have, it can totally be done!

By the way, we do most of our shopping at Central Market and Sprouts. If you do not have one of these near you, Whole Foods may have everything you need, but also look for local health food stores, which often can special order for you as well.

Essentials in an Allergy-Restricted Kitchen

Flours- If you plan to bake, it's often necessary to use several different flours in a recipe that originally called for wheat flour. Some good ones are: Barley flour (contains gluten), bean flours, buckwheat flour (not actaully wheat despite the name and gluten free, but has a strong bitter flavor, not my favorite), quinoa flour, corn flour, and potato flour (NOT potato starch, that's something else entirely). If you can have rice, brown and white rice flours are excellent at replacing wheat flour.

Starches- It's probably not necessary to have all sorts of starches like it is for flours as they pretty much all work the same, but I like to keep cornstarch and potato starch on hand. It's used for thickening sauces, gravies, even pie filling.

Xanthan or Guar Gum- Gluten is the 'glue' that holds baked goods together. When you start baking with gluten free flours (or even barley flour as it's gluten content is low), you have to help it stick together. That's where these come in. Xanthan gum is a corn product so if you have a corn allergy, go with guar. Otherwise, they are pretty much interchangable. They are pretty expensive but you only use a teensy tiny bit at a time, so it's worth the price!

Butter Substitute- So many recipes call for butter and if you have a good non-dairy butter, you don't have to get creative with oils or fruit purees. If you do not have a soy allergy, Bestlife is inexpensive and available at Walmart in a big tub like the old beloved Country Crock. But if you cannot have soy, try Earth Balance Soy Free Non Dairy Buttery Spread, which our Walmart also carries but I don't know if they all do.

Milk Substitutes- Most 'unsweetened' varieties still are slightly sweet, which you wouldn't notice while drinking but would definately notice in something like gravy. I recommend almond milk for sweet dishes or in baking, and unsweetened coconut milk for savory cooking, though almond, hemp (contains rice) or even potato milk are great options as well. (Unsweetened plain coconut milk is slightly thick like whole milk and bright white, which really is important if you are making something such as gravy, as the other milks can give your dish an off-color.) And of course, I love sweetened vanilla flavored non-dairy milk for coffee creamer!

Egg Replacer- You can buy boxed egg replacer (like EnerG brand), but most of the time I like to use flaxgel to replace eggs in baking. This is made by adding 1 Tbl flaxmeal to 3 Tbl water and letting it sit for a few minutes until it becomes the consistency of an egg. It works wonderfully and adds a dose of omega-3s, but it does change the appearance of the the final product slightly (adding little flecks of brown) so if that bothers you, EnerG is the way to go! As noted later, pureed pear (or apple) can replace egg in sme recipes as well.) Please see this fabulous page over at The Happy Herbivore and download the PDF for an exhaustive list of ways to (and ways NOT to) replace eggs depending on the type of dish you are making!

Bread- Find a good bread that fits your needs. There are so many wheat free breads out there! Read labels though, almost all of them contain rice and a lot can contain eggs or other common allergens. Gluten free breads tend to have a strange, dry sponge like texture, but we use Food For Life's white rye, which contains gluten but no wheat, rice, dairy, egg, oats, soy, etc etc et al. We use this for making bread crumbs, garlic bread, breakfast toast, vegan french toast, grilled cheese, stuffing, sandwiches, etc. I don't think we could live without this stuff.

Nuts- Now obviously this is only if you do not have nut allergies, but we use raw cashews, soaked and pureed, almost daily to make things like sour cream, ranch dressing, pumpkin pie filling, 'ricotta', and all sorts of other dairy product substitutes.

Quinoa- I say that quinoa is a must because it's so good for you and it's an excellent replacement for rice. Mmmm, turkey curry over quinoa? Don't mind if I do! Quinoa flakes also make excellent cookies and muffins.

"Grains"- Well, that's in quotations because these are things you can use in place of grains like rice or oats in recipes, but they aren't necessarily grains. Barley is great for replacing rice or oats, as is quinoa (which is actually a seed), and lentils (legumes) can make a decent grain substitute depending on the recipe. Don't forget corn, you can use polenta to substitute pizza crust, pasta, and even meat. And if you can have wheat but not rice, orzo is small, rice shaped pasta that you can use in much the same way as rice!

Pasta- How easy is it to boil some pasta, brown up some turkey meat, and throw it all together with pasta sauce? In our household, pasta is a necessity, it is my go-to staple when I have neglected to really think out whats for dinner. Ancient Harvest sells all sorts of shapes of corn/quinoa pasta. We also buy Sam Mills Pasta d'Oro on base for cheap, and it's organic!

Ready-Made Mixes- Let's face it, we can't all be culinary goddesses ALL the time. Make your life easy by stocking your pantry with a few ready-made mixes for when you don't feel like trying to find the correct ratio of 12 different flours! Bob's Red Mill sells all sorts of great mixes including Shortbread Cookie Mix, Cornbread Mix, and Cinnamon Raisin Bread mix (plus many more) that are all wheat, rice, soy, etc etc free. Cherrybrook Kitchen also has a decent selection of dessert mixes (just stay away from their canned frosting....yuck!!) but they use rice flour in everything.

Appliances- This part sounds pricey, but you don't need to run out and get them all at once, you can drop hints to your spouse or parents for Christmas, and while you can live life without them, once you have them you may wonder how you survived before.
Depending on the amount of 'from-scratch' cooking you want to do, a good blender is a must. If you are dealing with multiple food allergies, it's almost imperative. For instance, I can make my own cashew milk with just cashews, water, and a little salt. If I buy cashew milk, it will also have rice, sugar, and lots of chemicals in it as well. And helloooo, you can make homemade hummus!!! I highly recommend the BlendTec, some people swear by Vitamix. If you have one of these you may be able to get by without a food processor, but you might still need one of those too. Of course a mixer is important if you make a lot of cookies/cake/bread but you can almost always stir by hand and get the same results, plus build up your sweet guns! And it's not a necessity, but a good little fryer (like the Presto Cool Daddy) can be your best friend, just sayin'.

It's also very important to stock up your spice cabinet! Make sure to read the labels, but most are single ingredient (at least at Penzey's they are) so it's not too hard. Things like taco seasoning or chili starters often contain milk and are so easy to make on your own with just a few spices. This also saves you lots of money!
Turkey and/or veggie broth or stock are great starters for yummy soups, stew, or chili too, plus great to cook quinoa in for extra flavor, and yummy in mashed potatoes!

Other really important things: Nutritional Yeast Flakes (use like parmesean)
Daiya Cheese Shreds
Soy Free Vegenaise (contains rice syrup, but magical in making dips and dressings!)
olive- corn- and coconut oil
beans of all sorts (try canned for convinience, and stock up on garbonzos for hummus!)
cereals (grits, cream of buckwheat, corn chex, kix, and corn flakes)
pasta sauces (read labels! Soy can be a common ingredient but Bertolli, Classico, and Kirkland brand from Costco have options that do not have soy)
tomato paste
honey and agave nectar
a squillion different types of vinegar
canned soups (Amy's makes several types that fit our needs)
We also keep jars of baby food pear puree on hand because I like to use it as an egg replacer in cookies. Oh, and lemon juice. I don't know why we go through so much lemon juice in this house, but it seems most recipes call for it, tasty homemade ranch calls for it, and I like to put it in ice water.

For a slightly exhaustive list of "all-of-our-allergies-friendly" foods that can be found in a most regular grocery stores, please click this link.

It's important when you are just finding out about food allergies, or when your restrictions have gotten a little tighter, to see it as a challenge for yourself but not as a setback or a prison sentence. It just takes creativity, an open mind, and several glasses of wine. ;)


  1. Careful that wine could have milk added!

  2. Well I'll be sure to drink the whole bottle myself before my son gets a hold of it then. You know... for safety. ;)