In cooking for friends with strict food allergies, I’ve been surprised by how easy it is to change out ingredients for a more friendly alternative. It does take a bit of patience though. Recipes might not always turn out just like the picture, but more often than not I’ve been thrilled with the results—sometimes it’s even better than the original.
For beginners, here are some easy ones to try:
- Dairy milk: Swap for coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk (for particularly luxurious desserts), or yogurt with a little water.
- Butter: Swap for coconut oil, olive oil, rendered pork, chicken, or duck fat (a personal favorite).
- Nuts: I use them all interchangeably now. If you or your guest is allergic to both tree nuts and peanuts, try toasted pumpkin on sunflower seeds.
- Breadcrumbs: Swap for chopped nuts with a little garlic, almond flour, panko, or crumbled potato chips.
Even if you don’t suffer from food allergies, these easy substitutions have saved me so many times when I was out of just one thing. With some concept of how each ingredient works in your dish, search your kitchen for creative solutions instead of running to the grocery store.
A quick note on that though: it can be worth it to splurge on those obscure ingredients. Pay attention to how much of it is actually used in your recipe and gauge whether you’ll make the dish again or if you can use it for anything else. For small amounts (half a teaspoon or less), I leave it out. But with fenugreek, a unique flavor in my favorite sweet potato stew, I made the splurge and I never regretted it.
As you make the same dish a few times it’s so much easier to change up the produce and spices.
Start with this carrot romesco.
Romesco is a traditional Catalan (that’s Spanish) sauce made with roasted peppers and almonds. It’s typically used as a condiment for meat, vegetables, and sometimes bread. It adds a ton of flavor to any dish.
I’ve made with recipe with beets, I’ve swapped out pine nuts for almonds, and I’m convinced that as long as you don’t mess with the olive oil and garlic, it’ll be delicious. Try these clever substitutions from Bon Appétit’s April 2014 issue.
Carrot Romesco Sauce
Recipe from Bon Appétit
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar*
Preheat oven to 450°F. Toast pine nuts in a frying pan on medium-low tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes; let cool.
Toss carrots with 1 tablespoon oil on another rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until softened and browned, 15–20 minutes; let cool slightly.
Pulse pine nuts, garlic, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a food processor to a coarse paste. Add Aleppo pepper, carrots, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon water. Process, adding more water as needed, to a coarse purée; season romesco with salt, black pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.
Serve with chicken and grilled or roasted vegetables.
* I used apple cider vinegar.