Thanks to a growing awareness of food allergies, there are much more advanced allergy-friendly products and baking techniques readily available to the home cook. It’s pretty amazing, actually. But this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to helping make the perfect gluten- and dairy-free croissants or perfect flaky biscuits without a touch of dairy. Those are totally possible, but very advanced baking projects that we’ll leave to the allergy-free baking experts.
Rather, here we’ve got the best one-to-one allergy-friendly baking subsitutes that any home cook can easily pick up at their local supermarket to make holiday baking that’s safe for everyone without any major science or research.
Flour substitute for gluten-free goodies
If you’re deep into gluten-free baking, you may already have things like cassava flour, potato starch, and xanthan gum in your pantry, but if you’re just trying to be thoughtful and make a gluten-free batch of your favorite holiday cookies for a party, grab an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. It will work well as a one-to-one substitute for most simple holiday baking projects like cookies, simple cakes, and pie dough.
Though a bit pricey, I’ve had most success across the most number of baking projects using Cup4Cup gluten-free flour (available at our Amazon affiliate). If you decide to give it a try, their site has a ton of gluten-free recipes that have already been tested using their flour, including pie dough, which is super helpful.
Allergy-free egg substitute
I recently struck up conversation with a pastry chef sitting next to me on an airplane about allergy-friendly baking and she mentioned that some of her favorite output was from working at a very well-known, high-end, allergy-friendly bakery. I figured she was going to tell me about complicated techniques and secret ingredients, but it turns out, most of they used was pretty simple and what we’d use at home — including flax eggs in placed of regular ones.
To make a flax egg, you simply combine ground flax seed and water, and allow the combination to sit for just a few minutes. Hop on over to Minimalist Baker to get the exact ratio.
Dairy-free butter substitutes
Again, the pastry chef I mentioned chatting with above mentioned that, just like when I bake for my dairy-free son, she uses Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks. There are, of course, other vegan butter options, but it seems that there is most success using these as a substitute for stick butter in baking.
I do want to mention — just because I’m loving it so much — that I’ve recently started experimenting with products from Miyoko’s Kitchen. My son loves their Fresh VeganMozz and their European Style Cultured Vegan Butter is so tasty that I choose it over regular butter for my morning toast. A very well-respected recipe developer who I follow online has also been playing with the butter and reports very good results baking with it. I can’t wait to try using it to bake up a batch of holiday cookies.
When it comes to pie dough and other baking projects that call for — or that can call for — shortening, remember that traditional Crisco is vegan. (I know, right?!)
If you’d rather skip butter all together, check out our healthy baking swaps for butter.
Dairy-free milk (or buttermilk) substitutes
Believe it or not, you can actually use water to substitute milk in many basic baking recipes, but you’ll lose some richness that is usually made up by adding more butter; the recommended substitution is 1 cup of water plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter for every cup of milk. If you’re not using regular butter, though, I’d suggest using a plant-based milk substitute instead.
The easiest one-to-one substitute for a neutral flavor is almond or oat milk. Almond milk is obviously not safe for nut-free goodies, though, and both typically require you to buy a larger container that might leave you with leftovers if you’re not normally a dairy-free home.
Another option is to use canned coconut milk, which gives great texture, but may impart your baked goods with a slight coconut flavor. If you don’t like the sound of that, you can use a plant-based yogurt instead — a one-to-one substitute will work even though it’s not quite a liquid. But, again, most plant-based yogurts are made with either almond milk (allergen), soy milk (allergen), or coconut (flavor).
As for buttermilk, you can make your own non-dairy version by adding 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to every cup of plant-based milk of choice and letting the mixture sit, untouched, for about 10 minutes. Then, use as you would regular buttermilk.