The Best Food Substitutions for Common Intolerances

As of this summer, it has been 9 years since I cut out gluten and dairy, and over 5 since I cut out corn, eggs, and soy. When I first cut out gluten and dairy, there were so few replacement options, and by and large they were kinda gross. But thankfully that isn’t the case any more! So in this post, I’m sharing (in my opinion) the best food substitutions for these 5 foods, which we’ve figured out from a LOT of trial and error over the years.

I AM NOT A DOCTOR! Talk to your doctor before you try cutting foods out or try replacing with these foods, especially if you have an allergy. These are the substitutions that I have found that I love, but I do not have an allergic response to these foods, which is why I use the term “intolerances.”

Read more about why I cut all of these foods out in this post

I've cut out a lot of foods for my autoimmune disease. In this post, I share the best food substitutions I've found for common intolerances: gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. I'm also sharing the brands I love!

Food Substitutions in This Post

Now that we’ve gotten through the technicalities, let’s talk about what foods are going to be addressed in this post! I am intolerant to:

  • gluten
  • dairy
  • corn
  • soy
  • egg

I’m going to get into not only my favorite food substitutions for those, but also my favorite brands. If you’re reading this post, then you probably know that a lot of foods and food products that are friendly for people with intolerances are also more expensive. I don’t want you to buy something included in this post only for it to be disgusting!

Additionally, when I share products, they are also free of all of the other things I’m intolerant to. For example, I’m sharing the gluten-free bread mix I love that is also free of corn and soy. You would make the bread with one of the other substitutes in this post if you also can’t have eggs or dairy. Make sense? That being said, as a note, no links in this post are affiliate links! Which is why I didn’t include an affiliate disclaimer earlier.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Gluten Substitutes

Flour – My favorites are King Arthur Flour’s gluten-free version and Bob’s Red Mill. Don’t let this picture fool you – Bob’s also has a Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour (these are just the 2 currently in my pantry). They’re both wonderful, so if you have the choice between them, you’re in a tough spot.

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Bread Mix – This is where King Arthur succeeds and Bob’s fails – at least, for me. (Sorry, Bob’s! I love you!) King Arthur has the best bread mix ever. Bob’s … has cornstarch in it, which means I can’t have it. King Arthur’s bread mix is so good that it is always sold out up here in central Maine (we can see the label where it’s supposed to be in the store). If you can find it in your local store, please enjoy it for me. I actively miss it.

Also, King Arthur has so many mixes. Muffins, different types of cookies, cakes, banana bread (I hate bananas but enjoy if you’re weird and like them), the list goes on. There are so many options that you’ll feel like you can eat gluten.

56 gluten-free recipes to make this year

Pasta – If you are looking for a great gluten-free pasta, and you’re not interested in chickpea pasta, then rice pasta is the best way to go. My favorite brands are Tinkyada and Jovial. Tinkyada makes so many different varieties and shapes, and you can find it at Target. Jovial also technically makes other shapes, but I’ve only ever seen the traditional spaghetti shape.

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Bread crumbs – This is one that I frequently don’t deal with just because it involves a lot more work than I want to put into cooking. But if you’re cooking something requiring bread crumbs or panko, you want to choose Gillian’s. Gillian’s Foods focuses on gluten-free (specifically Celiac friendly) foods, so if you have other intolerances, their foods might not work for you. Their bread, for example, has eggs in them, and some of their other products also have soy. So if you have any food allergies or intolerances that aren’t gluten alone, make sure you read the ingredients of all of their products.

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Dairy Substitutes

Milk – I’m not going to go into this much because it’s probably the best-known! Since I can’t do dairy or soy, I prefer almond milk. Oat milk and coconut milk are okay, but they’re not my preferred replacement. My favorite almond milk brand is Almond Breeze.

Coffee Creamer – This is pretty similar to milk. I like So Delicious coffee creamer best (at least, for the vanilla flavor, which is what I do), and I prefer their almond milk creamer to coconut.

Parmesan cheese – Based on the name, this is going to make zero sense, but what we use is a product called nutritional yeast. Healthline explains, “While brewer’s, baker’s and nutritional yeasts are technically made from the same species of yeast, they are very different products” (x). Unfortunately, this means that if you have a yeast and a dairy allergy or intolerance, nutritional yeast isn’t going to work for you.

But why nutritional yeast for parmesan cheese? Because it “is grown specifically to be used as a food product. The yeast cells are killed during manufacturing and not alive in the final product. It is used in cooking and has a cheesy, nutty or savory flavor” (x). Unfortified nutritional yeast doesn’t have any added vitamins or minerals, while fortified has synthetic vitamins added for more nutrients, but both are naturally gluten-free (x). All of those will be seen in the ingredients list.

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Cheese in general – My go-to brand for non-dary-or-soy cheese products is Daiya. They make shredded cheese, as seen here, as well as frozen pizzas, mac & cheese, etc. And if you’ve previously tried their frozen pizzas and disliked them, you should know that they have a new recipe and it tastes SO much better than it did before.

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Ice cream – Pretty similar to all of the things I’ve discussed so far in this category! My preferred ice cream brand is So Delicious, and I like their almond milk ice cream. It’s a lot easier to scoop than their coconut version, which is ideal given my arthritis.

Butter – THE brand for butter replacement is Earth Balance. They have so so so many varieties for all the different reasons someone might be reaching for a non-dairy butter, and because they’re wonderful, they’re all color-coded based on the type of butter. The one I use is their soy-free version, which is the red container.

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Awesome ingredient replacements for gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. Click To Tweet

Corn Substitutes

Cornstarch – Cornstarch is “most often used as a thickener for stews, soups and gravies (x). Our go-to replacement is arrowroot, which is a starchy powder that is naturally gluten-free, but it’s important to know that you should probably use twice as much arrowroot as cornstarch in a recipe for a similar result (x). Our second choice is xanthan gum, which I don’t love because if the recipe isn’t naturally super flavorful, it can add a strong aftertaste. Remember when gluten-free products and recipes were kinda gross? In my opinion, that was due to the xanthan gum. When using xanthan gum, “It’s recommended to use a small amount of xanthan gum and add it slowly” (x).

Tortillas – When you can’t have flour or corn, tortillas are difficult to find. But in the last year, we found rice tortillas! You should know that they fall apart so easily, so they’re not ideal. When I have tacos, then, I don’t use any tortillas and instead do more of a taco salad. I use these for baked products like enchiladas and I have also started making quesadillas with them! I do 1 large quesadilla, aka without folding the tortilla because, again, they don’t hold well.

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Soy Substitutes

Soy is one of those ingredients where you don’t have a lot of foods that require soy other than soy sauce or soy milk, but it’s an ingredient in everything. You never realize how frequently it’s in food products until you have to cut it out. I mean, I cut out soy in 2015, and I still accidentally soy-ed myself earlier this year.

When it comes to watching out for soy, one piece of advice I have is remembering that soy is technically a vegetable, so you still need to read the ingredients if the front label says something is “all-natural” or that it only has “vegetable oil.” That’s how I soy-ed myself; I used a vegetable oil spray without reading the ingredients … and the ingredients were mostly soy oil.

That being said, let’s talk about what to use when a recipe calls for soy sauce.

Soy sauce – First and foremost before we get into the soy part of soy sauce, don’t forget that soy sauce has gluten in it. (Guess who learned that the hard way years before she cut out soy?) But moving on. The number 1 replacement for soy sauce is coconut aminos. Coconut aminos is “soy-, wheat- and gluten-free and much lower in sodium than soy sauce, making it a good alternative” (x). There are other available soy sauce replacements, but they frequently are actually made from soy, so they don’t work for people replacing soy.

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.@kmitchellauthor shares her favorite food substitutes for common intolerances Click To Tweet

Egg Substitutes

Unfortunately, I haven’t found an egg substitution that works as a replacement for eating eggs themselves, like for scrambled eggs or an omelet. But eggs are used as binding agents for so many foods, especially baked goods. Here is what I use to replace eggs in those situations.

Flax egg – A flax egg is a combination of flaxseed meal and water that sits for at least 15 minutes. As Cookie + Kate says, “Flax eggs work well when they’re a small component in baked goods, pancakes, and other flour-based recipes. Flax eggs yield a ‘gluey’ substance similar to egg whites, which helps bind ingredients together. They also contain some fat, like real yolks do. As a bonus, they also offer some fiber, which you won’t find in real eggs” (x). Flax eggs don’t work in all recipes, but they do work in many. Check out her page on flax eggs to learn more about when they do and don’t work and how exactly to make them.

Egg replacers – For recipes that require a bit more eggy-ness than flax eggs (although not, you know, when you want to eat actual eggs), there are egg replacers. Our favorite is the Ener-G Egg Replacer. I’ve tried many over the five years since I cut out eggs, and this is hands-down my favorite. I even dislike the Bob’s Red Mill one, and Bob’s is the king of food replacers. Most egg replacers are powdery and you mix them with water, like with a flax egg.

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In conclusion …

I also want to reiterate that while it would be very bad for me to eat any of these foods, I’m technically not allergic. So I can eat foods that are produced in a gluten-producing location, for example. If you get any of the replacements in this post, please please please make sure to read the ingredients on everything you buy!

What food substitutions have you found and loved?

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  • Reply Emily

    I have celiac disease and found this post to be very helpful!!! Thank you for all the useful information!

    August 11, 2020 at 11:43 am
    • Reply Kate

      I’m glad but I do want to once again forewarn you to read the labels! I’m positive you don’t need that reminder lol but just in case. I’m gluten-intolerant (it triggers my RA and does BAD things to me) but not Celiac so I can eat things made in a place that also manufactures gluten.

      August 11, 2020 at 2:21 pm
  • Reply Caylee Connelly

    These are amazing suggestions! I’m gluten and dairy intolerant and try to be limited with my soy intake as well so I will absolutely be checking some of these out. I love Daiya products too! They’ve been the best replacement so far!

    August 11, 2020 at 5:23 pm
    • Reply Kate

      Soy is in EVERYTHING. Truly. Good luck!

      August 13, 2020 at 4:46 pm
  • Reply Indya | The Small Adventurer

    Wow, I can’t believe how many of these products I’ve never heard of before! A large portion of my family are gluten intolerant, so I mainly clicked on this post for that, but I’m going to save this for later as I do hope to become a pro host someday in the future, which means I’m going to have to prepare to accommodate for everyone so this list will DEFINITELY come in handy 😊

    August 12, 2020 at 7:59 am
    • Reply Kate

      Love that you’re doing that! So many people basically don’t even think about how to accommodate people with intolerances when it comes to hosting.

      August 13, 2020 at 4:51 pm
  • Reply Becky

    This is a great list! I’m fortunate that I don’t have any intolerances myself, but I have a few friends who do so it’s nice to be able to have options for them when they come to visit!

    August 12, 2020 at 9:43 am
    • Reply Kate

      Yes, for sure! It means so much to me when people do that for me.

      August 13, 2020 at 4:52 pm
  • Reply Kait

    For someone who bakes a lot, you are basically replacing my entire pantry! It’s so helpful to have this information when I need to cook for someone else. I use cornstarch so much, and never even thought about someone having a corn intolerance!

    August 12, 2020 at 11:27 am
    • Reply Kate

      It’s so interesting because I don’t know many people who have corn intolerances, but I do know several who have very bad corn allergies. Like, they can’t go to the movie theater because of the corn in the air from popcorn. And like soy, you never know how many things corn is in until you can’t use it!

      August 13, 2020 at 4:53 pm
  • Reply Cassie Creley

    Love this! We have a lot of the same favorites.
    Thank you for the head’s up about Daiya changing the pizza recipe. I love their cheeze but was do disappointed in their pizza. I’ll give it another try! Amy’s pizza is my go-to.
    I’ve been wanting to try arrowroot as a thickener, so thank you for the tip on quantity.

    August 16, 2020 at 3:10 pm
    • Reply Kate

      I hope you love the Daiya pizza!

      August 30, 2020 at 3:59 pm
  • Reply KT

    Huge eyeroll. As a former server, I can assure you that every time you go to a restaurant, your meal has been spit upon just for how many “intolerances” you have.

    August 30, 2020 at 3:49 pm
    • Reply Kate

      You seem like a really sad and miserable person. You know that you didn’t have to read this post, right? You know that you didn’t have to comment? I hope your life turns around. Best of luck.

      August 30, 2020 at 4:01 pm

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