Disclosure: I received free samples from Namaste Foods and Raw Spice Bar. I was not paid or compensated to write this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. One of the toughest parts of making a big dietary change is knowing what ingredients to stock in your pantry. If you’re used to eating gluten, but suddenly have to go gluten free, then you may wonder what kind of flour, baking mixes, pasta, etc., is safe. When you go dairy free, not only is cheese, milk, and butter out, but many common pantry staples and snacks may contain dairy as well.
If you have multiple food allergies, it can become even more difficult. The 8 most common allergens are wheat, soy, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.
Thankfully there are so many options available now to fit a variety of special diets, so it’s getting easier all the time to find tasty substitutions. But going to the grocery store can be challenging – what products are allergen free and actually taste good as well?
Today I’m going to discuss what I think a well-stocked allergy free pantry should contain. Disclosure: This post contains my opinions. I am not a healthcare professional. If you have any questions about whether a food is safe for your diet, please consult your healthcare provider and/or contact the company directly to find out more about their allergen statement.
Flour Blends: One thing that I think makes allergy friendly baking so much easier is to find a good cup for cup replacement flour. There are a lot of different varieties available, and you may need to try a few different options before you settle on one that works well in your recipes. Make sure you read the label and see if it requires the addition of xanthan gum in order to bind properly – if so, you can get that at any health food store.
Perfect Flour Blend by Namaste Foods is made in a dedicated allergen free facility, and is a cup for cup blend so you can just use it in place of regular flour in your recipes. It’s a good blend to have on hand for quick breads, cupcakes, cookies, and more. This is a great place to start if you are new to gluten free baking. It’s a lot less daunting to try to bake gluten free if you can simply bake a recipe with a pre-mixed flour blend.
If you want to be adventurous, you can also make your own gluten free/allergen free flour blend. Cara has a recipe that’s very straightforward, and would be a good place to start if you want to make your own blend.
Baking Mixes: Sometimes you want to keep things even simpler, and just reach for a boxed mix in order to make pancakes or brownies or muffins. Enjoy Life Foods, who specializes in making snacks, chocolate chips, cereal, and cookies that are allergen free has just released a line of new products – five baking mixes. Now you can easily make allergen free brownies, muffins, pizza crust, pancakes and more. These mixes contain ancient grains like teff flours to give these mixes extra protein per serving. Although they may not be on your store shelf just yet, they are available to order online now.
Baking Powder: Make sure that your baking powder is gluten free. I prefer to use Featherweight Baking Powder because it is gluten free and corn free.
Cocoa Powder: I use unsweetened cocoa powder for all my recipes. Pure cocoa powder will just have one ingredient listed: cocoa.
Chocolate Chips: Chocolate is one of the foods that can be really tricky for people with food allergies – especially dairy, peanut, and tree nut allergies. Because chocolate often contains these ingredients, it can be difficult to find chocolate chips that don’t have an allergen statement on the back that says something about possibly containing milk, tree nuts, or peanuts.
Fortunately, PASCHA Chocolate makes rich, delicious, chocolate chips and bars that are perfect for baking, and they are produced in an allergen free facility. I love their baking chips and have used them for everything from cookies to pudding to pizookies.
Egg Replacers: If you’re new to baking without eggs, you may want to start by reading my guide to making egg replacers. There are so many options for egg replacers. I keep unsweetened applesauce, pureed prunes, ground flax seeds, and chia seeds on hand to make egg replacers. Navitas Naturals carries many different seeds that work really well in a variety of recipes as egg replacers or just for flavor. They also have a wide range of superfoods like acai powder, dried mulberries, cacao nibs, and hemp seeds to name a few. You can read their allergen statement right here.
Pasta, Rice, and Grains
Pasta: There are so many varieties of gluten free pasta to choose from. The most basic type of gluten free is made from brown rice. It’s easy to find in health food stores and in most grocery stores. Trader Joe’s carries brown rice pasta that is relatively inexpensive.
There are other gluten free pastas made from quinoa, corn, or black beans (available at Costco right now – Darryl is a big fan!). Make sure you check the allergen statement on the package if you are concerned about cross contamination as pasta could be made in a facility that also handles eggs or dairy.
Rice: The least expensive option of all the gluten free grains or pastas is rice. Rice is naturally gluten free, and also one of the least allergenic foods. There are so many varieties of rice to add color and texture to your recipes – white, brown, red, wild, jasmine, and more.
Grains: Millet, teff, buckwheat, and amaranth are all gluten free and can be used in a variety of ways, whether it be as a warm side dish or a base for a cold summer salad.
Quinoa is another gluten free grain that has many benefits – it cooks quickly, it contains a good amount of protein and fiber, and it is a great neutral base for salads, soups, and side dishes. I love the Royal White Quinoa from Chosen Foods – it’s prewashed which means that it’s even easier to use. If you get unwashed quinoa, you do need to take the time to rinse it thoroughly in a strainer before cooking it.
Oats are gluten free as well, but you do want to make sure that you purchase certified gluten free oats as most oats are processed in the same facility as wheat and can contain traces of gluten.
Oils, Vinegar, and Spices
Oil: I keep extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, a canola/coconut oil blend, and avocado oil in my pantry. Always read the label on oil blends to make sure that there are not any nut or peanut oils listed as an ingredient. Chosen Foods has a good variety of oils, including many avocado oil products. A cooking spray made from avocado oil is a nice product to have on hand to be able to reduce the amount of oil that you are cooking with.
Vinegar: Vinegar can be tricky. Many vinegars are gluten free. However, malt vinegar is made from barley, so it is not safe for those with celiac disease or a gluten allergy. Distilled white vinegar is generally considered safe due to the distilling process, but it could possibly be made from a gluten containing grain, so you may want to avoid it and choose another vinegar. I use Heinz brand white vinegar that is made only from corn and is labeled gluten free.
Spices: A well-stocked pantry is filled with spices, but make sure you read the label – there are often hidden ingredients in some spice blends, such as gluten or soy. There can also be a risk of cross contamination depending on where they are produced, so be sure to check with the company if you are not sure. Pink peppercorns are a hidden allergen that can cause reactions in those with cashew allergies, so beware of peppercorn blends.
Raw Spice Bar makes freshly ground, small batch, specialty spice blends. It is a subscription service that delivers these spices to your door each month. Each month subscribers receive:
- 3-4 freshly ground spice blends from one geography or region, enough to create 3 dishes serving 8-12 people
- 3 kitchen-tested recipe cards, plus additional recipes online
- Surprises like bonus spices, toasting tips, discounts and other fun stuff
There is an allergen statement on Raw Spice Bar spices that states that they are made in a commercial kitchen that handles dairy, nuts, soy, and wheat products. Contact the company for further allergen information as they are changing kitchen locations.
Beans and Seeds
Beans: Our pantry is always stocked with beans. Beans should not be a problem for those with food allergies, but it is important to read the label if you are concerned about cross contamination. We love Eden brand beans because they are non-GMO, organic, and the cans are BPA free. We also buy dried beans and lentils as well. One important thing to note is that it is not safe to purchase beans or anything else from the bulk bins if you have food allergies. There is a huge risk of cross contamination due to people using the same scoops in multiple bins.
Seeds: Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are an awesome alternative to nuts, but are often produced in a facility that also processes tree nuts and peanuts. We love SuperSeedz – I use these pepitas in baking and for snacking. I have also recently heard that DAVID brand sunflower seeds are made in a tree nut and peanut free facility, although they do contain soybean oil. (This is new information to me, and I have not looked at the packaging for this brand, so read the label and check with the company if you have questions). I also am a big fan of Sunbutter – I use it often for making no-bake desserts and for making granola.
There are many non-dairy, allergen free milks that can be stored without refrigeration, like rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, and more. I generally use SO Delicious brand milks because although they do process nuts at their facilities, I am comfortable with the process they use to clean and test their equipment to prevent cross contamination.