Your whole food, plant-based life.

Substitutions in Raw Food

There is not a day that goes by without an email in my box asking about substitutions for ingredients in my raw food recipes. It seems that there are a lot of nut allergies, gluten allergies, or just people who don’t like a particular ingredient. Some people can’t get certain ingredients. What ever the reason, it is a constant issue without a clear cut answer.

Let’s start with nuts. Why do we use so many nuts? Because nuts are a healthier substitution for other more unhealthy ingredients such as butter and flour. We grind nuts to make flour and soak and blend them for beautiful cream sauces. They make fabulous nut-milks. Nuts are very versatile in raw food recipes. But when you want to substitute the nuts, you are actually asking to substitute the substitution.

In some recipes, such as nut crusts, substituting one nut for another is not a big deal. It will not affect the final outcome. You can easily interchange pecans for walnuts, or almonds for macadamia nuts. It will change the taste, of course, but it will still work.

In other applications, substituting is not so straight forward. Cashews are used a lot for their consistency and mild taste and can’t easily be substituted by another nut. You simply won’t get the same results in consistency or taste.

Creating recipes is a bit of a science project. I strive for balance between taste and texture. When you work at refining a recipe, every ingredient exists in an inter-dependent relationship with the others. Meaning, change one ingredient, and you change how everything relates to each other. So, substitutions are just not that easy. Without completely remaking a recipe, and working through each substitution, seeing how it affects the other ingredients and the final outcome, it is a question that is not easily answered.

I would suggest that if you have an aversion to something, whether it be nuts, or grains, experiment! If you have success, I would love to hear about it!

A note on young coconuts I have tried reconstituting dried coconut to substitute for young coconut without success. Dried coconut comes from mature coconuts and has a completely different texture.

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  1. Cydni wrote on July 28, 2013

    We’ve just recently found out my daughter is allergic to all nuts, including coconut. It makes it challenging to find healthy alternatives. Samantha, what is the cookbook you have? We can use seeds so I would love to look through the book you have that uses sunflower seeds.

  2. Robin wrote on March 27, 2013

    My son and I are both allergic to coconut. Is there anything that can be substituted for it in recipes? I read somewhere that there IS NO substitute for coconut. I have posted this question several other places and have had no real response. Can ANYONE help with this? It is hard to make raw desserts (as a newbie) without coconuts….

  3. Samantha wrote on February 16, 2013

    I have a recipe book from one of my favorite raw food restaurants. It contains a lot of the dishes I’ve eaten there and love. I’m getting back into raw foods and have been wanting to revisit these recipes. Unfortunately I’m allergic to sunflower seeds and it seems like every other recipe in the book, including my top favorites, seems to have sunflower seeds as a main ingredient. I love how creamy they get and how their subtle flavor can be spiced to taste like any type of world cuisine. Is there anything I can use in their place? I have no problems with any other nuts or seeds.

  4. Shannon wrote on June 1, 2010

    Oh, I also thought about getting raw oats and grinding them up, would that make a good sub?

  5. Shannon wrote on May 31, 2010

    Hey, my husband and son are both allergic to nuts and I’m trying to decide what would make a good crust for a pie or base for a cake. Would either coconut, finely ground, or sunflower seeds work? I suspect they’d both change the flavour of course, but would they still be good, do you think?

  6. Katherine wrote on April 28, 2010

    I’ve never had success with coconut anything. If you figure it out; you’re impressive!

  7. jasmyn campbell wrote on April 28, 2010

    Here’s my experience and two cents on the nuts. Many nuts are not toxic. The molds that are on them are mildly to intensely toxic. Cashews and Pistachios are in the poison ivy family and are by their nature toxic. If people have an allergic response to nuts that do not belong to a toxic family, then check for mold sensitivity and other immune issues. The sensitivities could be a precursor for issues down the road. Hope everyone has a great day.

  8. Christine wrote on April 25, 2010

    Hi! I live in Spain and it is really hard to get young tai baby coconuts. I found one shop, but they are expremley pricy and I think they are not organic. Anybody has an idea or experience how to replace them. There are so many recipes for desserts which contain Thai Baby Coconut…
    Thank you very much!

  9. Jean wrote on April 24, 2010

    Our son has a nut allergy so I tend to find recipes I can sub sunflower seeds for nuts. I also use hemp seeds and chia when possible.

  10. Lola wrote on April 24, 2010

    We can’t tolerate much nuts, so have found it better for our health to subsitute some grains – sprouted – in place of nuts. For instance, I’ve got a couple of nice pie crusts: one uses buckwheat and the other raw oats, instead of nuts.


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