Baking for special dietary needs? Try these easy ingredient substitutes

With these handy swaps, catering for guests with gluten-free, vegan or other dietary requirements can be a breeze.

Six years ago, gluten-free cakes and slices were a novelty.

But these days they fly off the shelves, says Nowra pastry chef Peter Nosworthy.

“It is now 50 per cent of our business,” he says. “There are a lot of people with genuine health issues, but I think that a lot also just like to follow the gluten-free diet.”

There is also a growing trend in baked goods that are free of animal products, says Vegan Cakes founder Monika Mehta.

“It’s not just vegan people that want vegan cakes,” she says.

“People are becoming aware of the impacts on their health, the environment and animals.

“We get a lot of orders for teenagers and the number of corporate clients wanting vegan has also increased massively.”

From eggs and dairy to flours and nuts, there are a range of alternatives to use in the kitchen when you’re baking or cooking for people with food allergies, intolerances or preferences.

And you don’t need special recipes – here are some easy substitutes for your old go-to ingredients in your favourite recipes:

Egg substitutes

Once considered a baking necessity, there are actually a number of alternatives for eggs.

Chickpea water: Whipped into fluffy peaks, it can create magnificent meringues and marshmallows. Two tablespoons are equal to one egg white.

Flax seed: Acts as a binding agent in cookie, pancake and biscuit recipes. Mix one grounded tablespoon with three tablespoons of water per egg.

Butter substitutes

A croissant made without butter may seem unlikely, but it turns out dairy-free alternatives can be just as good.

Oil: Vegetable oil can be swapped for melted butter in any recipe, including brownies.

Avocado: Pureed, this low-fat substitute can be used in equal parts to butter.

Ghee or coconut oil: Replace butter in equal ratios, but ghee must be cooked at slightly higher temperatures.

Wheat flour substitutes

There are plenty of wheat alternatives on the market, but Peter says for the best cakes, use natural alternatives rather than highly processed gluten-free flour.

Almond meal: This low-carb alternative is perfect for cakes, slices or macaroons.

Hazelnut flour: Ideal for pastries, pie crusts, cakes, cookies, and quick breads.

Buckwheat flour: Although it has wheat in its name, buckwheat is from a different plant family and is gluten-free. Best used in bread recipes, it also helps lower blood sugar.


Nuts lend a rich flavour and plenty of texture to baked goods but can be deadly for those with allergies.

You can still achieve nutty flavours using nut-free substitutes.

Sunflower seeds: Crushed or in a paste with a pinch of salt will mimic peanuts.

Hemp seeds: Substituted for walnuts or pine nuts, hemp seeds add flavour and may reduce inflammation.

Soy nut butter: A high-quality protein safe for people with peanut and tree nut allergies.

Written by Alex White.