When you decide to eat a plant-based diet, you choose to eliminate certain foods from your meals, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. You learn how to make substitutions that are healthy, delicious, and animal ingredient-free. You may, however, have noticed that nuts are a common ingredient in these vegan foods, especially cashews. There are nut-loaves, nut sauces, nut cheese, nut milks, nut ice cream – so what happens if you can’t eat nuts? Having another food restriction added to your day can be a challenge but it’s one you can easily handle. Here’s how to stay satisfied when you’re vegan and nut-free.
1. No Nuts!
Sometimes, it may seem like every vegan dish is made out of cashews. They certainly are used a lot in plant-based cooking to substitute for animal products. If you can’t eat nuts, it can be downright frustrating. Nuts are among the foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions and food intolerances. For some people, just being exposed to nuts can mean serious and even life-threatening reactions. Other people may avoid nuts for other reasons such as trouble digesting them.
A strict nut-free diet means avoiding all tree nuts and seeds including almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, ginkgo nuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, lichee nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts.
Peanuts are not actually tree nuts but legumes. However, some people with tree nut allergies also have severe peanut allergies or avoid peanuts because they may be cross-contaminated with other nuts during processing.
What about coconut? That’s also become a common substitution. Coconut is classified as a fruit and is not technically a nut. The Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut even though most people allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. You need to check with your personal medical provider to determine what is right and safe for you.
2. Proceed With Caution
Eating nut-free means you not only avoid obvious foods with nuts but you have to be careful with foods that may contain hidden nuts including blended oils, nut butters and spreads, pesto, preserves, baked goods, chocolates, candies, granolas, and breakfast cereals.
For a vegan, it also means also being careful about non-dairy products including milks, yogurts, ice creams and cheeses, veggie burgers and sausages, and pasta sauces, just to name a few foods. Make sure to read labels, and if you’re not sure about a food, skip it.
3. Try Seeds
One of the easiest ways to substitute nuts is to use seeds. There are so many to choose from – sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds – to name a few. Seeds can be used in place of nuts in most recipes. Check out The Ultimate Seed Guide and Not Chia or Flax: 5 Other Seeds You Should Include In Your Diet to learn about all about the different seeds available.
With seeds, you can make dishes like this Heirloom Carrot Pasta with a Sunflower Cheese Sauce, Pumpkin Hemp Pesto, Homemade Sesame Milk and Sesame Milk Latte, and Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo with Kale and Peas.
4. Nut-Free Flours
Lately, there seems to be a lot of baking going on using almond flour and coconut flour. Don’t worry, there are many types of flour, even gluten-free, that don’t contain nuts. Check out A Guide to 15 Types of Gluten-Free Flours and 15 Grain Alternative Flours You Can Buy Online Right Now. You’ll see there are many options including flours made from amaranth seeds, corn, quinoa, brown rice, navy beans, and even banana!
5. Nut-Free Milk
When you stop eating dairy, it seems like you start eating a whole lot of nuts. Many delicious vegan milks are made with cashews, almonds, and other nuts. Coconut is also a popular substitute for dairy but as we mentioned, coconut may also be off the menu for a nut-free person. Dairy-free milks can be made out of nut-free foods such as seeds, oats, and rice.
To learn more, read Which Milk for What Recipe: A Non-Dairy Milk Guide for All Your Cooking and Baking Needs and Dairy-Free Milk Options For People Who Can’t Eat Nuts. Try making this Simple Vanilla Oat Milk, Homemade Sesame Milk, and Sprouted Sunflower Seed Milk.
6. Nut-Free Cheese
Just like milk, many dairy-free cheeses are made with nuts. However, similarly to milk, we can make delicious cheeses and cheese sauces without nuts. There are vegan cheeses you can buy that are made with tapioca. Check out Vegan Cheese is Better Than Ever: Try These 11 Brands to see which are right for you. If you’re making your own cheese and cheese sauce at home, you have options that don’t include nuts. First, there’s the old standby of nutritional yeast. It adds a cheesy flavor without soy or nuts. Try nutritional yeast, or “nooch” as it’s often called, in this Vegan Hot Corn Dip, this Gruyere Cheese, and this Vegan Cheesy Mac n’ Yeast.
Seeds are a perfect substitute for nuts. This Big Ol’ Texas Bowl With Nut-Free Nacho Cheese uses soaked sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast along with some fiery spices to make a creamy and zippy cheese sauce. Pumpkin seeds and nutritional yeast pair up deliciously in this Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo With Kale and Sweet Peas. You will also want to try this Raw Nut-Free Sesame Cheese made with sesame seeds.
Cheese and cheese sauces can also be made out of veggies. Yes, veggies like the cheese in this Gluten-Free Pizza Crust With Nut-Free Cheese recipe! Creamy Alfredo-type cheesy sauces can be even healthier when made with cauliflower. Try this Spaghetti Squash With Basil and Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce and just be sure to use a nut-free milk. This Super Creamy Mac and Cheese (No Nuts, No Soy, No Problem!) has a cheese sauce made with cauliflower and butternut squash along with hemp seeds and rice milk.
Pumpkin purée is used to make the cheese sauce in this Mac ‘N Squash. This Fat-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce is made with Yukon gold potatoes, zucchini, nutritional yeast, and paprika while potatoes and carrots make up this Life-Changing Cheese Sauce. Now those are sauces you can feel good about drizzling over your roasted veggies.
This beautiful Paprika Cheese Without Nuts or Soy slices and grates just like cheese should. Made with potatoes, red peppers, oats, and nutritional yeast, this is perfect for a cheese sauce. Just melt it into a béchamel sauce made with nut-free, soy-free, and dairy-free milk. You can also use white beans to make a cheese sauce. Simply blend Cannellini or Northern beans with nutritional yeast and seeds for a cheesy nut-free sauce.
7. Pesto Sauce
Mmm…pesto is so good. Fragrant basil, dark greens, lemon and…oh yeah, nuts. Pine nuts are a common ingredient in pesto but it’s easy to swap them out for something else. This Baked Acorn Squash with Nut-Free Spinach Pesto uses sunflower seeds as does this Nut-Free Wild Garlic Pesto. This Slow-Roasted Tomato and Pepita Pesto uses pumpkin seeds while this Pumpkin Hemp Pesto uses a combination of pumpkin and hemp seeds. You can also skip seeds entirely like this Avocado Herb Pesto with Zoodles which has no nuts, no seeds, and is 100 percent raw.
8. Nut-Free Desserts
Desserts without nuts? Yes, it’s totally possible. If you want whipped cream, try using aquafaba, the liquid in canned chickpeas. It actually works as a vegan egg white replacer. Making aquafaba whipped cream is easy. All you have to do is mix the brine from a couple of cans of chickpeas with one-quarter teaspoon of cream of tartar. Add vanilla, sugar, and any other flavors you want and whisk the mixture, by hand or by electric mixer, until it gets fluffy and has a consistency like whipped cream. This could easily take over 15 minutes so electric might be the way to go. It’s very similar to making Vegan Meringue but with the added cream of tartar.
There are all types of nut-free desserts you can make that usually use nuts. Everyone loves the firm, dense, yet somehow fluffy texture you get in a New York style cheesecake. This Cinnamon Coconut New York Style Cheesecake is nut-free, oil-free, tofu-free, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and raw. Did you know you could make brownies with quinoa? You can – try these One Bowl Quinoa and Date Sugar Brownies. This double chocolate No-Bake Brownie Batter is incredibly indulgent with that deep, dark, decadent taste you expect to get when you bite into a brownie. It’s also nut-free! This Vanilla Cappuccino Protein Pudding is such a delicious way to start the day. It’s like having dessert for breakfast and it is vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free.
Once you know what ingredients to avoid and what foods can replace them, it’s easy to be both vegan and nut-free. There is simply no end to the creativity and ingenuity of plant-based cooks and chefs.
Lead image source: Life-Changing Cheese Sauce