Recipe Conversion – Gluten-Free & Vegan / Egg-Free / Dairy-Free

I’ve been so busy lately that I have a back-log of recipe requests that I need to post.  Just so you all know, I am soon going to move all my recipes and gluten-free stuff over to my upcoming site that is in the process of being built.  All business-y stuff will move to, and this blog will be left blessedly alone so I can post my ponderings, my “real” journal, that only grandparents and certain masochistic, bored friends care to read.  As it should be.

In the meantime, I need to get some material up that I have promised to various folks.  (a) My super-simple gluten-free, vegan cake recipe, and (b) a gluten-free potato gnocchi recipe that a pal just requested (upcoming posts).  As always, please feel free to comment with questions.

It’s Not Rocket Science

It seems that a lot of people who try to take on huge dietary changes, whether by choice or necessity, become overwhelmed at some point with what they can and can’t make.  Unless you’re doing something extreme, like the E2 / Forks Over Knives diet, which calls for NO added oils, refined anything, all vegan, all whole, no sugar, etc., and you just want to make your existing diet a little healthier by adding more vegetarian or vegan dishes, the truth is that it’s awfully easy to convert any recipe you could ever want to make into one that will fit your dietary restrictions.

Let’s go over some simple substitutes and conversions to get you started.


  • Any time I refer to flour, I mean my gluten-free flour blend.  If you’re making my recipe with normal flour, always cut the xanthan gum out of the recipe.  You will not need it if you are using flour with gluten in it or a pre-made gluten-free flour blend that includes guar gum or xanthan gum.
  • When I refer to butter, it can be replaced (as I usually do) with a butter substitute.  I use Smart Balance, Earth Balance, or store brand equivalent because it’s free of trans-fats.  Even the “light” stuff works just fine.
  • When I refer to milk, you can use ANY type of milk: cow, goat, soy, almond, coconut, hemp, etc.  I find that almond milk makes the lightest, fluffiest baked goods.
  • If you need an egg substitute there are plenty of options.  Let’s start there.

Egg Substitutes

There is no one right method.  When you’re choosing an egg substitute, you’ll want to take into consideration the following:

  • Will this add extra moisture to what I’m cooking?
  • Will the flavor interfere with the recipe I’m making?

It’s all common sense and deductive reasoning.  If you want to use sweet potato puree as your egg substitute over flax gel, you can tell just by touching and tasting these two that they’re different.  You can tell that the sweet potato feels much more heavy and moist than the flax seed gel.  Now, think about how those two things will affect your finished product.  If you’re making a sweet bread that’s meant to be dense and heavy, the potato puree will probably be brilliant.  But if you’re making light and fluffy cupcakes, flax gel will be your better bet.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  Apple sauce, for instance, adds a lovely tanginess, but since it’s tiny chunks of apple and won’t incorporate into your dough as perfectly as flax gel or sweet potato puree, your finished product will be a cake that’s more “stiff”.  It’s delicious, but think about what you’re adding in terms of the original texture, and you’ll have some idea of how the final baked good will turn out.

A Few Simple Tips

What’s the function of the egg in your recipe?  If you can figure that out, it’s a little easier to make an educated guess about what will work best.

If egg is the….

MOISTURE: substitute it with milk, water, or juice.  Again, think about how these flavors will affect your recipe.

BINDER: substitute it with flax gel, pureed fruits and vegetables (see list below), tofu (silken is best), agar agar or gelatin (agar agar is made from seaweed and is vegan).  You may also use lecithin and starches such as arrowroot, tapioca, corn, pea, or potato.

LEAVENER: sub it with baking soda, yogurt, buttermilk (1c milk of your choice + 1 T white vinegar or lemon, let stand 5 mins)


The Flax Method

  • 1 T flax seed, ground (I spin mine in a coffee grinder)
  • 3 T water

Simmer in a small pan for about 3 minutes until gel forms.  Let it cool and use it as a substitute for 1 egg.  You can make this in larger batches as long as you stick to the the 3:1 ration of water: flax.

Ener-G Egg Replacer

I know a couple of folks who use this and love it.  Be aware that it contains potato starch, so it’s not good for anyone who has Crohn’s Disease or a nightshade intolerance.  Get it here.

Ingredients: Potato Starch, tapioca starch flour, leavening (calcium lactate [not derived from dairy], calcium carbonate, citric acid), sodium carboxymethylcellulose, methylcellulose

Baking Powder Method

  • 2T water
  • 1 T oil
  • 2 T of baking powder.

Mix together well before adding.  If you can’t have gluten, make sure your baking powder is gluten-free.

Fruit and Vegetable Purees to Try

  • Pumpkin
  • Apple sauce
  • Carrot

And then there’s this excellent resource that expands on what I’ve just listed.

That should be all you need to know to get started with using replacements and converting your recipes.  If you have questions, be sure to get in touch!


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