Top 3 Nut Substitutes for Raw Foodies with Nut Allergies
You want to go raw, you really do, but your nut allergies stand in the way. I hear you. Trying to be raw without nuts can feel a bit like trying to surf without waves. And it’s not just those with nut allergies or intolerances who must adapt – as mums, we know that we must send our kids to school with nut-free lunches in their lunch boxes.
So is it possible to go raw without nuts?
I won’t say that it’s not annoying. It’s an added layer of forward-thinking and pre-planning on top of what you’re already having to do just to eat raw. But yes, lovelies, it can be done – with determination, willpower, and a bit of knowledge about substitution.
My top 3 nut substitutes for nut-free raw foodies
Below are some of the most common uses of nuts in raw food, and what you can use instead.
1. Replace nut milk with sprouted quinoa milk
Nut milk is probably one of those things you’re angry about if you’re a raw enthusiast with nut allergies. Not only are almond milk, cashew milk and macadamia milk featured in hundreds of raw recipes, they are also often available at good cafes. This can be especially bothersome when there’s a lovely sprouted seed porridge on the menu at your favourite raw-friendly eatery, but there’s no creamy nut-free option to have with it.
A good alternative is to make your own sprouted quinoa milk. It’s made in much the same way as nut milks are, but since soaked quinoa is softer than most nuts you can also get away with making it in a standard blender if you haven’t yet invested in a high-speed blender. Adding warming winter spices to the blender with your water gives it a lovely comforting flavour. Though it’s alarmingly healthy, it tastes like a treat and is perfect for sweet recipes.
To get you started with sprouting, read my blog post on how to sprout.
If you’re not 100% raw, you can also use cooked quinoa to make quinoa milk, and now you can buy a premade one from health stores and some of the better supermarkets. It can be pricey, but remember when almond milk was $8 per litre? I predict that the price will come down when it becomes more popular.
2. Replace almond meal with sunflower seed flour, buckwheat flour or coconut flour
In the same way that almond meal is simply finely ground whole almonds, sunflower seed flour (known as sunflour) and buckwheat flour are soaked, dehydrated and ground sunflower seeds and buckwheat groats.
You can make your own sunflour by soaking the required amount of seeds overnight (you can also sprout them if you wish), dehydrating them (if you don’t have a dehydrator, use this simple oven trick) then grinding them in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder. The resulting flour can be a fine powder or keep it a little gritty, depending on your recipe.
To make buckwheat flour, it’s the same process but replace the sunflower seeds with buckwheat groats.
Want a faster result? Use them raw, as is! Simply grind them up. I always recommend soaking overnight wherever possible to neutralise the enzyme inhibitors present in seeds and nuts. Sprouting is even better whenever you can, because you multiply the food’s nutritional profile. However, let’s be real. Managing a family and being raw is hard enough, let alone navigating your way around avoiding nuts too! So if you need to take a shortcut here, go for it.
You can also purchase sunflower seed flour and buckwheat flour from stores, as well as coconut flour.
Coconut flour is slightly different from the seed flours. I find that sunflour and buckwheat flour both make a good 1:1 substitute for almond meal, but coconut flour requires more moisture. You’ll need to play around a little to get the balance right. Personally I purchase pre-made coconut flour, but you can make it yourself by blitzing raw shredded coconut in your blender or food processor. Use the pulse feature and stop as soon as it’s a fine sand-like powder, otherwise you could release the oils and it will start to become coconut butter.
3. Replace nut butters with seed butters or coconut butter
Sometimes when you are forced to avoid nuts, the thing you feel that you’re missing out on most is a creamy spread. Nut butters make great toppings for raw crackers, a base for a lovely raw dip, and even a sweet icing on a raw cake.
To make nut butter, you add your nuts to a food processor or blender and then walk away. Every few minutes you scrape down the sides of the bowl, and repeat. Depending on your quantity and your appliance, 10–20 minutes later the nuts will have released their oils and become a lovely spreadable paste.
You can do this with seeds too! I find the best seeds to use are pumpkin (pepitas), sesame and sunflower. These can all be purchased raw. Again, it’s best to soak and even sprout them first if you can, but they can be churned to butter as they are too.
You’re probably familiar with tahini – the paste that forms from sesame seeds. Depending on your taste, you might like to add some salt and lemon juice to give it a little lift. The other seeds can taste slightly bitter in their butter form so do taste and adjust to get your butter right. Depending on what I’m going to use my butter for, I might add a little salt and some herbs for a savoury flavour, or a little fruit or dates for a sweet butter.
Similarly, if you throw a few handfuls of shredded coconut into your food processor, after a while it becomes coconut butter. Coconut butter is something I can eat straight out of the bowl! It’s so versatile that you can use it to replace nut butters in many recipes, but because of its heavenly sweet flavour it goes particularly well in sweets. Spread it plain on your favourite raw snack, or add a squeeze of lime.
If you’re avoiding nuts in your diet, what are your favourite nut alternatives? What are your top recommendations for nut-free school lunches?