There are tons of cookbooks out there for gluten-free eating. Unfortunately, most of them rely heavily on replacements–like eggs and dairy–that many of us with additional restrictions can’t have. It’s much harder to find good cookbooks that cover multiple food restrictions with success. These are my favorite cookbooks for gluten-free PLUS allergen-free eating.
The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: About once a week, someone asks me when I’m going to write a cookbook. I don’t know if I’ll ever do that, but I can tell you this: if I could have written any cookbook out today, I would want it to be this one. In this cookbook, Alissa and Tom have done a great job of utilizing whole foods with limited starches and sweeteners to create recipes with good taste and appropriate textures–all without the use of gluten, dairy, or eggs! (Most recipes are also soy-free.) My one major tweak: when the authors call for brown rice flour, I would always use superfine brown rice flour to avoid the slightly sandy texture that regular brown rice flour can add to recipes.
Sophie-Safe Cooking: Those who are new to or frustrated with top-8 allergen-free (wheat-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, fish-free, and shell-fish free) cooking but who can tolerate gluten-free oats should give Emily Hendrix’s cookbook a try. She developed tasty, simple, kid-friendly recipes for her allergic daughter, Sophie, that would put even the more frightened cooks at ease in the kitchen. I particularly love her various oat-based quick bread/muffin recipes. I do tend to jack up the spices for my adult tastes when I bake from it.
The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook: This reliably good top-8-free cookbook was quite a relief to me when I was first diagnosed and struggling with how to adapt recipes for my restrictions. The author, Cybele Pascal, focuses on whole foods, which means the dishes are relatively healthy, and her adept use of seasonings means the meals are tasty. She does use spelt flour, which is wheat-free but contains gluten, though she includes substitution recommendations for the spelt.
This cookbook is not recommended for vegetarians or night-shade avoiders, though—the book is pretty meat- and tomato-heavy.
The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook: With this cookbook, Cybele Pascal (the author, as well, of the previous cookbook) goes whole hog and cuts out the gluten as well as the top eight allergens (plus sesame)–and bakes up all sorts of goodies that are free of all those items. The author works nearly entirely from one flour mix (of her creation), which contains rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. The benefit of that flour mix base is that it’s easy to keep a mix of the flours ready to use. The downside is that they aren’t necessarily the best flour combination for all of the recipes. Still, many of the recipes are delicious, particularly when they are eaten the day of their creation.
Sweet Freedom: Ricki’s cookbook is just desserts–all wheat-free (not all gluten-free), vegan, and refined-sugar-free. The recipes are reliable, and the results are tasty (if not always what you expect from regular baking). This cookbook will also introduce you to more unusual ingredients that support successful egg-free, dairy-free dessert prep, such as agar agar and brown rice syrup.
The cookbook is heavy on legumes and nuts, so if you avoid either of those, it’s probably not the one for you. Also, you do need a good understanding of which flours are and are not gluten-free in order to substitute the gluten-containing ones in the recipes.
BabyCakes: Given the firestorms I’ve seen online about this book, I have to state three caveats from the start: 1) The recipes definitely aren’t the same as the ones the author, Erin McKenna, uses in her bakery. 2) If you can’t use soy, it’s likely your icing made with alternatives won’t turn out like the book’s or bakery’s. 3) Not all of the recipes are gluten-free; some use spelt. All of that aside, the cookbook includes gluten-free, vegan, mostly cane-sugar-free cookies, quick breads, and cupcakes that taste good. Sometimes, in my view, McKenna overuses the bean flours in the lighter-flavored recipes (beans need a strong cover), but even those recipes are passable. And this cookbook will teach you not to fear baking with wet sugar alternatives (such as agave) and coconut oil. Plus, the book makes gluten-free, allergen-free baking fun . . . so I recommend this cookbook even with a few caveats.
I eat grain-free much of the time, but I haven’t purchased either of these cookbooks because many of their recipes rely heavily on eggs. I’m including them because I hear from reliable sources that if you can have eggs and you’re grain-free (or in some cases just gluten-free) and cane-sugar-free, these two cookbooks are a Godsend.
(Not all recipes are grain-free. Some include rice flour.)
Books That Inspire & Educate
The books in this section aren’t specifically geared toward gluten-free or allergen-free people, but I’ve included them because they have great recipes and/or they can teach you a lot about food and health. Some of them may seem contradictory in their messages; that’s because I heartily believe in pulling from a variety of viewpoints to cultivate your own set of beliefs. All of them have a focus on whole foods–the ones you find in the periphery of your grocery store or sold at your town’s farmers’ market.
Super Natural Cooking: Heidi Swanson takes mostly healthy ingredients and all whole foods and combines them in ways that make the ingredients sing. The pickiest eaters wouldn’t touch many of the ingredients in these recipes, but even mildly adventurous eaters who are seeking healthy, tasty meals will return to this cookbook again and again. It’s one of the few cookbooks that stays in my kitchen rather than on a bookshelf. (Incidentally, it’s vegetarian, though that’s not the point of the book.)
Great Good Food: Several times a year, you can find me sitting on the couch in our living room paging through this cookbook, enjoying the sketches and notes in the seasonally designed book as much as I enjoy the recipes. Julee Rosso, the author, teaches us how to lighten up many favorites while retaining a focus on whole foods (nutritional info is included), and she includes a variety of cooking lessons and celebration/holiday meal plans along the way. I can’t eat a good number of Rosso’s recipes now that I can’t have dairy, eggs, and gluten, but I alter her recipes to fit my needs pretty regularly, and I cherish the cookbook even with my restrictions. One of my dreams is to visit Rosso’s B&B in Michigan and have her make an allergen-free meal for me!
Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals: You can’t go wrong with any Moosewood cookbook, but this one focuses on the low-fat, high-taste end of cooking. I don’t believe in the lipid hypothesis of ill health, but I do believe in whole, fresh ingredients, and that’s what Moosewood offers here. I can honestly say that a Moosewood recipe has never let me down, which is extremely high praise I can grant only a few cookbooks.
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think: How do you sabotage your healthy eating intentions without even knowing you’re doing it? The author of this book, Brian Wansink, is a researcher on food habits (with fascinating and hysterical stories of lab experiments) and discusses a variety of actions you can take to set yourself up for greater success with healthy eating. I think I have probably read the majority of books out there about weight loss and thought I had heard it all, but I changed at least five habits after reading the book.
Vegan Soul Kitchen: I like vegan cookbooks because they are naturally dairy- and egg-free, which makes my recipe conversions easier. With this cookbook, author Bryant Terry offers up amazing whole foods with substance and style. It’s a mind-expanding vegan cookbook. I highly recommend it.
Nourishing Traditions: How do those of us with compromised digestive systems (and the authors would argue that’s all of us on a typical Western diet) get our bodies back to flourishing? Sally Fallon and Mary Enig (of Weston A. Price Foundation fame) heartily recommend returning to methods of eating from traditional cultures: fermenting grains, eating raw dairy, and consuming all parts of animals, among other things. And they offer a veritable ton of recipes, as well as sidebars on every page, to encourage you to follow their path. Though the book can get overly preachy at times, it contains a lot of wisdom for those among us who are finding our way to health.
The Primal Blueprint: In this how-to manual, Mark Sisson (of Mark’s Daily Apple fame) argues that much of the typical advice for diet, exercise, and lifestyle is wrong. Instead, he says, we should return to our genetic, Paleo roots and recreate in our lives many aspects of the pre-agricultural era. For people who find that they are reactive to all grains and possibly legumes (Mark would say that’s all of us), Mark offers an explanation why as well as guidelines on dietary and lifestyle alternatives for good health.
Blogs & Web Resources
To see a list of blogs and web resources that are useful for people with food restrictions, visit the sidebar on my blog.