A holiday table with food and family. Cater to all food preferences and allergies with these recipe substitutions.

Holiday swap: Recipe substitutions for your favorite dishes

Share this story now

Cater to all of your guests this holiday season

Let’s face it: The days when everyone at your holiday table can or will eat everything you put before them are long gone!

For starters, more than 32 million Americans have food allergies. Plenty more are eating vegan or gluten-free or some other strict diet.

For them, the holidays can be a struggle. But they don’t have to be so hard on you! It takes just a few simple recipe substitutions to keep all of your guests happy and safe.

Carton of eggs; recipe substitutions for your guests.

Problem food: Eggs

Eggs are one of the eight major food allergens. They are also an animal product, which means they cannot be consumed by individuals following a vegan diet. While eggs are often used in baked goods as a binding agent, they can be replaced with the following ingredient substitutions:

  • Applesauce (1/4 cup per egg)
  • Banana (1/2 medium banana per egg)
  • Egg replacement (not “egg substitute”)
  • Ground flaxseed (1 tablespoon mixed with 3 tablespoons of boiling water per egg)
  • Xanthan gum (1/2 teaspoon mixed with 1/2 cup of water per egg)


A bottle of milk, which is a common recipe substitution for people with allergies or food preferences.

Problem food: Milk

Milk and other dairy products can be life-threatening for those with milk allergies and cause serious discomfort in individuals with lactose intolerance. Fortunately, there are a number of milk substitutes on the market, including oat, rice, and soy, as well as dairy-free cheese alternatives. If you are cooking with butter, opt for a dairy-free margarine instead.


Jars of various nuts, which are a common allergy and can be substituted in many recipes.

Problem food: Peanuts and tree nuts

Peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds and cashews, are well-known food allergens. Substitute them for sunflower seeds or roasted chickpeas, peas, soybeans, or pumpkin seeds to give your recipe an added crunch.


Block of soy on a cutting board. Replace soy in recipes for guests with food allergies.

Problem food: Soy

While soy is not used in a lot of traditional holiday foods, it is an ingredient in margarine. Grab the butter instead or, in the event that your guest is lactose intolerant, allergic to milk, or vegan, try a vegan, soy-free buttery spread (available in many organic food stores).


Cup of flour, which contains wheat—a common food allergen.

Problem food: Wheat

Wheat products cannot be consumed by anyone who has a wheat allergy or is following a gluten-free diet. Try one of the following ingredient swaps when replacing wheat in baked goods:

  • Chickpea flour (7/8 cup per cup of wheat flour)
  • Ground rolled oats (1 1/3 cups per cup of wheat flour)
  • Potato starch (3/4 cup per cup of wheat flour)
  • Rice flour (7/8 cup per cup of wheat flour)
  • Tapioca flour (1:1 ratio)

Beyond substitutions

When hosting guests with food allergies, remember to also take the following precautions around the kitchen:

  • Carefully inspect all ingredient labels for problem foods.
  • Cook with natural, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
  • Keep your kitchen environment clean in order to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Wash your hands frequently throughout the cooking process.

Pear in orange sauce

This delicious dessert is allergy-friendly, easy to prepare, and packed with fiber. Serve with a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream for some added sweetness.


4 pears (medium)

3/4 cup orange juice (100% juice)

4 teaspoons sugar


Peel the pears and steam them in a double boiler for 15 minutes.

Mix sugar and orange juice and cook over a low flame for five minutes. Let cool for five minutes.

Place steamed pears in individual bowls. Pour 1/4 of the juice mixture over each pear and serve.

Nutritional information:

Serves 4

Calories: 132

Cholesterol: 0mg

Sodium: 2mg

Carbohydrates: 34g

Dietary fiber: 5g

Sugar: 24g

Protein: 1g

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Soul food can be good for the body and soul