3 unbeatable tips for coping with food allergies + divine gluten-free chocolate muffins

gluten-free chocolate muffin recipe5

My Dad was diagnosed with food allergies about 5 years ago. No wheat. No eggs. No dairy. No peas.

At the time I remember thinking how difficult it was going to be to find things for him to eat. I felt a little like we were facing the impossible.

But the thing is these days, apart from desserts, I hardly even have to think when Dad is coming over for lunch or dinner. It’s no big deal.

I know it can seem overwhelming when you or your family are faced with a new allergy. And given how it seems these days that pretty much everyone has allergies of some sort in their family, I wanted to share my top three tips for coping with allergies.

And of course, my favourite gluten-free muffin recipe.

3 unbeatable tips for coping with food allergies

1. focus on what you can eat
It’s amazing how a little change in perspective can open up endless possibilities and turn an overwhelming situation into a fun challenge. For my Dad, he already ate lots of meat and veg, so we focused on expanding these types of meals, rather than fiddling around with gluten-free pastas and the like.

And it was fun exploring new vegetables and cuts of meat. Much more empowering than feeling limited and deprived of so many foods.

2. learn some simple substitutes
When I first started running classes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School, I wanted to make the lessons as allergy-friendly as possible. So I decided to include a list of options for substitutions to suit different allergies with each recipe. And the thing is that there’s pretty much always a substitute that will work. It’s surprising how most things work out.

So I’ve included a list below of my favourite substitutes to get you started.

3. be proactive
While most people will go out of their way to be as accommodating as possible for people with allergies, the more notice you can give, the easier it is for everyone. So make sure you remind your friends if they’re cooking for you, or call the restaurant in advance.

My gorgeous friend B is super allergic to pretty much all nuts (except peanuts) and chickpeas. We’re talking anaphylactic. But eating out with her is never a problem because she has little cards printed listing her allergies, and just gives it to the waiter and asks them to check with the kitchen that what we’ve ordered is OK. To easy.

my favourite allergen substitutes

grated parmesan cheese – grated brazil nuts
ricotta cheese – replace with crumbled tofu
cream – unsweeetend coconut cream
milk – soy milk / rice milk / coconut milk / unsweetened almond milk
cream / milk – if it’s liquid you’re looking for vegetable stock or chicken stock can work.

mayonnaise – make a tahini sauce instead with equal parts tahini, lemon juice and water.
mayonnaise – replace with a horseradish sauce or
in baking cakes – half a ripe mashed banana can work in place of eggs. This won’t work if you need to whisk egg whites.
boiled eggs – replace with another protein source such as cooked chicken or tofu.

wheat / gluten
bread – instead of wraps or bread for sandwiches, use iceberg lettuce leaves to ‘wrap’ your filling
flour – for baking cakes and things almond meal tends to work well.
breadcrumbs – use coarsely ground almonds or other nuts for coating in breadcrumbs
long pasta – make ‘noodles’ by shaving carrots or zucchini with a vegetable peeler.
long pasta – spaghetti squash
short pasta – chop cauliflower into bite sized pieces and
short pasta – use drained canned beans instead of pasta

quick nut switch – if someone is allergic to one type of nuts, but not others, you can usually just use a different nut.
crunch – when nuts are being added for crunch, try substituting another crunchy element – like toasted breadcrumbs, or finely chopped red onion or diced celery
protein and flavour – replace with pan-fried chickpeas or other canned beans.

gluten-free chocolate muffin recipe5

gluten-free chocolate muffin

I’ve found that if you tell someone that something is gluten-free, they tend to lower their expectations as to how good it’s going to taste. Sometimes this is a good thing because they’ll be expecting something average and be easily blown away by your amazing moist & lovely muffins. It’s OK your secret is safe with me.

Your muffins will only be as good as they quality of the chocolate you use so try and find a good brand with 70% cocoa solids. Milk chocolate muffins would also be lovely.

makes 6
200g (7oz) butter
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
200g (7oz) sugar
4 eggs
200g (7oz) almond meal

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line 6 holes of a 1/2cup muffin tray with squares of baking paper.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate smashed into chunks. Stand for a few minutes.

3. Stir until the chocolate is melted, popping back on the heat for a few seconds if your chocolate isn’t melting easily.

4. Add sugar and eggs and stir. Then add almond meal.

5. Spoon the mixture into your prepared muffin holes.

6. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the muffins are cracked on the top and feel firm, but the middle is still squidgy like a good brownie. Cool in the tin.


video version of the recipe

SBS snippet


  • I can’t eat beans chickpeas or tofu and I can only eat lentils in limited quantities. I have a lot of trouble finding substitutions, especially in soups that keep the dish hearty without resorting to meat. Any suggestions?

  • Wow…these are so lovely. I wonder if they would work with honey? My husband’s birthday is today. I making these for him as a surprise.

  • Oh Jules. Everything you make is so lovely. And five ingredient gluten-free muffins are impressive. I can’t wait to give them a try.

  • These are brilliant. I just made them. I intuited that my chocolate was sweet enough on its own, so I left out the sugar entirely, and they turned out perfectly, with just enough sweetness. I also used coconut oil since I was out of butter. Great option for those who avoid dairy. Thanks for this recipe; I will be making it again many times.

  • Thanks for the lovely choc muffin recipe.

    Basic kitchen skills I would like to be clearer about: frying. I would love to know how to manipulate the heat, choose the best fry pan, time things properly so that my fried eggs aren’t like rubber, pikelets neither charred or with a terrible ring around edge, pancakes/crepes don’t disintegrate, spices not burned, omelettes don’t stick, stirfry doesn’t get black bits. Gosh I’m making myself sound terrible no?! In short, how do I use my frying pan to good effect???

  • merenia
    thanks for the cooking skills feedback!
    you’re right – frying is so important and so easy to get wrong – it’s going to the top of my list!

    wow bria
    you didn’t mess around – great to hear that they work well without butter!

    honey would really change the flavour profile. And it can also have an impact on texture because it contains invert sugar – but you won’t know unless you try!

    you need to look at vegetables that add heartiness to soups. so lots of onion, mushrooms, leeks, potato, pumpkin, parsnip, swedes and sweet potato – hope that helps!

  • Just a suggestion for Marion, what about something like barley or another grain? I find barley is great in soups – it made my soup-hating manonwheels start to respect the soup :-)

  • Do regular grocery stores carry almond meal or would I need to go to a specialty foods store? Definitely looking forward to trying this recipe out!

  • These look beautiful! I am making them tonight :) Thank you!

    Meaghin, you can just grind some good raw organic almonds in a food processor until they form a flour :)

  • I have a couple of gluten free friends so this is marvellous! Mind you, after a baking frenzy a couple of weeks ago for a fete I haven’t quite managed to pick up a whisk… this is the first recipe that’s tempted me (oh and I made yr choc chip cookies as part of the baking frenzy – they bake superbly if you roll and freeze them and cook from frozen!!!). Top job.

  • I can’t wait to peruse your site after getting here from Simple Mom. As a mother of several allergic kids (all different, of course), I find that planning a single meal that everyone can enjoy to be the biggest challenge for me right now. I usually end up preparing at least 2, if not 3, versions of a single dinner, and as another baby is about to join the home, this madness must stop.

    I was excited about the list of subsitutes and am eager to try a few. I would caution that the current info is generally to steer clear of all nuts if you are allergic to one (therefore, sniff, we can’t have the delicious looking choc muffins). Any suggestions for soy-allergic?

  • thanks for sharing your story julie
    and I guess the advice with nut allergies is to do with the risk of cross-contamination.. I hadn’t thought of that.

    glad to hear I’ve tempted you to pick up your whisk again! thanks for the cookie tip on baking from frozen – love it!

    I’ll second the barley in soups idea – I can’t believe i didn’t think of it! Great one.

    in australia you can buy almond meal in regular grocery stores – not sure about other countries sorry.

  • I just stumbled upon your site when Carrie from Gingerlemongirl.com posted your ebook on Facebook. It’s beautiful! I’m always forever & constantly searching for new food blogs to read & enjoy – for inspiration, to pass the time getting to “know” someone new from whom I can learn, you name it. This — is my new favorite. Beautiful pictures, lovely site, wonderful writing. Brava! Thank you for your sharing. And I don’t say that to all the food bloggers. :)
    Warmest regards,

  • hi jules
    i made them today for easter coffeetable but it fills up 12 cups of my muffintray
    would you please give me the measure of your muffintray maybe its deeper
    i made the carrotcake and the zucchinicake to
    but without frosting because i didn’t find lactosefree philadelphia
    thanks a lot for sharing
    i love your blog
    lg birgit

  • hi birgit
    my muffin tray is 1/2 cups, but I filled them up quite full so maybe that was the difference.
    sounds like a wonderful easter spread.
    thanks for sharing!

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE the allergen substitutes. Thank you for that simple list. I’ve printed it out for easy reference while cooking. :o)

  • Hello,
    I was referred to your blog by someone who is taking up the Live Below the Line challenge this May. I just wanted to thank you for raising awareness about the challenge!

    Best wishes,
    Elizabeth Nakano
    Live Below the Line Campaign Coordinator, US Division

  • This is so perfect! I’ve been eating and cooking mostly gluten-free lately because it suits both my partner and myself better. These muffins sound so delicious I can’t wait to try the recipe!

  • Bitgit
    thanks for pointing that houw.

    thanks elizabeth
    I think it’s a brilliant campaign. excited about this year too!

  • Thanks so much for these! I have been thinking more about your statement about looking for all the things your Dad can eat… I think I have been thinking too much about the “no”s and not enough about the “yes”es. Thanks for reminding me :)

  • Jules,
    Thanks for this lovely recipe. I made these for a friend who was going gluten-free for a while. They are indeed delicious; so good, in fact, that just on the strength of this recipe I subscribed. Since my small town grocery store sells only the basics, it’s wonderful to find a “special food needs” recipe that I could simply throw together from the items in my pantry.

    For anyone who’s been given pause by the “sounds-like-a-mail-order-specialty” almond meal, you can make it yourself if you have a food processor. Although some of the online tutorials say to blanch or roast the almonds first, I just dumped ’em in my el-cheapo food processor straight out of the bag (raw, with skins) and gave it a whirl. I dumped the bits through a sieve and re-ground the coarser pieces a couple of times to avoid making almond butter. It worked just fine, although the texture is still a bit coarser than the commercial would have been. And it also took much less time than it sounds like.

  • Hi Jules,

    Thanks so much for this wonderful recipe. I have tried it tonight as we recently had a co-worker join our group that has coeliac. I absolutely love chocolate so when I came across this recipe, I was absolutely amazed and excited :)

    I just tried one and they taste so delicious… more like brownies! Thanks so much!

  • I just made this. It’s cooling on the rack as I type.

    Like Bria, I omitted the sugar and the result was a bittersweet chocolate muffin brownie that will be perfect with vanilla ice cream! Amazingly simple to make (I’m a baking novice) and so delish. My mum *will love* this.

    Thanks for the recipe, Jules! I’ve been hooked to Stone Soup since I found it and it’s been a great deal of help in demystifying cooking for a complete beginner.

  • Glad you liked it Gette
    I would never have thought to try them without sugar – you’ve got me intrigued now

  • Hi Jules:

    I stumbled on to your site this evening (now it’s actually morning) while looking for a frittata recipe, and ended up printing out your Sausage & Pasta with Crushed Peas recipe instead (that’s going to be Sunday’s dinner–can’t wait.) I looked around your site, and I really like what I have seen so far.

    I’m writing because you were thoughtful enough to give a list of substitutions for those with allergies (I have more of a sensitivity rather than a full-blown allergy, but explaining allergy to others prevents them from telling me how good the objectionable food is for me), and you touched on one of mine (nuts/seeds–I just don’t eat them or scrape them off the food). What I’m looking for is a substitutions for spinach and coconut. I appreciate any suggestions you may have.

  • Sorry, that should read, ” substitutions for spinach and coconut.” That will teach me to try to write something at a ridiculous hour of the morning while fighting sleep.

  • Hi Sharon
    Coconut would depend on the use – if it’s coocnut milk or cream you could use regular cream – but the flavour profile will be different. For dried coconut or coconut flakes my first point of call would be nuts or seeds – if the coconut is just adding crunch or sprinkled on top some toasted or pan fried bread crumbs will do the trick…

    Spinach – just substitute in other greens that you like – rocket (arugula) collard greens, kale, cos or romaine lettuce are all good things.

    Hope that helps

  • OMG! These are truly AMAZING! My daughter just made these tonight and I am in chocolate heaven! An absolutely brilliant recipe! Thank you, Jules. :D

  • These are the easiest most scrumptious gluten free muffins I’ve ever tried! I’ve made several batches already and usually freeze them so I can grab one on the way to work. By the time I’m there it’s perfect with a cup of coffee! Thanks Jules!

  • oh yes it’s brilliant
    made it now as dessert for our xmasdinner
    merry merry christmas to you and all you love
    lg birgit

  • I made these today ….. divine!! The inside is like a chewy melty brownie. It made 14 medium muffins with each cup filled about 2/3-3/4 full. I plan to make them again – thank you!

  • Wow these look great, my 8YO daughter is intolerant to wheat and she loves to cook. These muffins look great and so simple for her to do herself. Thanks…we are off to try them right now!

  • Hi Jules
    Stumbled across your blog when I searched for quinoa recipies and have been on here for an hour now! My 17 year old daughter suffers from psoraiasis and so I have been looking to improve her diet to see if that helps. We are starting by cutting out gluten and dairy all together before reintroducing them to see if they are a trigger. I would love to try this recipie but what could i use instead of the butter? Would it work with sunflower oil? Any suggestions for a butter substitute for other recipies would also be welcomed. Thanks

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