How to Adapt Recipes

apple pear muffins

Most of my readers are on some sort of specialized diet due to a health condition.  There are recipes available on-line for most diets, including low carb, ketogenic, gluten-free, dairy-free, reduced sugar and others. There are even specialized magazines for Paleo or allergy-free diets.  Sometimes you may want to make a special family recipe or favorite treat that includes one or more ingredients you can no longer have.  Over the years I have learned some techniques to adapt standard recipes to suit specialized diets.  Follow my process as I adapted this muffin recipe I recently found to suit my own dietary needs. 

Use Healthy Ingredients

Each time I make a recipe I try to use the healthiest version of each ingredient.  For example, I use organic eggs or omega-3 eggs when eggs are called for.  I use organic cane sugar or another healthy sweetener instead of regular sugar, which is made from GMO beets.  Be aware that if you adjust sweeteners, you might need to adjust other things in the recipe.  For example, if you use a liquid sweetener such as honey or maple syrup instead of regular sugar, you might need to reduce one of the other liquids in the recipe a bit. When I made this muffin recipe, I used organic cinnamon, apples and pears and omega-3 eggs.  I also used melted coconut oil instead of the much more inflammatory vegetable oil.  

Reduce Sugar in the Recipe

When making a sweet dessert or muffin recipe, you can normally reduce the amount of sugar from the original.  If this is a baked good, you may have to experiment with the amount so that it does not affect the texture or cooking time.  In this muffin recipe, I reduced the sugar by half to ¼ cup and also used coconut sugar instead of regular sugar.  Coconut sugar tastes more like brown sugar and is appropriate to this type of muffin recipe.  In some other recipes, it might be appropriate to use Swerve, which is a cup-for-cup sugar substitute. In other cases, organic cane sugar will be best to taste most similar to the original recipe.  

Substitute Ingredients

I have many food sensitivities and almost always either need to substitute or leave out ingredients when I cook.  For herbs and spices, it is easy to either substitute or leave out as needed.  Quite ironically, I am sensitive to the spices ginger, clove and nutmeg.  So, when a recipe calls for one of these, I leave it out or substitute cinnamon, if it is not already included.  I may be one of the few people who does not love pumpkin spice because it includes all of these spices!

Unless I find a recipe that is specifically gluten and dairy-free, I always have to adapt them and substitute for those ingredients.  You can use a single gluten-free flour such as rice flour, or use a premade combination flour such as this one which I like.  To make recipes lower carbohydrate, coconut or almond flour are excellent choices.  These do not substitute as well for regular wheat flour, so you will likely also have to adapt some of the other ingredients.  For each cup of regular flour, you only need about one cup of coconut flour, but you also need more eggs and other liquids.  A combination of almond and coconut flour together often gives a better texture than coconut flour alone.  For great recipes using almond and coconut flour, check out Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain website and books.  For this recipe I used this gluten-free flour and dairy-free yoghurt. 

Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment with cooking and adapting recipes.  I have made many dishes that were not perfect the first time! Why not try this muffin recipe yourself? Make any other changes you need for your specialized diet.  Check out my recipe page for more healthy recipes.

Apple-Pear Muffins

Makes 12

¾ cup gluten-free flour
¼ cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons unsweetened almond or coconut yoghurt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup chopped, peeled apple
¼ cup chopped, peeled pear

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 muffin cups with parchment liners. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just moistened.  Fold in the apple and pear.  Spoon about ¼ cupful into each of 12 muffin cups.  
  4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool on wire rack before serving. 

Adapted from

What suggestions do you have for adapting recipes? Please leave a comment and share them.  

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