adapting recipes

Three Suggestions for Adapting Recipes

     Up until a few years ago I was one of those people who had to make a recipe exactly how it was written. I was afraid that if I made any changes to the recipe it would taste awful. Of course this was not true, but somehow I was just too timid to try any modifications.

       Then I developed multiple food allergies and sensitivities. There are lots of gluten-free and dairy-free recipes, but try and find ones that do not use squash, or grapefruit, or pineapple, or ginger. I am allergic to a degree to all of these. At one point, there were so many different foods I was sensitive to that I literally could not find any suitable recipes to use unless I did some adaptation.

       So I began to experiment with recipes and exchanging ingredients. Now it is fun to take a recipe and change it up to add or subtract ingredients based on nutritional needs or just what I have in the pantry. Here are a few suggestions to make recipe adaptation easy for you, too.


  • Substitute ingredients in the same food family.
    If you have a sensitivity to peanuts, but can eat tree nuts, then substitute them one for one. Virtually all nuts can be interchanged for each other in recipes. Citrus fruits such as limes, lemons and oranges can also usually be swapped out in recipes. The recipe I adapted below originally specified goji berries. This is a very unusual fruit, so I substituted dates in my original batch, but raisins are another dried fruit that could also be used. Rice and quinoa are similarly interchangeable grains for most recipes. Butter, olive oil and refined coconut oil can also be substituted in most recipes for each other or any other oil or fat.
  • Substitute ingredients with similar textures.
    I am sensitive to most foods in the nightshade family and don’t eat white potatoes. When making a soup or stew I have found that turnips or parsnips are good to use instead of potatoes. Similarly, mashed cauliflower with plenty of garlic and olive oil is a great stand in for mashed potatoes. Spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini noodles work well as a lower carbohydrate, higher nutrient alternative to pasta.
  • Some adaptations may require other changes to the recipe.
    For example, coconut flour is very high in fiber and can’t be substituted one for one for most other flours. Much less coconut flour is needed and additional eggs must be added to a recipe when it is used in place of another type of flour. Similarly, if you use honey or maple syrup instead of granulated sugar in a recipe, you may need to reduce the water or other liquid so that the consistency of the batter remains the same.

     The recipe below is one I adapted and changed four ingredients from the original. I used pecans instead of walnuts, creamy almond butter instead of crunchy, dates instead of goji berries, coconut oil instead of cacao butter and listed exact amounts for sea salt and cacao nibs. This recipe makes a yummy no sugar treat. If you can eat some added sugar, you could use honey or maple syrup instead of the stevia and mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of the cacao nibs.

Experiment and have fun making recipes your own!


Nutty Flax Balls


1 ½ cups almonds

½ cup pecans

½ cup virgin coconut oil

½ cup almond butter

½ cup dates or raisins

¼ cup shredded coconut

¼ cup fresh ground flax

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. sea salt

¼ cup cacao nibs (or mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

2 ptks. powdered stevia or 6 drops liquid stevia (or to taste)


Pulse nuts, ground flaxseeds, coconut, nut butter and salt in a food processor until coarsely ground. Soften coconut oil, if needed. Add coconut oil to food processor along with remaining ingredients. Pulse to create a coarse, pasty mixture. Scoop mixture by spoonfuls onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. A tablespoon scooper works best for this. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, until the mixture hardens. Enjoy! Store in the refrigerator.

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