Another Food Allergy Mamme once made the following comment to me: "Living with food allergies is like keeping kosher. Those who don’t, can’t imagine doing it and those who do, don’t think it’s such a big deal."
The comparison can certainly be made for the difficulty. It takes time to find recipes that use only safe ingredients, taste good (to both the person creating the dish and the person eating it) and also fits your usual kosher standards. In cooking, one can usually exchange a variety of ingredients for one another and still end up with something delicious (is anyone even counting how many recipes exist for Sloppy-Joe and chili variations?), but baking is a science. Cakes and breads will rise (or fall!) at a change in temperature, and cookies will crisp or melt into piles with just a dab too much shortening.
As kosher-keeping Jews, our grocery aisles are stocked full of pareve options that use soy as the main component. There are soy-based milks, whipped toppings, coffee creamer, ice creams (and toppings), chocolate chips, puddings and more. And these ingredients are a life-saver for moms like me who are raising a milk-allergic child. My daughter, Idy’s diet would be virtually non-existent if I removed the soy-based (or soy-containing) puddings, yogurts, cheeses, milks, butter, snacks and even fish sticks that make up most of her daily diet.
If the person you are cooking for doesn’t have a milk allergy, the most sensible and obvious place to turn is to dairy. So long as you can find typically dairy foods that are free of soy, you’ll be more than able to handle breakfasts and lunches – rather, it is most likely things like snacks that will cause you the biggest problem.
I’ve compiled a quick list of substitutions (recipes, resources and ingredients) that should be of great help. Of course, it is important to bear in mind that many mass-produced products may contain some form of soy (such as soy lecithin); just because an ice cream or cheese is milk-based does not mean it is free of soy. Always read ingredient labels!
Milk – As I mentioned already, this is an obvious go-to if you aren’t also dealing with a milk allergy. If you are, milks made from rice, hemp, almond, coconut and even oats (yes, really!) should fit the bill nicely. They’ll vary in calories and protein, but are usually fortified to be comparable to the amounts of calcium and Vitamin D found in cow’s milk. If you are concerned about your child’s vitamin and mineral intake, there are a variety of supplements available.
Margarine – The simplest thing to do, if possible, is to stock up on margarine around Pesach-time, when all the kosher margarines will be free of soy because it is kitniyos. If you can’t find any left on sale after Pesach, or don’t have the room to stock up, the company Earth Balance makes soy-free margarines year-round and carries an OU-Pareve certification. (They do make several spreads and some do contain soy – so read the labels carefully.) You should be able to substitute it cup for cup against regular margarine or butter.
Shortening – Spectrum Naturals has an extensive line of alternative oils and fats (like mayonnaise). Be sure to check labels for a hechsher, as not all their products are certified. In addition, Coconut Oil (which will solidify at room temperature; don’t get scared) can be used as a replacement, cup for cup, against any other shortening or margarine. Just remember that it will impart a slight flavor.
Soy Sauce – You can now buy commercially made "soy sauce", made by Jewish companies for Pesach. If you weren’t able to stock up over Pesach, you can make your own at home, and the recipe calls for ingredients you probably already have at hand.
"Soy Sauce" Alternative
Cheese – if you aren’t allergic to milk, this is easy. Just pick up regular cheese. If you’re also avoiding milk, though, Daiya makes a variety of cheeses that are free of most common allergens. It is certified Kosher Pareve by the OU and can be used as a cup for cup substitution.
A note regarding non-milk based cheeses: watch as it bakes. The different bases (rice, peas, etc) have different melting points and also melt to different stringiness-es (yes, I just made that up). So, when using cheese substitutes in something that will bake for a long time (like on top of a lasagna), it is recommended that you add the top of layer of cheese only in the last 5-10 minutes of baking to avoid over-browning.
Ice Cream – Once again, the easiest thing to do is to pick up regular milk-based ice cream. If you’re allergic to both soy and milk, options are considerably more limited. Coconut-based ice creams, like those from Luna and Larry’s, are a good substitute.
Whipped Topping – For a soy-free substitute, Mimic Crème has a product called Healthy Top that you can use instead of the regular pareve whipped toppings (which all have soy in them throughout the year). It is available for purchase on-line. Alternatively, you can also stock up after Pesach when the soy-free versions from the kosher companies will be cheaper and more available.
Yogurt – Milk-based yogurt that is free of ingredients like soy lecithin are the perfect go-to. However, if you’re allergic to both, Soy Delicious has a variety of coconut-based products and is certified by Kehilla Kosher (check with your Local Orthodox Rabbi to see if this certification is okay for your family).
Chocolate Chips – Enjoy Life is a great resource not only for already made products like cookies and bars, but also for baking ingredients like Chocolate Chips. Everything they produce is free of the top 8 allergens and they are certified Kosher Pareve by the cRc.
Do you have a tried and true soy-substitute that we missed on our list? Leave a comment here and share the wealth of your knowledge with others.