Almond Milk: This can be made similar to almond flour, by adding almonds and water to a blender, and mixing until smooth. Furthermore, you can flavor your own almond milk by adding honey, cinnamon, or whatever you like at this point. If you are looking to purchase almond milk, then go for unsweetened, unflavored, organic versions. Additionally, it is wise to avoid ones labeled “low-fat” or “lite,” as these are misleading and usually replaced with filler products. Check your ingredient lists!
Tahini: Tahini is simply ground sesame seeds that are turned into a paste. It is commonly used in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. It is a great way to thicken sauces, and add flavor to dressings and marinades. It also is a staple ingredient in hummus. You can find it in all health food stores and most supermarkets today.
Tamari: A fantastic, gluten-free soy sauce alternative. It tastes very similar to similar to soy sauce, so it can be used in any recipe that calls for it as a substitute. There are other tamari options that contain less sodium as well. Tamari can be found in many grocery stores today and all health food stores.
Coconut Cream/Milk: The difference between coconut cream and milk is the consistency and fat content. Coconut milk can be found in drink or can forms, and has a thinner liquid associated with its thicker parts. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is just the cream itself, and is not watered down. Whether you want the milk or cream, avoid ones with added sugars, labeled “low-fat,” or have cans lined with BPA. Either product can be found in almost any supermarket or health food store. Here’s a kitchen hack: buy coconut cream. If you just buy the cream, then you can add water and thin the mixture down to your desired consistency. It can save you from buying multiple cans of coconut milk, when one can of coconut cream will last you much longer.
Coconut Oil: Another solid oil to use for cooking, especially when cooking at high temperatures. Coconut oil will stay in its solid form unless the surrounding area is warmer than about 70°F. If you are sautéing with it, simply place it in a warm pan and it will melt as the pan heats. If you are looking for a good coconut oil, stick to organic, extra virgin products.
Coconut Sugar: Coconut sugar is a great alternative to white sugar because it is the only one on this list that is actually in a solid form. If you need a solid sweetener that is low on the glycemic index (meaning it will not easily spike blood sugar levels on its own), then coconut sugar can be a great alternative for you. Coconut sugar can be easily found in all health food stores today.
Dairy Products: If you are to enjoy dairy products in general, a few things need to be covered. For one, stick to responsibly raised, free-range whole milk products. Fillers and low-fat options contain chemicals detrimental to our health and should be avoided. Additionally, avoid conventionally raised milk products. They can have similar detrimental effects compared to eating conventionally raised meats. Remember we are what we eat. That being said, even if you are not lactose intolerant, keep your dairy intake low. Even better, eliminate it altogether. Use milk alternatives, such as almond milk, cashew milk, and even soy milk. Alternatively, you can even make these milks at home.
Honey: My personal favorite when it comes to sweeteners. When you cook using honey, you only need to use small amounts. Just be sure to remember that when you add honey, you are adding sugar. Simple as that. This sugar just has higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals compared to other sweeteners. When shopping for honey, be sure to look for locally sourced honey or Manuka honey. These have the highest amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds. The Manuka honey comes from bees fed the nectar from the Manuka tree, which is found mainly in Australia.
Ghee (AKA Clarified Butter): Ghee is a staple in Indian cuisine, as well as other Asian cultures. It is in fact a great substitute for regular butter. Clarifying butter consists of removing the milk solids from the milk itself, thus increasing its shelf life. It is a centuries-old method of preserving it long before the days of refrigerators. Most of the dairy proteins have been removed (95-99%), so even those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy ghee. Since it is a dairy product, be sure to look for products that contain better omega-3 fatty acid profiles and are not raised conventionally.
Nuts & Seeds: Given the fact peanut allergies continue to be an issue, it is important to find high quality alternatives to peanuts if you cannot find high-quality, organic, responsibly raised peanuts or peanut products. Search stores for organic nuts, either raw or just with sea salt if you prefer. Many products made with nuts are covered with high amounts of sugars and artificial flavors detrimental to your health. Look for plain nuts and seeds and then season them yourself. It gives you more agency when it comes to knowing what goes into your food. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), chia seeds, and flax seeds are all incredibly flavorful and flexible (among others as well). Just make sure to buy responsibly raised, organic nuts and seeds.
There are actually a ton more of these we talk about on our podcast. We have done a couple episodes on this topic specifically, so I will link the most recent one.
Hope this helps!