Each month FBC member and nutritionist, Sondi Bruner, takes a favourite recipe and shows you how to adapt it to be allergen-friendly, as well as delicious and healthy. This month she’s got tips for dips and spreads - perfect for outdoor picnics and BBQs. 

Allergy Friendly Dips & Spreads | Food Bloggers of Canada

Dips and spreads are classic summer staples. If you're sitting on a patio, in the backyard, or on the beach, it's likely you've got some chips 'n dip within reach.

Some people might assume that dips and spreads are naturally allergen-friendly. While they're not the biggest allergy minefield, they can contain ingredients that affect people with allergies and intolerances: primarily dairy, gluten and nuts.

Here are a few things to look out for when you want to create allergen-friendly dips and spreads, and what you can swap for the troublesome ingredients.

Replace the Dairy

Dairy is probably the most ubiquitous allergen in dips and spreads. Milk, cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt and cream cheese are all commonly used to create flavourful, creamy dips.

So what to use instead? There are a few options.

1. Nuts. Mild-flavoured nuts are your best friends when creating healthy, dairy-free dips. Cashews, almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts work well in a wide range of recipes. Cashews are my personal favourite, and can be used to make cream cheese, sour cream, and nut cheese (like this rosemary cashew cheese). They also work well in spinach and artichoke-type dips. All you need to do is soak your nuts, drain, rinse, and then blend with water. Add more water for a thin consistency, like for cheese sauce, and less for a thicker texture.

But what if you don't want a creamy, gooey consistency to your dairy-free dips? Try a vegan parmesan, which is dry and can be sprinkled atop dips and spreads.

2. Non-Dairy Yogurt. Purchase a thick, plain, dairy-free yogourt (or try your hand at making your own!) to replace dairy-based yogurts. Dairy-free yogurts are made from soy, coconut, almonds or cashews, depending on which brand you buy. Just make sure you read labels and if possible, avoid any yogurts made with carrageenan, which can induce intestinal inflammation.

3. Coconut. Full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream concentrate (which is thicker than the milk) can also replicate dairy. Coconut can have a strong flavour, though, so it might not be your best bet if you don't like coconut!

Go Nut-Free

Allergy Friendly Dips & Spreads | Food Bloggers of Canada

If you or your guests have nut allergies, the nut-based dairy alternatives aren't going to work. In that case, use seeds:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Hemp seeds (say 'yum' to nut-free nutella)
  • Flax seeds (ground flax is especially great for thickening things up)

Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds will need to be soaked if you're trying to make a creamy, cashew-cheese style dip. You can also use seed butters; for example, tahini or sunbutter are earthy, warm flavour additions to dips and spreads.

Hemp seeds are so teensy that they blend easily and won't need to be soaked, but be careful when adding them to spreads because the taste is strong and, well, hemp-y. It's not a flavour for everyone, especially for the people who think that eating kale or Brussels sprouts is downright gross. In that case, you can mix up your hemp seeds with another type of seed.

RELATED:  Allergen-Friendly Remix: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Watch for Gluten

If a dip or spread recipe contains flour as a thickener, replace it with brown rice flour, arrowroot starch, chickpea flour or millet flour. Remember that gluten-free flours soak up more liquid, so you may need to adjust accordingly.

The other thing you need to be mindful of is what you're using to scoop up your dips and spreads. Crackers, bread, pretzels and pita contain gluten, and even corn chips or potato chips can be laced with wheat flour. If you're going for a cracker-like pairing with your dip, choose a gluten-free version. The other option is to use a variety of vegetables for dipping.

Pack Your Dips with Plants

Allergy Friendly Dips & Spreads | Food Bloggers of Canada

Am I stating the obvious here? I don't anticipate people will be tossing a roasted rack of lamb into the blender anytime soon (although with the growing popularity of healing bone broth, who knows). But just in case you need a reminder, plant-based foods are the perfect ingredients for dips and spreads, including vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Tomatoes, avocados, chickpeas and basil are always crowd pleasers in recipes like salsa, guacamole, hummus and pesto, but you can also think outside the box and use virtually any veggie or bean for a great dip. Cooked vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, roasted red peppers, butternut squash and fennel can be blended with oils, garlic, lemon juice and salt for a fantastic, veggie-rich spread. And don't forget our dear friend the lentil, which is a great substitute for chickpeas in hummus-esque dips.

Creamy Carrot Dip
It tastes like hummus, but it's bean-free.
Recipe type: Dip
Serves: Serves 6
  • 8 carrots, steamed until soft
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Handful of parsley, chopped (optional)
  1. In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients (except for the parsley) and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  2. If using parsley, toss it in at the end and pulse a few times to incorporate it.

More Reading

And here are some great summer entertaining allergy-friendly remixes to try:

Allergen Friendly Remix: Ice Cream
Allergen Friendly Remix: The Burger
Allergen Friendly Remix: Potato Salad
Allergen Friendly Remix: Mocktails

Check out more of Sondi’s Allergen-Friendly Remixes for great ideas on revamping your favourite recipes to make them allergen friendly!

Got a favourite recipe you’d like to see get an Allergen-Friendly Makeover? Let us know in the comments!

Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter.

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