Going grain-free, dairy-free, and processed sugar-free can be shocking initially to most people. The ingredients that we grew up using and are familiar with are no longer of use. So what do you use for baking instead of the flours you were so accustomed to? What fats and milks are acceptable? And if white sugar is out, what do you use to sweeten baked goods or your morning coffee?
A Paleo pantry can look very foreign to someone who is new to the lifestyle, but once you stock yours with these staples, you'll feel much more comfortable venturing into new recipes. Everything on this list can be found on Amazon, which I find to be very convenient. I am fortunate enough to have a dozen health food stores at my disposal, but the majority of people live in areas that do not. For those people, Amazon can be a lifesaver.
Almond flour is high in protein, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats and is a great substitute for gluten and grain flours. Almond flour is blanched, skinless almonds that are finely ground into flour. The finer the grind, the better your baked goods will turn out. Coarsely ground brands will result in overly moist products that will sink in the center or have a grainy texture. I recommend purchasing your flour from Digestive Wellness or Honeyville Farms.
Coconut flour is made by drying and finely grinding the meat of a coconut. It's packed with dietary fiber and protein, and is a naturally gluten-free flour alternative. The high fiber content also keeps sugars from being absorbed into the bloodstream. It's a great alternative for those with nut or wheat allergies, but can be somewhat tricky to bake with. Even an extra teaspoon can yield a different result in baked goods.
Coconut oil is a healthy fat extracted from the meat of the coconut. It has many medicinal properties and is used in food as well as skin-care products. It is heat-stable, slow to oxidize, and resistant to rancidity, making it suitable for high-temperature cooking or frying. It is solid at room temperature and wonderful to bake with. It's always best to use virgin coconut oil.
Palm Shortening is used as a butter substitute in my baked goods recipes. It has a firm texture and a high melting point, creating fluffy and cakelike delights. Be sure to purchase this oil from sustainable and eco-friendly sources, such as Tropical Traditions or Spectrum Organics. Unsalted grass-fed butter may be used as a substitute if you can tolerate dairy.
Ghee is clarified butter, meaning the milk solids have been almost entirely removed, leaving only the healthy butterfat behind. Very pure ghee is 99 percent pure butter oil but may have trace amounts of casein and lactose. Unless you are extremely sensitive, it will normally not cause problems, even if other dairy does. As the recipes in my book are dairy-free, ghee is occasionally recommended as an alternative fat but is never a required ingredient.
Olive Oil is great for salad dressings and sauces, but it is important to reserve it for lower heat cooking. The others above are better choices for things that require high heat.
BINDERS & THICKENERS
Gelatin is my preferred thickener and binder, especially for desserts. I buy the Great Lakes gelatin, as it is grass-fed. Gelatin offers many health benefits for the gut, hair and nails. Kosher fish gelatins are also available for those that prefer it for religious or personal reasons.
Almond Milk is easy to prepare and more delicious when homemade. If using store-bought, always buy the unsweetened original flavor and compare brands to find the one with the fewest ingredients and without carrageenan.
Coconut Milk is made by puréeing the meat and water from a coconut. Avoid the boxed coconut milk "beverages" typically sold in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, as they contain additives and stabilizers to retain a liquid consistency. Instead, look for canned coconut milk (in BPA-free cans) that contain only coconut and water and preferably free of guar gum, which some people may be sensitive to.
Fish sauce is a salty condiment used in Thai and other Asian cuisines. I also use it in recipes that would typically contain Worcestershire sauce as it contributes a similar salty flavor. Look for brands that contain only anchovy and salt, such as Red Boat.
Coconut aminos are made from naturally-aged coconut sap and blended with sea salt. They are a soy and gluten-free soy sauce substitute and have a low-glycemic index.
Honey is the most commonly used sweetener in my book. Raw, local, organic honey has incredible health benefits. It is both an energy and immune booster and can greatly help with seasonal allergies if you purchase it locally. Honey contains only monosaccharaides (single sugars), making it easier for the body to absorb and process.
Maple syrup is a natural, unrefined, liquid sweetener that I often use to enhance the flavors of baked goods or savory dishes. Use pure grade B maple syrup or substitute honey if desired.
Coconut crystals also known as coconut sugar, or coconut sap sugar, are produced from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. They have been used as a traditional sweetener for thousands of years and have a very low glycemic index.
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