Can I Substitute?

When it comes to substitutions, I wish I could answer each and every one of your questions. Unfortunately, I can’t. You see, I don’t have a crystal ball with the answers; they’re not in my head, they’re in my hands, but I’ll get to that later.

For me, baking involves the use of techniques and ingredients that come together in a magical way –each recipe is unique. Like my hero Virginia Satir, I believe in “leading the change process a half a step behind,” which has meant learning to use my senses and see what is called for in each recipe. In some ways, my recipes develop themselves as I test them. I let things happen and unexpected outcomes can be my friend during this process.

This observational experience in which I arrive at answers by using my senses –of sight, touch, smell and taste (sometimes sound too) is an organic process. I test and test my recipes until I arrive at something that appeals to me. After that, I give samples to my family. If they approve, I test the recipe without changing it, a few more times just to make sure I have something that is reproducible.

You may have noticed that recently, I’ve begun to use some new and different ingredients. You may also have noticed that I’ve cut back on my use of agave and grapeseed oil. Many people have asked me if I am substituting ingredients in place of these. The answer? Right now I am interested in creating new recipes that use different ingredient combinations.

Have I ditched my old recipes? No! I make them for my husband and children several times per week. Have I converted my old recipes to be like my latest? No. I’ve come up with new ones that are formulated from scratch.

Paleo Pumpkin Bread, a newer recipe; I use honey to sweeten it — just two tablespoons in the entire loaf.

Still, people want a linear answer, something black and white. Here’s what I can provide. Some of my readers have left comments reporting that their experiments using honey in place of agave often work  –if you are looking for an agave substitute, I encourage you to validate these findings for yourself through trial and error.

Likewise, many people are curious about oils. In my newer recipes I have moved towards coconut oil and vegan palm shortening and am enjoying both. Feel free to experiment with the fats in my existing recipes and customize them to your needs, whatever those may be.

So, some practical words of advice. Stick to my more recent dessert recipes (from the last 3 months) if you are looking to cut down on your intake of sweeteners and don’t want to work at reformulations. Also stick to my more recent recipes if you prefer coconut oil and vegan palm shortening.

If you can tolerate agave or like to tinker, check out my older dessert recipes. And if you like to customize recipes to your individual preferences in terms of taste and nutrition, by all means, go wild and experiment! Just make sure to stop back by and leave a comment on your alchemical experience –and let us know your results. And feel free to share your findings with me on Twitter, as I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about holiday foods and new recipes over there lately.

So here’s my answer to your substitution questions. I don’t have a magic wand that I can wave to come up with the answers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find them –just get out that bowl and spoon and start stirring!


  1. janice says

    has anyone tried to double some of the recipes? I have made muffins out of the banana cake and would like to make more than a dozen at a time to freeze.

    • Sherri says

      I’m allergic to almonds and coconuts, which are prevalent in these paleo and gluten free diets. I’m also curious as to what flours, butters, and oils I could use.

  2. Rebecca says

    I’ve successfully substituted the grapeseed oil with light olive oil, and the agave nectar with maple syrup in all recipes I’ve made from the Almond Flour cookbook.

  3. sharon says

    I was wondering if anyone has used lemon as a substitute for vinegar or apple cider vinegar? I know it reacts with the baking soda for rising? I really need an idea for the rising action other then vinegar. I cannot have it. Thank you

  4. says

    How would I go about substituting Stevia for another type of natural sweetener? There are many wonderful recipes that use Stevia but I am not a big fan.


  5. no agave, use stevia says

    Agave is bad news. Just because it is lower on the glycemic index doesn’t mean it is better, just that it breaks down more slowly. And because it breaks down more slowly, it will end up as visceral fat around your liver. Using agave is like using high fructose corn syrup.

  6. AndreaThorn says

    Does anyone have a COFFEE substitution for vanilla creamer? I have recently gone wheat free….except for this & I know I need to replace this in order to receive optimum health benefit. Also, though stevia is fine in yogurt, I can’t seem to adjust to it in my coffee…any suggestions for sweetners?
    Thanks so much!
    just me…AT :)

  7. Nina says

    Hi! I tried the brownies and they came out very well. However, after I made them I learned though various websites (as well as people) that agave nectar is very dangerous. It is actually worse than high fructose corn syrup! So I suggest that everyone do research on agave & consider removing it from the recipes. One article is on the website, and another article just came out yesterday on the email. The article (from a Dr. who wrote a book) stated that agave is one of the 5 worst metabolism killing foods on the planet. For example, Agave has the highest fructose content than any sweetener. High fructose corn syrup has 55% fructose while agave syrup is between 55-92% fructose. It puts the risk on heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s & cancer.

    Thank you for your recipes that do not use Agave.

  8. Hollie says

    Wonderful, just got the book and was so disappointed with all the agave (friend has allergies so I removed it from my cooking) so nice to see substitutes. I have been experimenting with coconut sugar (not palm) and have good luck with it. The recipes look great.

  9. Andrea says

    Hi, I just made your chocolate cake. It tastes great and is very moist. I did make one substitution. I used half agave nectar/half maple syrup for sweetener. Unfortunately the cake “fell” in the middle. I was surprised, as I often bake with maple syrup and this does not happen. I will try again with an extra egg. Any advice you might have would be helpful. Thanks for your recipes!

  10. Mary says

    I am newly identified as allergic to Gluten and it’s cross-overs, as well as dairy & sugar, eggs soy & yeast! So I am struggling to find recipes I can use. However, I’d like to comment on what my Cardiologist just told me when I mentioned finding recipes using Almond or Coconut flours & oils. He is a Very updated Cardiologist who is involved with Heart Disease research. He says he has “Not seen one thing” in the Medical literature to support the Coconut Oil craze and he told me Not to use any of the cocunut products as the Saturated Fat content is too high. He said I can use the occassional bit of shredded coconut atop a muffin. Then I discussed his comments with my Nutritional counselor for Berkely HeartLab and she said she totally agreed with the Doctor, and that she & other counselors have had some patients who’s Cholesterol numbers suddenly shot up and the only change in diet,exercise or lifestyle they could find was that those people had begun using some form of the Coconut products that they thought were healthy, because of their current popularity.
    The Doctor said using the Almond flour and Almond Nuts were Heart Healthy and I can use them.
    In my short week of research, I have also read there may be some sort of controversary regarding the Agave use, but I have not found an article so far.
    I would appreciate any comments that any of you more experienced people can offer to me.

  11. Jan-Marie Robertson says

    I just realized because of pains in my chest and having flu-like symptoms since I started eating products with xanthum gum that I am allergic to xanthum gum which seems to be in many of the pre-made products. I need a recipe for bread and pancakes that doesn’t have that in it.

    Thanks so much.


  12. Claire says

    I’ve tried searching the site for commenters who might have posted on substituting pecan meal for almond meal but can’t find any. Neither my son nor I can eat almonds. Otherwise the recipes are great.

  13. Patrice Oldani says

    Dear Elana,
    I tried to make your chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it did not turn out right. After they cooled, they fell apart in my hand! I could not use the agave nector (fructose intollorant) or the grape seed oil. I used olive oil and stevia. Could this be the reason that it did not work?? I would really appreciate your advice on this.

    • Debbie says

      I made the choc chip cookies too and it turned out horrible. they dont taste right. also the pancakes.. A fail!! I tried to interchange ingredients but obviously it didnt work well.

      i cant eat anything with agave or honey.

      recently discovered I have candida albicans. that means no sugar, carbs etc. I too read that i cannot use arrowroot so what can a substitution be for that? no sugar no carbs..thats the diet. no refined or processed foods.
      i have just ordered some honey with xylitol (also xylitol is still controversial in the candida world) I DID however run across the coconut sugar and it caught my fascination. i havent asked to see if it is allowed or not but i am definitely going to try it. xylitol is a sugar alcohol which can stir up the candida so it is said. I Cant stand STEVIA and i want my sweets. but agave is definitely out.
      i like the almond flour the best out of coconut and buckwheat flours.
      anyway, i hate to be in the kitchen cooking all the time but this candida has forced me to be. which has led me to this site. someone provided a choc cake recipe from your book. so i started reading other recipes of yours and i liked what i i ordered the book. got it yesterday and i am excited about trying the new foods..they are new foods cause i havent ate anything like this with these types of ingredients. i had to learn what they were. i made the simple bread today and i will need to add some sugar to needs to be sweeter for me. also i made the brownies…oh am i in heaven. so i guess 2 out of 4 things i made came out ok….its just hard to figure out what i change out the agave with and how much.. like agave for coconut sugar.
      oh love the fact you have used Yacon in a couple of recipes. We CAN have that..would love to see that more and less agave. Thanks Elana!!!!

      PS. Coconut oil is wonderful. you can eat it, where it, bath in it…its great for your whole body. I also have read where grapeseed oil is good..but i havent read in depth on it.

  14. Terri says

    I’m wondering if you could substitute arrow root powder for xanthum gum. Does anyone know and what would be the ratio of substitution?

    Thank you.


  15. Heather says

    I want to thank you for doing this! I am recently on a new diet with a doctor that eliminates preservatives (almost Paleo). I like reading your blog and realizing that there is an abundance of information that i am learning and recipes to create. I just wanted to say thank you!

  16. marie says

    I am not a celiac patient. I am a health coach looking for options for carbs, gluten, sugar. Your website is wonderful. I found it by happenstance and I am overjoyed!

    I love almonds. I did not know chickpeas and tapioca starch can be used in place of white flour. I like the suggestion of mixing the expensive almond meal with tapioca starch to stretch the dollar. You have wonderful, knowledgeable readers with wonderful inquiring minds.

    I only use maple syrup and honey instead of sugar. I have lots of almond meal. I am going to make your pumpkin bread and paleo bread.
    Then I will try the other recipes.

    I dont buy cakes, cookies, ice cream in the supermarket anymore. I make fruit compotes for after dinner.

    Wonderful site. Thank you.

  17. Toki says

    I recently discovered your website through Mark’s daily apple and I am loving it! I have been a coealiac since I was 8, about 28 years now and been primal for almst 7 months and loving it! I crave baked foods sometimes, but find it difficult to make nice, yummy cakes, breads, etc. Just made your silver dollar pancakes this morning, and my family wolfed it down!

    My only problem at the moment is the amounts of ingredients used in the recipes are given as cup sizes, but it appears the American cup size is different to the English cup size and I imagine this would make or break the results. Is there any way to convert American cup sizes to English ones or give the amount in weight instead, please?

    Many thanks.

  18. Karen Bowlden says

    I’m new to using almond flour and have noticed that baking powder is not used to make baked goods raise higher. Is there a reason for this? I’m not a celiac but as a diabetic, the almond flour is fabulous and doesn’t raise my blood sugars! Is not using baking powder a health issue? I love your recipes and am anxious to try as many as I can.

    • Tanya says

      Baking powder is a problem, not one that is commonly known. Most baking powders have aluminum. Even the ones that do not, the baking soda in there is problem for human consumption because it prevents the absorption of B vitamins, among other vitamins and minerals. Additionally, baking soda easily causes gastrointestinal distress (the instant relief people get when taking it for heartburn is not long-lasting and actually causes more problems).

  19. Sarah says

    For the Date Walnut Bars I substitute coconut oil for the grapeseed oil. I’ve made it this way twice and it has turned out great both times.

  20. Kerry says

    I too have begun playing around more with recipes with some success. What I have not found are any substitution quantities for taking sugar out of a recipe and how much agave or stevia to use in place of it. Are there references sites available?

  21. Robin says

    Loving the new recipes! I have been using recipes from your books and website for almost two years, always subbing honey for agave and organic, grass-fed butter for grapeseed (or any other oil other than coconut), and have had great results. I usually substitute the same amounts, although sometimes can cut back on the amount of honey. Anyone looking for primal substitutions should feel free to try butter and honey.

    Thanks again for your great recipes!

    • Jeanne J says

      I sub butter (or olive oil) and honey, one for one, in most of Elana’s recipes and it usually works. My most recent success was with the Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies from the Almond Flour Cookbook. These are fantastic! I also added pecans and cinnamon to the mix and they are really perfect. Thanks for the GREAT recipes, Elana!

  22. says

    Well said Elana! One thing I learned from a previous editor of Bon Appetite is that “the recipe has GOT to work.” We don’t dare post a recipe that doesn’t. The recipes you create have been designed, tested and retested to “work.” Behind the scenes, a lot of ingredients go to waste. Dozens of failed muffins and cakes have ended up in my trash can—and those ingredients were not free! Food blogging can be an expensive hobby :)… but my need to give and to help those with dietary restrictions trumps my concern for having a higher grocery bill. And about ingredients … our diets change over time, we continue to find what works for and is good for our body. Flexibility is a good and healthy thing.

  23. Marilyn says

    I have used your chocolate chip cookie recipe several times, but the last couple of times I made the cookies, I used a dry sweetner instead of the agave (sugar substiute called Whey-Low) and added an egg and used a little less grapeseed oil. They came out pretty well and someone even asked me for the recipe.

  24. claudia says

    On behalf of my grandson, I have to write to ask you not to use palm oil–or at least be sure that the palm oil has been sustainably produced. “Palm oil plantations devastate the forest and create a monoculture on the land, in which orangutans cannot survive. Over the years, Galdikas has fought off loggers, poachers and miners, but nothing has posed as great a threat to her “babies” as palm oil.

    There are only an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 90 percent of them in Indonesia.”

  25. says

    Thank you for continuing to post delicious and healthful recipes!

    I didn’t substitute much in your recipes until the ratio rally post about quickbreads (muffins), at which point I realized that ratios should work just as well with your recipes and tweaking as with conventional grain-based recipes. Now I just tweak little things here and there to my family’s taste.

    (PS: I love your paleo bread… Best bread recipe yet. :) )

  26. Marjorie Morrison says

    I have had success with substitutions…I am a lo-carber. In most recipes, I cut the agave in half & add the equivalent in a stevia/erythritol combo, which is a powder. To make up for the liquid, I add more oil, olive or grapeseed. Works like a charm.

    • Iv says

      I like that idea, thank you! I substitute purely liquid stevia for agave but I found that the pastries remain dry and they only come up a bit. Not sure if the muffins for example are suppose to come up higher or not as I haven’t tried the recipes with agave, but looking at the pictures, it seems Elena’s are taller than mine and I scoop much more dough in the muffin cups than suggested (double). Because I know there is some king of interaction between thickening agents such as arrowroot powder and sweeteners such as agave and honey, I am pretty sure that using the water based stevia does not result in the same chemical interaction which probably prevents the dough from rising.
      I am really happy with the taste of stevia as a sweetener in baked goods and the result it has on my blood sugar (keeps it balanced), so I am looking forward to new recipes from Elena that hopefully will contain purely stevia as a sweetener…

  27. says

    Being gluten free I have had to experiment with a lot of substitutions for flour in recipes. My only comment Elana is that when you start using all new ingredients, I then need to go out and buy all new products to try your recipes. It gets expensive, and almond flour is already a really expensive ingredient.

    I know I have gone to the store to buy something you had in a recipe only to find it costing a lot more than I wanted to pay – especially not knowing if I would like it or how much of it I would actually use. That said, I might not have tried and like agave nectar had you not started using it so one never knows where my next favorite thing will come from.

    Also readers, a little tip when substituting . . . don’t look at it as an all or nothing substitution. I have found that a blend of gluten free flours works best. The same might be said for sugars. So try mixing agave with honey or maple syrup. Or fructose with sucrose. Or stevia with sucrose. You will likely get the best of both and less of the negative of each.

  28. Heather says

    So glad you are leaning Paleo/Primal/elimination of neolithic agents of disease (phrase coined by the Archevore blog). I have often successfully substituted coconut oil for grapeseed oil and honey for agave in Elana’s recipes. Looking forward to all your future, healthier, paleo recipes.

  29. Laura C says

    I substitute a half and half mix of Xylitol and Coconut Palm Sugar for the agave then add a bit of moisture by adding a bit of either apple sauce or almond milk. We have had great success. For recipes like the original cc cookies that do not have an egg just add an egg for the extra moisture. Light and fluffy – perfect!

    The Xylitol has a zero glycemic index, the Palm Sugar has a low glycemic index but also adds great minerals since it is unrefined. If you use coconut oil it cuts the glycemic even index more.

    Thanks Elena for not only changing our lives with your great recipes but also for creating this interesting group of blog followers! If you ever hold a Blog Readers convention in Boulder we will come!! (hint)

  30. Lynnette says

    Thank heavens for your site Elana and thank you to all of her readers. I learn so much here that confirms what I research. With the evolution of information about sweeteners and oils this forum helps me improve my health.

  31. LuraFaye Motley says

    I used Hazelnut oil in your breakfast bar recipe and it was delicious. Gave it a very buttery,yummy flavor. I also used Ginger Syrup instead of the agave in the breakfast bars.

  32. donna says

    i often substitute with fine results…i never use agave and have long substituted with raw honey-no problems….and i have never had a problem sub-ing coconut oil for any fat either….maybe i just got lucky??? ;-)

  33. Alison says

    My husband and I are both on a low carb diet for health reasons, which is why cooking with almond flour and your recipes are a Godsend to us. Unfortunately, healthy ingredients are not cheap, so it limits my experimentation, for fear of having to throw away an entire batch of something made with expensive ingredients. Both agave and honey are loaded with carbs and I use xylitol as my sweetener of choice(make sure to get the kind made from birch, not corn.) Sometime this works, sometimes not. If anyone has any advice on amounts of xylitol to substitute for agave/honey, I would be very grateful.

  34. says

    Tq fr sharing ur thought ellena, indeed… we have to try it by ourself by try and error and adjusting with our palate…
    second time being here and I loves ur recipe ;)

  35. Lynn Mann says

    Your recipes are really good, My dad past away a year ago last May and on his birthday each year I would make him a scratch German cho cake. I have the antibodies for gluten so I made your German Choc Cake and the family said it was just as good as the orginal one I made, so you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done, also all of your recipes I have tried so far are really good. I do alot of almond flour and I like it alot.

    Thank you
    Have a blessed Christmas
    Lynn Mann

  36. says

    I am a serial subsituter but I find your recipes are so well tested, I am actually loathe to substitute! The one thing I do thought is sub tapioca starch and chickpea flour for some of the almond meal. Although not strictly paleo, because I can’t find almond meal fine enough here in Australia, I sub these in for a lighter, fluffier texture. And often I’ll add in 110 more spices, but that’s just because it’s my thing :) I love your recipes for a good, basic guide that I can then get creative off. Thanks!

  37. Patty says

    Elana, I’ve been thrilled to see your recipes change to coconut oil, palm shortening and honey as of late. I had always subbed those in your old recipes with no problems at all. I believe all are wonderfully healthy traditional foods, and that making recipes with these ingredients will certainly afford you a new cookbook opportunity. I own your other cookbooks and would be thrilled to buy one with a more traditional/primal/paleo slant. Thank you for all of your hard work to make these wonderful recipes!

    PS- when my daughter was first diagnosed with Celiac and then I realized she couldn’t tolerate many other grains as well, I CRIED thinking she would never have another cookie. A friend pointed me to your chocolate chip cookie recipe and that is how I found you, I am so thankful to her for pointing me in your direction, and to you, in turn, for pointing me to many other wonderful bloggers with healthy, fun recipes that my family loves.

    • says

      Patty, I’m a long-time substituter too. I’ve made LOTS of Elana’s recipes and never used agave in any of them. One reader’s comment on one of the first recipes I came across said she subs honey for agave 1-1, so I ran with that. Do my results taste exactly as Elana intended? I don’t know and don’t care. What I care about is whether or not I like the result, and in most cases I do. If it’s yummy, why should I care if it tastes exactly like what Elana makes?

      It’s amazing to me that Elana even had to write this post. And I see a new site menu item for “substitutions”. I get that people have questions for how to substitute certain ingredients for others (like how much honey for agave, or how much coconut syrup for agave or whatever), but those are science questions that have to do with sweetness level and moisture content. Go do some research online and look at the food science sites and do your own calculations. Elana can’t possibly test every variation. That’s just common sense.

  38. julie says

    Like the rest of life we all have different cooking styles. My mom was a “strictly by the recipe” cook and had no imagination nor tolerance for experimentation. We all loved everything she made. First my dad and now my son and I are in the experimental category and some of the families favorite recipes evolved from our experimentation and exploration. My message? Cook your own style and love it, share the results (as Elana does), cook and be happy!

  39. says

    Great article – it’s so hard to be cut and dry about substitutions – plus everyone has different taste buds for their liking – that’s what makes it so exciting to try something new.

    I don’t currently use honey as we are on sugar free and gluten free lifestyles. But I have become more proficient at using stevia and some xylitol as substitutes.

    Working with healthy Christmas Cookies right now and having AMAZING results:

  40. elena says

    All hydrogenated oils (which is what shortening is) are poisons to human body and lead to serious health issues. Palm oil is the worth of its kind, Coconut oil and canola oil are not far better (different reasons though). With a little bit of internet research one can find why as well as good healthier replacement options for almost anything… Apple souse is perfect for baking – i tried and it works wonders. Just think about it – 200 years ago there was no shortening, canola, margarine, or coconut oils, but people eat good delicious food using all natural ingredients… And one more thing – when reading different opinions about any product, just ask your self a question – who wrote that and how do they benefit for advocating their opinion…For example, aspartame – terrible poison for people – aspartame company will tell you its not bad for human consumption – because they are selling it in more then 100 countries worldwide and its used for over a 100K products… scientists that say its not good – are just scientists – they are not selling anything…Its just a common sense – anything chemically made is not natural and hence most likely to cause harm to human body…

    • steph says

      I would encourage everyone to look into coconut oil. It is not the “all bad” that people think it. It actually is a medium chain fatty acid that bypasses the liver which means it does not sit around in your system and cause all the bad things that other saturated fats do. It also has been proven to help with inflammation and to improve your metabolism. It is a wonderful substitute.

      • Sabrina says

        I would also add that coconut oil and palm oil HAVE been used for centuries– perhaps not in the US, but in countries like Thailand where coconuts and palm trees grow readily and those countries have much lower incidence of heart disease then we do in the US.

        • Frank says

          My doctor gave me a list of foods to avoid. Coconut and palm oils were listed as saturated fats, which should be avoided. In Thailand, they do eat coconut oil (I don’t know about palm oil). However, they have less heart problems, because they eat very little meat, especially red meat. Also, they don’t eat butter and cheese. I doubt if they eat much or any food that contain partially hydronated vegatable oils.

          • says

            I would actually suggest that it’s not due to decreased meat/butter consumption, but decreased consumption of crap processed foods with hydrogenated oils, loads of sugar, etc. But yeah, coconut oil is a very healthful food (and great for the skin!).

          • Lisa says

            Totally agree with you on all points! I would also say that many medical professionals know very very little about nutrition, shockingly. Funny that people try to tell us all the time that in order to be healthy/lose weight we need to limit our consumption of meat, when what we really need to limit (or eliminate) is processed food loaded up with chemicals. If they only knew the science….

          • says

            Your doctor took about 1 hour worth of nutrition courses through medical school. Medical students are not taught health, they are taught how to treat disease. Coconut oil, butter, palm, and ghee are mostly saturated and should be consumed everyday for optimal health!

          • Christy says

            Absolutely true!!! Coconut oil is not only good for your skin but taking 1 tablespoon a day has brought my triglycerides down! I <3 it and use it in protein shakes or for cooking eggs or for dry feet or healing a cut! The stuff is amazing!!! I don't use the cheap stuff though, I use the organic cold-pressed varieties! Can find reasonable prices on

    • Nana says

      I am curious as to why unrefined organic coconut oil is not good. I’ve read from various sources that it is good. I know that canola oil is not good. Why is palm oil better? Could you enlighten me?

    • Sharon says

      To Elana reader’s comment – Palm shortenening make by Spectrum is not hydrogenated so it’s best not to jump to conclusions when you don’t know what you’re talking about. Coconut oil is a very good, if not the best oil, read the research!

      • anna says

        Coconut oil is GOOD. It is not hydrogenated. I try to stay away from the hydrogenated oils and I have been using Coconut oil almost exclusivly for a long time along with Olive Oil.

    • Betty says

      There is also tons of information extolling the virtues of
      coconut oil. Too, saturated fats like butter. Real butter.

    • Vickilynn says

      Dear ELANA readers,

      I am replying to a post by ELENA (not the same person as the writer of this blog and her recipes). who states certain oils are poisons.

      ELENA, organic virgin coconut oil is neither hydrogenated or dangerous.
      Organic, expeller-pressed palm oil is neither hydrogenated or dangerous and neither are poisonous.

      In fact, both are amazingly healthy and healing for our bodies. There are wonderful informational articles out there if one has the desire to study the new and emerging information and fight the old mentality that saturated fats are evil (which they are not). And none of the oils Elana has included in her recipes are hydrogenated.

      Dear ELANA, thank for these recipes, this blog and your books. Please keep ’em coming!

    • Dana says

      Palm oil is not naturally hydrogenated. It’s called shortening because that is how it’s used, and shortening was originally a plant oil meant to be a substitute for lard. You can use palm oil as a substitute for lard too, hence the name.

      Be sure to read labels to make sure what you’re getting is not hydrogenated; it is always listed in the ingredients. And the vegan palm oil Elena’s talking about is NOT hydrogenated. I’ve been going back and forth on buying it because I’m not vegan (and have no intentions of becoming one), but tropical oils are very good for you. In fact, if you *are* vegan, you *need* to be eating coconut and palm oils because while you can make saturated fats yourself, the process involves excess carbohydrate intake, something that’s not terribly good for you. Your body would prefer to consume them in food; it causes far less damage.

    • says

      I think you may be confused regarding hydrogenated fats. Virgin coconut oil is not processed, refined and certainly it’s not hydrogenated. In fact, coconut oil, and it’s butter, has many healing qualities. Google Chris Kresser and search his site for fats. Red Palm oil is another great nutritious oil to use in cooking. There is nothing wrong with saturated fats in your diet if you’re staying away from processed foods and sugars and choosing whole foods like our ancestors ate. Our brains need saturated fats to function.
      Vegetable oils, aside from red palm oil and coconut oil, are not that healthy and should be used sparingly.
      I agree with you regarding canola oil as not good for you, but it is not hydrogenated. However, most vegetable oils do fall into the ‘not healthy because they are processed’ category.

  41. halley says

    I know you probably pull out your hair when you get three dozen comments about different subs but I’ve noticed your readers always stepping up to offer their insights to what they’ve done. Since, like many of your fans, I’m allergic to everything under the sun and then a self imposed vegan, sometimes making recipes in general are tricky so I am always delighted by your yummy treats, despite the ocaasional humming and hahing over a random sub.

    • Betty says

      I like this comment. Perhaps, one should ask questions in an open
      phrase? “Does anyone know if, ________ will work?” This will
      encourage others to share their successes in the kitchen. :)

      • donna says

        Hi yr so right. Like i am wonderig if i could use coconut flour? I like the taste. I cant seem to tolerate the almonds. I have made cookues and muffins w coconut flour and its pretty tasty. I use agave for my sweeteners. I also used cocoa powder to mke things chocolatey. Usually just mix in a little With wet ingredients. Its hard so new to this lifestyle.

        • says


          I, too, have sensitivities to almonds and though really like the recipes in your book, I am wondering if I can change out the almond ingredients for coconut butter and coconut flour or if you have other recommendations. I was so happy making my first loaf from your recipe but unfortunately my stomach is not…. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


  42. says

    I make the Paleo Pumpkin Bread all the time, but since honey is pure fructose and I have fructose intolerance, I sub stevia. I use about 3/4 of a teaspoon, and add a couple tablespoons of whole milk Greek yogurt to make up for the lost volume. It works great – although since some Paleo folks avoid dairy I suppose it becomes not exactly paleo :)

    I’ve also taken the same basic recipe and tried other flavors and add-ins – omit the pumpkin, use a bit more yogurt in its place, add some lemon or almond extract and some poppyseeds. Or a handful of cranberries (a fructose-free fruit!).

    • Sarah says

      This comment about replacing honey is very helpful, as I have fructose intolerance as well! I use maple sometimes, but it still gives me an unpleasant blood sugar spike, even if I avoid some of the digestive distress. As a result I prefer stevia, but it can sometimes dry out the recipe – your advice is great!

      • meghan says

        in place of honey, try pure palm (coconut) sugar. it is lower on the glycemic index which is a plus! the smell kind of reminds me of brown sugar. i’ve actually been using a bit in my coffee. OR how about using dates. maybe 5ish dates, pitted, mushed down, add a little water. heat in the microwave at 30seconds for ease or on the stove for a few. remove, mush again, it’s going to start to smell AMAZING, add a little coconut oil and a sprinkle more of water, mush down again, heat a little more and at the end of this you have some liquidy-ish sweetner oh and your kitchen is going to be the most amazing smelling place in the universe!!!

        • Jane says

          Cool- I LOVE the idea of coconut sugar, palm sugar or date sugar for cookies, muffins or some cakes. (I didn’t realize the terms coconut and palm sugar were used interchangably- I have both and they are very diff… coconut sugar is from the coconut palm, palm sugar from the sugar palm).

          I’ve used coconut oil some- mostly in Elana’s recipes. I like grapeseed oil for sweet baking like quickbreads or muffins (is there a problem with grapeseed oil now? :-((….

          Hm..looking online, coconut sugar is sucrose not fructose- and supposedly the glycemic index of coconut sugar is 35, while table sugar (also sucrose) is 64. I wonder why that would be? HM. This came from the Sweet Tree site, a coconut sugar manufacturer.. and supposedly there have been studies questioning those figures- but can’t find any more.

          For me I’d use it mostly because of the flavor. Increased nutrition would be a bonus but.. do any of us really eat sweets to enhance our nutrition? Really? Unless we’re mainlining sweets.. the lower glycemic index would be great IF it’s really true. Does anyone know any more about this? Curious now.. will be looking online for more inf.

          • Cindi says

            I have been using Big Tree Farms organice blonde coconut sugar for a couple of years now, and I have been very intrigued by the blood science of it. To my knowledge, there haven’t been any serious studies on it, but from personal experiences of the diabetics I know, coconut sugar has been phenomenal for them. I, too, think it is a sucrose, but for some reason, the additional nutrints that make it up altogether do not adversely affect their blood sugar. This is the response of multiple diabetics. I’ve had several who say they use 1/4 cup on a bowl of oatmeal and it does nothing to their blood surgar levels two hours later when they retest. I’ve also used it to make a strawberry jam and they say that doesn’t affect their sugar levels either, which is a little curious to me because I think the strawberries alone should do that. It is very possible that there is some other component in the coconut sugar that causes this effect, but they’re thrilled with it. I cannot speak to any other coconut sugar except that of Big Tree Farms, and I do know that the way they process it may have something to do with the results as well. They do not heat it, and heat does change it in the processing, so you’ll have to expirament on your own and let us all know!

        • Dana says

          This is an old comment but I need to say this because it’s a common stumbling block on the road to health. You cannot judge the worth of a sugar upon its place on the glycemic index alone. Glucose is not the only “problem child” in any sugar. Generally speaking, sugars also tend to contain fructose, which is destructive to the liver, especially in the absence of adequate choline in the diet. (If you’re curious, Google for Chris Masterjohn and choline and fructose and see what you find.) The lower a sugar is on the glycemic index, then, the more likely it is to be really high in fructose.

          Someone at risk enough for type 2 diabetes that they have now changed their diet to cut back on carbs is also going to be at serious risk for liver damage from fructose. Exactly the population that should not be eating it, which is why the manufacturers of so many foodlike products aimed at the diabetic population have switched from using fructose to using sucralose as their primary sweetener. Even if the thought gives you the horrors, learn from their experience and see if you can find a sweetener that doesn’t have that effect. :)

          I understand there is a faux honey available that is basically a xylitol liquid. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’d choose it over honey or agave *unless* the amount of honey was really small (and I will always choose honey over agave–I won’t touch the latter).

          • no agave says

            Right on the money. The glycemic index is helpful, but it is not the end-all be-all solution. Fructose is no good, and breaks down more slowly, therefore doesn’t raise blood sugar as quickly. If you want a fatty liver, use a low glycemic sugar. If you want a healthy sweetener, use one that has no glycemic effect AND that has no calories.

    • Cindy says

      In Elena’s chocolate cake recipe I substitute the agave for stevia mixed with coconut milk to make up the liquid. Works great and would probably be great in the pumpkin cake receipe too.

      • Susan Plocher says

        I don’t know enough about these types of ingredients to feel comfortable just free-for-all substituting. I don’t understand how they all work together and with the expense of the ingredients, making too many experiment mistakes can be really costly. So that is why I come to people who have the experience I lack. I’m wondering how you know how much stevia to exchange for the honey/agave. 5 drops is a serving of stevia, but I have no idea how it relates to palm sugar/agave/honey. I like the idea of making up the volume with yogurt or coconut milk. Thanks for that!

  43. Kassi says

    I think you have a new recipe book in your future that is more Paleo or Paleo friendly. I hope so and if so, I can’t wait to buy it! Best wishes for a happy holiday and good health to you and your family!

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