I’m having a brunch party this weekend and my friends’ daughter has an egg allergy. It’s hard to find breakfast or brunch recipes without eggs, but I don’t want her to be excluded. Do you have any advice? —Cindy, College Park MD
You’re absolutely right. Many breakfast foods do contain eggs in the recipe, but as with most food allergy challenges, if you plan ahead, think creatively and substitute ingredients, you’ll have an amazingly diverse brunch that your guests will appreciate.
I know about this specific scenario first-hand, as I recently planned a large brunch in my home. I got a few emails from guests mentioning specific allergies. The first was an egg allergy. The second was a nut allergy. The third was a dairy allergy. You can imagine how difficult incorporating all of these into the spread was. However, as an allergist, I’m obviously very sensitive to food restrictions, so I decided to add to the challenge by making it a gluten-free meal as well since I know there are many are restricted by Celiac disease or a wheat allergy.
I generally try to incorporate both sweet and savory items in my brunch menus—and most savory dishes generally do not require milk or eggs. Meat or vegetarian chili is usually a good bet, as are items with fresh potatoes such as hash browns, mashed potatoes or potato soup. As long as you use fresh potatoes or packaged potatoes with no gluten-containing additives, they are also gluten-free. Salads using quinoa (a nutritious seed that is a gluten-free carbohydrate alternative) are quite popular and can be incorporated with chicken and greens for a tasteful dish.
The sweet items pose a greater challenge. Pancakes, waffles, muffins and french toast generally ask for eggs, milk and gluten-containing ingredients, but fortunately there are substitutes for all. For these items, egg-cellent substitutes can be made for each egg in the recipe:
- ½ of ripe banana, mashed
- one tablespoon ground flax seed plus three tablespoons water
- ¼ cup blended silken tofu
- ¼ cup soy yogurt
There is also a brand called Ener-G that sells an Egg Replacer sold in some grocery and health food stores as well. Depending on the dish, certain substitutes work better than others; for example, flax seed can be somewhat grainy so is better in muffins, and tofu is better in dense cakes. Bananas are the easiest substitution, but you have to be okay with a slight banana flavor. I personally love bananas, so this particular replacement works well for me in cooking sweet brunch foods.
As for dairy, milk substitutes are readily available. Soy milk is the most accessible. There is a small amount of cross-reactivity between milk and soy (meaning 10 to 15 percent of people are allergic to both), which you can always clarify with the person with the allergy. Other alternatives are almond milk (not appropriate for nut allergy), coconut milk, hemp milk, or rice milk. Some of these may use gluten during processing, so if that is a concern, check the label to ensure it is gluten-free. I used hemp milk for the first time at my brunch and the sweet vanilla-like flavor was an udder hit!
There are several gluten-free products that can also be a substitute for wheat flour when making sweet brunch items so nothing will go a-rye. You can look specifically for “gluten-free” mixes or substitute brown-rice flour, fava bean flour, corn flour or tapioca flour in homemade recipes. I used a mix and used substitutes for egg and milk which worked great. In fact, my gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free banana pancakes were the most popular item on the spread!
If you want to make dishes including eggs (or milk or gluten, respectively) for the rest of your guests that are not allergic, be absolutely sure that there is no contamination of any kind. When cooking the specific dish, focus only on that one dish, do not mix cooking or serving spoons and wash hands and cookware thoroughly before starting on another dish. When serving the dish, a helpful tip is to label the serving spoons with piece of scotch tape so they remain in the dish they are appropriated for. Your food-allergic guests should also be responsible and carry their epinephrine injector with them at all times to be safe.
Good luck and you should be commended for being inclusive of those with food allergies or sensitivities! Feel free to email me for recipe suggestions or other tips.