Holiday Baking Tips Restricted Diets – Gluten Free, Vegan, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Paleo

It can be hard to navigate the holidays at family and community events if you have dietary restrictions and baking for others with restricted diets can be a complete mystery. Following are some general tips on what you can do to make dishes that are just as tasty while satisfying everyone at the table. Often times, we can make substitutes using items that are already in the kitchen. Don’t lose hope! There are so many great recipes online.

Overall Tips for Binding and Fluff in ‘Restricted’ Baking

  1. Baking Powder (esp double acting with four ingredients)
  2. Baking Soda with an acid like Vinegar or Lemon Juice
  3. Add yogurt
  4. Add Applesauce
  5. Add Mashed banana
  6. Add Flaxseed meal
  7. For the holidays… Pumpkin!

Try a google search for ‘Gluten free biscuits with yogurt’ or ‘vegan paleo almond flour muffins’. When you’re trying to find a recipe, look for recipes that are simpler, have natural whole food ingredients, and use at least one of the tricks above.

If you’re looking for an easy way out, Simple Mills does a great job at making delicious baking mixes, pre-made cookies, crackers, and frosting – among other products. They are gluten free and vegan, which means they are also dairy free and egg free.

They use simple ingredients. Here is a list. Notice that they use almost all the ingredients in the binding and fluff tips above! We carry a lot of their products.

Gluten Free

For gluten free, use the above tips to keep Gluten Free goods from being too crumbly or dense. Additionally, eggs and butter really help gluten free! If you’re just starting, stay with simple recipes. Gluten free muffins and zucchini/banana bread are a good place to begin. The mix is wet and recipes contain many ingredients from the binding and fluff list above, they are held in containers so they won’t spread or get weird,  and they are inherently delicious!

Bob’s Red Mill makes a nice variety of gluten free flour mixes, including a 1-to-1 gluten free baking flour that makes it very simple. For a simple, natural option brown rice flour mixed with a buckwheat flour in about a half/half ratio works quite well as ‘all-purpose flour’. Even though they say ‘gluten free’ on it, we suggest never using ONLY tapioca, corn, soy, chickpea, coconut, or arrowroot flour. These are most often used in combination with other flours.

Here’s an example of a great gluten free muffin recipes from This blueberry muffin recipe utilizes Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 flour and is just like normal baking.

If a recipe calls for a small amount of flour for thickening like in gravy and pumpkin pie, a direct substitute of brown rice flour for regular flour can work just fine. For crust, buying a pre-made crust like Mi-Del graham cracker crust is the easiest but it is not impossible to make one! Nut-based crusts are quite successful and can also be vegan and paleo. Here is a generic nut pie crust recipe, choose the nut of your choice!
For stuffing, Sami’s Bakery makes delicious gluten free bread as does Canyon Bakehouse. Baking gluten-free bread at home is a whole other discussion!

Vegan, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Someone who is vegan doesn’t eat animals or animal products which means no meat, fish, milk, eggs, butter, honey. If you don’t have any gluten free people at the table, you can stick to the usual wheat flour. Sometimes using wheat without dairy and butter can leave the baked good tasting a bit like play dough. Vegan recipes really benefit from the tips above as well – using some wet, whole food ingredients brings flavor, moisture needed to keep the recipe from turning into a brick.

For egg free, the above tips for binding and fluff are essential, especially applesauce, mashed banana, and flaxseed meal. There are some commercial egg replacers, such as Ener-G, that can be used as direct substitute for eggs in recipes too.

When making dairy free, canned coconut milk (not lite) can work very well. Many times, milk can be directly substituted for with an alternative. There are many dairy free options on the market. On top of the tastiness chart is Oat Milk. Some people have a dairy insensitivity but may be able to handle butter. Some people can even tolerate Goat Milk. Just ask!
Other times, it is impossible to get the right textures. Here are some specific Vegan/daily and egg free options:

  • Instead of a can of condensed milk in a pumpkin pie, use a can of coconut milk
  • For pudding, consider making an alternative pudding like Avocado Pudding
  • Look for Bittersweet and Dark Chocolate Chips or specifically ‘allergen free’ like Enjoylife Chocolate Chips
  • Oil is your friend! Grapeseed Oil and Avocado Oil are great, healthy alternatives that don’t have a strong taste and are more stable under high temperatures. Coconut Oil is a very versatile oil. Palm Oil and Shortening give great results, but have environmental implications – if you are concerned, look for sustainably sourced palm oil.


Those on a Paleo diet strive to eat more like Paleolithic humans may have eaten. It is a more restricted Whole Foods diet. Paleo diets include meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, lard. Paleo avoid grains, legumes, most dairy products, processed and refined foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners and vegetable oils.

Some paleo people will eat baked goods and products, while others remain on an entirely whole food diet. It’s good to ask someone what they prefer if you can.

Here’s a muskegon local who makes great Paleo and Vegan recipes: Realfoodwithjessica. Jessica also covers Whole30 and low fodmap diets! She has a lot of great Holiday Recipes. Nuts are key in many Paleo recipes – including Almond Flour. Check out these Paleo Vegan Chocolate Turtles!