Cookbook Lineup: Top Seven for Allergy-Friendly Cooking

Cookbook Lineup: Top 7 for Allergy-Friendly Cooking


The Internet is a wonderful place to find recipes but let's face it, there's something about a good cookbook that will never go out of style. It's even liberating, to see those ingredients and steps in print we don't have to squint to read. Then there's the visceral experience of flipping the pages, savoring the photos, pausing to admire a particular dish. You just can't get that online. Add all that to a cookbook you find yourself returning to again and again and it's a no-brainer: you've got a keeper (like passing-it-on-to-future-generations-keeper) on your hands.


One truth we all need to celebrate: we don't need to give up anything eating allergy-friendly. I have a strong sense of gratitude, actually, to have access to such a variety and bounty of foods. And I'm equally awed by all the very innovative and creative ways people are transforming "standard" meals into allergy-friendly ones. Yet I didn't start out eating Autoimmune Paleo (which is how I largely eat today). I began just removing gluten and dairy. Fast forward several years and I moved to Paleo. And it was another year still before I found Autoimmune Paleo. 

Wherever you are on your journey, having a good cookbook by your side can be a downright lifesaver. Below, I have compiled a list of my favorite cookbooks (I'm sure there are more but focusing on seven here), in print form. Any one will help you to discover delicious, simple and budget friendly recipes. These cookbooks run the gamut, from simply gluten free to Paleo to Autoimmune Paleo. Many of us are in different places along our food journey and my goal is to reflect that here.

Here's to making allergy-friendly totally accessible!

Note: These are not in order, best to worst or anything like that. All are considered top-selling cookbooks and I believe they each have something special or unique to offer.

1. Primal Cravings: Your favorite foods Made Paleo, by Megan McCullough Keatley and Brandon Keatley


This large cookbook contains over 125 Paleo recipes. This is for hearty eaters - many recipes will feed a crowd, and many feature meals that can be easily doubled if need be. The sub title says it all -dishes such as "swedish meatloaf", "chicken fingers" and "philly stuffed peppers" recall familiar meals from pre-Paleo days. Even desserts are chock-full of favorites - missing your apple pie? Chocolate Chip cookies? All are here, and much much more. One caveat is that butter is often featured, so this book might not be a go-to if you're avoiding dairy.

The pictures, like the one on the front, are all big, and the recipes themselves are big too, often for large crowds. You could easily do bulk cooking with this cookbook, though it's not marketed that way.

Written by a husband-wife team with backgrounds in nutrition and cooking means you get nuanced, exciting dishes paired with a nutritionally-sound foundation. The cookbook opens with a conversational explanation of basic Paleo principles and personal backgrounds that led to embracing the Paleo lifestyle. 

Published by Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint Publishing lets you know this one has one of the Primal / Paleo's founding leader's stamp of approval. Overall, this one's a great choice if you aren't avoiding dairy and looking to create old favorites.

2. The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, by America's Test Kitchen
                                   

Wish I'd had this when I first started gluten-free, instead of just diving in! It would have certainly saved me a ton of time getting to the best-tasting way to use gf ingredients. This cookbook is like a crash course on going gluten free. It certainly covers more on the topic than any blog post I've read.

It begins by explaining how gluten flour functions, an excellent base for then sharing substitutions and finds only discovered through much testing. Before you get to a single recipe you'll find comparison lists for gluten free flour blends and store-bought bread. (One interesting side-note: Bob's Red Mill GF flour blend is accused of tasting "beany" because of the garbanzo bean flour. I haven't found that to be the case, as I've used it for most all of my gf recipes, and have never heard my testers make mention of it.) There is a great deal of useful information here, including the importance of weighing GF flour, why xanthan gum is important, and tips to help gluten free flour work its best. There's an entire troubleshooting  list for problems like unwanted textures or gummy baked goods.

As the front cover suggests, this is primarily a baking book. While there are main dish recipes, the focus is on baked goods of all varieties including of course desserts. If gluten is your only allergen or concern then this is absolutely the cookbook for you. But, even if you can't have dairy, which is heavily featured, this is still worth a check-out at your local library, just for learning how to eat well gluten-free.

3. Against All Grain, by Danielle Walker
                                   

There's a reason this is considered by many to be THE definitive Paleo cookbook. And maybe because, like myself, she has suffered from autoimmune disease, I find this cookbook compelling from the get-go. Walker opens with a compelling, emotional story of what brought her to Paleo, including her near death experience while in Uganda on a humanitarian trip. Very moving.

Unlike the textbook-style used by How Can it Be Gluten Free, or just text-heavy style in Primal Cravings, Against all Grain uses clever visuals and bullet lists - bite-sized descriptions of what is and is not Paleo. It feels playful; from her call to "experiment" to the fun, hip food layouts. Also unlike the two above, dairy is not prominently featured. And of course, I can't help but drool over all of the eye-popping, flavorful treat options: peach streussel coffee cake, anyone?

Recipes range the gamut of cuisines. Asian, Greek, Spanish - it's all featured here. And while she highlights beloved favorites like cauliflower rice and roasted chicken, there's plenty of exotic dishes: mango poke stack, featuring mango and poblano peppers mixed with ahi tuna, is one particularly colorful option.

Expect to see lots of dishes featuring nuts here. And while basic ingredients are used throughout, she also sprinkles in more lavish items here and there. It's all good!

Highly recommend this one. I definitely need it in my kitchen. It's fun, playful and chock-full of deliciousness!

4. The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, by Mickey Trescott, NTP


This one has been a lifesaver for me, and for many who want ways to eat well with autoimmune disease (and heal as well!). It is not going too far to call this the Bible cookbook for AIP. If you're unfamiliar, AIP is the Paleo diet with additional items removed, like eggs, nuts, nightshades, and certain spices (this is not the exhaustive list). In a nutshell: foods like the ones mentioned can be inflammatory for those with autoimmune disease and by removing them, the gut gets the time it needs to heal. The diet is flexible in the sense that it can be treated as an elimination diet (and there are detailed ways to reintroduce off-limit foods) or eaten for the long haul. Many go in and out of it, depending on circumstances like stress levels or illness. 

But here's the beautiful thing: AIP is completely full of wonderful, delicious, tantalizing dishes. No need to feel deprived here! Instead, what this cookbook presents is a bounty. 

Because AIP, for many, is uncharted territory, Trescott opens with plenty of helpful information. Not pages and pages; everything is concise and short: ancestral diets explained, AIP overview, lists of foods to avoid and include. Because healing takes not just diet but lifestyle, she makes sure to include the importance of gentle, appropriate exercise and stress management. 

One of the best features, aside from the food, are the complete four-week meal plans and shopping lists, something the other cookbooks don't include. And the food is delicious in its simplicity. Trescott purposely made multiple dishes simple to make, understanding the importance to eat nutrient dense without complicated or long recipes. There are a whole host of creative yet simple sauces and dressings and dips to spice up various dishes - the coconut mayo is among my favorite - and while you've got your roast chicken and roasted veggies, there are also more elaborate meals for special days, like clam chowder or cranberry-braised short ribs. There is a short "sweets" section - cran-apple crumble, macaroons, and a torte top the list for most-drool worthy.

Expect to find plenty of coconut featured here in the dressings, treats and sauces, but the prominent and effortless vegetable and meat dishes balance that out. A wonderful cookbook - can't recommend it highly enough for anyone dealing with autoimmune disease, or really any illness. It is designed to heal through nutrient dense food - and it succeeds.   

5. Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans, by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong 


Dubbed the "Martha Stewart of Paleo", Michelle Tam's first cookbook, born out of her very successful blog, presents a feast for the eyes and tastebuds. And, unlike the others in our roundup, Nom Nom Paleo feels like way more than a place to find delicious meal ideas. Her family, culinary heritage, and clever writing are also front and center, right alongside with the recipes. It's clear that, for Tam, cooking is deeply connected with family and a love of the process. It's no wonder: from her mom, who Tam says she could never match in the kitchen, to her sister, who has cooked for some of the best San Fran restaurants, it's clear Tam comes from a culinary family.

Still, her love for "the lazy", as she puts it, means these dishes are anything but fussy. And I just love how her personality (read: fun) comes through in every dish: she admonishes, she opines, she cartoons! (When was the last time you saw cartoon strips in a cookbook?) 

You've got all your basics here (mayo, roasted kale chips, dressings dips and guac) but she puts a spin on them all (apple in the guac, roasted mushrooms swapped for potatoes, roasted rosemary almonds). If you're not drooling yet it's because you aren't yet looking at the pictures. They are up close but not overwhelming - and they frequently feature the unique ingredients or steps needed, not just the finished product (also unlike the others featured here). 

The chapters build from building blocks to nibbles and end with meat. Although there is a treat section following, it is short, and Tam doesn't make it a secret: after living with sugar-addiction for so long, it's a welcome - and necessary - change to limit those sugar-laden options.

This is a must, not just for the Paleo kitchen, but any (unless you have an egg allergy - egg has an entire chapter devoted to it, and also appears elsewhere). Dishes don't rely on nuts or flours, but hearty meat, seafood, vegetables - perfect for anyone looking to create satisfying meals.

6. Paleo Cooking from Elana's Pantry: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes, by Elana Amsterdam


Slim and compact (with just under 120 pages, compared to Nom Nom Paleo at over 250), this cookbook features a little bit of everything. Much will be familiar here - dishes made Paleo, like coffee cake, breakfast sausage, mint chip ice cream. There is a great deal focused on dough / breads / non-grain grain-alikes, so this cookbook is perfect for the baker / dessert maker. It's also great for anyone looking to make-over non-Paleo favorites like Lo Mein, Pad Thai, or brownies.

Like Primal Cravings and How Can it Be, this is text-heavy, but perhaps even more so - only recipes that start each new section feature a picture. If you like to see pictures or steps of your recipes, this won't be the cookbook for you. But if you're looking to transform traditional American foods and / or want something easily transportable, this is one you will enjoy!

7. Practical Paleo, 2nd Edition (Updated and Expanded): A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, by Diane Sanfilippo


If Chris Kresser and Robb Wolf are two patriarchs of the Paleo movement, Diane Sanfilippo could be considered one of (or maybe "the"?) matriarchs. So it's no wonder that roughly half of her 400+ page cookbook is focused on education and information. Before she gets to a single recipe, she gives you detailed (though never excessive or tedious) information about the whys behind the Paleo diet. It is wonderful to read, even for sold-out enthusiasts, because a, it's a refresher course and b, it reminds you WHY you chose this diet in the first place. Not because you want to eat a lot more meat. Because you want - and must - heal. Sanfilippo breaks down the misinformation within the USDA Food Guide Pyramid, gives tips for shopping, travel tips, supplements, and lists of meal plans according to illness. It's an amazing - and truly necessary - Paleo compendium. 

Recipes here are practical but not lacking in any creativity or variety. There are numerous interesting, unique dishes, like asian orange pan-seared scallops or lamb lettuce boats with avo-ziki sauce. Greek dishes make multiple appearances here (unlike Nom Nom Paleo), even in the treat section (ever seen tahini truffles before?? me either, before this cookbook!). 

Of all the cookbooks featured here, this one is indeed the most practical cookbook for those setting out into the Paleo lifestyle, in large part because of the educational aspect. Truly, when we understand the "why" behind our dietary decisions, we are more motivated, more engaged, and more committed to the process of making scratch-made food a priority. 

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