When you consider the vegan food scene, it’s hard not to miss that nuts are included in quite a few popular plant-based foods—almond milk, cashew cream, nut-based cheeses, and peanut and other nut butters, to name just a few. That’s great, unless, of course, tree nuts or peanuts cause your body to go into full-on attack mode (or worse, anaphylactic shock) because of a nut allergy.
But seriously, it’s the 21st century, so don’t throw away your golden ticket to Club Vegan just yet. It’s totally possible to save nearly 200 animals per year and be a happy, healthy vegan with a nut allergy, or any food allergy for that matter—and it’s easier than you might think.
Important note: If you have an allergy, always check the ingredients and allergen information thoroughly on any product before consuming it. Even if a product was previously found to be nut-free, companies can change their ingredients or manufacturing process at any time (or those can vary based on region), so no matter what you read online (here or elsewhere!), always check for allergen safety before consuming anything—and check with a doctor before consuming new foods. Allergies are serious and potentially life-threatening, so you obviously have to take them seriously.
Peanuts vs. Tree Nuts
Despite their name, peanuts are actually legumes (go figure), but they’re still one of the most common allergens. Tree nuts include most other nuts—almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, and others. Some people actually have allergies to both tree nuts and peanuts, so we’re including both here. If you have an allergy to only one of the two—excellent. You’ll have more options.
If you have a nut allergy, you’re no doubt already a pro when it comes to reading nutritional information on packages. That skill will come in handy, because reading labels to ensure that a product is vegan will be a walk in the park for you. Just look out for animal-derived ingredients as you also check for allergen safety.
Now, let’s talk about what we came here for: food.
If you’re looking at vegan whole foods, you’ll find that a lot of them are already safe for you to eat. You can eat fruits and veggies; grains such as rice, pasta, quinoa, and oats; protein-packed legumes like beans and lentils; and delicious staples such as tofu, tempeh, and seitan, which are often packaged in nut allergy–friendly facilities.
Seeds are protein-dense, nutrient-rich powerhouses that are filled with healthy fats. They taste like nuts and have a similar texture. The following seeds are awesome replacements for nuts:
- Sesame seeds have more calcium than any other nut or seed—no dairy “products” (or nuts) necessary. The seeds themselves are great, but when they’re ground into a creamy, savory butter—called tahini—they’re arguably even better.
- Sunflower seeds are packed with iron, vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats—and they’re comparable to cashews in their versatility of form and flavor. You can turn them into sunflower butter (which is delicious) or even use them in recipes to make vegan cheeses, creamy sauces, and so much more. Take that, cashews.
- Pumpkin seeds have more zinc (which helps keep your immune system healthy) than any other nut or seed—plus, they’re delicious. Eat them as a snack, sprinkle them on your salad, or toss them into a smoothie.
- Chia, flax, and hemp seeds are versatile superfoods that are chock-full of nutrients. Use them in a morning smoothie, or add them to an oatmeal or vegan yogurt for a nutritional boost.
Instead of almond or cashew drinks, opt for soy, rice, coconut (which is actually a fruit, not a tree nut), hemp, pea, or oat beverages. As always, check the labels to ensure that products are made on nut-free equipment (depending on the severity of your allergy), because some brands make all types of vegan beverages.
You’ll obviously want to avoid all vegan cheeses made from nuts (there are quite a few cashew varieties on the market)—but there are plenty of completely nut-free vegan options available. Check out nut-free brand Daiya, along with Follow Your Heart and Chao Creamery.
Being a nut-free vegan doesn’t mean that you have to cook every meal from scratch. This is supposed to be easy. So get out your toaster oven for some easy-to-heat, nut-free meals.
American Flatbread Vegan Harvest frozen pizza is everything that a nut-free vegan dreams of.
Snacks and Treats
Obviously, you’ll want to avoid the trail mix and nutty granola bars—but that doesn’t mean that snacks are out. There are tons of allergy-friendly snack options that are nut-free by default, and more companies (such as Enjoy Life) than ever are dedicated to making allergen-free foods.
Steer clear of almond-, peanut butter–, or cashew-based dips, and stick to products such as SunButter, The Sneaky Chef’s Creamy and Chocolate No Nut Butters, Tribe Hummus, Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, and Follow Your Heart Pesto Vegenaise Gourmet.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface. There are so many delicious vegan foods that are free of tree nuts and peanuts, so no one—no matter what their allergy—has to support cruel industries that abuse and slaughter animals.
Keep reading those labels, and in the meantime, check out our guide to going vegan in three easy steps.