Q&A: I Want to Eat Paleo but I’m Allergic to Nuts and Coconut

Here’s a question that’s becoming increasingly more common, due to the growing number of diagnosed tree nut allergies…

Nut Allergy Warning

My wife and I are looking at starting the Paleo Diet.  But the recipes seem to have different forms of tree nuts to them.  I see coconut (oil, water, milk), Almonds, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Macadamia Nut and Walnuts.

As you can see, someone that may be allergic to nuts and coconut may not be able to follow these recipe plans or may not be able to do more complex meals, drinks, lunches or desserts. What do you recommend for basic substitutes for these items and without missing taste?  Can you help two big people in love?


Hi Pedro,

Having allergies to nuts and coconut may make things a little more challenging, but it’s definitely possible to enjoy a very tasty Paleo lifestyle even with those constraints. I don’t eat nuts either because I’m sensitive to them, and there have been times when I haven’t eaten much coconut at all, so I know that it’s doable!

Here are my suggestions for substitutions for coconut.

  • Coconut oil – olive oil, bacon grease, tallow, duck fat, lard
  • Coconut milk – often you can sub it out with avocado, bananas, another oil, applesauce, or some combination of those in baking recipes
  • Coconut flakes – any kind of seed will do.
  • Coconut flour – try sweet potato flour or tapioca flour. You can do a LOT with tapioca flour and it’s pretty cheap. There’s also plantain flour, potato flour, flax meal, arrowroot flour, sunflower seed flour, pumpkin seed flour, and simply pureéd veggies. I’ve made brownies using a base of pumpkin pureé :)

The Paleo Mom (www.thepaleomom.com) has a really great blog post called “The Science and Art of Paleofying – Part 1 Paleo Flours” on all the different Paleo flours, how they’re used, and what they taste like. It’s an awesome post.

Here are my suggestions for substitutions for nuts. 

Instead of grabbing a handful of nuts like a lot of Paleo-goers do, just eat some meat and avocado. Or grab a piece of fruit. Or eat some unsweetened applesauce and some jerky. Here’s a list of 11 snacks that are nut-free from a recent blog post of mine. Instead of almond flour, eat any of the flours I listed above. Instead of almond butter, eat sunflower butter. Instead of nuts, eat seeds.  

Why I Don’t Miss Nuts

Nuts are a quick, easy, portable snack for sure. But really, I don’t miss them. I think they’re dangerously easy to overeat, and their snackability can hinder people’s weight loss. Handful after handful of nuts means thousands of calories that never really even filled me up. Plus, they’re often the culprit in people’s gut pains (me), skin problems (me), or joint inflammation (also me). I see it a lot, so I say good riddance, nuts! I hate you anyway! Just kidding. If I could eat nuts I totally would.

Anyway, all of this is going to take some experimentation.

You’re going to need to try out some of those different flours, peruse some recipes online (like ours here), try out some new foods, and see what works with your lifestyle and taste preferences.

In fact, the only reason I know even somewhat how to answer this question is because I’ve spent so much time experimenting (read: failing) with foods myself due to my various food sensitivities and dietary proclivities.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have sucked in the kitchen trying new things. For instance, I can’t make good muffins or bread or cookies, or, well, most baked goods using only tapioca flour OR only coconut flour. It just. doesn’t. work. 

But I can say that I’ve been completely surprised on many occasions when a substitution actually did work. Like when I used a ridiculous quantity of coconut oil (several cups) in a muffin experiment because I didn’t have any other liquid in the house.


Or when I used bacon grease instead of coconut oil in a cookie recipe.


So have fun, be creative, dare to go where you think no man or woman has gone before, and be prepared to waste a little bit of food.

If you do all that, you will get really good at this Paleo-without-tree-nuts thing pretty quickly. Oh, and remember there are so many recipes out there for people with the same issue as you. The Paleo Mom once again comes through for us with some great recipes that are nut free here:

Please keep me updated on how it goes!

Very kindly,


  1. They could always go Primal and use dairy in place of nuts and coconut–I myself am allergic to most nuts, and dairy as well.

  2. Try Maya Nut, its a wild harvested rainforest seed that was a staple food for the early Maya and other hunter-gatherer cultures. its not a true nut and is not allergenic. we sell it on our website, and also a paleo cake mix. Maya Nuts are sold ground into a roasted powder, use in smoothies, baking and meat rubs.

  3. I know its not true paleo, but my substitution is gluten free oats. I am allergic to tree nuts, coconut, and seeds! I grind it into flour and make milk out of it. Oats can be equally sub’ed for nuts any recipes. And the milk replaces both dairy or coconut milk.

  4. I Love using coconut oil to make cookies. However, this time of year with all of the humidity, I find that my nice crisp cookies quickly turn into limp blobs. Do you have any advice on how to keep this from happening?

    Thanks, Carol

  5. I’m thinking about trying the paleo diet but we are allergic to coconuts and almonds. Is there any substitute for coconut flour for baking? Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Mary Lou Ruiz,
      Coconut flour is very dense and absorbs a lot of water. You can use any other type of flour as a substitute but you may have to decrease the liquid in your recipe by up to 1/3 the amount. Tapioca flour, flaxseed meal and sunflower seed meal are all common substitutes for coconut flour but other flours such as sweet potato flour, plantain flour and arrowroot flour can work depending on what flavors and textures you’re looking for in a particular recipe. As the post suggests, even pureed vegetables can become the base of baked products. The key is adjusting the amount of liquid and you might have to experiment a bit to get this right. Almonds and coconut are popular staples on the Paleo diet but they are definitely not required! With a few substitutions, any recipe is possible and I encourage you to give Paleo a try. Keep in touch as we are here to help!

  6. Thanks for the discussion and I created facebook community page for people like me

    I’m allergic to tree nut and coconut and eat the paleo way

    I changed most recipes to not use flours, milks and oils from tree nuts and coconuts

    I use sweet potato flour,buckwheat flour,flax seed meal and tapioca flour to sub for nut flours. I use grass fed butter or ghee instead of the nut oils or coconut oils. For the nut and coconut milk I use flax seed milk, hemp milk and some others

  7. I see the substitutions that you have above, but I’m a type two diabetic allergic to nuts. Are there any Paleo recipes that do not involve nuts or eggs?

    1. We do have some recipes that are nut free. If you search for Nut free recipes, there are a bunch that come up.

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