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…


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,