Tips for Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Living: Challenge #1 SF DF GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

One thing that strikes me repeatedly is that while living gluten-free can be challenging, living gluten-free with additional allergies or intolerance is even more difficult. Upon diagnosis, many Celiacs are lactose intolerant because their villi (with those lactose digesting tips) have been damaged by the body’s response to gluten. Thus it is often recommended that new Celiacs refrain from consuming dairy (especially anything containing lactose) for at least the first six months after diagnosis. Issues with dairy often resolve as the body heals, but some have trouble with Casein, the protein in milk, or continue to be lactose intolerant. Among my gluten-intolerant friends, many of them have complex allergies and intolerances that make things even more complicated, such as eggs, corn, beans, nuts, shellfish, and perhaps most difficult of all, SOY. In recent years there has been a fair amount of negative press about soy, perhaps to counter-balance all the positive press back when it was thought to be the next, best cure for the world’s health problems. It seems like no matter what food you study, it turns out (shocker) that anything in too large of a quantity may have an effect on your body- with some positive effects, and some negative. I try not to worry about it too much, especially with foods that humans have been consuming successfully for centuries. However, whatever you think about the media hype surrounding soy- one fact remains… and that is that soy is a major allergen. In fact, it is required by both American and Japanese labeling laws to be marked on foods as one of the “great eight” allergens. And perhaps because of this, I know quite a few people that have trouble with the soy-monster. I say soy monster because both out of an interest in exploiting the positive hype surrounding soy in recent years, many companies began adding soy to their products. The food industry has also quietly been adding soy additives and derivatives to their products for years, interested by the low cost of soy as well as its versatility in products as diverse as vegetable oil, mayonnaise, margarine, chocolate, salad dressings, cookies, crackers, and fried foods. I don’t quite understand the extent to which American processed food companies stuff their products with difficult-to-pronounce and weird ingredients that no home cook would ever find in their kitchen- but apparently all these additives and strange ingredients add shelf life life and “flavor” to products. If they say so, but personally I find it more than a little creepy. The prevalence of soy in all of these products is really becoming more than a little alarming- and I’m very sorry to say that it makes life very difficult for my friends with soy-intolerance. Actually, even my non-Celiac mother is allergic to soy and has trouble in restaurants or even eating at people’s houses because that sneaky devil soy manages to creep in all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect. At a recent meeting of our Celiac Bay Area Support Group, we had an “allergen-free” themed dinner in honor of our Allergy-boy hosting the party as well as another woman who has recently found she is sensitive to all forms of soy, including soy lecithin. (Just try finding a tasty candy-bar without THAT little ingredient… DOH.) As I thought about what dishes to bring, I found myself confronting all sorts of unexpected hurdles. I really wanted to bring chocolate chip cookies, but my friend MARGARINE was no longer my friend as every brand I could find contained SOY PROTEIN or SOY LECITHIN or some other evil soy-derivative. (Butter was out because MILK is also an allergen.) And of course, chocolate chips almost always contain SOY LECITHIN as well, so it seemed like a lost cause. Luckily, some sectors of the food industry has noticed the need for gluten-free, soy-free (and other allergen-free) foods, and has stepped up with a few products that make life a little easier for the gluten-free, soy-free consumer. Over the next month or so, we’ll be featuring some of these gluten-free, soy-free products and sharing some great GF SF recipes with you in a series of GLUTEN-FREE, SOY-FREE CHALLENGES!

This week’s gluten-free, soy-free challenge is the CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE. One unexpected problem arises when you try to do soy-free and dairy-free baking, especially cookie recipes. Many cookies call for either butter or margarine. Butter contains dairy (although it is low in lactose), and most, if not all margarines contain soy. What to do? You can try to replace the fat with a combination of applesauce and olive or canola oil, but I’ve had mixed success with cooking oil substitutions. Vegetable oil or blends often contain soy ingredients, complicating the issue. However, Alton Brown showed us that shortening makes a perfectly delicious puffy cookie. Why?

“Shortening melts at a higher temperature than butter so it remains solid longer giving the batter time to rise and set before it spreads. Hah. Increasing the ratio of brown to white sugar also creates a more tender cookie.” (Transcript of Alton’s Cookie episode)

When I had to make an allergen-free cookie, I started looking for a good gluten-free cookie recipe using shortening. I like Spectrum Natural’s Organic Shortening without any trans fats and no soy oil. I recently bought Annalise Roberts’ book Gluten-Free Baking Classicsand found her recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies using shortening. This recipe was also published in Gourmet magazine, so you can see it too! I used Ener-g Foods egg replacer for the eggs to make it egg free. For those who are severely allergic to soy and can’t even have soy lecithin, Enjoy Life chocolate chips is the perfect (if rather pricey) solution that always wins raves. I shared my GF SF (and EF,DF) cookies with my Celiac SF Bay support group (many of whom have multiple allergies) and they were very popular. My non-GF DH also enjoyed them, although he prefers those made with butter or margarine. I froze the dough in logs at least one day before baking them because I find that the texture improves and they spread out less, although this isn’t so much of a problem with a cookie made with shortening. I then cut them into rounds, toss them in the oven, and have some delicious cookies. This is a good way to prevent an attack of the cookie monster… I have a pretty unlimited hunger for cookies and DH and I WILL eat way more than is good for us if they’re baked and looking all enticing on the counter. One other plus? An egg-free cookie dough tastes darned good even uncooked, and can be used for a homemade gluten-free cookie-dough ice cream. Mmmmm… Just sub in an alternative milk if dairy is an issue. :)

Looking for a pre-made frozen GF cookie dough or GF cookie tips? Read this post!

Here’s a list of my favorite gluten-free, soy-free BAKING INGREDIENTS:

Spectrum Organic Shortening is relatively easy to find in health food stores, and is trans fat free as well as dairy and soy free. It’s an excellent ingredient for baking and has a pleasant, if rather bland flavor. Make sure to boost flavor elements of your recipe, and you may also find it helpful to add high protein ingredients (almond meal, bean flour, or yogurt if not dairy-free) to your recipe to improve texture of final product.

Pam’s for Grilling seems to be the only non-stick cooking spray without that ol’ popular soy lecithin. Make sure to check the label before you buy as the formula could change at any time. I like to use nonstick cooking spray for grilling (especially this variety) and also for bread pans. I usually spray the pan and then dust it with flour or cornmeal before adding the dough and letting the bread rise. DO NOT use this kind of spray on nonstick cooking surfaces like fry pans, as it will ruin your finish. Trusts me on this one.

Mother’s Margarine is actually dairy AND soy-free. The catch? It seems to only be available during Passover. Doh. I suppose you could order it in bulk and then stock up in season… Here’s a detailed article on this margarine. Apparently there was a Passover Margarine Shortage in 2008, and there are rumors that Mother’s Margarine may have discontinued their product. Please share any links you have if you have more information on this…

Coconut oil is another interesting dairy-free, soy-free oil for baking. I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my experiments so far, but I think that this oil is promising and I know many gluten-free bakers who use it successfully. Here’s an intriguing recipe for gluten-free, soy free brownies using coconut oil.

These dairy, soy, and gluten-free chocolate chips have become legendary at our Celiac support group meetings. Turns out soy doesn’t really add anything in terms of FLAVOR to chocolate chips, and these little chocolate chips are delicious for snacking as well as in chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately they are a little pricey. Sigh. I usually buy them at Whole Foods, but you can also buy them online at Allergy Grocery. If you find the price of these chips prohibitive, you can also find chocolate chips for Passover that are both dairy and soy-free.

When I made my recent gluten-free, soy-free eclairs for a friend, I was having trouble getting a nice glaze from the Enjoy Life chocolate chips, so I added some Bakers Unsweetened Baking Chocolate which is ONLY chocolate and contains no soy (or dairy, for that matter). It did help the recipe. This isn’t a good snacking chocolate, but it can be used for chocolate sauces.

Breads from Anna are popular gluten-free, soy-free (DF, EF etc) bread mixes that I haven’t had a chance to try yet…

Namaste Foods is another popular gluten-free mix company with products that are also free of soy, corn, potato, dairy, and nuts. Once you pick your favorites, you can get a good price online through Amazon (below).

Share any GF cookie baking tips OR your favorite soy-free products in the comments!

Coming Soon Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Living Challenge #2 Chinese Stir Fries without SOY SAUCE but with LOTS OF FLAVOR!

For now, check out Soy-free recipes at the Book of Yum
Cool gluten-free, soy-free (and other allergen-free ) recipes at Elanas Pantry
Soy-free recipes at Gluten-Free Goodness
Recipes at the Gluten-Free Soy-Free Vegan
Soy-Free Gluten-Free recipes at Cindalous Kitchen Blues*note margarine, and substitute accordingly

Have any other favorite gluten-free, soy-free blogs? Tell me and I’ll add them to the list!

*Don’t forget to Adopt-a-gluten-free-blogger! Deadline: Sep 8!

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22 Responses to “Tips for Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Living: Challenge #1 SF DF GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe”

  1. Hey Sea,
    thanks for the soy free love and the mention! I would have to say that avoiding soy and corn in pre-prepared products are even harder than avoiding gluten, dairy and eggs. It won’t help now, but all kosher for passover foods are soy free (and corn free, too!), so I stock up big time.

  2. Oh, and Karina’s blog and Sally’s are among my favorite soy free blogs

  3. This is GREAT information! I’ll pass it along! Your cookies look wonderfully delicious!

  4. Just read that Mother’s Margarine isn’t being made anymore – the company thought it wasn’t worth the effort…too bad…

  5. It’s already been mentioned above by Cheryl, but I’ll expound: Legumes are a no-no on Passover if you are of eastern European descent. As such, it’s a great time to fill the freezer with lecithin-free chocolate (I have a huge baking bar…not soy-free myself, so I’ll use it next Passover!) If you go to the Kosher section make sure to check the ingredients twice on anything that says it has “Kitnyot”–this means the side-stuff like corn, rice & legumes may be present for those of Spanish origin who eat those three items.

    Also, there are many who will not eat cooked foods made with matzoh meal during Passover (basically, they say if you cook matzoh twice, you’re cooking it for too long). So many baked goods are going to be made with potato starch and nut meals. I stock up on florentine cookies, pound cake-type cakes, and blintzes during Passover! I try to skip the rest, as I end up hoarding it but not eating it! Plus, lots of trans-fats…

    So funny that a wheat-allergy has led to me feeling completely indulgent every Passover instead of deprived!

  6. Hi Cheryl, You are so welcome! I knew I left out some soy-free gluten-free goddesses in there; thanks for reminding me!

    Larraine- I’m glad this was helpful to you! Have a great day.

    Tam- that’s a shame! Do you happen to have a URL with the article? I found something on a shortage but nothing directly saying Mother’s was discontinuing it- I probably just didn’t find the right page. It seems like there is a real need for this kind of product so I hope it’s not the case… But, alas, I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised if it were discontinued. Sigh. Yet another good product bites the dust!

    Stephanie, Thanks for sharing that wonderful information. Seems like no matter what we do or where we shop, we have to read labels, heh heh. Very good tip on the “kitnyot” label. Mmm, GF blintzes and pound cake sound lovely!


  7. This could not have come at a better time, thank you so much! I had been wondering how much soy lecithin I could get away with. I just found some coconut milk yogurt at wegmans I am excited to try. Kelleen

  8. Sea,
    Those cookie look great! Sorry it has taken me so long to comment, I saw them and loved your post here awhile ago! I love your blog and the addition of some soy-free recipes and support from you will definitely enhance the community. Your recipes and exotic flair always looks enticing and appetizing, but I had to omit many selections/recipes since I can’t do soy. I’ll try these cookies though, thanks :)

  9. Sea, Wonderful post! I’ve recently discovered your blog and am having a wonderful time catching up. I’m gluten-free, soy-free, nightshade-free, almost everything else-free, and I really appreciated your insight into the soy phenomenon. I find it much harder to avoid soy than gluten…sigh. Anyhow, I wanted to tell you I’m really enjoying your blog, and would dearly love to be added to your blogroll! My site is Cheers! ~Li

  10. HI SS:

    I don’t like the additives in ready-made chips either, so I usually use good-quality unsweetened baking chocolate. It _is_ expensive in the store, but it goes a long way because it’s concentrated and has good strength of flavour. I take one or two squares and then simply shave it into chunks of the right size with a knife. Takes about 1 minute and they taste much better than the chips, melt better too.

    I’m going to try the recipe and I’ll let you know what I think.

    You went to Japan?????? I’ve been looking for the post about it but can’t find it. Wishing for a monthly archives list so I could easily check. :)

  11. Hey there VegJ,
    That’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing it. I haven’t really posted about Japan yet (!!!) because I’m so behind with posts, but yup, I went this summer. I have a monthly archive but it’s a pain to navigate- just gives you two posts because that’s what I have the blog set to regularly. That’s actually been on the DH’s “to do” list for ages now, but I have trouble getting him to sit down and fix it. We both have too many projects! lol
    Great to see you!


  12. Thank You. I was diagnosed with a soy-allergy and wheat allergy last fall. Within 10 minutes of eating anything with soy, including lecithin, I am very sick. Any information is very helpful.

  13. I love your blog and I forwarded the link to it to a friend of mine a while back who wrote a book titled, “The Hidden Dangers of Soy”. For those of you who are not aware, soy allergies are not the only problems with soy. As I understand it, there is a naturally occurring compound in soy that acts like estrogen in the body that can be quite a problem. I first heard about this when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer over 20 years ago and was told that her cancer was the type that feeds on estrogen. She was told by her doctor that it was probably a good idea for her to avoid soy back then. She is a cancer survivor, thank God, but believes she is also allergic to soy and gets very ill every time she has ever eaten it. Everyone here is so right about it being almost impossible to avoid though, especially here in the United States. It seems like every processed product you check has it in it and, also from what I understand, most soy is genetically modified these days too, which bothers me as well. Thank you so much for what you do with this blog!

  14. Thank goodness for the internet and the fact that this article is still searchable! I haven’t been GF, SF for a whole year yet, but really having a hard time finding the ingredients necessary to make all of my old favorite baked goods. Now, I have a renewed excitement for living a more natural GF/SF life! And my children will be happy that I will be baking again as well!

  15. Little Debbie Says:

    I’m very new with this gluten, soy, egg, shellfish, potatoe free diet….I have been a junk food junky but have notice alot of problems health wise going on.Finally I have answers and found this website is going to be my new best friend. Thank-you for all your posts, VERY HELPFUL.

  16. I have just been diagnosed with allergies to Almonds, wheat, barley, the whole dairy thing, cranberry, eggs, soy, and other things. I was at a lost of what to eat. It is good to see there are others dealing with the same problems. I feel less alone. It is good to see the support out there. Keep this site going.

  17. Earth Balance makes a soy-free buttery spread that is quite good.

  18. I was just diagnosed with gluten, soy, & egg allergies. And was recommended not to eat dairy as well. This is very overwhelming, but sites like this are so very helpful. Thank you for this website & everyone’s posts.

  19. I was wondering if there are any vitamins missing when you go on a gluten, soy, diary, egg free diet? My son felt great when we took the offending foods out of his diet. 2 years later he seems to be having more trouble concentrating, fatigued and harder time learning. Just the opposite effect from changing his diet. He has always been a great student. We have been giving him a multi-vitamin that seems to be tolerable and vitamin D drops. Is there a vitamin made specifically for teenagers with a diet restricitions?

    We have found the most chain restaurants are listing food allergens on the internet. So when he has to travel he knows the “best” choices to make at these restaurants. It isn’t always 100% but it helps lessen the reaction.
    It would be helpful to have a single website or app for his ipod that listed choices available.

    I have always wondered what it means when products list natural flavours on their ingredients list?

    Thank you for the cooking tips. Even though I have cooked my whole life. Learning to use these new ingredients is learning to cook all over again. What a great cooking show that would make.

  20. Hi Tracey,
    Gluten has no special nutritional value, so it is more a question of what vitamins might be in the whole grain gluten ingredients vs. the gluten-free versions. Gluten products are often “enriched” with things like thiamin and folate, but a healthy gluten-free diet with whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, sorghum etc.) can be very nutritious. Any nutritional issues from removing eggs and soy would be mostly relevant to a vegetarian diet- many soy products are highly processed and not a huge loss to the nutrition of your overall diet. If your son consumes meat and fish he shouldn’t have issues with low iron. The main issue with a dairy free diet would be calcium deficiency, so make sure he is consuming lots of other ingredients high in calcium- fortified orange juice, almonds, dark greens.

    I’m not a vitamin specialist but go to your best health food store around and find a salesperson to help you find a good, high quality vitamin preferably made from real ingredients and not just synthetics, which aren’t absorbed by the body well. Centrum etc. is a waste of time.

    Triumph Dining Guide has lists of restaurants with gluten-free menus and lists some menus- you might do a search for their gluten-free dining guide online.

    Natural flavors can be derived from any “natural” ingredient. Wheat must be disclosed on the label but it is possible that the flavor could be derived from barley. When in doubt, contact the company. That being said, I rarely run into issues from natural flavors and very rarely contact companies. If you are having trouble with hidden gluten in his diet, you might want to pursue this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry too much.

    You might consider making sure that your son’s gluten-free diet is as nutritious as possible. If he is eating a lot of processed gluten-free products he might not be feeling well because his diet is not ideal. Also, absorption can be an issue for recovering Celiac patients. He may simply not be absorbing enough nutrition from the food he is consuming if his villi have not healed enough. You might have a doctor’s office check his levels for iron etc. to see if there are any specific nutrients you need to target. It is also possible that he may have developed a new sensitivity to something he is eating.

    BTW celiac patients can often tolerate dairy protein after they heal, so you could try reintroducing dairy into his diet and see how it goes.

    Hope this helps! Remember, I’m not a doctor, just a long-time Celiac veteran, so definitely talk to your doctor about these questions as well. ;)


  21. I am gluten free as well as soy free and have been for the past 1 1/2 years and I find it extremely difficult, my family gets together every Sunday and I am never able to eat the same as everyone else and they have to wait for me to fix my food as they generally do roasts and crock-pot meals or potluck. One of my brothers and his wife really struggle with the concept and are constantly saying “there has to be something you can eat”. I have an app on my phone that allows me to scan a barcode of an item and see if I can have it. I just had to put my restrictions into it (this works for most items but if it is something new or non name brand it doesn’t always work).

  22. Could you post the recipe of these chocolate chip cookies that are pictured?

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