Hello, and welcome to Episode #5 of The Raw Food Podcast. I’m your host, Laura-Jane, The Rawtarian, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about nut substitutions in raw food recipes. Stay tuned, and I’ll be back with you shortly.
WHY SUBSTITUTE NUTS?
Thank you so much for joining me on this - it’s Episode 5 of the Raw Food Podcast, and today we are talking all about nuts. Why are we talking about nuts? Well, as you know, with my simple, satiating, satisfying recipes at therawtarian.com, I do use quite a few nuts, which are usually quite popular recipes for people who are new to the raw food diet. People who have been doing raw foods for years and years usually phase out those heavier nut-based recipes, but I know that, for me, when I first went raw about two and a half years ago, they were really, really important to me, and I still do enjoy having them occasionally. I get quite a few emails and questions about nuts and seeds, and one of the main questions I get has to do with nut allergies. A lot of people might say that they have family members - especially kids - in the house who might have a tree nut allergy, so that was one of the reasons I’ve been thinking about nuts lately. I’ve got a lot of people asking me, “What kind of nuts can I substitute in such and such recipe?” So that’s what got me starting to think about nuts, but I think this episode is really relevant to anybody who’s interested in eating healthier raw food diets that might include nuts and seeds. What I’m going to be talking about today is the idea of substituting different nuts and seeds for other ones - but it’s not only because of allergies. It could also be because maybe you’re at home and you're in a rush and you don’t have a certain nut or seed and you’re wanting to make a quick substitution to save you a trip to the grocery store. And another thing too: it could be that you’re trying to keep your budget down in terms of spending less (spending less is always a good thing!), and so sometimes you might find that prices fluctuate where you are, and you might be able to get a better deal one week on a certain type of nut. Or, I know, in my case for example, pine nuts where I live are super, super expensive, and I just don’t even use them. But I’ve learned that if I see pine nuts in a recipe, I know that I can substitute a different nut. And so these are really important skills to have - the skill of course being knowing which nuts and seeds you can substitute for one another.
So I was doing a little bit of thinking about this before I turned on my microphone this afternoon, and I jotted down the fact that there are three types, or groups, of nuts. I’m going to go into those three groups. And usually the nuts - or sometimes seeds - within each group can be swapped out for one another. I’m going to go into those three types of nuts in greater detail shortly, but I think I’ll also just start by talking about tree nuts. I know that people do have a lot of tree nut allergies, and that seems to be something that’s more common nowadays, especially in children. We do find, as well, that we have to be careful when we’re bringing foods to potlucks or sending children to school with some raw recipes or some raw cookies or raw brownies and that type of thing. You do have to be mindful that there are a lot of people out there with allergies. Now I don’t have any allergies myself, and nobody in my immediate family has an allergy, and I’m certainly not an expert on tree nut allergies, so, by all means, I just want to put that out there and make sure that if you do have a serious nut allergy, what you know is probably better than what I know.
But I do know that there’s a huge list of what’s called tree nuts, and that actually encompasses a lot of different nuts. I think that can be anything from almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts (which I mentioned earlier), coconuts, filberts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios… the list goes on, and I could sit here and read a really long list, but I don’t think you’d find that too interesting, now would you? There are a ton of nuts out there, and once you include seeds, too, it really is quite a big topic. Anyway, we won’t go too much into the tree nut detail, but I think it’s really important to know. So those tree nuts that I mentioned - people are often allergic to those - and of course you have peanut allergies as well - which, interestingly, does not seem to be a tree nut, but perhaps that’s a separate allergy. I don’t know, but if anybody’s an expert on that, I’d be interested to hear your experience from a personal perspective if you have a really severe nut allergy in your family.
Let me go back to those three concepts of nuts that I was mentioning at the beginning. The first one I’m going to call creamy nuts. If you’re familiar with my recipes, you might even be able to think in your head of some ideas of recipes that may use creamy nuts. When I say “creamy nuts,” all I really mean is nuts you can use in a recipe to give it a creamy, almost dairy-like substitution. Some examples that I thought of here of creamy nuts would be cashews, which are - oh gosh, I shouldn’t start explaining each nut or this episode will get really long! But basically you’ve got your cashews, you’ve got your pine nuts, and you’ve got your macadamia nuts. Those are all whitish colored nuts, and they’re very high in fat, and they’re very creamy. Some examples of recipes that may use creamy nuts would be my raw cheesecake recipe that I have. My favorite nut is the cashew, so a lot of my recipes do contain cashews. You’ve got my cheesecake recipe, you’ve got my alfredo sauce recipe…what else? There’s oodles of them. I’ve got a lot of icing recipes, like white icing you’d put on a raw cake, and that type of thing. So those are those creamy nuts, and pretty much you can generally substitute cashews and pine nuts and macadamia nuts and kind of use them interchangeably. It will definitely change the flavor, for sure, and when I’m using macadamia nuts, I always soak and rinse them very well, because I find that it affects the taste. I know - as raw foodists, we’re supposed to soak and sprout and dehydrate all of our nuts, and I love you if you do it, but I don’t do it all the time just because - you know me - I am busy and don’t always do that. But with my macadamia nuts, if I, say, have run out of cashews and I want to use some, I definitely soak them, because there’s kind of this bitter taste that is toned down a bit if you soak it and rinse it really well before you use it. So those nuts can be changed quite easily.
As you’ll notice, when I kind of rambled on at the beginning about the list of tree nuts, those three creamy nuts that I’ve identified are actually all tree nuts, and so there’s really no good substitution - that I’m aware of anyway - for those nuts, so if you see a recipe that has… Let’s just use a specific example: my cheesecake recipe. It basically calls for (I don’t have it in front of me) probably two cups of cashews or something, so if you have a child who can’t have tree nuts anywhere close to them, I don't have a good suggestion for you in terms of making a substitution for that recipe. The only good ideas for substitutions that would actually work really well would be other tree nuts that are also creamy. That can be a difficult one.
Now, it would not be a good substitution in a cheesecake recipe, but, depending on the recipe, quite frequently, instead of cashews, you might be able to substitute an avocado, for example, because an avocado can actually produce a really creamy, sort of fatty consistency as well. I would never suggest making cheesecake with an avocado - even for a raw foodist, that’s a little bit out there. I have a lot of soup recipes that are really simple. They’re some cashews, some vegetables, some water, and you mix it up, and they make really awesome, creamy soup flavors. An example might be tomato soup, where you've got some tomatoes, some cashews, and water, and probably some salt and a few other things. You would blend that up in your high speed blender (like a Vitamix). In that recipe, you actually probably could substitute avocado instead, and it would still have that really lovely, thick, creamy texture. In that example, that would work really well. This is a very long-winded way of saying that it’s really hard to find good substitutions for those creamy nuts like cashews, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts. Sometimes avocado will work, sometimes hemp hearts or hemp seed - you can find these at the health food store. They’re like these tiny little disks, almost, and they’re really oily and fatty. I forget where they’re from, but they’re hemp hearts or hemp seeds, and they’re very expensive. Depending on the recipe, you could explore that as well, because they can give a nice creamy consistency as well.
So that was the first group of nuts that I wanted to talk about - those creamy nuts. The second group that I got to thinking about - I was thinking about what I do in terms of substituting nuts in recipes, and I identified this concept of flour-like nuts (that’s F-L-O-U-R, flour). When you think of a recipe from the standard American diet where you have flour in a recipe - cookies or something - the flour isn’t really producing a taste, or even really a specific texture or anything; it’s almost more like filler, in a way, or it’s something that’s going to absorb the other ingredients and make it less runny and that type of thing. I’ve noticed in a lot of raw food recipes that you’ll often find almonds and sunflower seeds will often be called for in a flour-like consistency, and sometimes you might find that you’re actually using it like flour. In some recipes it will say, “Take one cup of almonds, and turn it into almond flour,” basically, right? So you could, in your coffee grinder - a clean coffee grinder that you only use for nuts - turn almonds into flour. And, similarly, a lot of recipes will call for sunflower seeds to be used in this way. In these types of recipes you can easily substitute other nuts and seeds for flour. I’m not saying, “for flour,” but I’ll give you an example where you have almonds acting like a base, or a bulk, or a filler. You can frequently substitute sunflower seeds for the almonds if you don’t have almonds or you don’t like almonds, or that type of thing. And sunflower seeds can be really handy as well, because often they’re quite inexpensive, so if you can make a substitution with sunflower seeds, that can sometimes cut your costs down. But you do want to be careful that sometimes sunflower seeds don’t grind up that well. So quite frequently I might turn the sunflower seeds first into a sort of sunflower seed flour, which sounds really complicated, but it isn’t. I just have a really cheap blender - it probably cost me about twenty-five dollars. I bought a brand new coffee bean grinder. It’s quite small, just like a little cube with a cap on it and a blade, and I use that to grind smaller things. So sometimes I’ll make sunflower seed flour in there, just when I need it. I don’t keep it in a container or anything, as flour; sometimes it’ll just grind up better that way.
So an example of a recipe that I’ve flagged in my head where the nuts really are used only as flour is a… what was I going to talk about here? Oh, I think maybe my onion bread recipe - yes! This does require a dehydrator, but they’re very delicious if you ever are in the mood for a pliable onion bread, or onion wrap, almost. This is a good example. This recipe calls for three large onions, one cup of ground sunflower seeds, one cup of flax seeds, some olive oil, and a few other flavorings. Just to recap, you’ve got onions - which are really wet - and olive oil (also wet). Then you’ve got one cup of ground sunflower seeds - and really they’re not there for flavor - you could certainly use ground almonds instead. It’s there to absorb some of that extra moisture from the onions and the olive oil. And the flax seeds, they are ground as well. You don’t really want to remove flax seeds from recipes, because flax is a binding agent. That’s just a fancy way of saying that flax helps the recipe to stay together or stick together, so you don’t really want to be taking flax seeds out of a recipe if it calls for them. Sometimes you can substitute - I hope this isn’t information overload for you - chia seeds, because chia are also a really good binding agent as well. So that’s the concept of flour-like nuts. I think, really, almonds are good for that, sunflower seeds, and any sort of drier tree nut as well - maybe hazelnuts could be good for that. (I don’t use them frequently. The main ones I keep around are usually almonds or sunflowers - sunflower seeds, rather.)
So we had the first category, which was the creamy nuts. The second one we just talked about, which was the flour-like nuts, and then the third category that I see as different would be oily nuts. For me, predominantly those would be walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts. I don’t use Brazil nuts that frequently, but I do keep them around on occasion and they can be handy. They’re also quite oily as well, so they work well. Some recipes will call for a few ingredients, like pecans, but what’s really important about the choice of that nut in a recipe is probably because the pecans have a lot of oil in them. I’ll give you a good example: my brownie recipe. It’s a really simple recipe, and it just includes nuts, dates, cocoa powder, coconut, and a few other things. So it’s really like nuts, dates, and flavoring. In my recipe, I call for pecans. One of the crucial things about using pecans in this exact recipe is they will produce natural oils. Actually, the brownies will get really oily, and it’s kind of surprising, because it’s like, “Where did this oil come from?” But it comes from the nuts, and so that’s why, when you’re substituting nuts in a recipe, we use this example: the recipe calls for pecans. You could use walnuts, because they’re also quite oily and they’ll give the same consistency. But I would never use almonds in that recipe, because almonds are much drier and they have less oil, and they just won’t produce the same consistency. So the three main oily nuts that I kind of use interchangeably would be pecans, Brazil nuts, and walnuts. All three of those have a different flavor, and they certainly will impact the flavor of the final product, but they will at least give you a similar consistency. I think that statement - what I just said about those - is really applicable across the board in that you’re always going to change the flavor. Even when I think back to the creamy nuts, like cashews versus macadamia nuts, if you use one or the other, it will change the flavor. You may prefer one flavor over another, but odds are that the texture is going to be quite similar. So that’s why I’ve grouped them together like this and why you can substitute some nuts for another.
So I know that almost started to feel like math, but I think once you really grasp these things (and these aren’t things you really need to commit to memory or even worry about), overall, what I’d like you to take away from this - especially if you’re new and trying to figure out what you can substitute and what you can’t - is just think about these three general rules. The creamy nuts are just white or cream-colored, as well - that’s an easy way to remember it. I mean creamy as in texture, but they also happen to be a creamy color as well - so that’s a good way to remember that you can substitute like-colored nuts in that example. I think the flour-like nuts - that one isn’t quite as big of a deal breaker, because usually they’re just there for filler, so it wouldn’t be as big of a deal if you, say, put cashews in that one, but that would almost be a waste, because the creamier nuts are much more expensive. So you wouldn’t really want to just throw in creamy nuts into something that doesn’t really need to be creamy (although everything is better when it’s creamy in my opinion).
I think that’s the real takeaway here: if you are experimenting in your raw kitchen, you can certainly just go with the flow and try it, and see how things work out as well. I think it’s just a case of experimenting and experiencing, and if you can try to just keep those three categories in mind and think about, “What’s the purpose of the nuts in this recipe?” it can be really helpful. In terms of substitutions in general, it’s something you’ll realize - and I can even think about this in the case of a green smoothie. When I first went raw, the very first book I had (which is a great book, and I totally recommend it - it’s called “Uncooking with Raw Rose” and it’s a really good basic book, and if you’re really just introducing yourself to raw, maybe even in this podcast, it can be a really good start) - but anyway, my point was, when I first started cooking with my food processor and my blender, I did not know anything, and I religiously followed recipes. Fast forward two and a half years later, and I’ve probably made hundreds of smoothies now, and I don’t use recipes anymore, because now - not because I’m smart, and not because I even tried to pay attention at all - I just know that having 200 smoothies, or actually way more than that, I would think - I know that a smoothie needs a certain amount of liquid, a certain amount or ratio of fruit, and a certain ratio of vegetables - that’s what makes up a green smoothie. So if I take out strawberries and I put in cherries instead, that ratio is going to be fine. It’s the same thing with nuts and seeds. It’s really not something you need to worry about today, and I hope if you’re new you’re not feeling overwhelmed - because it’s not even something that you really need to consider. But it can be useful when you’re just starting to navigate the waters of starting to make substitutions to know that there are certain nuts that are more easily substituted for other nuts.
I hope that you found this very specific nut episode helpful. I think that I probably did go into quite a lot of detail, and that was probably a lot to absorb if you were driving or trying to do multiple things at once. What I will do is write those groups down on the show notes. If you go to therawtarian.com/podcasts and then make sure you’re looking at Episode 5, you’ll see the groups of nuts in there already down so you don’t have to try to fill your brain too much with that information. Again, I think the first thing to do in short sequence is if you’re interested in raw foods and haven’t started yet, pick yourself up a food processor if you don’t have one. And then, secondly, if you’re really into raw and you’re loving it, and you’re excited - which you must be, if you’re listening to this podcast - do yourself a favor: if you can afford it, get a high-speed blender. So all this nut stuff is really specific, and if you’re just getting started with raw, don’t worry too much about that. I think that one of the key pieces to success in any aspect of your life - be it health, or your career, or any kind of goal you have - is it’s great to absorb as much as you can, but I love this concept of “just-in-time learning,” which basically means that you are going to learn and absorb material that’s the right material for you at the exact moment. So if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can never figure out all this nut stuff; I’m never even going to bother trying a raw food recipe,” that’s probably because you’re not really feeding yourself with the right information that you need at the right time. And I think that’s why I’m adding this little piece at the end. If you’re just starting, don’t even worry about this. It’s all incremental learning, and you learn it as you go. And, by all means, you can listen, and I love for you to listen, but I just want you to feel like you don’t need to feel overwhelmed because I’m trying to keep things simple and it doesn’t have to be complicated. So this is kind of a funny episode, but I hope you enjoy it, and I will certainly share it with you because I really enjoyed recording it and I do think there’s some valuable information in it, and I hope you found it useful.
You have been listening to The Raw Food Podcast with your host The Rawtarian. Be sure to visit me at therawtarian.com where you can browse over one hundred of my absolute favorite simple, satisfying raw recipes that you’ll find quick to make and that contain only a few ingredients, and of course they taste spectacular. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter, and once you’ve signed up for that, you’ll get a PDF copy of eleven of my most favorite, most satisfying, and most delicious recipes including Raw Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Raw Brownies, and a whole host of other delicious recipes that you can make at home that are raw and taste amazing. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to hear from you very soon. Until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.
This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with like-minded, qualified health care professional(s). I wish you success on your raw journey!