Ah the eternal question. Paleo baking is an exact science, so substitutions can be tricky. Here are some basic substitution rules that I go by.
*Keep in mind that these are GENERAL RULES, and each recipe is different. These are just some ideas for substituting and won’t work in every situation.*
Oils: In baking and cooking, coconut oil, olive oil, lard, butter etc. are usually interchangeable with minimal effect on the finished recipe. When the oil is used to keep a recipe together, such as hard coconut oil in a protein bar recipe, then you cannot substitute an oil that does not harden when chilled. In dressings, most liquid oils (avocado oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil) can be used.
Nut flours: Usually sunflower seed flour is a good sub. Tigernut flour may work too, with varied results because of the high fiber content.
The golden rule of subbing out nut flours is this (raise your right hand and repeat after me)
“I WILL NOT try to substitute coconut flour one-for-one for any nut flour, or for wheat flour.”
Coconut Flour: You can’t really substitute this. Find a different recipe.
Cassava Flour: Same answer as coconut flour, except when used to thicken sauces. You can usually sub arrowroot when making sauces and gravies, just halve the amount.
Nut Butters: Nut butters (almond, pecan, walnut, coconut, peanut, tigernut, etc.) are usually interchangeable.
Plantain, banana, tigernut, and water chestnut flour: You can try using almond flour, provided it is a blanched fine grind.
Eggs: When used in omelets, scrambles, and casseroles, obviously there is no substitute. When used in mug cakes, you can usually use a flax egg. When used in cookies, bars, and brownies, it’s harder to sub and I recommend finding a different recipe. Some mashed green banana and a little nut butter may do the trick though. For cakes, muffins, and breads, don’t try to sub eggs.
Tapioca flour/arrowroot starch: I can hear all the baking purists protesting, but I am going to say it anyway: These two are usually interchangeable with minimal repercussions.
Coconut milk: Cashew milk or cashew cream when a thicker milk is needed.
Cocoa Powder: Carob may be used, but you’ll want to use less because carob has a funky taste, and add a few pinches of cinnamon to the recipe.
Maple syrup/honey: Usually interchangeable.
Coconut sugar/date sugar: Usually interchangeable.
Stevia: A few TBSP of maple syrup or honey used in place of stevia usually works fairly well.
Yeast: I recommend finding a yeast-free recipe.
Pysllium: Usually tapioca starch makes a pretty good sub. Use a 1:1 or a 1:1.5 ratio.
Gelatin: You may be able to use agar in gummy-type recipes.
Collagen Peptides: Unsweetened protein powder of choice may be a good sub.