11.19.2010

how to replace nightshades part 3: potatoes

Potatoes were not the hardest nightshade for me to give up (peppers were, because I used to LOVE hot sauce), but they were one of the first things I was desparate for which to find a suitable replacement. My mother is Irish in descent, and we had some potato product on the dinner table easily 5 nights a week. Potatoes, and recipes that contain them, are tied in my brain and in my mouth to the feeling of family, home, and comfort.

Potatoes are ubiquitous, used in all kinds of cuisines for everything from making a soup creamy to binding veggie burger ingredients to taking the center stage as a baked potato. If you find yourself missing potatoes, or have a recipe that has potatoes as an ingredient, consider some of the following substitutions.

Replacing Potatoes

Each of the following vegetables (almost all of which are roots) is a good potato substitution for different reasons, and for different forms of potato, so mix and match at will.

Sweet Potato: Despite the name, sweet potatoes (also called yams) are not actually related to potatoes. Which is good for those of us who can't eat nightshades! You can bake sweet potatoes, mash them, turn them into fries, and fry them up for hash browns, all like you can with potatoes. There are varieties of white sweet potatoes that are starchier and less sweet than the orange tubers you probably think of when you think of sweet potatoes; those work great as replacements for potatoes, but brown quickly when the raw flesh is exposed to air. Japanese yams are also whitish (with purple skin), starchier, and less sweet than most sweet potatoes.

Taro Root: While taro root can be difficult to come by, and I've never actually seen it organic, most Asian markets have some in stock. They come in two sizes: large, which aren't as sweet, and baby, which are smaller than your fist and a little sweeter. Boiled and mashed, it makes a great substitution for potato. You can also chop it up and include it in soups and stews, but it gets grainy if you overcook it. Taro root is sweeter than a potato, but not as sweet as a sweet potato. Roasting it for chips or fries brings out that sweetness a litle more than boiling it. I have recipes for mashed taro and taro patties here.

Cassava/Yuca/Manioc/Tapioca: These are four names for one root. Cassava doesn't keep long, so if you find it in a store, its skin is likely to be covered in a thick wax. It can be difficult to find, though grocery stores that stock Latin, Caribbean, and African ingredients often have them, because all of those cuisines use cassava. Cassava can be fried, sauteed, baked, boiled, and mashed. Let me tell you, though, overcooking this baby results in a starchy, gluey texture. Tapioca starch, also made from cassava, is a great replacement for potato starch.

Sunchoke/Jerusalem Artichoke: Sunchokes have a bright flavor, and don't ever get as mushy and grainy as potatoes, which can be a real asset in dishes in which you want your potato-like substitute to maintain its shape and struccture. Use them in soups, stews, and "potato" salads. You can also grate them and use them as hash browns, but they cook down a lot. I have a recipe for potato-style sunchoke salad here.

Celeriac: Celeriac, or celery root, has a distinct flavor of its own, but it is a tasty root vegetable in its own right, and you can use it in place of chopped or diced potatoes in soups and roasts--and even as oven fries, as I posted in this entry.

Turnip/Rutabaga: Like celeriac, turnips and rutabagas have distinct flavor, but give a nice, earthy, root-vegetably flavor and texture for use in almost any recipe where you'd use chopped or diced potatoes. I have an entry about what I do with turnips here.

Bread/flour/starch: I know this sounds crazy, but wait: in recipes like blended soups, where potatoes aren't the main focus but are there to make a soup creamy, you can substitute a large piece of bread. Simply remove the crust, then blend the piece of bread in a blender or food processor with a cup of water and/or a cup of the broth, then stir back into the soup. Also, many recipes, like potato pancakes (latkes; I have a recipe here for sweet potato ones), gnocchi, or veggie burgers, call for cooked potatoes. This is because potatoes are very starchy (much more so than sweet potatoes), and the starch in them acts as a binding agent. For each 1 cup cooked potatoes you replace in these recipes, add 2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup flour, depending on desired stiffness. You can add more if your dough (or recipe) doesn't stiffen as much as you'd like, and you can experiment with also adding some cornstarch or other starch (like tapioca).

Finally, as a word of warning to people who are new to avoiding nightshades: potato starch, like paprika and cayenne, is really sneaky, and works its way into all sorts of things. Almost all store-bought gluten-free flours and baked goods contain potato starch, as do all powdered egg substitutes (like Ener-G or Bob's Red Mill), so be careful about eating baked goods whose ingredients you don't know. Other ubiquitous ingredients that can sometimes be potato-derived are maltodextrin and "modified food starch." Both are usually from corn, but be careful. Also remember that some vodkas are distilled from potatoes. Some nightshade-free people can digest potato vodka, others can't--know what you're drinking. Most brands' websites mention whether theirs comes from grain (usually wheat or rye) or potato.

18 comments:

lazysmurf said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm glad you have found so many substitution for potatoes, it must have been so daunting at first! I'm glad for you that sweet potatoes are ok!

panda with cookie said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for doing these posts! They have great info in them.

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks, you two! Avoiding nightshades can be so tricky, it take a long time to figure things out, so now that I have I'm hoping to save other people time.

(And lazysmurf, you have no idea how glad I am too that sweet potatoes aren't nightshades!)

Allysia said... Best Blogger Tips

This was super informative! Nightshades don't bother me, but a lot of the roots you mentioned I have never tried (like taro root), and definitely should! :)

Végébon said... Best Blogger Tips

If I ever meet a nightshades sensitive person, I will clearly turn her/him to your posts !
I've ever had sunshokes, these look yummy.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

another good substitute is green plantains!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

What do you use to make food spicy? Any advice? I am not allergic to Nightshades but my boyfriend is and I'd like to make a curry or chilli for him at some point without making him feel like crap :)

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

@Anonymous, I used to be a big fan of spicy foods, so that's an important consideration for me, too! Check out my entry on how to replace peppers here.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I have been nightshade free for over 20 years now. It's so nice to hear that it's catching on so others don't have to suffer either. My main substitue for potatoes are sweet potatoes, not the orange ones but the lighter ones as they are less sweet, more starchy like a potato and work well. Garbonzo beans work too, if you have enough Beano. Kolrabi works too but is a lot of work so I've stuck to sweet potatoes. They are easy, delicious and yummy. Now, I have to give up gluten. Ugh! Thanks for being here! Jane

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

@Jane Oh, my heart goes out to you on the gluten thing! My mother and brother, who have the same allergies, have given up gluten, and it can feel so limiting. Good luck!

Pippi777 said... Best Blogger Tips

I know this is an old post, but maybe you'll see it and be able to help! I'm gluten and dairy free. Also have a problem with almost all fruits and nightshades. I have a gf flour blend that I've been using when I make stuff, but it uses potato starch/potato flour. Do you know of a good gf flour blend that doesn't include it? Any help you can give would be awesome!!!

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

@Pippi777 I feel your pain! My brother and mother share my nightshade issues, but they're also gluten-free, and find that many gluten-free products contain potatoes! Are you talking about homemade gluten-free flour, or store-bought? If you're interested in store-bought, the Namaste brand is vegan and doesn't use potato starch (link here).

If you're making it at home, though, you can just replace tapioca starch for the potato starch in any recipe, in an equal amount. Good luck!

Abolade said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi I was referred to your site by a fellow researcher,i was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis about 14 years ago,I have never used any over the counter or prescription drugs I follow Vegan Nutrition,in fact I am a Natural Health Consultant,also a published Author,I was told to get off nightshade plants which I did,but like yourself the hardest one for me was the Hot pepper sauce,which I loved,but I still got rid of it,my fellow researcher said that Plum tomatoes were good in moderation,but my main reason for this is that your site is the only one that I encountered which address a lot of the foods I eat,like Taro root(Also known as Dasheen ),Cassava,Sweet potato(the kind with the purple skin and white inside) I use them every week as I know where to shop for them,I also get them at very affordable prices,there are also others in that family of plants such as Edo,Tannia,White yam etc in a few of my books on Health and Nutrition I have many recipes using these vegetables and they are delicious,so although I used white potato in the past it was not an issue for me to give it up as I was already using Dasheen(Taro root),Cassava,Sweet potato,Edo,Tannia,White yam(This is closer to white potato than the others)All thanks to the Almighty Creator I am in good shape,I exercise with weights 3 times each week and I prepare all my food and drinks,I don' use commercial juices as they are too sugary,I drink distilled water and I am 72 and feel like a healthy person in their forties,thank you I hope ,what I mentioned can be helpful,I am not a medical Doctor and the information I mentioned were not intended as medical advice,but this is what I use.

Tara said... Best Blogger Tips

I found potato starch in shredded cheese and olive oil mayonnaise recently. I know you're vegan but I'm sure not all your readers are, so heads up, folks!

Allie said... Best Blogger Tips

Cauliflower is another good substitute that works well as a mash, in a pureed soup, or just roasted. Here's a great, simple recipe for roasting it - http://summertomato.com/roasted-curried-cauliflower-to-die-for/

I also really like fried green plantains when I'm craving something starchy.

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

@Allie Thanks, that sounds delicious!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

@Pippi777

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

@Pippi777I realize this post is old but couldn't resist a reply...I just came across Domata flour (available on their website and on Amazon) and it is cup for cup gluten free flour and has no potato starch in it. I can make everything just as if I were using regular flour.