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4 Allergy-Friendly Dinner Recipes for Kids

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Written by Emily Brown
Updated on July 26, 2023

Tired of scouring the internet or cookbooks for kid-friendly dinner ideas that you know will be allergy-friendly and not take hours to prepare? You’re not alone. Finding recipes that don’t include any of the top nine food allergens can be a difficult and frustrating task. One MyFoodAllergyTeam member wrote, “I’ve tried looking on Pinterest and Google, but it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t contain the allergy food. Am I missing something?”

The top nine food allergens — eggs, milk, crustaceans (shellfish), fish, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, and sesame — are common in many foods, but with a few simple substitutions, you can make a main dish that caters to your child’s food allergies without compromising on taste. Below, we share four delicious and nutritious allergen-free recipes that are quick to make.

Keep in mind that these allergy-friendly dishes avoid the top nine food allergens. If your kid has an alternative food allergy or intolerance, consider swapping the ingredients to make it appropriate for them. Consult your doctor or dietitian if you’re not sure about the best approach.

1. A Comforting Casserole

Kids With Food Allergies offers this allergy-friendly take on the classic tuna noodle casserole. Vegetables, chicken or tuna, and gluten-free noodles provide a well-balanced meal in the form of a comforting baked main dish.

Tuna or Chicken Noodle Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (half of an 8-ounce box) quinoa or gluten-free macaroni (such as corn elbows)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 3 small or 2 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed in warm water
  • 6 medium mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tuna or chicken, drained

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cook the quinoa or pasta according to the package directions.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and saute until clear. Add 1 ½ cans of the broth, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Microwave the potatoes for 3 minutes, then add to the broth mixture along with the peas and mushrooms. Sprinkle the mixture with the salt.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the remaining ½ can of broth and pour into the skillet. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken, then remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Stir in the cooked, drained pasta and tuna or chicken. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Be sure to read labels — there can be soy in canned tuna or gluten-free pastas, and broths may contain wheat or gluten.

If onion and garlic are not well tolerated, they can be replaced with 3 shallots.

2. Simple, Versatile Burritos

This 30-minute bean burrito recipe from Kids With Food Allergies is simple to make, requires few dishes, and is free of the top nine allergens. If the ingredient list looks too long, you can leave out some of the spices or optional flavorings based on your child’s preferences. While beans and rice are a classic, healthy combination, you can also add your family’s favorite veggies to pack these burritos with even more nutrients. This recipe fills four large tortillas.

Bean Burritos

Ingredients

  • 1 package large tortillas (gluten-free option: pure corn tortillas)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Juice of 2 limes (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Additional toppings, such as avocado, chopped tomato, cheese, and sour cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and warm the tortillas for 5 to 10 minutes (if desired). Cook the rice according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beans, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix well to combine the flavors. Lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Fluff the cooked rice with a fork. Add the lime juice and cilantro (if using), and stir together.
  4. Place some of the bean and rice mixture and rice in the center of each tortilla, along with any other desired safe toppings, such as avocado, chopped tomato, or cheese or sour cream (unless milk allergy is a concern). Fold each tortilla into a burrito.

Recipe Notes

You can use smaller tortillas to make tacos, depending on your family’s preference or if you can’t find large gluten-free tortillas.

Save time by buying rice precooked or preparing it in advance.

3. Yummy Yamburgers

These yamburgers from Kids With Food Allergies are a unique version of a veggie burger. Starring baked sweet potatoes and lentils, the patties provide lots of nutrition and protein but none of the top nine allergens. Using already baked sweet potatoes will speed prep time, but you can also do the baking while preparing the other ingredients. To complete the burgers, tuck the patties in a gluten-free bun or between lettuce leaves (if you need a wheat-free meal), and add your kid’s favorite burger toppings, such as lettuce and tomato.

Yamburgers

Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 cups water
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 8 ounces dry lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (yams), baked
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 to 3 slices gluten-free bread, torn or cut into small pieces
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the carrot, onion, celery, and lentils, and bring the mixture back to a boil. Partially cover the pan and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, peel and mash the sweet potatoes, and then add the maple syrup, reserved lentil mixture, bread, and pepper. Mix well and form into patties.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the patties, cooking for a few minutes on each side or until brown.

Recipe Notes

You can substitute other veggies or add more, such as frozen spinach (thawed).

Use the bread’s heels (end pieces), if available.

4. Pizza With a Personal Touch

By following this pizza recipe from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), you can put together a tasty pizza almost entirely from scratch. This recipe takes you step by step through making your own tomato sauce and dairy-free, soy-free cheese using a few simple ingredients. You can prepare your own pizza dough, too, if you’re so inclined. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy a pizza night at home.

Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds roma tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour (gluten free, if needed), plus more for rolling out dough
  • 1 ¼ cups nondairy or soy-free milk
  • Premade pizza dough (gluten free, if needed)
  • 4 to 5 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • Favorite toppings, such as chopped or sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, and olives (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make the tomato sauce: Place the tomatoes, garlic granules, onion powder, oregano, and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Pour the sauce into a medium pot and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. It will turn bright red and get thicker.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dairy-free cheese: In a small saucepan, melt the vegan butter. Add the 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture bubbles and turns into a paste. Be careful not to let it brown.
  4. Add the milk, stirring constantly as the sauce thickens, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  5. Assemble the pizza: Coat a cookie sheet with vegan butter. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface and transfer to the cookie sheet.
  6. Stir the basil into the sauce, then spread the sauce over the dough. Sprinkle with your favorite toppings (if using), and pour the cheese sauce over top.
  7. Bake according to the pizza dough package directions, or until the crust is golden.

Recipe Note

You can pack any leftovers in your child’s lunchbox for a delicious allergy-friendly meal, or have your child bring slices to a birthday party or other event that might not provide allergen-free options.

Tips To Make Cooking Less Stressful

Research shows that worries and distress around food allergies can negatively affect family functioning and the emotional and social experiences of children with food allergies. Engaging in positive social activities that allow you and your child to safely navigate life with food allergies can help manage anxiety.

For example, engaging your child in a positive cooking experience and talking with them about allergy-friendly foods may help them feel less anxious about eating. Talk with a registered dietitian to learn more ways to help your child feel more comfortable around food.

Between managing emotions around eating and making meal plans for your family, you might feel overwhelmed by trying to cater to everyone, with or without food allergies. However, allergy-friendly meals can have general appeal and be enjoyed by all.

Some MyFoodAllergyTeam members talk about the benefits of cooking the same meal for their entire family. “My oldest child has food and medication allergies. I cook most things myself, and if we go somewhere, I always pack the same food for everyone,” one member shared. Another echoed that point: “I gear everything to the person with the allergies because they are the ones who need to stay safe.”

The next time you’re wondering what to make for dinner, turn to these recipes. They can boost your confidence about what you’re feeding your child and even spark some excitement about cooking.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyFoodAllergyTeam is the social network for people with food allergies and their loved ones. On MyFoodAllergyTeam, more than 39,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with food allergies.

Do you have a favorite allergy-friendly recipe for your kids? How do you manage the stress of preparing safe meals? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on July 26, 2023
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    Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. Learn more about her here.
    Emily Brown is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in health communication and public health. Learn more about her here.

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