5 Dessert Ingredients That AREN’T Paleo and Perfect Swaps

5 Dessert Ingredients That AREN'T Paleo and Perfect Swaps

I love dessert (who doesn’t really?), but the problem that I run into is that even many homemade desserts call for ingredients that aren’t paleo-friendly! There’s NO WAY I’m going without dessert though. So, I had to find my way around it… even if it meant getting a little creative in the kitchen.

I was flipping through The Joy of Cooking looking for recipe inspiration, trying to find traditional recipes and then “paleo-fy” them. While browsing recipes, I found that there are 5 common non-paleo ingredients in most traditional desserts, and I thought I’d share my favorite paleo-friendly swaps for each one!

So, the next time you come across one of these ingredients in a recipe, you’ll know exactly what you can use instead!

Paleo-Friendly Ingredient Replacements

Corn Starch

Corn starch is used in a lot of recipes as a thickener, things like in custard and pudding. But corn is a grain, not a vegetable as most people believe it is, so it’s not paleo.

Instead use…

Arrowroot Starch: Arrowroot is a root, not a grain, meaning it’s safe for paleo! Plus, it has many health benefits including soothing the digestive tract and is very easy to digest. It’s great for good for lightening up the texture of paleo treats that might otherwise be heavy! Can be used 1:1 for cornstarch.


Commonly found in breakfast bowls, crumbles, oat muffins, oatmeal cookies, they’re gluten-free but still a grain, even gluten free grains are not paleo.

Instead, use…

Sliced Almonds: Sliced almonds give the same texture and visual effect. The only thing to remember is that they don’t have the same absorbency, you’ll need to modify the recipe so the moisture balances out.


There’s so much research about how flour is not good for our health and paleo diets don’t use gluten-free flour, sprouted grain flour, or whole wheat flour—no grains at all. Even gluten-free flours tend to be really high in carbohydrate and part of my intention is to help you moderate your sugar intake, so cutting out grains, even gluten free grains, helps you cut down on the amount of carbohydrate and sugar in your diet!

Instead, use…

Cassava Flour: This type of flour can easily be substituted 1:1 in a traditional recipe is and a good transition away from regular flour, but still high in carbohydrates.

Coconut Flour: Coconut flour is high in fiber, absorbs a lot of moisture, and has one of the lowest carbohydrate content of many of the paleo flour substitutes! But it’s really absorbent, so be careful not to use too much. In many baked goods, 1 cup of flour can be substituted by ¼ to ⅓ cup of coconut flour.

Almond Flour: Almond flour can combine with arrowroot starch to “lighten it up.” And just like whole almond, almond flour contains healthy fats and fiber which help to balance out the starch content.

Vegetable Oil

If you have any sort of vegetable oil in your house right now stop reading this, get up, and throw that stuff out! Highly refined oils are unstable and turn into free radicals when you eat them. It’s a very low-quality fat made from low-quality grains.

Instead, use…

Avocado Oil: This is a high heat stable oil.

Coconut Oil: An ingredient that’s good for your whole body, inside and out! Great substitution because of the texture it lends to nice, moist baked goods. Coconut oil can be used at 1:1 ratio as a substitute for vegetable oil, but make sure the melt your coconut oil before measuring!

Ghee: Unfamiliar? Ghee clarified butter with the milk solids removed, meaning it’s lactose-free when it’s made properly. This is a great option if you don’t like coconut flavor and don’t tolerate dairy.

Sustainably Source Palm Shortening: This is great paleo replacement for recipes that call for vegetable shortening or vegetable oil and can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio.

Refined Sugar

Almost every single dessert calls for this! But refined sugar is so proinflammatory, with no health benefits, and is super addictive. And sugar is everywhere, even in places you wouldn’t expect. So, what’s the best paleo replacement for refined sugars?

Instead, use…

Date Sugar: Date sugar is sweeter than regular white sugar, so depending on your taste, you may want to use a little less, try ⅔ cup for every 1 cup.

Coconut Palm Sugar: This one is an easy swap since it can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio. It also has vitamins and minerals to help balance out any offset blood sugar.

Maple Syrup: A great substitute for many recipes, but you’ll have to play with the recipe a little since it adds extra moisture.

Honey: Also a great substitute, but again, it will add extra moisture meaning you’ll have to adjust the recipe to make it work.