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Eating Chinese without eating peanuts


It’s hard to think of Chinese food without thinking of peanuts.

China is the world’s leading peanut producer, and that’s not a coincidence. Peanuts and/or peanut oil is present in every Chinese kitchen and featured in every Chinese restaurant. Kung pao chicken is just the beginning: peanut sauces, powders and sautés round out the menu.

For people who love Chinese food but have a peanut allergy, it’s particularly challenging but not impossible to make adjustments that maintain the flavor and avoid the danger.

Know your limits

Those living with peanut allergies must know their limits. If the allergy is mild, they can probably enter a local Chinese eatery and simply avoid the food, read ingredients and ask about cross contamination. But, for those with a severe allergy where anaphylaxis is a real threat, even entering the restaurant with the peanut oil wafting through the air, is a life threatening act. For those, staying at home and making modifications to traditional recipes is the best way to enjoy this ethnic food.

Substitute vegetable oil

Most Chinese cooking is done on very hot surfaces which makes peanut oil, with its high smoke point, very attractive. But it’s not the only oil that works at high temp. Vegetable oil, sunflower oil and olive oil all tolerate flash frying or stir frying. Peanut oil has a strong flavor, even light peanut oil can change the flavor profile of fresh vegetables. You may find you enjoy the light vegetable oils better.

Substitute cashews

Crumble some cashews and use them as a garnish instead of the peanut. Lightly bake in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes. This will make them easier to crush and release their oils for a more aromatic addition. Mix them into a stir fry or garnish a meal with a light sprinkle on top.

Use Dijon mustard and soy sauce instead of peanut butter

Peanut butter-based dressings and sauces are a traditional accompaniment in Chinese-inspired dishes. From salad dressing to spring roll dipping sauce you can find these used on just about anything. Try mixing equal parts Dijon mustard and soy sauce. Admittedly, this is a completely different flavor profile, but the texture is the same and the taste will enhance whatever you are eating.

Source: The Examiner/Karla Yeh

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