We vegans like to think that we’re invincible when it comes to our diet.

single lettuce leaf

It’s a nice thought, but we can have food allergies and intolerances, too, and that can make becoming or staying vegan a challenge. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “Well, I’m allergic to soy, so I can’t be vegan,” or “I was just diagnosed with celiac disease, so I can’t be vegan anymore.”

Of course, if you don’t want to be vegan anymore and are looking for an excuse – a poor one, at that – to stop, no one can force you to keep doing it. But if you feel defeated by newly discovered allergies and sensitivities, I’m talking to you right now. If you have SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), including candida, I’m talking to you, too. Know that you can be a healthy vegan despite these issues – lots of people are doing it. With compassion for all as a driving force, there is always a way to make veganism work for you.

A crucial point to remember is that you should focus on the foods that you can eat instead of what you can’t, but when you can’t stop thinking about the off-limits foods, find a substitution you can grow to love just as much. I’ve used sunflower seeds, and sometimes hemp seeds, in place of cashews in creamy sauces with much success. If you want something meaty but can’t have tofu or wheat meats, try to make patties or meatballs with mushrooms, beans, and vegetables. Sun-dried tomatoes also add a meaty texture and that delectable umami taste to food. If gluten is off the table but you loved tabbouleh, try using quinoa instead of bulgur. While you’re at it, buy some tricolor quinoa to make the dish more pleasing to the eye. Never underestimate the power of beautiful food.

Have fun trying new foods you can eat and learn to appreciate the bounty that is available in this modern age. Scan the produce aisle any time of year and notice the variety of fruits and vegetables that are available. Try different grains like millet, quinoa, teff, amaranth, and buckwheat. Even rice comes in many varieties like black, brown, white, pink, and red. Check out ethnic markets. Frequent farmers’ markets. Use herbs and spices with abandon. Forget what you were told when you were younger: play with your food. Have fun, and prepare food with love. You’ll find yourself as one more person who learned that, with a little creativity, becoming/staying vegan with food allergies and insensitivities ain’t no thing!

cauli rice

The weather is finally warming up in Pittsburgh, and I’m getting ready for the change of seasons with these delectable recipes for minted cauliflower rice and pumpkin seed pesto. You can use them separately, but I’ve combined them here to make these gorgeous butter lettuce cups. Taking a bite of these gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free lettuce cups is like taking a cool, refreshing bite out of springtime.

You will have leftover pesto. That is a glorious thing. Put it on pasta, zucchini noodles, or kelp noodles. Spread it on toast and top with thinly sliced radishes and black pepper. Mix it into your next tofu scramble. Serve it alongside roasted asparagus spears. Make a pesto potato salad. Pack it in your child’s lunchbox with some veggie sticks. The possibilities are endless!

lettuce cups

Pesto Lettuce Cups

Pumpkin Seed Pesto:

  • 1 ¼ cups zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds, soaked for 8 hours
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tsp. chickpea miso
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups basil, packed
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • Black pepper to taste

Minted Cauliflower Rice:

  • 6 heaping cups cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp. mint, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Black pepper, to taste

Butter Lettuce Cups:

  • 1 head of butter lettuce

For each lettuce cup:

  • ¼ cup pesto cauliflower rice
  • Radishes, sliced thinly
  • Carrot, grated
  • Red bell pepper, minced
  • Scallions. chopped

For the pesto: Soak the pumpkin seeds for 8 hours and then drain. Place in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until the consistency is mostly smooth, but still has some texture.

For the cauliflower rice: Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until it resembles rice. If you have a small food processor, you can pulse the cauliflower in batches, transfer it to a large mixing bowl, and then stir in the salt, pepper, oil, and mint.

For the butter lettuce cups: Mix 1¼ cups of pumpkin seed pesto with all of the cauliflower rice. In each leaf of butter lettuce, add about ¼ cup of pesto rice and top with the chopped vegetables.

Optional: Top with a small dollop of pesto or some slices of avocado.

Substitutions: If you have yeast sensitivities or candida, you can leave out the nutritional yeast, and decrease the amount of miso to 1 Tbsp. total. If you aren’t allergic to soy and cannot find chickpea miso, you can use (soy-based) mellow white miso. Start with 2 tsp. and add more to taste.

marissaheadshotMarissa Podany is a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator (VLCE), a nutrition nerd, and passionate advocate for animals; she blogs at Reveling in Raw. She healed her own severe digestive issues with a high-raw vegan diet, and has found a way to enjoy her food no matter what restrictions were thrown her way. She lives in Pittsburgh in an all-vegan household with her partner and their gregarious fur child. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

5 thoughts on “Eating Vegan with Food Allergies by Marissa Podany [Pesto Lettuce Cups Recipe]”

  1. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you so much for your amazing blog, Reveling In Raw, for all the earth-conscious and health-conscious foodies out there! <3

  2. Hi !
    I am hoping you can help me . I have been vegan for over 30 years. Recently I was diagnosed with SIBO. I am on antibiotics now, and feel better, however, I have been reading everything I can about SIBO and its looks like my diet is not great for what I have. Can you please direct me somewhere so I can figure out what I need to do with my diet.

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