Dessert is intended to be savored—it’s the grand finale of any great meal, after all. But if you’re dealing with a gluten intolerance, dairy allergy, or other special dietary needs, dessert can often trigger discomfort. It doesn’t have to be that way. We firmly believe that there’s a pastry for every palate and a cake for every cautious eater. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of our favorite diet-approved yet downright decadent dessert recipes. Whether you’re avoiding gluten or dairy, we’ve got your last course covered.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that’s naturally present in a variety of grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is formed when two molecules—glutenin and gliadin—create a bond. Some people have difficulty digesting gluten and may even experience an intolerance to it, requiring them to choose gluten-free foods.
When you’re whipping up a sweet treat, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not certain ingredients meet the gluten-free criteria. Let’s take a look at a few common baking ingredients.
Are oats gluten-free?
Most likely yes! Unless they’re processed in a facility that also manufactures barley, wheat, or any other item containing gluten, which can result in contamination, oats are OK.
Is cornstarch gluten-free?
Yes, pending no cross-contamination. Unlike flour, which is typically made from wheat, cornstarch is made with corn, making it inherently gluten-free. Cornstarch is typically used as a thickener, just like flour. But if you’re using it as a flour replacement, know that you won’t need to use quite as much since cornstarch has more thickening power. Be sure to use half as much cornstarch as you would flour.
Are marshmallows gluten-free?
Some, but not all, marshmallows are gluten-free. Some brands contain wheat or glucose syrup, neither of which are gluten-free ingredients. Read labels carefully and chances are you’ll find a gluten-free option.
7 Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes
These decadent confections are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth—with no gluten in sight.
It’s hard to top classic carrot cake. But these moist and creamy treats made with almond flour take the cake with a tropical twist of pineapple and coconut.
If you’re looking for an unexpected and sumptuous dessert that’s sure to earn high praise at your next dinner party, this dish has you covered. It starts with a traditional Italian olive oil cake infused with fresh rosemary and orange zest, and ends with an irresistible topping—rich, dark chocolate ganache.
This comforting brown rice pudding, made with non-dairy milk and raw honey, gets a splash of color and texture from the addition of caramelized pineapple.
Believe it or not, you can enjoy banana bread on a gluten-free diet! This lovely loaf doesn’t disappoint thanks to ripe bananas, almond flour, cinnamon, agave, and walnuts.
Perfect for a warmer evening, this dish pairs strawberries soaked in honey, mint, ginger, and cardamom with Greek yogurt and crunchy pine nuts.
Sometimes you just want a rich, chocolatey dessert you can sink a spoon into—without the hassle of baking. This recipe checks all the boxes. Just fill a mug with gluten-free flour, cacao powder, peanut butter, and maple syrup and zap in the microwave for less than two minutes.
Nuts about Nutella? These vegan cookies capture the flavor of your favorite hazelnut spread with a combination of gluten-free oat bran, chopped hazelnuts, chocolate chips, and banana.
What Is Dairy-Free?
While sometimes confused with a lactose-free diet (which can still include lactose-free dairy products), dairy-free means avoiding absolutely all dairy products—that is, products produced by the milk of a mammal. That means skipping animal-based milk, cheese, butter, cream, yogurt, and so on. Often, those who eat dairy-free will swap out these ingredients for plant-based alternatives made from nuts, grains, and seeds.
Contrary to popular belief, baking doesn’t have to involve dairy. In fact, there are many dessert-friendly ingredients that happen to be dairy-free. Let’s take a look at some common FAQs related to dairy-free baking.
Is almond milk dairy-free?
Yes. As the name implies, almond milk is made by soaking raw almonds overnight, straining them, blending them with filtered water, then straining the resulting liquid again for a milky, dairy-free beverage that works well as a dairy milk substitute.
Is ghee dairy-free?
Technically ghee is not dairy-free (or vegan) since it contains butterfat. However, ghee is essentially clarified butter that’s made by melting butter and separating out the milk solids—so it’s actually lactose-free. So if you’re sticking to a dairy-free diet due to lactose intolerance, you can still enjoy ghee.
Are eggs dairy-free?
Yes. Since the term dairy only applies to milk-based products produced by the mammary glands of mammals, eggs would technically be considered dairy-free.
7 Dairy-Free Dessert Recipes
No milk? No cream? No butter? No problem! These recipes prove desserts don’t need dairy to be delicious.
We’ve made a warm, chewy childhood favorite totally dairy-free thanks to a blend of almond flour, coconut oil, gluten-free rolled oats, and raisins.
This dairy-free spin on the classic French custard includes coconut cream and coconut sugar for a creamy, satisfying treat that’s every bit as good as the original.
This smooth, luscious mousse isn’t just dairy-free—it’s totally raw too! The texture comes courtesy of cashew butter mixed with cacao powder while Medjool dates bring the sweetness.
Sandwich a scoop of banana-based ‘n’ice cream’ between two cinnamon-dusted snickerdoodle cookies for a whimsical, handheld sweet.
These deceptively simple brownies come together in just 20 minutes and they’re vegan, grain-free, and Paleo-friendly. The rich batter includes ground flaxseeds, raw cacao powder, Medjool dates, and dark chocolate.
With a non-dairy base of coconut cream and ripe avocados, maple syrup and almond extract for sweetness, and chopped pistachios for crunch, this “n’ice cream” will satisfy your cravings for the real thing sans dairy.
“Banoffee” is a portmanteau of bananas and coffee—a perfectly balanced combination, and it’s totally possible to make a dairy-free version. The filling blends bananas with cashews, dates, honey, and coconut oil, which is then folded into a gluten-free granola tart shell. The best part? Everything gets drizzled in a rich (dairy-free) caramel sauce.