Regular bread is high in carbs & gluten, making it difficult to avoid if you’re on a low histamine diet or going gluten-free or even grain-free. The upside is that there are now a multitude of wheat bread substitutes and gluten-free baking mixes to try as you start your journey.
Many whole grains, including corn, brown rice, and quinoa, can be used as flours when baking gluten-free bread substitutes. But there are also a host of non-bread substitutes to replace bread in your favorite meals.
Think thin sweet potato slices for toast, lettuce for wraps, homemade crackers for sandwiches, and many others. Below are my top substitutes for bread, all of which are low histamine and (mostly) vegan.
- What Exactly is Bread?
- Is Bread Good For You?
- What is Gluten-Free Bread?
- 11 Best Gluten-Free Substitutes for Bread
- Homemade Gluten-Free Bread Swaps
What Exactly is Bread?
Bread is a popular staple food that comes in a wide range of flavors, ingredients, and nutrients. It is prepared from a dough of flour (or meal, like wheat) and water, usually by baking and leavening. It is often fermented using yeast.
Bread has been a major source of sustenance since prehistoric times, and was actually central to the formation of early human societies. It’s the oldest food source that does not necessitate foraging or hunting, and the flour would often store well.
The first bread was made nearly 12,000 years ago in modern-day Jordan during the Neolithic period. They were made from coarsely crushed grain, either by quern or by hand, and then mixed with water. The resulting dough was baked on heated stones covered with hot ashes— much like our modern-day ovens!
Over the millennia, breads have been made in various forms using a variety of ingredients and methods. To replace it you need to replace its function in your particular recipe (or craving).
Is Bread Good For You?
Despite being unfairly blamed for contributing to weight gain, whole grain breads can benefit our health in many ways. The healthiest breads are dense, chewy, and made entirely of stone-ground whole wheat or whole grain flour.
Whole grain bread is a good source of fiber, which helps to keep our digestive system healthy, regulates blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and keeps us feeling fuller for longer. It’s an excellent source of complex carbs, which provide energy and aid in the regulation of blood glucose levels.
They also contain (or may be enriched with) a lot of vitamins and nutrients. B Vitamin help with protein metabolism and cell substitution, while vitamin E is an efficient antioxidant capable of dissolving clots in the blood.
Additionally, iron helps with cell development and oxygenation, potassium helps with cell balance, calcium helps with bone density, and selenium protects against cell damage and infections.
Bread, consumed in moderation, can be part of & contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. That is as long as you don’t have a histamine intolerance, celiac disease, lectin sensitivity, a wheat allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Because people love it so much, gluten-free bread has only grown in popularity over the years— here’s a quick primer on it.
What is Gluten-Free Bread?
As more people need or prefer to avoid gluten, more gluten-free bread products are manufactured and sold in groceries. The most obvious advantage of gluten-free bread is that it allows people who are gluten-intolerant to still be able to enjoy it.
Gluten is a protein group found in wheat that is responsible for the chewy, spongy texture of wheat bread. Gluten-free breads are specifically free from wheat, rye, or barley, all grains which contain varying levels of gluten.
Common types of gluten-free bread are made from various grain flours, such as rice or potato flour. They typically contain hydrocolloids such as guar gum or xanthan gum, which take the place of gluten and improve texture.
Even with these ingredients, however, replicating the texture of regular bread is difficult. Gluten-free breads are typically denser than wheat bread, as some gluten-free flours have a gritty texture. It also has a shorter lifespan, which is why you usually find gf breads in the freezer section.
Not only does reheating these bread cause them to go stale more quickly, but they generally don’t last as long as wheat-based breads overall. Many commercial gluten-free products are also lower in nutrients such as fiber and protein, and can also be high in artificial additives.
For many people, the only tolerated option is to bake their own bread. But if you have enough room in your histamine bucket to buy breads, choose ones that contain important nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, ideally free of any artificial additives.
11 Best Gluten-Free Substitutes for Bread
Gluten-free alternatives to wheat flour commonly used in baked goods include replacement grains, nut & seed flours, beans, or even vegetables. Remember that all these bread swaps will not taste like bread, but will make nutritious and still incredibly tasty dishes. There are also a whole host of store-bought bread alternatives mentioned above, if you still want a bread-like swap.
Remember, if you’re looking for gluten-free bread options due to Celiac Disease, be mindful of what your food comes into contact with. Because you’re likely in a kitchen with other foods and ingredients, it’s easy for your plate, fork, or ingredients to come into contact with gluten, so keep an eye out.
Lettuce Leaves (Greens)
Whether you’re avoiding gluten or just like the satisfying crunch from it, big-leaf greens like lettuce are great substitutions for bread in wrapping food. Asian cuisines popularly use this substitute for bread or rice, like in my pork lettuce wraps.
Iceberg or butter lettuce leaves make great shells or “cups” for minced or chopped meats paired with your favorite sauce. One typical food wrapped in greens is ssam or Korean lettuce wraps, which I affectionately referred to as ‘Korean tacos’ when I lived there.
They can be made with any type of grilled meat (usually Korean barbecue) or vegetables wrapped in lettuce or perilla leaves, usually paired with rice & pickled veggies (the latter not being low histamine). There are many types of greens you can use to make your own version of ssam.
The best types of lettuce to use include red or green lettuce, red or green chicory, red or green mustard leaves, romaine lettuce, iceberg, perilla leaves, squash leaves, napa cabbage, beet leaves, bok choy, and so much more.
Cucumbers are widely cultivated creeping plants from the gourd family. They have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. Cucumbers also offer a fiber boost that helps you ‘avoid constipation’stay regular’ as well as stay hydrated.
Cucumbers are known for their high levels of Vitamin K, which helps keep your bones healthy, and Vitamin A to aid in vision and immunity. While most people eat cucumber as a savory food, in reality it’s a fruit, like other types of squash.
It will keep you full and help you avoid reaching out for any junk food. Its delicate flavor makes it popular for salads, relishes, and as a pickled ingredient. So when you need to substitute bread for canapés or hors d’oeuvres, we recommend cucumbers as an easy base.
Cucumbers have a pleasant crunch and flavor. Simply wash and leave them unpeeled, slice them into rounds or any other desired shape, and top them your usual canapé ingredients.
Bell Pepper Halves
Also called sweet pepper or capsicum, bell peppers are the fruit of grossum plants in the nightshade family. Peppers are treated as annual vegetables in most gardens, but they’re actually tender perennial fruits, like blackberries or rhubarb.
Its smooth, glossy exterior comes in varying colors of green, red, yellow, purple, or orange. Because they sweeten as they ripen, red bell peppers are sweeter than green bell peppers; green bell peppers are unripe colorful peppers.
However all colors of bell peppers are high in carbohydrates and some proteins, and high in vitamins wile still low in calories. Despite being called peppers, these popular culinary ingredients have almost no heat. Aside from color, they give dishes a mildly sweet flavor and a delightful crunch.
Bell peppers are a quick and easy substitute for bread, and make a great pizza sauce. Before preparing them, thoroughly wash & core them, then slice each pepper in half. Cut away all the ribs and seeds, then fill it with your preferred ingredients.
It’s a quick and easy way to enjoy a low-carb sandwich without using bread. Bell pepper halves are a pretty standard size, the ideal one for resembling a slice of bread. Just note that raw peppers are far superior to cooked peppers because they hold up better.
Red, green, orange, and yellow are all excellent options.
Sweet Potato Slices
Sweet potatoes are dicotyledonous plants in the bindweed or morning glory family. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting roots have many culinary and baking uses, and are incredibly healthy. They’re a great source of fiber and antioxidants, which protect your body from free radical damage and promote gut & brain health.
They’re even high in beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A and helps support your vision & immune system. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, selenium, vitamin C, and B vitamins, which help with overall nutrition.
Sweet potatoes are a delicious way to switch up your breakfast routine when you’re on a diet or are allergic to gluten and can’t have bread. They make a great alternative to bread, especially if you’re craving toast.
They can be enjoyed with any toppings you choose, and can even be roasted or toasted. When they’re baked they become fork-tender and hold toppings really well, especially if you slice them thickly and scoop out a bit of the middle.
Sweet potatoes are only mildly sweet, so they actually go well with both sweet and savory toppings. Choose sweet potatoes with orange or red skins rather than the purple type (imo); those are the sweeter, creamier, and less starchy variety of sweet potatoes.
To swap for white bread or toast, simply slice the sweet potato into smaller rounds or lengthwise. Lengthwise cuts produce longer, more toast-like pieces. Bake these slices in the oven and then top each one with fresh ingredients, easy peasy.
Potato ‘Bread’ Slices
Unlike sweet potatoes, regular potatoes are an annual nightshade plant grown for its starchy edible tubers. This common root vegetable is affordable, easily accessible, extremely versatile, and more importantly, delicious when roasted or baked.
Contrary to popular belief, potatoes are not inherently fattening. The way we eat potatoes – usually deep-fried and salted – has more to do with their bad rep. Potatoes are actually naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, like B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, as well as potassium, an essential electrolyte.
Low in calories and fat, potatoes have a high fiber content with a bit of protein. Potatoes may not be as “nutrient-dense as other vegetables, but the carbs they provide are far superior to white bread, making them an excellent bread substitute.
Preparing a baked potato and eating it, skin and all (without salt), is a good way of subbing a potato for bread. Because potatoes have a mild flavor and come in all shapes & sizes, they’re ideal for cutting open and stuffing like a sandwich.
To do so, simple bake the potato, cut it in half, and carefully hollow out the middle with a spoon. Cut away the end pieces before brushing the insides of the potato halves with olive oil. Then assemble your sandwich like you normally would.
Large Carrot Slices
Carrots are brightly-colored root vegetables that are generally pretty long and thin. They’re a spring-grown, cool-season crop, so they’re usually available in supermarkets year-round. They’re crunchy, tasty, and packed with nutrients.
They are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, carbohydrates, and fiber, which may promote healthy vision, balance blood sugar, aid in weight management, and reduce your risk of cancer. These popular vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked, and add color & nutrients to any meal.
Simply top a large carrot slice with whatever you want to enjoy that day, for a delicious wrap or sandwich swap. To prepare them as a cooked swap, bake slices in the oven or grill them on both sides with a little olive oil, then top with your choice of ingredients.
Proper gluten-free pancakes should be light and fluffy. Unfortunately, as with many gluten-free products, they often just don’t taste the same as regular pancakes, especially if you’re grain-free.
Of course, if you’re gluten intolerant, you won’t have to skip out on those delicious flapjacks, because these days there are abundant options available. There are numerous gluten-free pancake mixes available commercially, but you’ll want to ensure they’re free from any nasty additives or artificial flavorings.
If you’re not up for a fully homemade version, try a few commercial mixes and see what you think. Cassava root or almond flour is commonly used as a base in some store-bought grain-free pancake mixes.
Some even have no added sugar, so you can eat a healthier pancake without worrying about your sugar intake.
Gluten-free crackers are another excellent gluten-free bread substitute. This super crunchy snack is widely available in supermarkets and health food stores, and there are even some great fully grain-free options these days.
They’re often packed with superfoods like hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds. No matter your intolerances, there are dairy-free, whole grain, kosher, organic, vegan, wheat-free, dairy-free, and nut-free cracker options.
Each brand is different, so try a few until you find one with a rich flavor and good texture, delicious on their own or when paired with your favorite dips. Some manufacturers make gluten-free crackers with a ton of unhealthy additives like cornstarch, dextrose, and palm oil, so always read the ingredients list.
A big bonus with this gluten-free bread alternative is that they’re super easy to make at home. You can pretty much use any or all the seeds that you have in your pantry.
Simply preheat the oven, mix together chia seeds, hemp seeds, water, and any other yummy goodies you want in a bowl, and let it sit for a few minutes. Pour them onto a baking tray, bake for awhile, and presto! Easy as pie, yummy super seed, gluten-free crackers.
While traditional corn tortillas are natural and gluten-free, there are now also many gluten-free wraps available in stores. They’re an easy, accessible, and convenient way to avoid gluten in your wraps, rolls, and roulades.
One advantage of gluten-free wraps is that they tend to be lower in calories, carbs, fat, and sodium, but the health benefits aren’t always significant. The health benefits of eating gluten-free tortillas vary by brand, but almond flour or corn tortillas may be the healthiest options.
The overall healthfulness of gluten-free tortillas is determined by the type of flour used, and the number of tortillas consumed. Almond flour, chickpea flour, sweet potato flour, quinoa, and chia seeds can all be used to make gluten-free tortillas.
When shopping for gluten-free wraps in grocery stores or health food stores, always read the ingredients list carefully. Many gluten-free baked goods contain unwanted ingredients, such as xanthan gum.
The healthier versions with clean ingredients lists are slightly more expensive, but do usually provide more health benefits. With this grain-free bread substitute, you can still make your favorite tacos and burritos sans gluten.
Rice Cakes (Rice Crackers)
Rice cakes, or rounded rice crackers are snack foods made from puffed rice, originating in Japan. These gluten-free snacks are made from whole-grain glutinous rice (sweet rice), white rice, or brown rice.
The cakes are made by subjecting uncooked grains of rice to extremely high heat and pressure, causing it to expand like popcorn. The rice and any bonding ingredients expand to fill round molds before being sprayed with flavors and additives on a conveyor belt, though some brands only contain rice & water.
This popular health food fad from the ‘80s is low in calories and fat. They also have a better crunch than many less healthy snack foods, like potato chips, but they’re pretty much devoid of anything else. Because of the high-heat processing, rice cakes are unfortunately largely stripped of their nutrients.
Some rice cakes contain brown rice, which provides a minor nutrient boost, while all are low in saturated fats and sugar. Rice crackers can be baked, grilled, or fried, and then seasoned with sweet or savory ingredients and toppings.
They’re not generally a healthier alternative to bread, but when compared to chips or white bread they can be. Rice cakes can easily substitute for toast if you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to bread. Though bread is generally more filling, it can be a healthier, filling alternative when paired with a nut butter, fruits, or even vegetables.
You can often swap bread for corn tortillas when making wraps or sandwiches. Tortillas are popular in Latin American cuisines, commonly used to scoop up sauced or stewed dishes, or cut into pieces and cooked on a skillet to top a salad or eat with your favorite dip.
Tortillas are flatbreads made of corn or wheat. The versatile tortilla can be baked, steamed, grilled, heated in a microwave or toaster, or even fried. When buying tortillas as a substitute for bread, just be careful to check the label and look for products made from corn or non-wheat whole grains.
Corn tortillas are gluten-free but high in fiber, making them an excellent choice for gluten-sensitive people. They’re simple to make because they only require two ingredients: water and a corn flour known as masa harina.
They can be used as a substitute for bread in sandwiches, wraps, homemade burgers, and pizzas, or simply as an alternative to toast when smeared with butter or spreads. We’re rounding up our bread substitutes with a few bonus treats— we can’t resist these easy homemade recipes for gluten-free alternatives to bread.
Homemade Gluten-Free Bread Swaps
LOW HISTAMINE WARNING: the recipe calls for cheese, which is not often well-tolerated early in a low histamine diet.
Cauliflower bread is an ingenious creation that is delicious, nutritious, and low in carbs. You only need a whole head of cauliflower, grated, and mixed with an egg, cheese, and spices before being flattened and baked. Make a mean cheese sandwich or even a flatbread pizza out of it.
This is a great 4-ingredient cauliflower bread recipe.
Multi-seed crackers are gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, and high in omega-3 fatty acids, making them beneficial to our brains and heart. These delicious treats are packed with energy to keep us going and fiber and protein to keep us full. They’re also very simple to make at home, and great with dips and sauces.
Here’s an easy recipe to follow.
LOW HISTAMINE WARNING: the recipe calls for yogurt, which is not often well-tolerated early on in a low histamine diet.
Oopsie bread is a popular wheat bread substitute that tastes great as a burger bun or sandwich. Oopsie bread, while still considered bread, is simple to make and flourless. It can be made with only eggs, cream cheese or yogurt (not always well-tolerated with histamine intolerance), and salt. But most importantly, it tastes delicious.
Try this recipe.