Chicken Parmesan? What’s not to like about Chicken Parm? It’s yummy comfort food, but for most the kids in my pediatric nutrition practice, it’s a no go. Cheese, wheat, and sugar in foods like canned tomato sauce place it out of reach for my kids with celiac, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, Crohns disease, FPIES, milk protein allergy, and more. Even tomato can be a histamine trigger, crossing Chicken Parmesan off the list for kids with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS); others avoid any tomato ingredient, because it’s a nightshade.
There’s an easy, fast way to make and enjoy this dish for an AIP friendly, low FODMAPs, allergy friendly diet. I lean on some of my favorite prepared foods to make it work – and there are many food companies out there stepping it up with excellent options for people of any age who feel better on an elimination diet, and want to enjoy eating delicious favorites. You don’t have to prepare everything from scratch, shortening the timeline on this recipe by a mile.
Ingredient notes! Read these.
For sure, the original whole organic ingredients that make Chicken Parmesan a favorite – aged cheese from pastured cows and sprouted organic heirloom wheat bread to make the crumb coating – we all would like to eat those. Some of us just can’t and we’re working on gut repair so that someday we can. Meanwhile, replacing the wholesome natural foods we love in Chicken Parmesan with non-allergen alternatives is an option. I’ve tried a lot of these over many years, and have watched this market niche mature. Some of these substitutes just don’t work. Some work pretty well. Ingredients will make or break this simple dish, so use the right stuff.
- I like to use thighs over breasts, because they are more flavorful and don’t dry out as easily.
- For tomato sauce, you may improve tolerance for nightshades and histamines by sticking with a pure, organic, zero-sugar, strained tomato sauce that has seeds and skins removed. My choice for this is BioNaturae Strained Tomatoes. If using this, you will want to add oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and basil to the sauce before spreading over the chicken. Fresh herbs are great if you have them, as is fresh minced garlic, if you want to go to the trouble and this is not an issue for you for FODMAPs. But dried herbs and garlic powder or garlic salt will work as well. You may find that garlic powder or garlic salt is perfectly manageable on a FODMAPs restriction, versus fresh minced garlic.
- If tomato is still a total no-go, use Nomato sauce, a veggie-based, nightshade-free, sugar-free, and tomato-free Marinara sauce.
- Either way – allowing the seeds or skins in your tomato sauce, or using strained BioNaturae sauce – stick with a strictly zero sugar product like this one. This keeps your Chicken Parm AIP-friendly.
- For “bread” crumbs, I use Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers. If almonds are an issue, check out Simple Mills Veggie Pita Mediterranean Crackers. Both are grain free.
- Now for the “cheese”. If you’re good with cow’s milk dairy products, get your favorite imported biodynamic Parmesan (you might even try a sheep milk version for more allergy friendliness) and grate away. If not, use my favorite cheese alternative, VioLife Vegan Cheese. Why do I like this?
- As a clinician and parent who has sought zero dairy options since 1998, I’ve tasted a lot of cheese substitutes. For many years, these were nothing but yuck. I think VioLife – newer on the scene – actually tastes and performs best.
- VioLife products do not use pea protein concentrate, a common substitute for casein and whey in dairy alternatives, from baked goods, to snack bars, to plant protein drinks and supplements. Pea protein concentrate is a big fail for my pediatric nutrition practice. Many kids sensitized to dairy don’t tolerate it very well. In fact, it’s often why a dairy elimination fails, if parents use it as the dairy replacement of choice. And, it tastes weird when melted if ya ask me.
- VioLife products are non-GMO verified.
- For this recipe, lay VioLife Just Like Smoked Provolone slices over the assembled chicken and sauce before baking. This has small amounts of non-GMO potato and corn starches in it. Even for my grain sensitive kids, this works pretty well. Hives to corn may be a deal breaker for your child, but even my high IgE corn reactive kids often do okay with micro amounts of corn starch.
- If rice starch doesn’t pose a problem, you might try the VioLife Just Like Parmesan for this recipe.