How to make snacks for children with food allergies

When your kids get together with friends or have a party at school, you want to give them a yummy, fun snack everyone can enjoy. Because many kids are allergic to certain foods, providing worry-free snacks can be tough.

Fortunately, now there are lots of great recipes available for allergen-free snacks. By changing just a few ingredients, you can make safe snacks for school and play dates. For instance, Rice Krispies Treats® made with dairy-free margarine are free of most major allergens.

Learn more about the services at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Kids with Food Allergies, a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, provides resources to help you navigate kids’ food allergies. Their recipes commonly avoid allergens — substances that may cause an allergic reaction — like milk, gluten, fish, nuts, and eggs. They offer dozens of recipes for allergen-free treats on their website, and we’ve included a few of our favorites.

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Preparing Allergen-Free Snacks

Making safe snacks requires avoiding cross-contamination, or cross-contact. This means making sure the food you’re preparing doesn’t touch food that may contain allergens. Even tiny amounts of certain allergens can cause allergic reactions in kids and adults, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). provides these tips to prevent cross-contact when making allergen-free treats:

  • Don’t use any utensils unless they’ve been washed in hot, soapy water (simply wiping them off is not enough).
  • Clean all food-prep surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water.
  • Purchase a cutting board, knife, and other utensils to use only when making allergen-free foods, and keep them separate from other equipment.
  • If you’re preparing several meals or snacks, prepare the allergen-free version first and keep it away from all other foods.
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water after working with foods that contains allergens.

If you see a child having an allergic reaction (such as having trouble breathing or breaking out in hives), call 911 immediately. If your child has a food allergy, the Allergy and Immunology Division at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh can help. Make an appointment to learn more about testing and managing allergies.

Apple Crisp

This recipe is free of eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, sesame, peanuts, wheat, and tree nuts. You cut make this gluten- and/or dairy-free by using gluten-free flour and dairy-free margarine.


7-8 medium baking apples
1 tbsp margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose or sweet rice flour
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon


Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Use some of the margarine to lightly grease a baking dish; add the apples to the prepared dish. Dot with apples with the remaining margarine.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well. Cut in 1/2 cup margarine and work until coarse crumbs form; then spread evenly over the apples.

Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes or until the apples are soft and the crumb topping is brown and starts to caramelize.

Coconut and Caramel Popcorn

This recipe is free of eggs, gluten, milk, fish, shellfish, soy, sesame, peanuts, wheat, and tree nuts.


1/3 cup coconut milk creamer

10 cups popcorn (prepare stovetop using ½ cup of unpopped kernels, or use your favorite microwave brand)

1/2 cup vegan butter

3 tbsp agave nectar, amber

1/2 cup dark-brown sugar

1/2 tbsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened, toasted

1 tsp vanilla

**Although classified by the FDA as a tree nut, coconut is not a common allergen and is not related to tree nuts. If you have a tree nut allergy, ask your doctor if you need to avoid coconut.


Spread 10 cups of prepared popcorn on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt vegan spread; add the agave, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and stir until dissolved.

Remove the pan from heat and slowly whisk in the creamer until well combined. Return pan to heat and whisk for 10 minutes or until the sauce becomes amber-colored and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Stir in the coconut flakes and vanilla. Let mixture cool slightly; then drizzle over the popcorn and blend it in with a spatula. Serve immediately.


DIY Cheese Crackers

This recipe is free of eggs, gluten, milk, fish, shellfish, soy, peanuts, wheat, and tree nuts.


1/2 cup red lentils

2 cups water

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp tahini (or other nut or seed butter)

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp turmeric

Dash hot sauce

6 tbsp gluten-free flour blend


Rinse lentils; then combine with water and soak overnight. Drain, reserving liquid.

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat oil and fry lentils until dry and crispy, stirring frequently.

Transfer lentils to a blender jar (this did not work in a food processor). Add remaining ingredients (except flour) and 4 tbsp of the reserved soaking liquid.

Process on medium-high until it becomes a smooth sauce. Add more soaking liquid if it’s still too thick.

Then add flour and process on low speed until well combined. If it’s too thick, add more reserved soaking liquid. (It may require quite a bit depending on how dry the fried lentils were.)

Transfer the mixture, which should be the consistency of pudding, to a pastry bag fitted with a wide, flat tip (a ribbed tip gives the crackers a nice texture). Pipe squiggled ribbons about 1 inch long onto parchment-lined baking pans. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until just brown.

Turn off the oven and leave crackers for 30 minutes with the door closed until they get crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store crackers in an airtight container.

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.