Primal Substitutes for Non-Primal Foods

It’s perhaps the most commonly asked question, both here in the forums and around the Primal/paleo blogosphere: what about bread/rice/grains/mashed potatoes/fish-and-chips/sweets? That is, what Primal foods can I eat that will satisfy my nascent urges for conventional “comfort foods”? In a perfect fat-adapted world, these urges would be non-existent. We would all be sated on nothing but meat, fat, vegetables, and a bit of fruit, and on a normal day I would stress the importance of desiring truly Primal foods rather than Primal approximations of high-carb, conventional fare.

Today isn’t a normal day, though. We’re in the middle of a particularly intensive Health Challenge, one that centers around making small (but doable) positive changes. For all our new members, finding alternate low-carb versions of the classic high-carb foods can be just the ticket to maintaining their personal health commitments under duress – and for that reason, I rounded up every low-carb food alternative source I could find. Strict PB pros and Primal stalwarts, forgive me, but I’m doing it for everyone’s collective good. Consider this my 80/20 moment. (wink)


Primal Spinach Bread

Carrot Walnut Bread

Coconut Flour Rolls (Thanks, Tim!)

Medicine Woman’s Roots: Golden Flax Bread

Gluten-Free Bread

Focaccia-Style Flax Bread

Oopsie Rolls (Gluten-Free Buns)

Low-Carb Meatloaf (Hey, it’s technically in loaf form. Thanks, Richard!)

Chips and Crackers

Primal Nut Crackers

Grain Free Almond Crackers

Primal Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips with Cinnamon


Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Son of Grok’s Famous Pizza Crust

Eggplant Pizza (scroll down a bit)

Paleo Pizza (Thanks, Scott!)

Sunflower Seed Pizza Crust

Zucchini Pizza Crust


Cauliflower Rice Pilaf (Thanks, maba!)

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Cauliflower Pesto Rice (Thanks, Elizabeth!)


Summer Squash Noodles

Spaghetti Squash and Meat Sauce

Low-Carb “Lasagna”

Noodleless Lasagna

“Spaghetti” with Meat Sauce

Eggplant Lasagna

Mashed Potatoes

Broccoli-Carrot Mash

Mashed Cauliflower (Steam, then into the food processor with salt, butter, and pepper – super easy)

Mashed Butternut Squash


Coconut milk (Smoothie)

Almond milk


Almond Meal

Coconut Flour

Breaded Fried Stuff

Coconut Chicken Fingers with Spicy Fruit Chutney

Coconut Encrusted Chicken Salad

Almond and Parmesan Baked Tilapia


Low-Carb Thickener


Almond Pancakes

Coconut Pancakes

Rick’s Primal Pancakes

Paleo Pancakes

Low-Carb Almond Meal Pancakes

New Almond Meal Pancake Variant


Primal Alternatives to Non-Primal Snacks

Primal Energy Bar

Make Your Own Jerky

Make Your Own Dried Fruit

Spicy Almonds

SoG’s Primal Poppers

SoG’s Dinosaur Droppings


Low-Carb Dessert Recipes (Almond Macaroons, Fruit and Nut Crumble etc.)

Primal Pie Filling

Flourless Pie Crust

SoG’s Gorilla Cake

Raw Walnut Cupcakes

Dairy-Free Custard

Whew. That should about do it. Thanks to everyone who graciously made their recipes available online, and thanks to the entire Primal community. We’re well over half way through the challenge – no more faltering! If you need it, consider this low-carb roundup an instant support system for those times of weakness. Oh, and let me know if I missed anything.

Grok on!

TAGS:  cooking tips

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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46 thoughts on “Primal Substitutes for Non-Primal Foods”

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  1. I still think that raw, unpastuized goat milk is primal, and incredible good for you, being that it does not have much casein in it. It’s as close to human monthers milk as you can get. I love it!
    It’s great with flax muffins mixed with 100% cacao and sweetened with Stevia. Almost like a brownie!

  2. If I’m going to cheat I’m going to cheat, not half way cheat. Half ways always seem to promote more because “it isn’t that bad”, while the real thing doesn’t hide how bad it is.

    Now excuse me, I need a nap off all the carbs I had at lunch.

  3. wow these are fantastic recipes!
    thank you so much! shows we can be Primal and not feel deprived!

  4. Some of the pancake recipes suggest adding some baking soda. Is that okay?

  5. “If I’m going to cheat I’m going to cheat, not half way cheat.”

    I have to clarify first that if I eat something off plan, whatever my current plan might be, I don’t call it a “cheat”. To me, that way lies bad mental mojo.

    But more importantly, I just know there are some things I’ll never eat again, because I no longer consider them food — Ho Ho’s are my favorite example, I used to scarf those by the case! Likewise anything grain-based — it’s just not on the menu ever again, period, and it’s not a question of willpower because I genuinely don’t want those things now. What I *do* occasionally want is something that’s still bad for me, but a lot less than the junk I used to eat. Something like the things on this list…and assuming I make my goal of seeing those last bottles in the six-pack, I may indulge in one of these desserty things once a year for my birthday, along with that one remaining grain I allow myself — single malt scotch!

  6. Almond flour makes a good sub for many items baked with traditional flours. And I was just looking for a jerky recipe!

  7. This is a great resource Mark.

    I find that when I am really dailled into the Primal diet, I don’t even crave the things that would require substitutes. For me personally, having the substitutes actually weakens the purity of my Primal mindset. I often use the substitutes to transition from a period of ‘lapsing’ back into pure primal but after a month or so, I lose interest in the substitutes and just buzz off the basics.

  8. Mar Mar Mark

    Shaun here!

    I am happy I’ve found your site and the first post is a great food post! Thank you. You see i am a food monster and know the basics of good foods to eat, which is good. But that gets boring, i need variations. My main focus has been on how to build a great body around common life styles and the hurdles we face.

    any how, great post!


  9. I made all of these for dinner today. Just kidding, but one might be good.

  10. Wow. *__*

    There is a lot here I hadn’t even heard of. I’m definitely bookmarking this post. But especially for the coconut pancakes. Coconut is my favourite primal food.

  11. I was wondering if natural honey is ok to eat if you are eating Primal?

  12. Mark,

    I saw that there were some substitutes for mashed potatoes… Why aren’t they primal?

  13. This is a nice list, but there’s been more added since. I wish you would use tagging and make ‘primal substitutes’ at tag so such recipes could easily be found. I just spent nearly 20 minutes looking for the almond banana pancake recipe. Of course, that’s because I keep getting distracted by other recipes.

  14. Just curious as to whether anyone has come up with a way to make a primal tortilla? I imagine it shouldn’t be that hard for someone who understands how ingredients work together. I can follow a recipe but inventing on my own is still a work in progress. Thank you. 🙂

  15. Hi Mark,
    I am presently moving through Phase 2 of whats called the “HCG Diet” In phase 3, I am to eat NO Starch and NO Sugar for 3 weeks and then slowly reintroduce them into my regular eating habits.
    I have been researching to find a healthy way of eating for a lifestyle after I have completed my last phase of this diet….this is how I came across your website! I googled ‘STARCH Free pizza crust’ and you were there in the mix. I

    1. OPPS! I would like to know if you have any insight into how I might eat during this transitioning period between ending this diet and begining to eat a heathly lifestyle.
      Thank you,

    2. Hi there, I was wondering how the HCG diet is working for you and how much weight you have lost, maybe you can shared your experience with me as I am very interested…thank you kindly


      1. I lost 23 pounds in 19 days on the HCG diet. At 54 I am under 200 lbs for first time in 20 years and am following a primal diet (for most part and am keeping it off) I did HCG under a doctors care. I think the HCG diet is genius and works.

  16. There are grain-free tortilla recipes out there if you look. This morning, I had a burr-omelet :)- a regular old burrito, but I replaced the tortilla with a thin omelet. I had to eat it with a fork, but it was still delicious!

  17. Hey Mark, some of these links don’t work anymore due to site deletions. 🙁

    I want Pumpkin Loaf!

  18. I have been on a primal diet for 3-4 weeks.
    Lost weight, feel better, etc.
    My favorite appliance is a food dehydrator.
    From making jerky to drying fruit and veggies, this is a must!
    I am looking for a good reliable source of goats or mother milk as well.

  19. What about quinoa? I’ve heard it’s a seed then I’ve heard it’s a grain. Is it primal? If so, any good recipes out there?

  20. My question is not about comfort foods; but if you’re making a spicy, saucy dish, what do you eat it with? Indian food, for example. Peruvian food is very similar. They usually serve their spicy meat-and-vegetables with BOTH rice and potatoes. Help?

  21. Go with the cauliflower! You can rice it, or mash it, depending on whether you’re going for the rice or the potato texture! I go through a couple heads a week now, it goes with everything!

  22. This is from low carb Sheila’s site, one of my favorites:

    Sheila’s Delicious Low-Carb Pancakes
    (6 total carbs)
    3 oz cream cheese, softened in microwave
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1 T flavored sugar-free syrup (I like vanilla)
    Butter to taste
    Beat together thoroughly – no lumps allowed! Pour on buttered skillet on Low-Medium heat for 4 minutes. Flip & let fry for another 1-2 minutes. Also, try these wrapped around sausage for a “pig-in-blanket” effect.
    Note: Check out how Low-Carb Pinay whips these up.