HOME > Chowhound > Special Diets >


Nightshades, soy, citrus allergies that manifest as skin rash

WOW! First! I think this is an important board and I do hope to gain valuable information from others who may share some secrets on good substitutes or alternatives for foods that I cannot (should not is a better phrase as I do splurge) eat.

I notice that when I eat members of the nightshade family, my skin itches a few hours later. I do have severe eczema of the hands and feet, and thats where the itch/hotness occurs. My allergist confirmed the food allergy with testing but my dermatologist does not support a connection between skin issues and food intake.

If you do not know what the nightshades are, well they include: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes (not 100% sure on this one).

If you must avoid, either due to allergy or by choice, the nightshades, what do you use as alternatives to them?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. potatoes are definately nightshades - latin name for potatoes is Solanum tuberosum and the Latin name for the nightshade family is Solanaceae. You can stick any vege into wikipedia and find out what plant family it's in.

    I don't really like potatoes and often substitute either sweet potato (morning glory family Convolvulaceae) or cauliflower (mustard family, Brassicaceae) for it, depending on the recipe.

    Tomatos and peppers are a bit harder though...

    1. mushrooms - particularly crimini & portobello - and zucchini are great stand-ins for eggplant.

      sweet potatoes actually don't contain the same problematic alkaloids that most people react to in nightshades, so you should be okay eating them.

      good substitutes for potatoes: celery root, turnip/rutabaga, cassava, taro, and, if you don't have gastric sensitivity to them, sunchokes.

      an unexpected but useful substitute for raw tomato: green papaya or green mango.

      miso paste or tamarind (or a combination of the two) can often substitute quite well for tomato paste if the recipe doesn't require a large amount, and you can combine them with a bit of pureed squash or pumpkin to mellow the flavor.

      oh, and i'd suggest finding a dermatologist who actually knows what they're talking about, because the contention that there's no connection between skin issues and food is preposterous.

      4 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        "oh, and i'd suggest finding a dermatologist who actually knows what they're talking about, because the contention that there's no connection between skin issues and food is preposterous."

        I echo this 1000%.

        Skin issues are a very common response to allergies. I've experienced hives due to drug and food allergies.

        1. re: meatn3

          "oh, and i'd suggest finding a dermatologist who actually knows what they're talking about, because the contention that there's no connection between skin issues and food is preposterous."

          i second this 1000% as well. every time my son has an allergic reaction it's been accompanied by a rash. sometimes it's eczema and often when it's an acute allergy it's dots all over. i'm allergic to peaches and nectarines and my skin bubbles around my lips when i eat them.

          i cannot think of any substitute for tomato. i just don't think there is one aside from red peppers which is obviously off the table in this instance. if i were to be asked to substitute tomato right now, i would probably boil some carrots and puree them down. i'd then sautee garlic and veggies and then add the carrot sauce and a touch of sugar.

        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Great suggestions, I got some new ideas!

          Watch the sodium in miso paste. 46% RDA for the "low sodium" variety I bought without reading the label closely enough. Yikes!

          1. re: isamack

            depends on the color - sweet white (shiro) miso is lower in sodium than yellow or red. also, some brands list a serving as 1 Tbsp, others 1 tsp. i personally find a teaspoon to be a more reasonable amount to use anyway, because the flavor is so potent you don't really need more than that.

            i'm actually a low-sodium cook, and i find plenty of room in my repertoire for miso when used sparingly.

        3. Maybe sweet potato instead of potato? Maybe squash rather than eggplant. No great substitute for tomatoes. I love tomatoes. I had to stop eating them for a while too and I didn't like it. Maybe a plum would work in some instances?

          1. Here's one more sneaky nightshade: Soy!

            American-grown soy is hybridized with petunias to be pesticide (Round-Up) resistant. Thank you Monsanto!

            Organic soy sauce/tamari is safe. You can find it in any asian market and some bigger mainstream grocers.

            Good luck! I am still "learning to cook" all over again and my diagnosis was 2 years ago. I really miss tomatoes...

            1. your dermatologist is crazy. my best friend's husband is allergic to soy, coconut, and about a billion other foods - gets terrible eczema on his hands - to the point he has to wear gloves!

              I've noticed lately that really ripe tomatoes make my mouth hurt a little. Unless the reaction gets worse, I'm going to keep eating tomatoes tho, because I love 'em!

              1. I am allergic to the bell pepper family (red, yellow, green, orange) but can eat other peppers (jalapeno, habanero etc). If I eat the offending pepper, I get gastro-intestinal distress within 30 minutes (and it's not pretty). if I handle them, I get a rash. I'm not allergic to tomatoes, eggplant or potatoes, which is just odd (must do more research on my allergy!!).

                When cooking, the substitution varies. It's easy to sub carrots for bell peppers in cajun cooking. I make gumbo, ettouffe and jambalaya without bell peppers. I don't have a sub for tomatoes or potatoes. I agree with others that mushrooms could sub for eggplant.

                1. Sorry I don't have more good subs but I do have one. My nephew is a *very* picky eater and will not eat a tomato in any form. No allergies, just hates them---won't even eat ketchup. He does, however, love salsa, so I make a decent mango salsa that is good. You can always freshen the taste with lemon or apple cider vinegar, and various herbs.

                  1. Your dermatologist is a dope. I used to get giant hives after eating shellfish, along with a swollen lip, and itchy skin. I get skin itching from eating unfresh poultry and I used to get it in response to eating tomatoes or other foods high in salicylates. Itching and skin rashes either from eating or from contact with certain food skins is common.

                    1. Soy also aggravates my skin. I didn't realize it was a nightshade. Thanks everyone for your posts.

                      1. Too many tomatoes make me itch, especially in the summer when the really big beefsteak tomatoes are available. I eat tomatoes in moderation anyway, because I follow a low carb diet. I've not noticed an allergic reaction to green peppers (thank goodness!) or the others.

                        Too much citrus causes me to have mouth ulcers, so I don't eat a lot of citrus either. This isn't very hard to manage around. I just eat an orange a few times a year--never juice.

                        I also have probs with eczema, usually in the winter. How I deal with that is with care of the skin. Your dermatologist is weird. Find another. Of course food affects our skin. Plenty of people get rashes from eating strawberries, for Pete's sake.

                        How I handle my reactions is I don't eat too many tomatoes at one time or for consecutive days, and I seldom eat citrus. When my eczema starts to act up, I make sure to keep my skin moisturized. When that doesn't work, I have powerful steroidal creams to use. I try never to have to use them though.

                        1. As lots of people have already said, sweet potatoes are good subs for potatoes (especially the japanese variety that has purple skin and a white inside-- very mild and not especially sweet)-- I like making a mash with any of the following: japanese sweet potato, parsnip, celeriac, turnip, rutabaga-- and of course garlic and butter (or coconut cream-- yummmm). Everybody, even the hardcore "traditionalists," love them-- even for Thanksgiving dinner!

                          There is a brand out there that I haven't tried, called Nomato (http://nomato.com) that makes a pretty legit-looking sauce and ketchup sub, although their bbq sauce contains nightshade peppers. The ingredients list makes it look like it would be pretty easy to replicate.

                          Since cheeseburgers are one of my favorite foods (and a cheeseburger isn't really a cheeseburger to me unless it has a tomato slice on it, and possibly even a little ketchup), I have learned that subbing a pineapple slice really does a great job of mimicking the texture and acidity you're looking for in a tomato. Because teriyaki sauce doesn't have nightshades in it (although some people do use them, so ask first), a Hawaiian burger is often a great choice if you're missing your burgers. Same thing for teriyaki chicken wings (ohhhh, how I miss a good buffalo sauce). Don't forget to ask the waitstaff if they use potato buns for the burgers, too, though.

                          When you're on the lookout for nightshades, don't forget about goji berries and ginseng. These are found in a lot of drinks, and it is SO easy to forget, even if you've been off them for a while like I have. Mmmm, delicious artisan cocktail made with gooseberries? Check the list... it's a nightshade!

                          Also, remember to check every food/ drink item that is red, orange, or purple in color. And double-check samples at the grocery store. For instance, San Pellegrino's Blood Orange flavor soda is colored with paprika, as is almost everything that's processed and is red in color. "Krab stick," in your California roll? That red color comes from paprika. Then, the other day, I'm trying out ginger ale samples (alllll natural, made right here in Portland) in the grocery store, and I ask what's in it. "Just ginger and a little honey!" Ok, I take a sip-- "why's it got that spice flavor?" "Oh, we throw in a little cayenne, just for a kick!" Thanks, lady.

                          And that's just peppers! Say goodbye to things like soup in a can (except for Amy's Split Pea-- yes you will learn to love split-pea soup). Potato starch is everywhere. Everywhere. If your nutritionist says to lay off all inlammatory foods-- i.e. going gluten-free as well-- bear well in mind that almost all gluten-free baked goods and breads are made with potato flour.

                          I just want to say, the food intolerance life can be a lonely life.
                          It can be very frustrating to go over to a friend's house, who knows you have this intolerance, and worked very hard to make a meal to your specifications, and then realizes she threw in a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash at the end, ruining everything for you unintentionally.
                          I think people with food intolerances seem so weird to Normos because we really do have to set ourselves apart from others, and you lose a connection there.
                          I am very fortunate to have a gourmet cook for a partner, and he is always up for a challenge, and we are very creative, but have lots of time, and no kids.
                          In order to offset the alienating feelings, we have dinner parties at our house, and invite everybody over, and we all eat nightshade-free.
                          But going out to eat dinner can be excruciating. I had to raise my typical tip percentage at least 10%, just because the waitstaff always has to check with several more people in the back before coming to the conclusion that, no I can't eat that. Or I have to send something back, because people can't wrap their heads around the idea of A Food that doesn't have nightshades in it. I know it's their responsibility to check, and know, what's in the food they serve, but this is still a niche intolerance, and even Whole Foods doesn't list nightshades on their This May Contain signage. Last I checked, something like 1% of people with food intolerances have nightshade intolerances. There's hope, though: many people have nightshade intolerances that are only temporary.

                          Sorry this is so long, but I just want to add: why is it that our culture is so dependent on nightshade vegetables that do little to enhance the flavor of foods, and often detract from it? I've been observing (while waiting for my fingers-crossed second entree to appear at the table) what little itty-bitty nightshade ingredients are added to recipes, and it doesn't make sense why, to me. Why does all grilled meat at chain restaurants come marinated in nightshades? And all fried chicken batter contain cayenne?
                          (Although, the fried chicken voted #1 in Portland, Or-- from George's Corner tavern-- contains no nightshades, go figure. But that's the only place in town that doesn't, except at my house, and possibly yours.


                          When we have to alter a recipe at home, we'll take out that 1/8tsp of paprika or chili powder or cayenne, and the recipe tastes essentially the same. We've even subbed red wine for tomato sauce in a lot of french and italian dishes and it seems to taste... at least similar. And our spice sub, if we have one, tastes far and away better than what the 5-star traditional recipe calls for.
                          What is it about our global reliance on these foods? I mean, especially for dishes that don't really relate to any kind of geographical dependence on them. I don't get it.
                          Somebody please help me figure out how to get out from under Big Nightshade! And: Solidarity, People!

                          1. Theefamousperson: You listed ginseng as a nightshade. Can you indicate a source for your info? I googled and could not find it on any list.

                            Was sad to learn that goji berries are a nightshade. Thanks for the info!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: isamack

                              Also I don't think gooseberries are nightshades. That doesn't mean you can't be allergic to them.