home News Meet the 20-year-old creator of Houghnuts: gluten- and dairy-free pumpkin … – SBS

Meet the 20-year-old creator of Houghnuts: gluten- and dairy-free pumpkin … – SBS

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I’ve been gluten-free since I was about 12-years old.

When I was young, [around age 10] I used to get so sick after all my meals that I always felt like vomiting. For some reason, I thought that was just normal.

After about two years, I was diagnosed with [the autoimmune disease] Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My mum’s doctor took me off gluten as a preventative measure. When I started to feel better, I was so shocked to realise that it wasn’t a ‘normal’ thing to feel ill.

Then, at age 16, I went off all foods containing refined sugars, lactose or fructose due to a bacterial imbalance in my stomach. I didn’t eat fruit and followed a strict low-sugar diet for a year. But then I gave up – I found it too hard to stick to.

It took me a while, but I eventually changed the recipe to become the one I use for houghnuts now, which is completely vegan, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and gluten-free.

Being sugar-free did affect some of my experiences at school – like I couldn’t have birthday cakes and other sugary treats. So I later reintroduced other natural sweeteners into my diet like rice malt syrup and maple syrup but stayed gluten-free.

When I finished school at age 17, I started cooking gluten-free, dairy-free doughnuts with a recipe I found online to eat as a treat. The recipe  was a bit different to the one I use now for my doughnuts – it was egg-based. It took me a while, but I eventually changed the recipe to become the current Houghnuts recipe, which is completely vegan, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and gluten-free.

I started selling raw treats – including my houghnuts – at a market stall in 2015. One year later in 2016, I started retailing houghnuts.

Houghnuts are made with pumpkin, which almost acts like an egg [to bind ingredients] and add sweetness. 

They don’t taste like a doughnut because they don’t contain yeast, gluten and aren’t fried. But they do taste like a moist cake. Houghnuts are made with pumpkin, which almost acts like an egg [to bind ingredients] and adds sweetness. I also use coconut flour, organic coconut oil and almond milk. My houghnuts have a bit of maple syrup in them but to me, that’s okay. Being super strict about sugar is not for me anymore, anyway: my cooking and eating is all about having a balance.

About 90 per cent of my business is currently wholesale – I sell about 2,000 houghnuts per week, on average, to 40-50 cafes in the Sydney region. I’m hoping to be serving the larger NSW area and other states later this year, if not next year. I also plan to move kitchens in October to Alexandria, NSW, where I’ll be opening a shopfront to sell coffee and healthy treats including houghnuts.

I feel that this gluten-free, dairy-free product is so successful because they are genuinely healthy treats. Raw treats are awesome but sometimes they are high in nuts and quite filling. These doughnuts are not as filling and contain lots of nutrients and wholesome ingredients.

I’m also always super-transparent about where the ingredients I use come from and what’s in my products, which I think also helps customers who are really focused on their health and need to know what’s in the food they eat.

About 90 per cent of my business is currently wholesale – I sell about 2,000 houghnuts per week, on average, to 40-50 cafes in the Sydney region.

But everyone’s diet is different. Some people can eat five houghnuts a day while others can’t even have one because they can’t consume food containing maple syrup. Whether the houghnuts suits your needs, depends on the person. That’s because ‘healthy’ is such a subjective term.

Personally, I perceive these houghnuts as being healthier than a raw treat as I can’t eat too many nuts. My favourite of all the flavours I sell are the chocolate houghnuts!

These days, I still don’t eat gluten or dairy – I have a vegan-based diet. I try to stay away from heavy sugars but I’m not too strict.

So currently, my health is pretty good. It’s not perfect because I work 20-hour days but it does feel balanced. And I genuinely feel happy, which is a massive part of being in good health.

Abbey Unger will be selling her Houghnuts and other healthy treats at the Gluten Free Expo in Sydney 4-5 August. The expo will also be in Melbourne 6-7 October. For more details, visit Gluten Free Expo online. 

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