Anyone with gluten intolerance symptoms should get to know these gluten free pantry essentials, and find their own favorite gluten free flours and gluten free flour mixes. Learning the ins and outs of these gluten free substitutes can bring baking back to life for those diagnosed with celiac disease symptoms or gluten intolerance. This can also help take the guesswork out of your trips down the grocery isles.
I’ll begin with a list of common wheat flour alternatives, then explain key ingredients used for gluten substitution when using gluten free flours, then move on to detail several great recipes for gluten free flour mixes that you can keep on hand in your gluten free pantry. If you like, you can skip down to the recipes by clicking here. But reading the entire guide will help you better understand what is gluten free.
Gluten Free Flour Substitutes
You can buy premixed gluten free flour blends and gluten free all purpose flour for convenience. Some of these already have xanthan gum added so read the label before you use them. If you’re looking for a quick, pre-made gluten-free flour mix, here are a few good options available at Amazon:
If you want a healthier option that provides more protein, fiber and nutrients go for Bob’s Red Mill. If you want a lighter flour more like white flour go with Better Batter or The Gluten-Free Pantry flour. Note that at Amazon you can often buy in bulk and get free shipping! They’ve also recently refined and patented a robust and customer-friendly return policy.
Arrowroot is a starch that can be used in place of cornstarch; many people find it superior to cornstarch, but unlike cornstarch when cooked at high temperatures for too long it can lose its thickening ability. It can be used to thicken sauces, gravies or pudding (it works well for clear sauces) and it can also be used as a starch in a gluten free flour mix.
Bean flours are produced from pulverized beans. These flours provide a great texture and they increase nutritional value, protein and fiber without adding much fat. Garbanzo bean flour and fava bean flour (or a blend of the two, garfava flour) are the most common bean flours used for gluten free cooking and baking. They have a slightly stronger flavor than some other options, which some love and others don’t care for. They work well for breads or stronger flavored items like brownies or cookies. You can replace up to 1/4 the amount of wheat flour with bean flour.
Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour comes from unpolished brown rice. It has more nutritional value than white rice flour because it contains the bran — the outer layers of the grain that contains more nutrients and fiber. It has a slightly nutty flavor and it can have a grainy texture when used in high concentrations; use a fine or super fine grind to reduce this. This is a versatile flour that can be used in breads, muffins, cookies and cakes.
Despite the name buckwheat is gluten free and not related to wheat. It is not even a grain but instead related to the rhubarb family. Buckwheat is considered a good source of protein because it contains all of the 8 essential amino acids. The flour has a strong grainy flavor that works well in pancakes, breads and noodles, but it can also be used in things like cookies. Soba noodles contain buckwheat, but read the label carefully when buying them because many varieties are a mixture of wheat and buckwheat flours. Give buckwheat flour a try with this gluten free buckwheat pancake recipe.
Corn flour is milled from corn and can be blended with cornmeal to make cornbread or muffins. It is excellent for waffles, pancakes or cornbread. It can also be used in smaller amounts in flour blends.
Cornmeal is ground corn that comes from either yellow, white or blue cornmeal. It has more of a course grind than corn flour so they typically can’t be interchanged. It imparts a strong corn flavor that is delicious in pancakes, waffles and of course cornbread.
Cornstarch is a refined starch that comes from corn. It is mostly used as a clear thickening agent for puddings, fruit sauces and Asian cooking. Cornstarch can also be used as a lower cost starch in a flour blend.
Millet flour can help add vitamins, minerals and a nice texture to your baked goods. It has a subtle flavor that works well in flour mixes for baked goods. Keep refrigerated as it can get bitter and turn rancid if not refrigerated after opening.
Nut flours are grated from nuts — most commonly almonds and hazelnuts — and are used in gluten free baking to produce more nutritious and flavorful results. These flours or meals work well in a variety of baked goods from breads to cookies but they work especially well in pastries and pie crusts. Tortes are often made with nut flours. Just be sure the nut flours weren’t processed in a facility that also produces wheat flour as there could be cross contamination.
Potato flour is made from ground, dehydrated potatoes. It can be used to thicken soups, gravies or sauces, but it also works well in breads, pancakes or waffles. Potato flour has a distinct potato flavor and is very different from potato starch.
Potato starch is a fine, white starch that can be used in gluten free baking mixes or as a gluten free thickening agent. Potato starch doesn’t have much flavor so it can be used in baking mixes to improve the texture without imparting a strong flavor. It can also be used to thicken sauces or soups.
Quinoa flour, ground from quinoa seeds, is becoming more popular because of its nutritional value. This easy to digest flour is high in protein — providing all of the essential amino acids — iron and magnesium. Quinoa flour has a distinct somewhat earthy flavor that some people love but others don’t care for as much. It can be used with other flours for a variety of baked goods including cookies, breads, brownies or pancakes.
Sorghum flour is a great option for gluten free baking and cooking. It provides more nutrients than many other gluten free flour options without imparting a strong flavor. It is a versatile gluten free flour that can be mixed with other flours and used for a variety of baked goods including cookies, cakes, scones or breads.
Soy flour is a more nutritious, low carbohydrate gluten free flour that is very high in protein and fiber but also higher in fat content (lower fat versions are available). It can help add moisture to baked goods but is best when used in combination with other flours. Soy flour has a distinctive, beany taste that some people like and some don’t.
Sweet Rice Flour
Sweet rice flour is made from a high-starch, sticky rice and is different from white rice flour. It has a mild flavor that works well in flour blends but it can also be used to thicken sauces or soups.
Tapioca Flour is a light, white, very smooth starch that comes from the cassava root. It is great for gluten free baking because it provides a nice chewy texture that is often lacking in gluten free baked goods. It also works well as a thickener. It can be used as a starch in a gluten free flour blend.
White Rice Flour
White rice flour is milled from polished white rice. It is a good basic flour for gluten free baking because it is light and it doesn’t impart any specific flavor to your baked goods. White rice flour is pretty versatile and it mixes well with other flours; the downside is that it doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrients.
Maintaining Texture With Gluten Free Foods
Wheat flour contains gluten, which keeps cookies, cakes and pies from getting crumbly and falling apart. It’s what provides a good texture in baked goods because it traps pockets of air. This creates a nice airy quality that most baked goods possess when baked with traditional wheat flour. Gluten gives dough its elasticity, and it also helps to quickly thicken sauces. In order to help retain this structure when using gluten-free flours, gluten substitutes must be added to the gluten-free flour mixture.
To learn more about the specifics of gluten including what it is exactly, how it is used and how you may suffer from withdrawal when starting a gluten free diet read my post: What Is Gluten
Tips For Using Gluten Substitutes
For each cup of gluten-free flour mix, add about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of gluten substitute or closely follow recipe directions if you’re using a gluten-free recipe. Too much or too little of these substitutes can cause crumbly, heavy or stringy results. While it may take some experimenting to get it right here is a general tip: When making breads and pizza dough use about 1 teaspoon of gluten substitute for each cup of gluten-free flour; when making cakes, muffins, quick breads or cookies use about 1/2 teaspoon of gluten substitute for each cup of gluten-free flour.
Here are two common substitutes for gluten:
Xanthan gum is often used as a thickener or stabilizer in foods like sauces and dressings, but when used for gluten free cooking it helps to bind, thicken and to somewhat simulate that texture gluten provides. It is typically derived from corn so if you have sensitivities to corn you may want to avoid it. Xanthan gum works well as a gluten substitute in yeast breads along with other baked goods. You can purchase it in health food stores or you can buy it online and have it shipped to your home.
Find it at Amazon: Xanthan Gum
Guar gum is a powder that comes from the seed of the Cyamopsis tetragonolobus plant, which is a legume-like plant. Guar gum is high in soluble fiber, so it can cause gastointestinal upset in people sensitive to this. Like xanthan gum, guar gum works well to bind, thicken and to provide texture to gluten free foods, but it is often less expensive. You can find it at health food stores or online.
Find it at Amazon: Guar Gum Powder
Substitution Is The Solution
If you are ready to try some recipes, start with recipes that use relatively small amounts of wheat flour like brownies or pancakes. These generally turn out very nice and the difference in taste is minimal. Here are a few gluten-free flour mixes that can be used as a cup for cup substitute for wheat flour; remember to use the above mentioned xanthun gum or guar gum to bind and provide texture when using these gluten-free flour mixes. See tips above for how much of these to use for different types of baked goods.
Gluten-Free Flour Mixture I
Gluten-Free Flour Mixture II
Gluten-Free Flour Mixture III
- 1 part sorghum flour or millet flour
- 1 part brown rice flour
- 1 part tapioca, arrowroot or potato starch
Gluten-Free Flour Mixture IV
- 2 parts brown rice or white rice flour
- 1 part garbanzo bean flour
- 1 part tapioca starch/flour
These mixtures can be doubled or cut in half depending on what you need. Keep these flour mixes stored in air tight containers in the refrigerator. Storing them at room temperature may be ok if you use them within a couple of weeks, but some of the flours in these mixes are best kept refrigerated, like brown rice flour and garbanzo flour. Keep these mixes on hand to simplify your baking routine.
Another option is to purchase a gluten free flour mixture to avoid the guesswork involved in substitutions. The store bought gluten free flour mixes are usually a cup for cup substitute for wheat flour, but read the package directions to be sure. Also check to see if they have already added xanthan gum, some do and some don’t so it is best to read the label.
Keeping these ingredients stocked in your gluten free pantry and keeping gluten free flour blends on hand will allow you to whip up just about any gluten free recipe in a moment’s notice. Thank you for visiting Gluten Intolerance School and Happy Baking!