Gluten-Free FLOUR 101
Oh my, where to start…
Some useful info you will find on this Page:
- Tips & tricks for working with Gluten-Free Flour
- 27 Different Gluten-Free Flours and a brief description of each
- Several Gluten-Free Flour Mixes and a helpful basic breakdown for any Gluten-Free flour blend
- A handy chart (for those visual learners) that better describes some most commonly used Gluten-Free flours
One of the first things I read while perusing the internet trying to find some information on Gluten-Free baking was, “…when in doubt, just combine whatever Gluten-Free Flours you have around.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. You see, when they say that baking is a science, well, Gluten-Free baking is rocket science (at least when it comes to the right Gluten-Free flour blend…and bread)!! The slightest mis-measurement or temperature change and your gorgeous loaf of bread could have an air pocket big enough to stuff my 2 year-old in it! Or, perhaps, be suitable to build a house. I’ve made a few (and by few, I mean a ton!) of flops in my short time as a Gluten-Free cook.
Do I have it all figured out? Haha, absolutely not! This page will mostly likely be one I update regularly. But don’t despair! All my mistakes and never-ending research will make your endeavors in the kitchen a little less…uh, time-consuming and frustrating…at least that’s my hope!
Tips & tricks for working with Gluten-Free Flour
- Mix them up! One Gluten-Free flour can not stand alone. Simply switching out your Glutenous all-purpose flour for, say, a brown rice flour, will more than likely end in disappointment! Furthermore, if you don’t learn a little about the Gluten-Free flours you use and how they work together (or don’t) you too could be disappointed…believe me, I speak from experience here!
- To avoid a heavy dense texture, use no more than 30% of one flour or 1 1/2 cups for every 4-5 cups of the flour blend.
- Eggs should be at room temperature when making baked goods. Warm them up quicker by placing the egg (in shell) in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes.
- If a recipe calls for softened butter, it should be room temperature!
- Instead of sifting (something I never do, nor do I own a sifter), place all dry ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wire whisk or hand mixer to produce the same results.
- Find what Gluten-Free flour mix(es) you like the best and make it in big portions. Mix it together well in a large Ziploc bag or Tupperware container and store in freezer. This will eliminate the time-consuming part of taking ALL the different kinds of GF flours out every time you go to bake!
- Let any GF flour that is stored in the freezer to set out for 15 minutes before adding it to other ingredients.
- Invest a few bucks in an oven thermometer. If your baked goods continually come out gummy or appear to be under-cooked you may be surprised to see that your oven temp is way off (more common than you think). It may require you to bake at a higher temperature. On the other hand, if your baked goods seem dried out, your oven temp could be running high (like mine) which will require you to take some time off of the cooking process or lower the oven temp.
- Use gums: yes, Xanthan gum or Guar gum is a common addition to Gluten-Free baking because it replaces that “glue-like” texture that most flours that contain gluten produce. Most recipes only call for a small amount as a little goes a long way!
- Go slow. When trying to test your own Gluten-Free flour blends, adjust a little at a time to really see how it affects your final product.
- When in doubt, place all your Gluten-Free flours in a refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Those higher in protein and fat will go rancid faster if not.
- Don’t expect your Gluten-Free batter to look or behave like the old stuff you were used to! It has a tendency to be of a more liquid consistency with bread recipes and sometimes thicker with cakes…so don’t freak out! If you followed the recipe, then just go with it and see what happens 😉 If you try to add more GF flour to “thicken” it up or more liquid to thin it out, you will be sorry!
- Sometimes letting Gluten-Free baked goods rest for hours or even a full day improves the taste and texture. I freeze a lot of my baked goods and warm them up individually as needed. GF baked goods don’t have as long as a shelf life as their counterparts.
- Have a sense of humor! I can’t tell you how frustrated I have gotten after trying one recipe a dozen times, still with no success…ugh!!! My best advice, leave that recipe and re-visit it at another time. Try your hand at something else instead. And don’t forget, most flops can be used in some creative ways. See my Budget Tips for great ways to re-use your mishaps.
27 Different Gluten-Free Flours (and yes, there are a lot, who knew)?!
- White Rice & Brown Rice Flour
- the most common gluten-free flours, it is easy to digest and blend. Works excellent for cookies and delicate baked goods but should be mixed with other GF flours because of how heavy and dense it is, especially those flours high in protein. Using too much will make baked goods crumble. White rice flour has a very bland taste, while brown rice flour is a bit nutty.
- Corn Flour
- You can make your own by grinding cornmeal in a food processor. This flour is high in fiber, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron and thiamin. It has a slightly nutty taste. It is best blended with rice and sorghum, buckwheat or amaranth for baked goods. Great for tortillas, waffles, pancakes, breads and desserts or breading for fried foods.
- This is a flavorless white powder that will lighten baked goods, making them more airy. You can use this in place or arrowroot or potato starch. It’s a great clear thickener for gravies, soups and sauces.
- Corn Meal
- This is a larger particle than corn flour, giving it texture and a slightly sweet, nutty taste. It is high in fiber, iron, thiamin, niacin, B-6, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Use as 25% or less of a GF flour blend.
- Millet Flour
- This ancient grain is easily digested and is perfect for baked goods. It is high in protein and fiber, giving baked goods structure. This is your best choice for flat breads, pizza dough and other items containing yeast. Use as 25% or less in a GF flour blend. It has a short shelf life, so store in frig or freezer.
- Amaranth Flour
- Another ancient grain that is high in protein, calcium and iron. This flour has a nutty taste and does well with baked goods in helping to brown them more quickly. Works best with recipes that contain brown sugar or maple syrup. Use it sparingly, 10-20% of a GF flour blend. Using too much will leave you with a bitter after-taste.
- Oat Flour
- Nutrient dense and high in protein and fiber, oat flours add taste, texture and structure to baked goods. It should be less than 30% of your GF flour blend. Make sure any oats you are using are certified Gluten-Free as cross-contamination runs high with Oats.
- Sorghum Flour
- This flour is most similar to wheat. It is high in protein, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. Great for pancakes, breads, muffins, cookies and heavier baked goods. It should be no more than 25-30% of your GF flour blend.
- Teff Flour
- One of the world’s smallest grains is it nutrient dense being high in protein, fiber, and calcium. It has just a slight nutty taste when used in cookies, cakes, pancakes and waffles. It is great for adding to an all-purpose GF flour blend for fiber and a whole-wheat taste. It should be no more that 25% of any blend.
BEANS & LEGUMES:
- Garbanzo Bean Flour & Garfava Flour & Soy Flour
- Chickpea (Garbanzo), Soy and Garfava (a blend of garbanzo, fava and romano beans) are high in protein, fiber and calcium. They will work best with heavier foods like breads and spice cakes. Try mixing them with tapioca flours, cornstarch and sorghum flours for hearty blends that give structure and texture to baking. These flours should be used as less and 30% of your total GF flour blend. Too much and you will get an aftertaste. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup to pie crusts or wraps to give them elasticity and make it easier to roll out. Doesn’t work best in more delicate baked goods like sugar cookies.
- Pea Flour
- High in protein, fiber and calcium with no strong aftertaste, making it great for baked goods. Use in up to 30% of a GF flour blend
- Potato Flour
- Made from dehydrated potatoes, rich in protein and fiber, it can be used in place of xanthan gum or guar gum. Add 2-4 tablespoons per recipe to create a soft, chewy feel to baked goods, homemade pastas, breads, and pizza crusts. A little goes a long way, too much will produce a gummy product. Don’t confuse this with potato starch, which is used in much larger quantities in recipes and has different baking properties.
- Potato Starch
- Made from the starch of dehydrated potatoes, it has excellent baking qualities particularly when combined with eggs. It has no protein or fat. Most GF flour blends will use 1/2 to 3/4 cup. It will clump so stir or sift for accurate measurement.
- Root Flours (Tapioca (starch), Arrowroot & Sweet Potato)
- Made from root plants, these flours are well tolerated by people with multiple food allergies. They are high in nutrition and are excellent for baked goods. Arrowroot is pleasant tasting and versatile, making it a great choice for breads and bagels. Sweet potato flour is great for recipes with chocolate, molasses, spices and other baked goods. Tapioca flour is a good option for breads, tortillas and pasta. Use root flours up to 25% of your GF flour blend.
- Flaxseed Meal
- This seed is high in fiber and omega -3 fatty acids. Add 2-3 tablespoons per recipe. A mixture of flaxseed meal and warm water is used as an egg replacer in vegan and egg-free baking.
- These highly prized ancient seeds are considered a Superfood due to their high nutrient value and protein content. Chia is flavorless and can be added to everything. Chia and warm water is used as an egg replacer in vegan and egg-free baking. It does have a gelatinous texture when combined with liquids. Add 2-3 tablespoons per recipe. Because it is so high in fiber and holds water so well, slowly add chia to your diet so your body can become accustomed to this type of fiber.
- Quinoa Flour
- This flour has a nutty flavor similar to wild rice and is very easy to digest. Quinoa is also considered a super grain because of high levels of calcium, protein, complex carbohydrates, phosphorous, iron, fiber and B vitamins. Add up to 25% to a basic GF flour blend. Too much will overpower the flavor of baked goods.
- Hemp Flour
- Protein rich flour, containing all the essential amino acids, that is great for breads, muffins, cookies and pancakes. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup to a flour blend. Too much will result in a gritty texture.
NUTS & COCONUT:
- Almond Flour
- High in protein, fiber, vitamin E and healthy omegas. The nutty flavor adds texture to cakes, cookies and cupcakes. Add up to 25% to a basic flour blend or use up tp 50% in cakes leavened with eggs. Because of its high fat content it can go rancid quickly. Store in a tightly sealed container in the frig or freezer and use within a few months.
- Chestnut Flour
- With a nutty, earthy flavor, this flour is high in fiber and low in protein. Italian bakers and cooks use it abundantly in pastas and all baked goods. It needs to be combined with a high protein flour for baked goods. Add up to 25% to a basic flour blend.
- Coconut Flour
- This flour is low in carbohydrates (which makes it great to use in cooking for diabetics, like my daughter) and high in fiber with a sweet subtle fragrance of coconut. It should be used up to 15% in a GF flour blend as using too much can create a very dense product. Use extra eggs to create height and airiness.
- Buckwheat Flour
- Not a wheat, but from a fruit family, it has a strong flavor and combines well with other GF flours. It is a great source of protein with 8 of the essential amino acids and is high in fiber and B vitamins. For breads and rolls use up to 1 cup per recipe. Use less for delicate cookies and pies.
- Wild Rice Flour
- This flour is not made from rice but from grasses grown in lakes, mainly in Minnesota. It is rich in folate and has a long shelf life because its dried and slightly fermented. It is dark in color with a hearty flavor. Best used as a blend for pancakes, muffins and cookies but can also be used as a thickener for sauces, casseroles and stews.
Most of this information comes to you compliments of my local specialty store handout “The Pomegranate Market”
DON’T GET TOO OVERWHELMED YET! First I want to tell you some excellent news about going Gluten-Free that might offset your desire to run far, far away right now. You should be eating much healthier now! These flours, unlike it’s Gluten-filled counterparts, are “super flours”! They are nutrient dense and rich in protein, omega fatty acids, vitamins, trace minerals and fiber.
First of all, there are probably hundreds of different Gluten-Free flour blends out there. I have gathered a few for you along with a basic breakdown that should make figuring this out a little easier (hopefully).* And then there’s the…“I’m just gonna wing it and see what happens”, which is always an adventure. Regardless of your method, you WILL eventually find something that works for you 🙂
Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
1) Four Flour Bean Mix: Yields 9 cups
Garfava Flour (2/3 part) 2 cups
Sorghum Flour (1/3 part) 1 cup
Cornstarch (1part) 3 cups
Tapioca Starch (1 part) 3 cups
2) Gluten-Free Flour Mix (w/ xanthan gum): Yields 5 cups
Rice Flour (brown or white) 2 1/2 cups
Potato Starch 1 cup
Tapioca Starch 1 cup
Garbanzo Bean Flour 1/4 cup
Cornstarch 1/4 cup
Xanthan Gum 2 1/2 Tablespoons
3) Gluten-Free Flour Mix 2 (w/ xanthan gum): Yields 8 1/2 cups
Oat Flour (1 part) 2 cups
Coconut Flour (1 part) 2 cups
Brown Rice Flour (1 part) 2 cups
Tapioca Starch (1 part) 2 cups
Cornstarch (1/4 part) 1/2 cup
xanthan gum 2 1/2 teaspoons
4) Featherlight Rice Flour Mix: Yields 9 cups
Rice Flour (1 part) 3 cups
Tapioca Starch/Flour (1 part) 3 cups
Cornstarch (1 part) 3 cups
Potato Flour (not Potato Starch!, 1 teaspoon per cup) 3 Tablespoons
5) Gluten-Free Basic Baking Blend: Yields 8 cups
Sorghum flour 5 cups
Tapioca Starch/Flour 2 cups
Quinoa Flour 1 cup
Xanthan gum/Guar gum 1 tablespoon
Another excellent resource for Gluten Free flour mixes and tips (especially if you like Cup 4 Cup and Better Batter) you must check out GlutenFreeOnAShoeString. Nicole Hunn is an amazing resource and has some absolutely terrific recipes and tips!
Basic Components of a Gluten-Free Flour Blend:
1 1/2 cups GF whole grain flour (i.e. Amaranth, Buckwheat, Garbanzo or Garfava, Millet, Quinoa, Sorghum)
1 cup GF neutral flour (white rice, brown rice, corn)
3/4 cup starch (tapioca, cornstarch, potato starch)
1/2 cup alternative starch (one not used from above)
*Mixes #1 & 4 are compliments of Bette Hagman, #2 comes from Danna Korn, author of Gluten Free Cooking for Dummies, #3 is my own recipe 🙂 and #5 comes from Laurie Sadowski who is a gluten-free author, coach and baking expert.
I’d love for you to share your own GF flour mixes and any other ideas on the matter!!
I found Bette Hagman’s Chart (from her book The Gluten-Free Gourmet BAKES BREAD) concerning these “Baking Flours” to be helpful and concise. I have rewritten it (condensing it a bit) and attached it for your own use. This list includes only some of the flours listed above.
|FLOUR||TASTE||BEST FOR||1 CUP WEIGHT (GRAMS)||SUGGESTIONS|
|White Rice||Bland||Cakes, Cookies||140 g||Inexpensive, Stores on shelf, Absorbs moisture in air|
|Brown Rice||Grainy||Bread, Crackers||126 g||Buy fresh, Keep refrigerated or frozen|
|Garbanzo Bean||Strong, Bitter, Nutty||Bread, Chocolate Cake||127 g||Refrigerate because of oils|
|Garfava||Nutty, Slightly Bitter||Bread, Cakes, Cookies, Pasta||117 g||Stores on shelf, Keeps well|
|Soy||Strong, Nutty||Fruited Cakes, Cookies||82 g||Goes rancid easily, Refrigerate|
|Sorghum||Heavy, Sweet||Cakes, Cookies, Fruited Breads||127 g||Cut sugar slightly in most recipes, Stores on shelf|
|Arrowroot||Bland||Replacing cornstarch in mixes||127 g||Keeps well|
|Cornstarch||Bland||Combining with mixes||140 g||Stores on shelf|
|Potato||Dry, Strong Potato Flavor||Flavor and balance in mixes||185 g||Buy fresh in small quantities|
|Potato Starch||Light Potato Flavor||Balance in mixes||187 g||Stores on shelf|
|Sweet Rice||Bland, Grainy||Thickening Bread dough||162 g||Stores on shelf|
|Tapioca Starch||Bland||Fruit dishes, Use with other flours||125 g||Stores on shelf|
- The Beginner’s Guide to Gluten Free Flours (beardandbonnet.com)
- Gluten-free Flour Power (wholefoodfetish.com)
- The Allergy Free Cook (theallergyfreecook.com)
- Nicole Hunn’s (glutenfreeonashoestring)