Here are some tips that will help you if you are new to gluten free baking.
You can buy most of the products I show below at my Amazon store here. Most mainstream groceries stores now carry these products, too – check the health food/ special diet section.
Any Amazon links are affiliate links, but I will always provide enough information for you to find these products on your own if you prefer not to click on affiliate links.
This page last updated:08/2012
1 – Cleaning out the pantry
This may not be necessary if you are a fastidious cook. However, in the comfort of our own kitchens, I think a lot of us re-use our measuring cups and measuring spoons while we are baking. The scoops may go into the flour, and then the sugar, and the measuring spoons get into just about everything.
If this describes the way you or anyone who shares the kitchen with you cooks, then you want to give away or throw away anything that would have been “dipped” into, including sugar, baking soda, baking powder, corn starch, cocoa powder, peanut butter and some spices.
My kitchen is completely gluten free, so I don’t have much advice for people who have to share kitchens. You might want to spring for a big roll of red electrical tape or some patterned duct tape and place large bands of it on all of your ingredients.
Restock your pantry essentials, and make sure that the replacements are gluten free. This may just mean reading the side and back of the label in the store. The “gluten free” labels on the products shown below are circled with red or orange.
2 – Baking without any special ingredients
If you just replaced all of your pantry essentials, you probably don’t feel like shelling out for specialty flours right now. No problem! Any of the baking recipes on this site that do not require flours are labeled with a “flourless” tag. The peanut butter cookies and the chocolate-walnut cookies don’t use any special ingredients and are quick and easy to make. You can make some brownies with only cornstarch as a flour replacement.
3 – Baking with gluten free flours
The first step here is to make sure that the flours you are using are, in fact, gluten free. If the flours are processed in a plant with wheat, they may still have gluten in them. “Gluten Free” may not mean the same thing to all manufacturers. Some manufactures have dedicated gluten free facilities, others share factories but batch test all of their gluten free products. Many companies describe their practices on the product label, or on their website.
Bob’s Red Mill has a dedicated factory for it’s gluten free products. Great! You can tell that a Bob’s Red Mill product is gluten free because it will have this symbol in the lower left corner of the bag.
Keep in mind: not all of their non-gluten containing flours are processed at the gluten free- facility! For example, their soy flour and some of their cornmeal products do not have the gluten free symbol on the bag.
Arrowhead Mills also sells gluten free products and gluten containing products. The product name will contain gluten free, or it may have this label on the lower portion of the front of the package:
If you don’t see the label, it may not be gluten free.
The flour substitutes:
These are the products that I use most frequently in my recipes. I use these because they are fairly easy to work with and easy for most people to find, even if the only place to purchase GF items is the “specialty” section of a chain grocery store. These flours are also relatively inexpensive compared to some of the other nut and grain flours that are available. There is something especially discouraging about trying a new GF recipe and being displeased with the result after you spent a lot of money investing in expensive ingredients, so I try to stick with economical flours.
However, there are lots of great flours out there that can pack more of a nutritional punch, such as nut flours, sorghum, millet, chia, quinoa, etc. If you want to experiment with these, great! I would recommend making the recipes once as written so that you get a feel for the taste and texture of the finished product, and then try substituting one of these for 1/4 or less of the total required flour in the recipe and seeing how you like your new version.
- Xanthan gum: This gum is a binder that works as a gluten substitute. The Culinary Institute of America’s Gluten-Free Baking cookbook states that guar gum can also be used as a direct replacement for xanthan gum.
- Rice flour: This flour can be made from white or brown rice. Rice flour can taste gritty if used on its own, so it usually needs to be combined with starches. Brown rice can be especially sandy, so it works best is recipes with moist batters, or in dough that rest for a while and lets the flour hydrate.
- Potato starch: Potato starch is not the same as potato flour! Potato starch is a fine white powder that is made from raw potatoes. Large amounts of it can be used in baking flour blends.
- Potato flour: This is a yellow-ish flour made from cooked potatoes. In baking, very small amounts of it (think teaspoons, not cups) can be used to help products stay moist. It can also be used to make creamy potato soup bases.
- Corn starch: Corn starch is another fine white powder. This can be found in the regular baking aisle.
- Tapoica starch: Tapioca starch is the same as tapioca flour- the names can be used interchangeably. Yet another fine white starch.
- Honorable mention: Gluten free oats. I love them, but unfortunately not all Celiacs tolerate oats well. Sometimes this is just because they have been absent from the diet for so long, so it is best to introduce them in small amounts. However, some people never tolerate them well and have a reaction to proteins in the oats. If that is the case for you, keep in mind that Bob’s Red Mill processes their GF oats in the same factory as their other GF products, and there could be cross-contamination. Trying oats may be something to talk about with your doctor before you give them a try.Only oats that say GLUTEN FREE CERTIFIED on the bag are acceptable for a gluten free diet- no Quaker oats allowed. There are a few companies out there that produce gluten free oats, including: Bob’s Red Mill, GF Harvest, and Arrowhead Mills.If you are sharing a gluten free product that contains GF oats with other Celiacs, please let them know that the item contains oats!