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A Quick Guide to Gluten-Free Flours

My goal is to include information that gives you a helpful guide to eating gluten-free with your family.   To begin with, I should say that while I occasionally use bean flours, I don't enjoy using them often.  Their tastes are too strong for my preference, and so I stick mostly to the following flours and mixes discussed below:

* AN IMPORTANT NOTE FOR BAKING: When baking with gluten-free products, it's important to mix your dry ingredients, particularly the flours and xanthan gum, before adding wet ingredients.  If you don't, there are often clumps in your batter.  And, you may find your final product is crumbly or lacking the consistency you were hoping for. 

I have tried a LOT of different flour mixes, and the only one I find works similarly to mine here is the gluten-free Namaste Flour Blend. Unfortunately, I cannot locate that blend near where I live, but whenever I visit family in the states, they pick up a big bag from Costco.

To make your own gluten-free all-purpose flour mix, mix the following:
Kristin's Gluten-Free Flour Mix:
1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup sorghum flour (or just extra brown rice flour, but I like a little sorghum flavor)
2/3 cup cornstarch OR 1/2 cup arrowroot flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum

Mix together and stick in a tupperware in the refrigerator. You can use fairly reliably in most recipes that call for flour.
*Note: if you're making baked goods/breads, extra xanthan gum will be needed.

This is a good, everyday flour mix to use - for those recipes that say "or your favorite gluten-free flour mix" in the ingredient list. You can mix it up like this, or double or triple it, depending on your cooking needs.

My ingredients are a modification of the flour blend by Pete and Kelli of the No Gluten, No Problem blog. I, personally, find that for things like cookies their flour blend and my version of it is a bit too heavy for my preference. You'll notice from my recipes that I don't use this for a lot of things but have put together specific amounts for each recipe.  However, it's a great place to start.

How do I store my flours?
Until I mix them together, I store my flours in tupperwares in my cupboard.  The best method is to determine what is the most common sized bag you'll be purchasing each type of flour in, and then locate appropriately sized tupperwares to best fit your space.   I like to label my containers.  An easy way is to just write the name on a scrap of paper and tape onto your tupperware containers (use clear scotch tape a put a piece across both top and bottom of the paper).  I've never had problems removing, and I've never had them fall off. Although the ones made with a labeller are nicer looking.

Here's a sample of my cupboard - not even cleaned up for you - to give you an idea of how everything can be labelled simply.  If you look closely, you'll notice I even put a reminder on my coconut flour so I don't use too much when substituting into recipes. If you're nervous about having a flour overload - just start with some basics. I'll star what I feel to be the *key ingredients* below!


MY COMMONLY USED GLUTEN-FREE FLOURS:
* Recommended basics for a bare minimum (in my opinion) are starred. *

* Brown Rice Flour: A staple in gluten-free cooking.  The flavor is mild, a little nutty and overpowering if used completely on it's own, but combined with a few other flours/starches and it's a great base for gluten-free cooking.  Just as brown rice is healthier than white rice, so brown rice flour is a healthier option compared to white rice flour.

* White Rice Flour: A great addition to gluten-free baking, particularly in things where you want a bit of a lighter flavor, like muffins, pancakes or cookies.  White rice flour, in my opinion, is similar to using regular all-purpose flour in normal cooking.  It works well, but doesn't have all the nutrients as it's healthier counterpart.

* Cornstarch: Another helpful addition to gluten-free cooking.  Cornstarch can be used as a thickener all on its own or combined with other flours for baking.   If you use cornstarch to thicken a liquid, make sure the liquid is boiling and that you have thoroughly mixed your cornstarch with cold liquid before adding into the boiling liquid, mixing until combined and thickened.

Arrowroot Flour/Starch: I find this is a good substitute for cornstarch if you have problems with corn.  You'll need a bit less of the arrowroot flour/starch when substituting. You can use arrowroot flour/starch to thicken liquids, similar to cornstarch, as well.  Use a similar amount, and dissolve in cold water before adding to boiling liquid.

* Potato Starch (different from Potato Flour, which I find impossible to locate): Potato starch is one of those ingredients you tend never to use on its own, but you will use in combination with other flours to help the texture of your final gluten-free food.

Sorghum Flour: A wonderfully rich, slightly sweet flour that blends so nicely with a mixture of the others in this list.  I find it's too strong to use on it's own, but is a great addition to gluten-free baking. If you can't locate sorghum flour, you can just use brown rice flour in its place.

* Tapioca Starch/Flour: This flour is a terrific thickener as well, but be wary of using it in lieu of cornstarch since it has a more gummy/gooey texture. (Funny story: my mom once used it in place of cornstarch in the chicken pot pie, just to give it a try.  We've never stopped cracking up about our delicious dinner of 'chicken snot pie'.).  However, it helps hold things together when used in moderation, and is mild, if not nonexistent, in terms of flavor. 

* Xanthan Gum: This powder is used as a thickener as well.  You could use it in sauces or gravy as a thickener as well, but you'd only need a very small amount.  It helps provide the gluten-like quality that is missing from gluten-free flours. In other words, it helps hold things together.  The xanthan gum being properly distributed is the primary reason I recommend mixing dry ingredients before adding wet ingredients in your gluten-free baking.

MY LESS COMMONLY USED GLUTEN-FREE FLOURS:

Coconut Flour: It's got a nice, rich flavor.  However, it soaks up a lot of liquid while it cooks. Therefore, a good guesstimate when you're cooking with coconut flour is to use it to replace only 1/5-1/4 of the total flour called for in a recipe, and add extra liquid of the same amount.  So, for example, if your recipe calls for 1 cup GF flour - use 3/4 cup others (like brown rice, tapioca starch, etc), and 1/4 cup coconut flour + 1/4 cup water/milk/juice.    I like using this now and then in my pancakes for a bit of variety.

Corn Flour: A flour that's in between cornstarch and cornmeal.  Typically, I use it only when making pizza if I want a bit richer flavor.  Substitute it in for 1/8 to 1/4 of the total flour amount in any pizza crust recipe.

Cornmeal: A nice, grainy texture. I find it's best if used in things like pizza dough or cornbread for the most part. 

Buckwheat flour, also known as Sarrasin Flour: Technically NOT a wheat, which is great.  However, the flavor is really strong, so I tend to use sparingly, if at all.  A bit in things like crepes, when you plan to eat them with savory fillings works nicely.

GOOD TO HAVE AROUND:

Oats: For those with Celiac, it is of utmost importance that you buy the gluten-free oats!  If you have a wheat intolerance, you may find that you are okay with buying regular oats.  Be aware they may have been in contact with gluten from flour during processing.

Corn flake crumbs OR gluten-free breadcrumbs:  These are a great easy help to have around the house for breading chicken or fish, topping potatoes au gratin, that sort of thing.  My favorite are the rice breadcrumbs (vs. corn-based breadcrumbs).  I find they have a crispier end taste when I use them as breading on things like pan-fried fish.


4 comments:

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  2. Can you give me a recipe for a all purpose GF flour mix that when use in bread will not become gritty?
    Thank you,
    David

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    Replies
    1. I just saw your comment, so my apologies for the late reply, David! I haven't found any GF flour mix that I like to use as-is when making bread in terms of having one all-purpose flour mix to use for everything. I use my flour mix (above) to make my naan and focaccia bread, which we love. No-one can ever tell they're gluten-free! I find depending on the type of bread, the amounts and types of flours needed vary quite a bit. Some of my favorites that I've posted are the naan bread, focaccia bread, sourdough bread, and white or brown bread recipes, bagels. (I actually like them all, but these tend to be staples).

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    2. Thank you SO much. Too many recipes advertise as "easy" and that is relative, but this definitely looks like something I can do - - AND!!! I have ALL the ingredients (including the Namaste Perfect blend) right now in my pantry!!! YAY!!!

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