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  • Karen Robertson
    Karen Robertson

    Gluten-Free Flour Alternatives

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/11/2005 - Gluten-free flours are generally used in combination with one another. There is not one stand alone gluten-free flour that you can use successfully in baked goods. Be sure to know the procedures your flour manufacturers use, cross contamination at the factory can cause diet compliance issues for the gluten intolerant.

    Arrowroot Flour can be used cup for cup in place of cornstarch if you are allergic to corn.

    Bean Flour is a light flour made from garbanzo and broad beans. To cut the bitter taste of beans, replace white sugar with brown or maple sugar in the recipe(or replace some of the bean flour with sorghum).

    Brown Rice Flour is milled from unpolished brown rice and has a higher nutrient value than white rice flour. Since this flour contains bran it has a shorter shelf life and should be refrigerated. As with white rice flour, it is best to combine brown rice flour with several other flours to avoid the grainy texture. Ener-G Foods and Bobs Red Mill produce a finer, lighter brown rice flour that works well with dense cakes such as pound cake.

    Cornstarch is similar in usage to sweet rice flour for thickening sauces. Best when used in combination with other flours.

    Guar Gum, a binding agent, can be used in place of xanthan gum for corn sensitive individuals. Use half as much guar gum to replace xanthan gum. Guar gum contains fiber and can irritate very sensitive intestines.

    Nut Flours are high in protein and, used in small portions, enhances the taste of homemade pasta, puddings, pizza crust, bread, and cookies. Finely ground nut meal added to a recipe also increases the protein content and allows for a better rise. Ground almond meal can replace dry milk powder in most recipes as a dairy-free alternative.

    Potato Flour has a strong potato taste and is rarely used in gluten-free cooking.

    Potato Starch Flour is used in combination with other flours, rarely used by itself.

    Sorghum Flour a relatively new flour that cuts the bitterness of bean flour and is excellent in bean flour mixes.

    Soy Flour is high in protein and fat with a nutty flavor. Best when used in small quantities in combination with other flours. Soy flour has a short shelf life.

    Sweet Rice Flour is made from glutinous rice (it does not contain the gluten fraction that is prohibited to the gluten intolerant). Often used as a thickening agent. Sweet rice flour is becoming more common in gluten-free baking for tender pies and cakes. It has the ability to smooth the gritty taste (that is common in gluten-free baked goods) when combined with other flours, see Multi Blend recipe.

    Tapicoa Starch Flour is a light, velvety flour from the cassava root. It lightens gluten-free baked goods and gives them a texture more like that of wheat flour baked goods. It is especially good in pizza crusts where it is used in equal parts with either white rice flour or brown rice flour.

    White Rice Flour is milled from polished white rice, best to combine with several other flours to avoid the grainy texture rice flour alone imparts. Try to buy the finest texture of white rice flour possible.

    Xanthan Gum is our substitute for gluten, it holds things together. See usage information on Multi Blend recipe page. Xanthan gum is derived from bacteria in corn sugar, the corn sensitive person should use guar gum (using half as much guar gum to replace xanthan gum).

    Alternative Flours

    The national patient support groups agree that the following flours are fine for the gluten intolerant providing you can find a pure source (grown in dedicated fields and processed on dedicated equipment). These flours greatly improve the taste of gluten-free baked goods. To incorporate into your favorite recipe, replace up to 50% of the flour in a recipe with an alternative flour and use the Multi Blend mix for the balance. Pizza crust and bread proportions dont follow this rule.

    Amaranth a whole grain from the time of the Aztecs- it is high in protein and contains more calcium, fiber, magnesium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C than most grains. Amaranth has a flavor similar to graham crackers without the sweetness.

    Buckwheat is the seed of a plant related to rhubarb, it is high in fiber, protein, magnesium and B vitamins. Dark buckwheat flour turns baked goods purple, I only use light buckwheat flour.

    Millet a small, round grain that is a major food source in Asia, North Africa and India.
    I havent used millet and dont know much about the grain.

    Quinoa (keen-wah) A staple food of the Incas. Quinoa is a complete protein with all 8 amino acids, quinoa contains a fair amount of calcium and iron.

    Teff an ancient grain from Ethiopia, now grown in Idaho. Teff is always a whole grain flour since it is difficult to sift or separate. High in protein, B vitamins, calcium, and iron.

    Edited by Scott Adams


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    Very well-written and helpful. I'd love to purchase Karen's book; I've borrowed it from a library but would love to have my own copy. Thank-you for this article.

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  • About Me

    Karen Robertson, author of award winning Cooking Gluten-Free! teaches gluten-free cooking classes in Seattle and is an active volunteer for the Gluten Intolerance Group.

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