When I first started out with gluten-free flours, I was overwhelmed by the variety out there, and depending on where I turned, everyone had their favorites. I figured the best way to experience all the flours was to try them all…and I have (MOST of them that is!). Below are some notes about the flours I have used, in alphabetical order.
A Note on Subbing Your Own Flours: If you find a recipe that you would like to tweak to be gluten free OR would like to use ingredients you have on hand in place of gluten free flours found in a recipe, here are a couple of general outlines:
- In general, you want to use a ratio of 2/3 heavy/medium flours and 1/3 starch/light flours for the best texture. If you prefer a ‘white’ flour replacement, switch that ratio!
- A very rough estimate is about 1 1/4 cup gluten free flours to 1 cup all-purpose wheat flour. The addition of about 1/2 teaspoon gum of choice is usually called for for ideal texture. However, many recipes with additional binding ingredients (chia meal, flax meal, banana, applesauce) does not need the addition
- If you want to sub gluten free flours for other ones you prefer, sub a light for light, medium for a medium, a heavy for a heavy (refer to list below for flour ‘weights’).
If I was just getting started and only wanted to buy a couple of flours, I would get: brown rice flour, gluten free oat flour, and tapioca starch. They have familiar tastes that most people like. Teff would follow next!
How about grain free? I do a lot of grain free baking now (2017), and this is a general mix I like to use as a base (If you want something already mixed, check our Bob’s Red Mill’s new Paleo All Purpose Flour.):
- For every one cup flour called for: 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/2 cup cassava flour, and 1/4 cup tapioca flour.
|Serving Size = 1/4 cup||Calories||Carbs||Fiber||Protein||Fat|
|Sweet Rice Flour||180||40||1||3||0.5|
|White Rice Flour||150||32||1||2||0.5|
Almond Flour: In a word: EXPENSIVE!! I love cooking with it, but the $10+/pound price tag makes me cringe…and trust me, I have looked all over for more affordable options for purchasing this flour. I have successfully used almond meal (either purchased from Trader Joe’s or homemade) in all my recipes that call for it, as long as it is just one of a mix of flours. In recipes like those found on paleo -friendly sites that call for exclusively almond flour in a baked good? Almond meal is much too coarse to work as a flour. I have had great luck purchasing blanched almonds and grinding my own almond flour in either a coffee grinder or my high powered blender. Honeyville is best, most finely ground almond flour out there. It IS delicious, so if you only bake a little bit, or it’s worth it to you to spend the extra…have fun!
Chestnut Flour: Another grain-free beauty that functions like other nut and seed flours..it needs eggs the majority of the time. it has a lovely nutty flavor that makes a great addition to many baked goods and pancakes.
Coconut Flour: A grain free flour loaded with fiber and a lovely sweet taste. Used by itself requires a lot of eggs, but up to 30% can be subbed in recipe for additional flavor and sweetness. It absorbs crazy amounts of liquid, use roughly 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup other gf flour.
Garbanzo Bean Flour : I am NOT a fan of bean flours in sweet baked goods. I was initially excited to use them as they have lots of fiber and protein…but they all leave a very detectable beany flavor to everything (in my opinion). It is even more potent when it is raw, so having kids who like to taste the dough…this does not fly! I have thrown away more recipes made with bean flours than any other, they always taste off to me (thus the reason I do not like Bob’s All-Purpose which has garbanzo bean flour in it). You may like it, so give it a whirl if you like, the protein provides great structure to breads and such. In savory dishes, they can be absolutely delish!! Soccas, pizza crusts, flour tortillas all taste great with the addition of bean flours.
Peanut Flour : Quite delicious, low in fat, and high in protein! This is a very fun flour to play with and works well in many recipes!
Amaranth: I am currently experimenting with this one..will let you know! So far, it leaves a very distinct, bitter/grassy taste that I do not love (no matter how little I use). But I want to love this flour, it is super nutritious.!! Probably best in strong flavored chocolate things to disguise it’s bitterness.
Brown Rice Flour : A great basic flour, affordable, and easily found. Very familiar taste.
Buckwheat : Great nutrition, distinct flavor. I really like it, some people do not. I think it is worth trying considering it’s nutritional value! Lately I have taken to grinding my own raw buckwheat groats, a much milder and better taste! The groats have not been toasted like the flour you buy.
Millet Flour: I love this flour. It has a nice, mild nutty taste and is loaded with nutrition. It is also nice and affordable, and can be found in Indian Food groceries as well. Some people can detect it, so I usually don’t like to use more than 30% in a recipe.
Oat Flour: An excellent flour with a familiar taste. This one tastes most like regular flour to me. Just be sure you buy the gluten-free variety. I like to grind my own to save some money. I buy 2 pounds of GF oats from Trader Joes and blend them in my high powered blender. You can also easily make your own by grinding in small batches in a coffee grinder.
Quinoa Flour : Quinoa is a very nutritious little psuedo-grain! I was eager to use it, but always found it to be disappointing…there was always a very detectable aftertaste, and NOT a tasty one (I finally figured it out it was from the tanins in the quinoa’s coating.). Then I started toasting the flour, and my issues were solved (this breaks those tanins down). It is now one of my favorite flours to add in for it’s super nutrition! I fill a cookie sheet with my flour, and toast it in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes….stirring occasionally. When it is starting to turn golden and smell toasted, it is done!
Sorghum Flour: This is also called jowar flour and is sold in Indian groceries under that name. Another good basic flour, very close to millet for me. Slightly sweet, mild flavor.
Teff Flour: A nutrition powerhouse, I love getting it in wherever I can. A nice nutty flavor enjoyed by most!
Arrowroot Starch : No detectable taste, interchangeable with potato and tapioca in most instances. If using to thicken a sauce, remove from heat promptly as continued heat will cause the starch to break down and thin again. No real nutritive value.
Potato Starch: Interchangeable with other starches, no nutritive value. This is not potato flour, the starch is white white white!
Sweet Rice Flour (light): No nutritive value, but is an excellent replacement for all purpose flour in breadings, and for thickening sauces. They use a shorter grain rice that has more starch for this. I prefer the Mochiko Blue Star Brand, as it is very finely ground! I have gotten this in natural food stores and Asian markets in a small powdered-sugar -like box, white!
White Rice Flour (medium/light): Although I like some rice flour for Asian cooking, in baking, I steer away from this nutrient-poor flour. It is interchangeable with brown rice in recipes and can float between light and medium flours. It is slightly gritty. It CAN add some gumminess into recipes, which sometimes you want!
All-Purpose Gluten Free Baking Mixes: The ingredients in these vary widely. Although convenient, you pay an arm and a leg for them (in what is already an expensive endeavor!). Another caveat, many of them are loaded with all white starches…no muy bueno for health. In general, I like to use a mixture of flours to get as much nutrient bang for my buck in every recipe. If you would like to make your own mix (SO much cheaper!) I like to use 2/3 any mix of heavy/medium flour and 1/3 starch! This is more of whole-wheat pastry flour kind of mix…if you want a white flour version, do 2/3 starches, 1/3 medium/heavy flour! One last note, some popular mixes have milk powders and corn starch in them, so read labels carefully.
Guar Gum: This helps thicken and bind gluten free baked goods. With no gluten, this helps improve the texture and can help minimize the crumbly baked goods! I tolerate this better than xanthum gum (which threw my digestion for a loop), and it is MUCH cheaper too!
Mesquite Flour: Ground from the pods of a mesquite tree..this is the new darling of gluten-free bloggers. It is VERY expensive, but supposed to be a little goes a long way type of deal. I just got my first bag…will let you know!
Xanthum Gum: Derived from corn in the lab, this is a thickener and binder like guar gum. Lots of people can have trouble digesting it and find it disrupts their bowels and tummy. It is also quite pricey at $10+ for a small 8 ounce package.
- Margarine: 1 for 1, the BEST for flavor is Earth Balance and it has no trans fats. It IS processed though, like all margarine.
- Ghee: Simple to make, this is butter with all the milk solids (and therefore the casein) removed. It tolerates high heats too since there is no milk solids to burn!
- Coconut Oil: 1 for 1 lends a great texture and a slight coconut flavor which can be delicious in baked goods. The refined version has less of the coconut flavor. This oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, my go to fat in most recipes of late. It is solid at room temp and melts when warmed. Not ideal for all recipes because of this. If using in cookies, let them cool completely to solidify!
- Shortening: Several trans fats free versions out there, my favorite is Spectrum Palm Shortening. Sub 1 for 1.
- Vegetable Oils (canola, safflower, grapeseed, etc): These are lightly flavored fats perfect for baking. Most are highly refined and canola has a high risk of GMO content. Liquids would need to be reduced to compensate for their liquid state.
Buttermilk: You can sour any milk by adding a teaspoon or 2 of either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes to allow the milk to curdle.
You could also purchase kefir in any variety of flavors for the same tangy flavor associated with buttermilk.
For creamy warm sauces and soups, I most often thicken unsweetened milk with rice flour or arrowroot starch. Depending on how thick you want it, 1 tablespoon to 1-2 cups liquid is a good starting point. You can always add more if you want it thicker. Whisk the flour or starch in a bit of water first before mixing in.
In some recipes, pureeing with raw soaked cashews can lend an unbelievable creamy texture to the food. Other soaked nuts can function too, but cashews are the creamiest.
- Flax Meal: Adds lots of yummy nutty flavor and health to your baked goods. 1 tablespoons whisked with 3 tablespoons liquid will mimic 1 large egg. The meal should gel within a minute or two.
- Chia Meal: Adds great health to baked goods, is used just like flax meal. 1 tablespoons whisked with 3 tablespoons liquid mimics 1 large egg. Gels within a few seconds. If you want to read about WHY should be eating just about as as many of these amazing seeds as possible, Nourishing Treasures has a great bulleted list on the benefits of this superfood!
- Ener-G Egg Replacer (or similar products): I have had good luck with this, and there is no weird taste. It s a mixture of starches. Follow instructions on the box.
- Moisture rich fruits and vegetables can also work: banana, applesauce, sweet potato, and pumpkin are my favorites. There is no exact ratio here, but if a recipe includes one of these, usually there is no need for an egg too.
Sugar Free Options
Here is a cliff notes version if you would like to be using healthier sweeteners (with sweetener specifics in greater detail below):
To replace granulated sugar, try: palm sugar, xylitol, stevia
To replace agave: honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar, stevia
Fruits as sweeteners: Pureed reed soaked dates, banana, applesauce, puréed soaked raisins or plums are some of the more commonly used.
I have been learning an awful a lot about sweeteners and sugar in recent history. Here is what I have learned about the sweeteners I have used!
Agave: With an obscenely high amounts of fructose (more than regular ole sugar), and the extensive refining process it goes through to become what is, I have made the choice to stop using this. Bummer, it was more affordable!
Cane Sugar: Derived from either beets or sugar cane, this is the sweetener of choice for most. After learning about addictive properties and how toxic so much sugar can be on our systems
Maple Syrup(the real stuff, not Mrs. Butterworth!):
Sugar Alcohols (i.e. xylitol):
Stevia: A leafy herb that is thirty times sweeter than sugar. Some varieties have a bitter aftertaste, but I love NuNaturals