I hate to break it to you: Gluten free flours aren’t like gluten.
Now that we have that out of the way, here’s why they aren’t like gluten:
- Obviously, they don’t contain that “stretchy” quality that gluten can produce in your dough. The most noticeable difference between gf flours and gluten can be seen in bread dough. If you try to make bread the gluten way, you’re going to fail and cry and probably need counseling before you can be happy again. Here’s my post on making gf yeast bread.
- When using gluten free flours, you have to use at least two different flours. When you used to cook with gluten, you could just dump in some of your whole wheat flour and call it good. Gluten free flours are a bit more temperamental. They don’t do well by themselves. I usually use about 1 cup of starch for every two cups of rice flour, but this depends upon the recipe.
- Besides using a few different flours, you’re going to have to use some sort of “gum” or gum substitute to hold everything together. I usually use either xanthan gum or guar gum. The proportions vary, but I tend to use about 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of flour.
I’ll probably extend on those few notes later, but those are the major differences between gluten-free flour and gluten flour.
Below is a chart on gluten-free flours and their consistencies. These certainly aren’t all of the flours out there, but they are the ones I use most often.
|Rice Flour||Rice flour is the flour I use most in gluten free baking. Rice flour can sometimes have a rather gritty taste, however, so it has to be mixed with starches. I generally use brown rice flour but if you insist on white rice flour I’m not complaining. Brands we use are: Lundberg, Bob’s Red Mill.||Gritty||Can usually be exchanged with sorghum flour and oat flour.|
|Corn flour||I do not use this flour very often, yet it can sometimes substitute for rice flour if I don’t have any at the time. You can also use it in corn breads.||gritty||Can be exchanged with any of the ‘gritty’ flours.|
|Cornmeal||This is not really flour. I use it for corn breads and for the surface pans sometimes (Cornmeal on the surface of the pan will cook into the dough and give it a nice crunchy crust). Gluten-Free cornmeal can usually be found at the local grocery store; just be sure to check the label.||very gritty.||Cannot be exchanged.|
|Oat flour||Oat flour is one of my favorite flours. It has a nice consistency and makes very good baked goods. I have lately been using oat flour quite a lot because it seems to work better than most other gluten-free flours. Since gf oat flour is expensive, I grind oats in a coffee grinder instead. If you use that method, don’t use the oat flour in cakes or other delicate baked goods.
Finely ground oat flour works really well, so if you can get your hands on some of that for a reasonable price, do so.
Some celiacs are sensitive to oats, so this might not be the best flour for you. You can replace rice flour for oat flour in pretty much every one of my recipes though.
|gritty||Can be exchanged with millet flour, rice flour, or sorghum flour.|
|Buckwheat flour||I don’t use this flour very often because of its coloring, yet it has a good taste and could replace rice flour. Again, be careful about the gluten, and be sure to thoroughly check the label.||gritty||Cannot be exchanged|
|Cornstarch||I use cornstarch the most of all the starches, simply because it can be found easily at the local grocery store. Be sure to check the label for gluten-free. Though commonly used as a thickener, cornstarch is a surprisingly good gluten-free flour. It has a nice, fluffy consistency. You do have to use rice flour or some other gritty flour with the cornstarch in order to balance it. Used alone, the results are usually dry and tough and flavorless with an unpleasant mouth feel.||starchy and fluffy.||Can be exchanged with tapioca or potato starch in gluten-free baking unless stated otherwise in the recipe, but it cannot be replaced in sauces and in some pies. Tapioca and potato starch will form gummy lumps, whereas cornstarch will only thicken a sauce.|
|Potato starch||Potato starch can create a rather gummy consistency if it is used alone in a recipe. However, mixed with rice flour or some grainy flour it adds pleasant fluff. Note: Do not confuse potato starch with potato flour. They are very different things, believe me. I never use potato flour because it tastes bad and doesn’t work very well.||Starchy, (difficult to distinguish between cornstarch and tapioca.)||Can be exchanged with cornstarch or tapioca starch except in sauces and sometimes pies.|
|Tapioca starch||Tapioca starch is commonly used with potato starch in my recipes. It, like cornstarch and potato starch, can’t be used alone in a recipe—it needs rice flour, oat flour, or another gritty flour to balance it out.||starchy||Can be exchanged with potato starch or cornstarch except in sauces and sometimes pies.|
|Sorghum flour||Sorghum has a good flavor, and can replace several of the other gritty flours. It tastes good in breads. I wouldn’t use it alone with nothing but starches though. Probably a combo of sorghum with rice, oat, or millet flour.||gritty||Can be replaced with rice flour, oat flour, or millet flour.|
|Millet flour||Has good flavor, and a consistency rather like corn flour. It could replace several of the other gritty flours, especially if you want to produce a more “whole grain” flavor in the baked good.||gritty||Can be replaced with sorghum flour, corn flour, or rice flour.|
|Teff flour||Teff flour should only be used in small quantity because of its color and the fact that too much of it just plain tastes bad. It has a nice taste when used in moderation and gives a multigrain flavor to most breads.||gritty||This flour can be replaced by rice flour. When replaced, rise and consistency of the baked good will not be changed. The taste and color, however, will be slightly changed, though not usually in a bad way.|
|Almond flour/Almond Meal||To avoid confusion right off, the difference between almond meal and almond flour is that in almond flour, the almonds are ground without the skin, whereas almond meal is ground with the skin. This small difference doesn’t seem to affect the baked goods though.
This flour is still in the testing stage for me. It’s used a lot in paleo baked goods, and I’ve used it by itself before. The results are always a little gritty and sometimes a bit too moist (to the point of being heavy and gummy), since almond flour contains a lot of moisture. I have used it in cakes in small quantity with rice flour and starch with good results.
|Gritty but adds moisture to baked goods.||Can’t be exchanged.|
Need more about flours? Here’s a very informative post from Ecosalon.
This was so helpful!! Thank you!!
Succulent Succotash says
I think almond flour can be subbed with almond meal (in some recipes) or other nut flour/meals.
Tapioca flour is used by itself in the delicious little Brazilian cheese puffs called pao de queijo. They cook up crispy on the outside and gooey inside. They are super tasty and totally addictive.
Mmm sounds good! I should try those.
amazing to see a young adult such as yourself baking and caring for her youger siblings 🙂 well done!! one thing though – rice (especially brown rice) contains high levels of arsenic (one of the most poisonous substances out there). you do not want to eat it (or its derivates, eg, milk, protein bars, sweeteners etc) regularly as it leads to cancer.
for the sake of your health – look into it…there’s a lot of research out there (basmati from california, india and pakistan contains less arsenic. all other sources should be avoided altogether)
all the best
Hey Nat, thanks for the tip! I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve been thinking about switching up my main flours anyway–I’m starting to like oat flour better than rice flour. Would you say that white rice flour is better than brown?
The high arsenic rice comes from the US, so if you switch to Asian rice you should be fine. There is actually a table out there of the arsenic content in rice from that study. Google should be able to help you.
I use Thai Jasmine rice for our rice, which is very low arsenic. Not sure about rice flour, you would have to contact manufacturers. But oat floor ur is better, anyway, as it has more fibre.
Thanks for your excellent and informative table.
Great list! Let’s not forget Gram flour (chickpea flour) which is great for more savory dishes, flat-breads, savory muffins, pancakes, coating for fried or baked veggie dumplings, even as an egg substitute for scramble (with a little turmeric for color) etc etc and also has many traditional Indian skin/beauty uses…
Thanks for the info Christine! I haven’t actually tried gram flour before but it sounds great! Definitely adding it to the list. 🙂
There is a great grm flour quiche out there, and also a traditional gram flour dumpling which you dip in a yoghurt sauce. Delicious!
L.B. Johnson says
That was the best primer on g-f flours I’ve ever read. Having just gone fully gluten free due to some serious gut issues, this was extremely helpful. Thanks. – Mrs. J.
You’re welcome, Mrs. J! Glad I could help. 🙂
Hey! Thanks so much for all of your posts as they have truly helped me understand so much. I am planning to make a gluten free pie this week for my boyfriend and started out by going to my favorite place to look for recipes: americas test kitchen. But unfortunately I live in Germany and some of the items for their recipe aren’t available here. One thing I did notice is that they put a lot of non-fat milk powder into their flour mix (I think 1/2 cup or so). Do you know why this might be? and what effects it would have on the dough?
Sorry for the delayed response! Milk powder shouldn’t make much difference (though it depends on the type of dough). It will add some richness and moisture (which may be why they use it) and hence will also add calories if you’re concerned about that. I’d go ahead and give it a try! It should have especially good results in bread doughs. Also, make sure xanthan gum or guar gum is included in your flour mix. I hope your boyfriend enjoys!
Great detailed post! Along with the chickpea flour I’ve stumbled upon some new alternatives! Hopefully, you’ll get around to trying them and. An add them to the list… Green Banana Flour ( I just made some crispy blueberry waffles using it as well as my sons normal buckwheat blueberry waffles that take a bit longer to crisp up but are very tasty.
Tiger nut Flour (which isn’t actually a nut) haven’t tried it yet
Cassava Flour (love using it for tortillas! Not to be confused with tapioca)
Arrowroot starch ( we use it to replace cornstarch due to my sons allergies)
Agar powder (not really a Flour but I’ve been using it to replace Xantham Gum)
Would love to hear your thoughts on these! Finding Millet Flour and sourghum seems almost impossible around here so I’m wondering if some of these will work in the various bread, pancake and waffle recipes I have around!
Appreciate any insight you may be able to share.
Thanks for all the suggestions! I’ve heard of some of those and really want to give a few a try…tigernut flour, for example, seems to be all the rage these days. I have actually used Arrowroot before but haven’t added it to the list. In everything I’ve tried it in (bread, muffins, pankcakes), it seems to work just fine as a substitute for any of the “starchy” flours (cornstarch, tapioca, potato starch). Definitely want to try cassava flour too! Thanks for the reminder.
I found a muffin recipe with brown rice flour, but I have a big batch of buckwheat flour to use.In your board it says ‘could replace rice flour’ but then in the substitute column it says ‘cannot be exchanged’ ? If it can, what is the ratio? thanks 🙂
Hi Lili, I said “cannot be exchanged” because buckwheat flour does have a different texture and flavor. That said, it would act the same as rice flour cooked in a muffin recipe (so long as you have some kind of starch also included in the recipe). If you don’t mind the different color & flavor of buckwheat go for it!
Toby Fouks says
Thank you so much for your article and this wonderful chart. It is exactly what I need to create my own gluten-free bread and roll recipes. As long as I have the theory — which you provide — I can work out the ingredients I wish to use and proportions. I really appreciate the time you took to create this chart. I am new to gluten-free as a result of a skin condition which might be related, and it’s not worth having even a bit of gluten so for two months I went without bread. I discovered that gluten-free bread is sold, and yesterday I had my first sandwich in two months but I would prefer to make my own gluten free bread — and rolls and buns too. Thanks again. .
Glad it was helpful, Toby!
This was really helpful and a great help in substituting 1 type of gluten free flour for another as well. I noticed you missed arrowroot starch is there a reason it’s not in the list? I’d also recommend amaranth flour, coconut and cassava flour which i didn’t see on the chart.
Cassava flour is something i’m just trying out myself but i’ve found it can be used slowly in some cases and is quite versatile. I used it to make some wonderful perogies the other night and no gums were needed. It’s a pretty easy flour to work with. It’s made from the same root as tapioca is (cassava or yuca root) but unlike tapioca (which sometimes is called flour by different manufacturers) Cassava flour is the whole plant dried and ground up so there’s more fiber and protein in it unlike tapioca which is just the starch extracted.
It’s been a while since I updated the list and all of these flours have just recently become popular. I have experimented a bit with cassava as well and found it to be quite versatile, as you say! It’s also very nice that cassava is considered AIP compliant!