Everything you need to know about gluten-free flour

Gluten-free flour is flour that does not contain gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.

In baking, gluten acts as a binding agent that helps food keep its shape, adds elasticity and helps the dough rise.

Picture a baguette, with an oven-crispy crust on the outside and a chewy, shaggy center.

Gluten traps gas bubbles during fermentation, giving the baguette its unique texture. Without gluten, bakers often rely on a mix of different gluten-free flours to achieve the same results.

Do you need gluten-free flour in your diet? It depends.

“Unless you have celiac disease or a true gluten sensitivity, there may be no benefit to eliminating it,” says Frances Arnold, RD, owner of Namaste Nutritionist.

Keep reading for all the details you need to know about gluten-free flours.

1. Rice flour

One of the most common gluten-free flour substitutes, brown rice or white rice flour, is naturally gluten-free.

This delicate, neutral-tasting flour is ideal for baking, in pancakes and as a coating for chicken or fish.

Combine rice flour with one of the higher protein flours listed here to add structure.

2. Bean flour

Come with black bean flour

Dense, hearty, and filled with fiber, bean flour is common in gluten-free pastas. Use chickpea flour in baked goods such as gluten-free pumpkin spice donuts, tortillas, or pizza.

Black beans go surprisingly well with chocolate and the bitter notes of coffee.

3. Lentil Flour

Milled from sprouted or unsprouted red, yellow, green or brown lentils, this gluten-free flour imparts a mild, nutty flavor.

It’s also an excellent source of protein (26 grams per 100-gram serving) and iron (6 mg), as well as a good source of potassium, with 686 milligrams of that essential mineral.

When baked, it can add a pleasant crunchy crackle, ideal for gluten-free crackers.

4. Pea flour

Green pea flour and pea flour are high in protein and are similar in performance and taste to bean flour.

The protein content adds structure, but using too much can give your masterpiece a green hue — good for Frankenstein or clover biscuits, but not so much for everyday breads and biscuits.

5. Cornmeal and Starch

Corn is fantastic in tortillas, cornbread, pizza crusts, corn muffins and Johnny cakes.

You can also use cornstarch as a thickener in gravies, soups, or stir-fries instead of flour. Opt for fine cornmeal for baking and save the coarser grits and polenta for a gluten-free side dish.

6. Millet and quinoa flour

These powerhouses add structure so you may be able to skip other binding ingredients.

Millet has a more bland taste than quinoa, which can taste a bit bitter to some taste buds. The solution? Toast the quinoa before grinding, suggests Alyssa Rimmer, a food blogger at Simply Quinoa.

7. Oatmeal

Top view of bowl of flour

Oats and oatmeal make up the iconic cookie with raisins and a hint of cinnamon, and it’s easy to grind your own cookie at home.

You can easily grind oats into powder in a blender or food processor. Oatmeal is fluffy, so mix it with some heavier flour for a more balanced texture.

Take note when buying oat flour: Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they are often exposed to gluten-containing grains during processing.

Look for certified gluten-free oats if that’s an issue.

8. Teff Flour

A staple of Ethiopian diets, teff is a grain that is an excellent source of protein (13 grams per 10-gram serving!), fiber (8 grams) and calcium (180 milligrams).

It adds a nutty note to cookies, biscotti, cakes, quick breads and injeraan Ethiopian spongy fermented flatbread.

9. Nut flour

Coconut and almond flours are the most popular flours in this category, and they are keto-friendly.

You can use 100% nut flours in baking, but the higher fat and protein content can yield dense results. Mix small amounts of nut flour with other flours.

Almond flour is one of the ingredients in our favorite gluten-free banana bread.

10. Sorghum Flour

Like wheat, this flour is rich in protein and comes in red and white varieties. Use in pancakes, bread, muffins, cookies or spice cake.

11. Cassava Flour

All the fad in paleo products, cassava flour is gluten, grain and nut free and made from the cassava root.

It’s a higher carb flour, so it wouldn’t be ideal for keto recipes. Combine with almond flour to make great grain-free tortillas.

12. Potato Flour and Starch

Potato flour is a fine powder made from dried potatoes that can replace the gums in gluten-free baking.

Don’t overdo it though – add 2-4 tablespoons per recipe to avoid gummyness. Potato starch can be used as a 1:1 replacement for cornstarch.

13. Seed meal

Flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds make nutritious flour and thickening options.

Chia swells when suspended in liquid, which is why it makes a great gum-free binder.

Hemp contains all the essential amino acids, but keep in mind that the flour can be grainy.

Gluten-free baking tips

Woman mixing dough for baking

Gluten-free baking requires more precision than wheat flour baking. Gluten-free flours and mixes often contain a combination of different types.

Those with a higher protein content add structure, but can yield a dense product. Beans, starches and oats contribute different flavors and textures.

Nut flours contain more protein and fat, making them easier to burn. When using them, you lower the temperature by 25-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Arnold also recommends covering with aluminum foil until the last 10 minutes to prevent over browning.

Gluten-free flours may also require the use of a binder – the most common being xanthan gum.

Substitute psyllium husk, ground flax, or chia to avoid gums.

These tips may also help:

  • Measure gluten-free flour carefully. Many types of gluten-free flours can become thick. Try a food scale for more precision.
  • Mix your dough and batter together well and let them rest. After mixing, cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rest for 30 minutes to thicken.
  • Rely on the suggested baking or cooking time versus the toothpick method. Let baked goods rest before slicing them to give the starch time to harden and set.

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