As the saying goes, baking is a science, and the chemistry of your ingredients makes all the difference. Baking without gluten is on a whole other level–with a whole new repertoire of ingredients, your process may change entirely. That's why I wrote this gluten-free flour guide.
However, if you’ve just made the switch to a gluten-free diet and baking seems daunting, never fear–I’m somewhat of a scientist, and I’m here to help. My tried-and-true tips are sure to help you achieve delicious treats that taste just like your childhood classics.
Choosing an alternative flour is the most crucial foundational step in gluten-free baking. When you’re unable to use a staple ingredient like all-purpose flour, it’s important to find a high-quality substitute that will enhance your end result rather than hinder it. Read on for the ultimate guide to my favorite gluten-free flour alternatives. Click HERE to read about the science behind gluten-free baking.
Almond Flour vs. Oat Flour
Two of the most popular gluten-free flour alternatives are almond flour and oat flour. Both have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. If you’re deciding which to purchase for your next baking project, there are a few key differences to look out for.
Made from finely ground almonds, almond flour is one of the healthiest flour alternatives. Packed with nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, and copper, almond flour is also low in carbs and can even reduce “bad” cholesterol. Not to mention, the nutty flavor can add a nice sweetness to your dish. (Of course, steer clear of almond flour if someone who will be eating your baked goods has a nut allergy.) Click HERE to read my 5 tips for gluten-free baking.
Oat flour is made from grinding rolled oats, which are naturally gelatinous and offer your dish a nice gooey texture. It’s easy to make your own oat flour at home by simply running some oats through a food processor. The ability to make your own gluten-free, nut-free flour in under five minutes is magical in a pinch! While oat flour offers a boost in fiber and nutrients like iron and zinc, it is higher in calories and carbs than almond flour.
Does Gluten-Free Flour Go Bad?
Since flour has such a long shelf life, you might not have considered its expiration date. In fact, regular flour typically lasts long past the date on the package, but will only stay truly fresh for about 3-8 months. The more refined the flour, the longer it lasts–so white flour lasts longer than whole wheat.
Most gluten-free flours expire somewhere on the shorter end of the spectrum–after around three months. However, if you store flour alternatives like oat flour or almond flour in your freezer, they’ll last much longer–for around six months to a year.
Sorghum Flour vs. Buckwheat Flour
While they’re a bit harder to come by than almond flour or oat flour, sorghum and buckwheat flour are both excellent gluten-free flour alternatives. Each comes with its own unique flavor and set of healthy perks.
Made from cereal grain ground into a fine powder, sorghum flour has an incredibly smooth texture. It also offers a mildly sweet flavor that's ideal for dishes like pancakes or waffles. Rich in fiber and antioxidants, sorghum flour is easy on the digestive system and can even help prevent diabetes.
Made from buckwheat, another gluten-free grain, buckwheat flour offers an earthy flavor. Almost bitter (in a good way), it’s great for bread and spiced or savory baked goods. It’s packed with a surprising amount of protein (about 5.68 grams per cup) as well as vitamins like K and B6.
Xanthan Gum - Yay or Nay?
Whether or not you’ve heard of xanthan gum, it’s probably in many of the foods you eat on a daily basis. This food additive is typically used as a thickener. While consuming an overabundance of xanthan gum may cause indigestion, skin irritation, or migraines, it’s completely harmless to consume in moderation.
If you prefer to steer clear of additives like xanthan gum, there are plenty of gluten-free flours without it–Caputo Gluten-Free Flour and King Arthur All Purpose Flour are a couple of my favorites. However, if you’re looking to retain the thick and fluffy texture of gluten-filled cakes past, King Arthur Measure-for-Measure and Cup4Cup are gluten-free flours with a safe amount of xanthan gum.
Other Gluten-Free Flours
There are a plethora of amazing gluten-free flour alternatives on the market today, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a few more! Here are some honorable mentions.
Made from ground cassava, a root vegetable native to South America, cassava flour is a great addition to your flour repertoire. It's highly liquid absorbent (so a little bit goes a long way). It’s perfect for flatbreads, muffins, and even pasta, and is high in fiber while remaining low in calories.
Made from dried, ground coconut meat, coconut flour is remarkably soft and powdery. Since it’s not made from starch like most flours and flour alternatives, it can be used to lend baked goods a denser and heavier texture. It also offers a nice nutty taste (but again, steer clear if you’re serving someone with a nut allergy)!
Also made from the cassava plant (but extracted from the roots themselves, unlike cassava flour), tapioca flour is an excellent thickening agent. Remarkably starchy, it almost mimics gluten in the way it gives your cakes a fluffy, bouncy texture. (However, it’s best to mix it with other flours, as too much can make your baked goods unpleasantly gummy.)
Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is an excellent way to sneak a whole grain into whatever you’re baking, without the gluten! Made from finely ground brown rice, this flour alternative offers a significant boost of antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients like iron and potassium. It offers a unique, somewhat gritty texture and is low in calories (but is higher in fat and lower in protein than most other flours). Its lightly toasty, neutral taste allows it to blend perfectly with the other ingredients in your favorite recipes.
Alternative flours may seem intimidating to bake with at first, but don't fret! There's certainly a great option to match your recipe. Whether it's one of the aforementioned choices or a different flour, like corn flour, quinoa flour, arrowroot flour, or any variety of bean flours or nut flours, the right flour for you is out there. Even blending different flours to create gluten-free flour mixes may help you yield the texture and taste you're looking for in your final product. And with the variety of health benefits these alternatives offer, you'll hardly miss traditional wheat flour.