When and How to Substitute Gluten-Free Flours in Baking


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gluten free flour

It is well-known that gluten contains no essential nutrients and can even be dangerous to one’s health, especially if you have celiac disease. It is found in most grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, and most foods like pasta, pizza, and bread.

If you’re switching to a gluten-free diet, baked goods are the first to go. But did you know that there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives to regular flour? Yes, there are a lot of gluten-free flour substitutes you can use so you can still bake and eat cookies, cakes, pancakes, pasta, pizza, and bread, without getting sick.

In this article, we will talk about when and how you can substitute gluten-free flour with regular flour in baking.

Some Things You Need to Know Before Substituting Gluten-Free Flour in Baking

Gluten is a protein found in many grains, and it is the very protein that helps food maintain its shape. Think of gluten as the glue that gives baked goods its structure. It’s responsible for giving dough its elastic characteristic, as well as helping the dough to rise.

In other words, gluten gives baked goods shape, making them look nice and holding them together. So when you remove gluten from a recipe, many things can happen. Cookies and muffins can become rock hard, cakes can be flat and chewy, and bread won’t have any structure.
But there’s good news. There are gluten-free alternatives containing ingredients such as xanthan gum that act as the binding element of gluten, and you can also make your gluten-free flour mix in your kitchen.

With a grain mill, you can make your very own gluten-free flour at home that also gives baked goods its shape and helps them rise.

However, there’s something that you should know. You won’t always get the mix right the first time. If you’re looking for an all-in-one gluten mix or you’re making one on your own, the result may not be as good as using regular flour.

It takes a lot of trial and error to get the structure, flavor, and consistency you might be looking for. But, once you get it right, you’ll enjoy gluten-free baked goods and other recipes to your heart’s content.

Substitute with an All-in-One Gluten-Free Flour

If you can get your hands on an all-in-one gluten-free flour blend, you can easily adjust your favorite recipes by using this instead of regular flour.

These all-in-one gluten-free flours contain stabilizers such as xanthan gum that provide baked goods their shape. These flours have also been tested for versatility and quality and do an excellent job as a substitute overall.

However, it must be noted that not all gluten-free flour blends are all-in-one, and many are singular gluten-free mixes that still need to have stabilizers added to your recipe. Otherwise, you’ll end up with rock-hard bread and cookies that are no good for eating.

10 Substitutes for Gluten-Free Baking

If you don’t have access to an all-in-one gluten-free flour, or you don’t want to use one, here are ten alternatives you can swap for regular flour, when to use them, and how to substitute regular flour or other gluten-free substitutes for baked goods:

1. Almond Flour

Almond flour is made from raw and blanched almonds that have been ground to make into fine flour. It has protein and fiber and adds a unique and vibrant taste to gluten-free baked goods.

Almond flour is great for cakes, cookies, muffins, and pancakes. You can’t swap regular flour with almond flour since it doesn’t have the stabilizer needed for an ideal dough.

You can use up to 25% of almond flour from normal flour. So if the recipe calls for 10 cups of regular flour, you can use up to 2 and a half cups of almond flour, and the rest is regular flour.

2. Amaranth Flour

Amaranth flour is made from the leaves of the Amaranth plant, which means it has a grassy and earthy taste. It is, however, rich in protein, and you can swap it at a 1:1 ratio from regular, glutenous flour.

3. Arrowroot Flour

Arrowroot flour looks very similar to potato starch, and it’s ideal as a thickener for soups and stews. If the recipe calls for starch, arrowroot flour is an excellent substitute. You can swap it at a ratio of 1:1 in place of regular flour or starch.

4. Buckwheat Flour

You might think buckwheat flour is associated with wheat grains, but it’s not, so don’t worry; it doesn’t have any gluten.

It does have a rich and nutty flavor, and it’s great for cookies, waffles, muffins, bread, and pancakes. In a recipe, you can swap buckwheat flour for up to 50% of regular flour.

5. Coconut Flour

Coconut flour comes from the meat of a coconut, and it’s incredibly healthy, dense, and high in protein. It’s also the most fibrous of all the alternative flours, and it’s famously used in Paleo diet recipes.

However, because it’s dense, you need to add an extra ¼ cup of liquid to your recipes when using this flour. It’s best for waffles, pancakes, and cookies, which are baked goods that don’t need to rise very much.

You can use up to 25% of coconut flour in place of regular flour in a recipe. So if the recipe calls for 10 cups of regular flour, you can use 2.5 cups of coconut flour and 7.5 cups of regular flour.

6. Millet Flour

Millet flour is rich in the mineral magnesium, and it is known to soak up the flavors of ingredients and provide a crumbly texture to baked goods. It is also the least allergenic of all grains, making it an even healthier alternative to regular flour.

It is best used for cakes, bread, and cookies. Like coconut flour, you can use up to 25% of millet flour to your flour measurements in recipes.

7. Oat Flour

Oat flour is made from ground oats, and it’s rich in fiber. Though oats are naturally gluten-free, most oats are grown alongside wheat, which leads to cross-contamination. Make sure you get pure, organic oat flour for your gluten-free recipes.

Oat flour is excellent for cookies, cakes, granola, bread, muffins, scones, and pie crusts. In baking recipes, you can use up to 20% oat flour instead of regular flour.

8. Quinoa Flour

Quinoa flour is an excellent substitute flour as it is packed with protein, and its texture also adds density to baked goods, if that’s what you’re looking for in flour.

Quinoa flour is great for savory baked goods like herbed muffins and biscuits.

Because of its high protein content, you can swap it at a 1:1 ratio for wheat flour.

9. Sorghum Flour

Sorghum flour is closest to taste and texture to regular wheat flour of all the gluten-free flour substitutes. It is high in antioxidants and, in many cases, has been used as a direct substitute for regular flour.

It is excellent for cakes, bread, muffins, and crepes. You can swap sorghum flour at a 1:1 ratio for glutenous flour.

10. Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour is also known as cassava flour and tapioca scratch. Because of its starchiness, it makes for a great gluten-free substitute for baking. However, you can’t use it on its own, so you would still need to add other flours to make it an excellent choice for baking.

Tapioca flour is perfect for mixing into gluten-free flour blends and adds thickness to soups and stews.

You can use tapioca flour as a replacement for cornstarch or potato starch at a 1:1 ratio when used in baking. But, if you’re adding this to a gluten-free flour mix you’re making on your own, you can only use up to 20% of it in the combination.

Other gluten-free flour substitutes include bean flour, brown rice flour, and teff flour. You will have to do your trial and error to achieve the best flavor, texture, density, shape, and consistency that you want.

These substitutes won’t give you the same results as using regular flour. Still, with time, experimentation, and plenty of patience, you can create your very own gluten-free flour mix that meets your every need when it comes to taking your favorite baked goods.

A Word on Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum

As mentioned earlier, xanthan gum binds everything together and gives baked goods their structure. On the other hand, guar gum is made from dried and ground guar plant seeds and is an effective binder that mimics the effects of gluten.

Both gums don’t just help give baked goods their shape, but they also help with moisture retention. Use only small amounts of gum, such as adding 1 tsp of gum to every cup of flour in a recipe.

However, there is a downside to adding gums to recipes, and that’s irritating the digestive system. If you don’t need to have a structure in your baked goods, it’s best to avoid using gums in your recipes.

The Bottom Line

If you recently discovered you have celiac disease, you might feel devastated that you can’t eat your favorite food anymore. Baked goods like pizza, bread, and even pasta must be avoided since these foods contain gluten that can cause inflammation to your intestinal tract.

But going on a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you have to banish all kinds of food with flour. You can still enjoy your favorite baked goods with these gluten-free flour substitutes. However, if you plan to make your gluten-free flour at home using a grain mill, you need to do a lot of experimenting and trial and error to get the results you want.

Don’t worry, though; as you bake and cook with gluten-free flour, you’ll eventually know how much to use, what to replace, and which kinds of flour to get the flavors, textures, consistency, and shape you need for your baked goods, soups, stews, and all sorts of dishes.

Related: 3 Easy steps on how to make flour at home

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