Gluten-Free Flour & Substitutions

I’ve had some questions in the past about how I make my baked goods gluten-free and (sometimes) vegan. This is how I make my flour blends, add binders, and make subs for milk, eggs, and dairy butter, along with some notes about how to do it affordably.

About the Gluten-Free Flours

This is the starchy base blend on which I build recipes that I want to taste like “regular” flour. You should not make cakes and cookies without adding a protein-rich flour to this blend (below, under the recipes). You may use this base blend alone, however, for purposes of (1) dredging meats and vegetables, (2) as a thickening agent (like pie fillings, stews, sauces), (3) as deep-fry flour coating, and (4) in specific wrap and flat bread recipes (which you won’t find on this site because they don’t contain oils).

I make this in large batches so I don’t have to screw around with it every time I cook. While I do experiment with a wide variety of flours, I’ve found that, for your average wheat to gluten-free recipe conversion, this is as close as you can get to a one-size-fits-all solution. For most people, having eighteen types of flour in the pantry is more frustrating, overwhelming, and cost prohibitive, than it is exciting. For the most part, I’m not going to add lots of crazy flours because I want these recipes to be as accessible as possible. Obviously, if you know about different flours and how to make effective blends of your own, go crazy with your mad skills.

skip directly to flour recipe

You may get affordable certified gluten-free flours at affordable prices if you have an affordable local co-op in your area, or at online sources like Vitacost.com and Thrive Market. I get my Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour in cases of six through Amazon Prime for about $24/case, and I get non-certified rice flours and tapioca starch from my little local Thai store (Bangluck Market). I’ve never had an issue with the non-certified brands I’ve purchased there, or at any other ethnic food market (Indian markets are good, too, because they typically carry inexpensive chickpea and rice flours).  You don’t have to use Bob’s brown rice flour, but I recommend it; most other brands I’ve used haven’t been fine enough for cakes and lighter baked goods.

While we’re on the subject of those online vendors I usually use, Vitacost carries their branded coconut oil, which is inexpensive and delicious (there’s also an organic version), and my favorite coconut flour – Nutiva. Vitacost also has very affordable guar gum. Thrive Market carries my favorite Arrowhead Mills buckwheat flour and the Bob’s Red Mill superfine almond flour I like to use.

I know it seems like a lot to go through, but once you get these basics together, you’ll be able to bake for a long time. My base flour makes 8lbs., and bags of coconut flour, buckwheat, chickpea flours last a long time, as do binders. Xanthan gum is just expensive everywhere, but a $13-18 small bag of it lasts so long that when you finally run out, it’s emotionally shocking, as if you don’t remember a time before xanthan gum was in your pantry.

Build your pantry by starting with a batch of base flour, a bag of coconut flour, and some guar gum, and you can make a respectable step toward GF baking for minimal cost.


Substitutions for Dietary Restrictions

Tree Nuts / Peanuts

If you don’t like or can’t eat nuts or peanuts, use seeds. Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), lightly roasted and thrown into a food processor and pulsed until desired consistency is reached, are perfectly interchangeable for almond, or any other type of nut flour. Just remember most nuts are fatty, so pick fatty seeds when substituting. Sunflower seeds are great, but have a very strong flavor which may make them unsuitable for some recipes. Just use your best judgement.

Liquid Dairy

Any type of milk (almond, rice, soy, coconut) and many juices are easily interchangeable for milk. They have varying levels of texture and fat content, so play with them to see what you like best. Almond milk and no-added-sugar fruit juices are brilliant in cakes. Coconut milk is delicious in custards. Each has its merits.

Butter

Use coconut oil, margarine, liquid oil, or vegetable shortening, depending on your needs. Cake is often fine with liquid oil (canola, olive, etc.), but most cookies need a saturated fat to come together correctly, so you’d use shortening, margarine, or coconut oil – anything that is solid at room temp.

Cheese

If cow cheese bothers you, try goat cheese. If you can’t eat goat cheese, try vegan cheese. If you don’t like vegan cheese, you’re probably eating the pre-wrapped crap from the store. Try some of these tasty cheese alternatives from Go Dairy Free, which include recipes made with tofu, nuts, seeds, and more. I’ve used several of these when cooking for my vegan friends.

Eggs

Use pre-made egg substitute liquid or powder, or use the flax meal method:

  1. One egg = approx. 1/4 cup of egg.
  2. 1/4 cup = 4 Tablespoons
  3. 2 Tbsp hot water + 2 Tbsp flax meal = 1 egg (allow to gel before adding to mix)
  4. Using this as your one-egg quantity, scale up as needed.

Gluten-Free Base Blend

When I do this, each part = one pound. You can use cups, or even teaspoons, using these proportions.

  • 2 parts brown rice flour
  • 2 parts white rice flour
  • 1.5 parts sweet or glutinous rice flour (no gluten; this just means “sticky”)
  • 1.5 parts tapioca starch

Blend into homogeneous mixture, then add protein flours and binder as needed.

  • Pastry flour contains 8.5-9.5% protein by weight;
  • All-purpose baking flour contains 10-12% protein;
  • Bread flour contains 12-13% protein.

It’s not exact unless you strictly do this by weight with a kitchen scale, but from 1 cup of flour, 10% is about 1.5 Tbsp. So, for an all-purpose flour, you’d want to use 1 cup less 1.5 Tbsp, and then add 1.5 Tbsp of protein-rich flour. However, coconut flour is the only addition with which I’m strict, because it sucks up all the liquid and you’ll have to add a little more oil or water than expected to make up for how dense it is. I’m much more liberal with almond and buckwheat flours, using up to half the mixture, just because it’s tasty. When I’m baking for myself, I often use a mix of all three for maximum taste explosion.

Binders

Per cup, I use roughly 1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum. For what it’s worth, I prefer guar gum unless making bread.

Recommended Protein-rich Flours

  • Almond
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Chickpea
  • Coconut
  • Flax Meal
  • Hemp Meal

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