An In-Depth Guide to 12 Popular Gluten Free Flours
Now more than ever, people who follow a gluten free diet have many different options when it comes to food. Gluten free food manufacturers like Schär make it easy to find safe alternatives to traditional gluten-containing foods. Even with all of these delicious options out there, however, sometimes you just want to cook for yourself. Fortunately, there is a variety of gluten free flours out there that can be used in recipes for everything from gluten free bread and pizza to cookies, crackers, snacks, and more.
Keep reading to learn about the top 12 gluten free flours and how to use them.
The Top 12 Gluten Free Flours
There are plenty of gluten free flours to choose from, but not all of them are created equal. Some gluten free flours are highly absorbent and require additional moisture in the recipe while others are so dense that they need extra leavening.
The key to cooking with gluten free flour is to know exactly what you’re working with. Here is an overview of the top 12 gluten free flours with tips for using them:
1. Amaranth Flour
This gluten free flour has a nutty, earthy flavor on its own and it tends to absorb the flavors of other ingredients. Rich in fiber and protein, amaranth flour also contains plenty of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and iron. It is also particularly high in folate, a nutrient that is very important for pregnant women. Amaranth flour also provides about twice as much calcium as milk per serving.
Baking with amaranth flour is a little tricky because it is best combined with other gluten free flours, particularly for recipes like bread, pie crust, and tortillas. When baking with this flour, you’ll need to stick to a ratio of one part amaranth flour to three parts other gluten free flours. When making substitutions, you’ll need about 1 cup of amaranth flour per 1 cup of wheat flour, keeping the previous advice in mind. You should also know that this flour browns quickly, so keep an eye on your oven temperature and your bake time.
2. Almond Flour
Easily one of the most popular gluten free flours, almond flour is a healthy alternative to traditional wheat flour. Consisting only of ground almonds, this type of flour is loaded with nutrients including magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese, not to mention dietary fiber and protein. Research suggests that almond flour may help lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, particularly in people with high cholesterol or diabetes.
Almond flour is particularly good for baking, though you can also use it as a substitute for breadcrumbs in things like baked chicken tenders. When substituting almond flour for regular flour, you’ll need to use a ratio of about twice as much almond flour as regular flour. Keep in mind that other factors may come into play, however, such as the amount of moisture or the number of eggs. Almond flour is a little tricky when it comes to direct substitutions, so your best bet is to find a recipe that uses almond flour rather than trying to make the conversion yourself.
3. Buckwheat Flour
Though the name might be misleading, buckwheat flour is not derived from wheat and it doesn’t contain any gluten. Buckwheat flour has a rich, earthy flavor that works well in quick breads and yeast bread. It does, however, have a crumbly texture so you might want to combine it with other gluten free flours – brown rice flour works well. Buckwheat flour is rich in fiber and antioxidants as well as iron, magnesium, folate, zinc, and manganese.
Baking with buckwheat flour is very easy because most recipes allow you to make a direct 1:1 substitution of buckwheat flour for wheat flour. Buckwheat flour is high in fiber and provides a moist, tender texture when used in small amounts. Combine this flour with tapioca flour to make homemade wraps or swap it in for ¼ to 1 cup of another gluten free flour in your homemade all-purpose blend. In addition to baking, you can use it to coat meat and other proteins prior to frying them.
4. Cassava Flour
Made from the same root as tapioca flour, cassava flour is made from the entire cassava root (tapioca flour is the bleached and extracted starch from the root). Cassava flour is gluten free, grain free, and nut free while also being low in calories, sugar, and fat. It is rich in vitamin C, manganese, potassium, folate, and magnesium but not particularly high in fiber. The one thing to be wary of with this flour is that cassava must be cooked to neutralize some of the toxins, so make sure any cassava flour you purchase is made from the cooked root.
When cooking with cassava flour, you should be able to use it at a 1:1 ratio for wheat flour. It has a neutral taste and texture, so it works well as a direct substitute or when blended with other gluten free flours. If you choose to use cassava flour as a direct substitute, know that it is best for recipes that don’t need to rise – it doesn’t produce a fluffy outcome like wheat flour. You also need to be careful to whisk away any lumps and you may need to reduce the amount of cassava flour if the resulting product is too dry or gritty in texture.
5. Chickpea Flour
Chickpea flour is a nutritionally dense gluten free flour that is different from many of the options on this list. It is made from raw ground chickpeas and is extremely rich in protein, fiber, and essential nutrients. Keep in mind, however, that it is naturally dense, so it tends to work best in recipes that require structure. Chickpea flour has a nutty flavor and a slightly grainy texture. It can be used in many recipes but works best in tortillas, crepes, and flatbreads.
For the most part, chickpea flour is easy to find in health food stores, but you can also make your own by simply throwing some dried chickpeas into a blender or coffee grinder. You’ll need to sift the flour to remove larger pieces, but it’s an easy process.
When cooking with chickpea flour, use it at a 1:1 ratio when replacing heavier flours like teff and rye or add a few tablespoons to recipes that require additional stability. You should also know that it is highly absorbent and creates a sticky texture, so be mindful of how much moisture you use in your recipes.
6. Coconut Flour
One of the most popular gluten free flours other than almond flour, coconut flour is positively packed with nutrients. Made by drying and grinding coconut meat, this flour has a very light and powdery texture with a mild coconut flavor. Coconut flour is rich in dietary fiber and healthy fats while being very low in carbs. In addition to those following a gluten free diet, many also use it on the ketogenic diet as well as the paleo diet.
What you need to know about cooking with coconut flour is that it is highly absorbent. When converting a recipe to use coconut flour, you’ll need to use a lot of eggs to provide moisture, to give the product some structure, and to act as a binder. You can’t just substitute coconut flour for wheat flour – you need to substitute between ¼ and 1/3 cup of coconut flour for every cup of grain-based flour. Additionally, you’ll need 2 eggs per ¼ cup of coconut flour.
7. Oat Flour
This type of flour is made by grinding oats, so it is gluten free as long as the oats used to make the flour are free from cross-contamination. Oat flour is very high in dietary fiber and it is highly digestible as well – even more so than regular oats. It also contains protein, B-vitamins, phosphorus, and magnesium in addition to various antioxidants. The fiber and nutrients in oat flour help lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels while also stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels.
Because oat flour lacks gluten, it may leave your baked goods a little bit too moist so be careful how much you use. Oat flour is best for cookies and quick breads, though you can use it for other things in combination with other gluten free flours. When making yeast bread, you’ll need extra yeast to make the dough rise and other recipes need about 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder per cup of oat flour. If you want to make your own oat flour, grind 1 ¼ cups of rolled oats to make 1 cup of oat flour.
8. Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is simply finely milled brown rice, so it retains all of the same nutrients as brown rice. This type of flour is rich in dietary fiber, protein, and a variety of other nutrients. Because it is milled from whole-grain brown rice, it is a more nutritious option than white rice flour but still has a smooth texture and mild flavor.
When it comes to cooking with brown rice flour, it is best for adding crispness to recipes like cookies. Brown rice flour can generally be substituted for wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio when used as a thickening agent in soups, sauces, or gravies – you may need to make some adjustments when using it in baked goods. In many cases, you’ll need another egg to bind the ingredients or some additional fat like oil or butter. You’ll probably also need a few extra tablespoons of liquid to keep the mixture from drying out.
9. Sorghum Flour
This type of flour is made from an ancient cereal grain that has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Sorghum flour is light in color and texture, though it is a fairly dense flour. It is rich in protein and fiber which helps maintain blood sugar stability and may also help with digestion. Because sorghum is often processed on shared equipment with wheat products, you need to be careful about finding a product that is certified gluten free.
Sorghum flour is a great option for cookies and cakes, but it is best combined with other gluten free flours because it is so heavy. When making substitutions, you can use 1 cup of sorghum flour per 1 cup of wheat flour, but you’ll need to add some kind of additional binder. Xanthan gum, cornstarch, egg whites, and unflavored gelatin all work well. You’ll need an extra half-teaspoon of binder per cup for cookies and cakes or 1 teaspoon per cup for bread.
10. Tapioca Flour
A highly versatile ingredient, tapioca flour has an extremely fine texture and a bright white color. As mentioned above, it is the extracted starch from the cassava plant, making it very similar to cassava flour. Tapioca flour is extremely popular as a thickening agent because it thickens at a low temperature and maintains its consistency in freezing temperatures. It also thickens very quickly without changing the flavor of the dish.
When baking with tapioca flour, you can substitute it at a 2:1 ratio for cornstarch or combine it with other gluten free flours to make your own all-purpose blend. Because it has little sugar or fat, tapioca flour is great for healthy baking – you can even use it to reduce the amount of fat in your gluten free recipes. When making direct substitutions, use 1 cup tapioca flour per 1 cup wheat flour.
11. Teff Flour
Rich in nutrients, teff flour is a healthy and versatile gluten free flour. It is particularly rich in fiber, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and B vitamins, and it helps boost circulation, improves immunity, and supports heart and bone health. Teff flour is best used in combination with other gluten free flours because it may leave your baked goods dry and coarse if used alone. Keep in mind as well that teff comes in several colors – lighter colors have a mild flavor while darker colors are earthy in taste.
Often used in breads, pancakes, and cereals, teff flour should only be used in small amounts because it has a strong multigrain flavor. You can substitute it directly for any recipe that calls for millet or use it in combination with other flours. Try using it with buckwheat to make pancakes and waffles or use it in a traditional Ethiopian recipe for Injera, a type of sourdough flatbread.
12. White Rice Flour
Made from finely milled white rice, rice flour is a great substitute for wheat flour. It works very well as a thickening agent because it prevents liquid separation – it is particularly good for soups, gravies, and sauces but can also work for cakes, cookies, and crackers. White rice flour is high in fiber, though not quite as high as brown rice flour, and it also contains plenty of manganese, selenium, niacin, magnesium, thiamin, and vitamin B6.
White rice flour has a silky-smooth texture and it is bright white in color. Generally speaking, you can substitute white rice flour for wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio in cooking recipes, though baking recipes may need a little adjustment. White rice flour is not ideal for recipes with high fat, low liquid content like cookies or muffins but it can be combined with other gluten free flours for a better result. This flour blends well with other flours due to its fine texture and neutral flavor.
The next time you want to make homemade bread, pizza crust, or cookies, consider reaching for one of these gluten free flours. You may need to make some adjustments to your recipe and do a little experimentation, but that’s half the fun of baking!