Without the gluten there will be a difference in the stickiness needed to make breads that most of us are used to eating. Gluten free flours are going to produce baked goods that are more crumbly than chewy. However, after a few weeks of no symptoms of gluten intolerance, most people don’t miss wheat flour and the new textures produced by gluten free flours are not be a problem.
Some of the other choices of flour for use in recipes normally using wheat flour are gluten free flour blends that are commercially prepared to be most like your wheat flour texture and taste in baking. Gluten free flour mixes such as this normally can be used as a 100% substitute for wheat flour. When boiled in liquid, some flours change texture differently than wheat flour does. Wheat flour is used in most gravy recipes as it thickens when boiled in liquid while other flours such as arrowroot flour will thin.
(Note that not all alternative flours available for cooking are gluten free. Barley flour and rye flour are not wheat, but they are still of the cereal grains that contain gluten. Remember, it is not the flour one is trying to avoid but the gluten in the flour.)
If you need a wheat flour alternative, consider using flours from plants such as corn (cornmeal and corn flour), potato (both potato and potato starch), white and brown rice, tapioca sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, arrowroot and quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wha).
There are also bean flours, which are commonly used. Tapioca and pea flours are two additional alternatives. There are more and more wheat flour alternatives being created each day.
Commercially available cake, cookie and bakery mixes are also easy to find at your local supermarket these days. Our favorite by a long shot is
- Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
- Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devil’s Food Cake Mix
- Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
- Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie Mix
- Betty Crocker Bisquick Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix
Gluten Free Gravies and Sauces
Corn starch is a great thickening agent and can be used in place of wheat flour for sauces and gravies.
Gluten Free Pasta
If you are searching for a gluten free pasta, there are some really wonderful pastas made with gluten free ingredients.
- Rice pasta is one of them – although not my favorite because of the gummy texture and its tendency to easily fall apart.
- Soy pastas are available but since this writer is of the opinion that soy consumption should be minimized, it is not the best choice.
- Bean pastas are available as well.
- By far, my favorite gluten free pasta alternative is quinoa. There is a quinoa and corn blend pasta by Ancient Harvest that is superb. It’s texture is firm but not hard and the taste is amazing. It’s fabulous as a substitute for using wheat pasta.
Gluten Free Breading and Fillers
It is usually easy to replace gluten breading and fillers with other flours. For example, when I prepare my family’s Swedish meatballs at Christmas, I simply replace the breadcrumbs with Udi’s bread and I replace the wheat flour component with a gluten free flour blend such as Glutino’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend.
More about Quinoa
Quinoa, pronounced Keen-Wah, is a wheat and gluten free grain substitute and has a rich and nutritious past. Technically quinoa is not a true grain, but is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. Thus, it is often referred to as a pseudo-grain. Quinoa is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of its cooking characteristics. Quinoa has over 120 varieties but only three are harvest in large quantities. The white or sweet variety; a dark red fruited called red quinoa; and red quinoa. Quinoa has a delicate fluffy consistence and a slightly nutty flavor. The leaves can be used for a salad much the same way that spinach leaves are used. The seeds or granules must be rinsed before cooking to remove saponin, the bitter resin-like coating. They are rinsed before shipping but it is always wise to re-rinse at your home prior to cooking – better safe than sorry. You will know when the saponin is gone because when it is present the water looks like you poured dish detergent in it and it is sudsy.
Quinoa’s nutritional valued is impressive compared to many grains and other pseudo grans – it is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. Quinoa is always gluten-free so it will provide a tasty alternative, decent nutritional value, and for those that are not gluten-sensitive, quinoa is a great addition for a bit of variety.
The Best Gluten Alternative
Oftentimes for those of us with Gluten Intolerance, the best gluten free alternative is to simply avoid grains and pseudo grains altogether. There are a number of reasons to do this ranging from a relatively high likelihood of a reaction to other grains, to cross-contamination, to the general lack of nutrition provided by baked goods, breads and pastas. But, I do hope this guide was helpful for the times when you do indeed need a gluten free alternative.