There are dozens of gluten-free flours on the market and none of them can be used as a one-to-one replacement for wheat flour. Why? They each have different weights, rising abilities and binding properties. And, they’re missing the gluten or glue that holds baked goods together.
Some gluten-free flours are high in starch like brown and white rice flours, cornstarch, tapioca flour and potato flour. Others are high in protein like soy flour, coconut flour, almond flour and teff flour. On their own they might taste rather funny, but blended together, it’s possible to create a delightful blend of ingredients that are packed with nutrients. And, they’ll turn into moist cakes, fluffy loaves of bread and the perfect chocolate chip cookies.
Before we start blending the flours, let’s take a step back and talk about each of these gluten-free flours.
ALMOND FLOUR is made from raw blanched almonds that have been ground into a fine powder. It’s most commonly used to replace about 25 to 40 percent of the flour in recipes for pie crusts, cakes, cookies, pancakes and French macarons, but can also be used in most gluten-free recipes. It’s packed with nutrients like manganese (blood sugar control and bone health), vitamin E (helps prevent heart disease), and monounsaturated fats (helps reduce bad cholesterol levels). It’s also very high in protein and low in carbohydrates, making it a great option for individuals managing both a gluten-free and type 1 diabetic diet. (¼ cup= 3g fiber, 4g protein)
COCONUT FLOUR is made from dried and defatted coconut meat and is loaded with fiber, so when using it in recipes, you’ll need to add an equal ration of liquid to flour. Coconut flour works best in recipes when blended with other ingredients like almond or buckwheat flour. It also has a natural sweetness, so using coconut flour allows you to slightly reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. It’s packed with fiber and low in carbohydrates, so also a good choice for gluten-free and type 1 diabetic bakers. Just be careful not to replace more than 20 percent of the flour in a recipe with coconut flour because it does have a higher level of saturated fat. (¼ cup = 11g fiber, 5g protein 2g sat fat)
BROWN RICE AND WHITE RICE FLOURS are made from finely stone ground brown and white rice grains and can be used interchangeably in recipes. However, if you’re looking to keep nutrition high, you’ll want to always go with the whole-grain brown rice option. It’s higher in protein, iron, fiber and vitamin B and contains the healthy rice bran that the white rice flour lacks. White rice flour made from refined brown rice and has been stripped of most of the valuable nutrients. (Brown rice flour: ¼ cup = 2g fiber / White rice flour: ¼ cup = 1g fiber)
TEFF FLOUR is made from the smallest grain in the world and is traditionally used to make Injera, an Ethiopian flat bread. It’s a 100 percent whole grain flour with a large percentage of bran and germ, so compared to other grains, it’s a great source of dietary fiber, protein, iron, amino acids, vitamin C and calcium, so pack your baked goods with teff! (¼ cup = 5g fiber, 5g protein)
MILLET FLOUR is one of the most interesting flours that I only recently started working with. It adds whole grain nutrition to a flour blend, but has a very mild flavor so it doesn’t distort the taste of any baked goods. In fact, it lends a delicate cake-like crumble to most products and is a great source of protein, amino acids and fiber. I suggest blending millet four with sorghum and almond flours. (¼ cup = 3g protein, 4g fiber)
SORGHUM FLOUR is perhaps my favorite alternative gluten-free ingredient. As a grain, it can be malted and used to make gluten-free beer, or as a flour, it can be used to make any type of treat your taste buds desire. It has a very smooth texture and a natural sweetness that is perfect for any recipe. The starch and protein in sorghum flour takes longer to digest than other flours, which means that it’s a great choice for individuals who are gluten-free and type 1 diabetic. And, it’s packed with protein, iron and fiber. (¼ cup = 3g fiber, 4g protein)
TAPIOCA FLOUR is slightly sweet and very starchy, but it contains almost no taste or smell, making it a great choice for baking. It’s made from the root of the cassava plant and adds a delightful crispness to crusts and chewiness to baked goods. But, it definitely can’t be used on its own unless you’re making Brazilian Cheesebread. So, it’s best to blend it with other ingredients like quinoa or brown rice flour. Tapioca flour is extremely smooth, so it also makes a great thickener in sauces, pie fillings and soups. It lacks most nutrients, so be sure to use it sparingly. (¼ cup = 0g fiber, 0g protein)
SOY FLOUR is made from soybeans that are ground into a fine powder. The flour is protein-packed, has a modestly nutty flavor and helps lighten baked goods. A big note of caution—baked goods with soy flour tend to brown much quicker, so I would recommend starting out using a recipe developed specifically for soy flour until you’ve got a handle on how the ingredient functions. Or, if you’re just looking to boost nutrients, try adding 1 tablespoon of soy flour into a bread recipe. It will lighten the texture and add some protein and fiber. (¼ cup = 3g fiber, 10g protein)
BUCKWHEAT FLOUR is gluten-free, despite its confusing name. It’s actually made from whole ground buckwheat seeds that are related to the Rhubarb plant. It contains more protein than rice, millet or corn and is packed with amino acids. And, the high levels of protein help to stabilize blood sugar levels, making it another great choice for gluten-free and type 1 diabetic individuals. Buckwheat flour can be used as a one-to-one replacement in recipes for pancakes, but after much experimentation, I would highly recommend sticking to no more than a 50 percent substitution. (¼ cup = 4g fiber, 4g protein)
QUINOA FLOUR is made from stone ground whole grain quinoa and is basically a super food that’s packed with all of the essential amino acids. It also contains fiber and protein and has a very delicate nutty flavor that’s lovely for baking. It can be used to substitute half of the all-purpose flour in a recipe and works great for cakes, cookies and even pasta. (¼ cup = 2g fiber, 4g protein)
Flour Nutrition Comparison
(per ¼ cup)
(per ¼ cup)
(per ¼ cup)
|White Rice Flour||1g||2g||32g|
Making Your Own Gluten-Free Flour Blend—From the Delight Gluten-Free Cookbook!
If you’re a total foodie or just one of those people who likes to maintain complete control in the kitchen, making your own gluten-free all-purpose blend might be the right way to go. If you choose this method, always make large batches ahead of time and store them in an airtight container so that you have all-purpose flour to use at a moment’s notice.
Adding a Gum to Your All-Purpose Flour Blend
A gluten-free all-purpose blend is most effective when it contains a gum. The gums provide several crucial elements to make your recipes turn out just right.
- The “Doughy” Factor: A gum helps mimic the missing gluten in gluten-free flours. Gluten is what makes a dough elastic, and in its absence, we have to find a replacement. Xanthan or guar gum provide this “doughy” property in gluten-free baking.
- Emulsifier: A gum can work as an emulsifier, which means it can help liquids—that otherwise might not stick together—actually stick together.
- Thickener: A gum works to thicken batter.
Xanthan Gum vs Guar Gum
Both ingredients are frequently used in gluten-free baking and it’s often confusing why a recipe author chose one over another. The bottom line is that they both serve the same general purpose as thickeners and emulsifiers. On the most basic level, they keep your baked goods together. The greatest difference in these gums is in how they are made:
- Guar Gum is made from a seed native to tropical Asia and works best in cold cooking (salad dressings, ice cream, custards, etc).
- Xanthan Gum is made from a microorganism called Xanthomonas Campestris (lactose or sugar) and works best in baking and hot food preparations.
While the amount of each gum varies per recipe, you want approximately ¼ – ½ teaspoon per cup of flour.
High Protein & Fiber All-Purpose Blend
The sweet white sorghum flour brings protein, iron, antioxidants and dietary fiber to this nutrient-packed flour blend. The tapioca will add a thin and sturdy crust to your baked goods, and the coconut flour offers a unique, slightly sweet moistness. Simply blend the four ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to one month. Use as a one-to-one replacement in baked good recipes.
3 cups sweet white sorghum flour
3 cups tapioca flour
1 cup coconut flour
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
High-Protein, Low-Glycemic All-Purpose Blend
This flour blend is great for bakers looking to cut down on carbohydrates, but boost their protein intake. Buckwheat flour contains lots of protein and is packed with essential amino acids. The high levels of protein help to stabilize blood sugar levels, making it great for people on a low-glycemic diet. Almond flour is naturally low in carbohydrates and adds even more protein to this wonderful blend. Simply mix the four ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to one month. Use as a one-to-one replacement in baked good recipes, specifically quick breads and cakes like carrot or apple cake.
3 cups buckwheat flour
2 cups almond flour
½ cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons xanthan or guar gum
By Vanessa Weisbrod