Grain and Gluten Free Flour: A Flour For Every Occasion
Cake? Cookies? Pasta? Muffins? You can have them all. There’s a grain and gluten free flour for all of it. Here’s where you find out exactly what flour alternatives you can choose from.
I'm always discovering new types of grain and gluten free flour. There are so many out there.
As a general rule, grain free flours are heavier than wheat flour and they are often higher in protein. The good news is that this means they are usually more nutritious and more filling. The flip side is that it is harder (but not impossible) to get that light and fluffy texture that makes baked goods made with gluten so enjoyable…and addictive.
But the news is not all bad. There are lots of grain and gluten free flour options. And sure, while they will never taste and feel exactly the same as wheat flour, if you have a grain or gluten sensitivity, you can definitely feel like you’re not missing out altogether.
Want to have a closer look?
These are flours made out of beans, such as chickpea flour (also called gram flour or besan flour), lentil flour and soy flour. They are yellow in colour and are high in protein. Because of this, they are quite heavy and usually give your recipe a denser texture.
Soy flour is an exception in some ways. Soy flour gives a wonderfully soft quality to your cakes and breads, or anything using a raising agent, for example, yeast, soda bicarbonate or baking powder.
You’ll get the best results for bean flours when you mix them with other non-bean flours.
Arrowroot, tapioca flour and potato flour (also called potato starch) are good examples. And while they are called flours, they are not commonly used on their own. They act as thickeners just like cornflour.
However, you can also add arrowroot, tapioca flour or potato flour to your cake, bread or pancake recipes to soften and lighten the consistency. It also increases the effectiveness of whatever raising agent you add to the recipe.
While technically not a flour, I’ve included these because they can be used as a flour in most circumstances. Nut meals are ground up nuts or seeds. Nothing more to it than that. They are highly nutritious and perfect for many different types of cake and cracker recipes. Even better, you can grind them up them yourself from readily available seeds and nuts. The nutrient content of ground nuts and seeds deteriorates over time, so using them freshly ground is best.
Mix them with other types of grain and gluten free flour or use them on their own. Some recipes work really well with the latter, such as almond meal for a flourless orange cake or a mixture of nutmeals in a quick and easy berry tart (recipes for these coming soon...oooh gosh yum...).
They are generally a bit less dense than the bean flours and mix well with them. There is a huge variation in how they behave in your oven. Get more info on how to use each one by following the text links at the bottom of the page.
Making Your Own Flour...A Quick Chat
Let’s just have a short interlude about making your own flour.
With a basic $20 coffee grinder, you can make fresh nut meals and buckwheat flour in seconds.
You can also use a burr grinder. This type of grinder evens out the final particle size, and you can set how finely ground you want your flour.
And if you're serious about making flour, a grain mill is your best option. Grain mills are designed to handle any type of dried seed or grain. Perfect for making quinoa flour, amaranth flour and any type of bean flour. They're not so good with nuts, because the high moisture/oil content clogs them up.
Have a quick look at the selection of grain mills offered by Amazon:
So how do I choose which flour to use?
Personal preference. Try them. Like them. Use them.
Here are a few suggestions that work really well for me. They will also give you enough variety so that you don’t get stuck using the same flours over and over again – a common rut that I find myself getting into when I discover something I really like.
One factor which might influence your preference is cost. Grain and gluten free flour is more expensive.
If it’s cakes, cookies and muffins you’re after, you can’t look past coconut flour and chestnut flour. They are both naturally sweet, healthy and full of fibre. Coconut flour and chestnut flour can be the only flour in your recipe, or it can be mixed with others.
Coming in a close second are buckwheat flour, soy flour, golden flaxmeal and almond meal. These four have a mild flavor that isn’t too overpowering (with the exception perhaps of the darker buckwheat flours. The flavour gets stronger as the flour gets darker.)
They will all allow you to get a nice, lightly textured cake or muffin, especially when mixed together with each other or other flours, such quinoa flour or chickpea flour.
And because texture is so much a part of enjoying your food, the starchy flours like arrowroot, tapioca flour and potato flour help your baking stick together, and also lighten the mixture. Adding up to a ¼ cup of either of these to your recipe can really improve the final outcome.
Coconut flour, while not a starch, will also give you a light and fluffy texture to muffins, pancakes and cakes.
And speaking of texture, make sure you check out the tips below.
Amaranth flour and the bean flours fare brilliantly in savoury recipes. They have quite a dominant flavour and this is nicely toned down when you are using other ingredients like cheese, salt, garlic, onion or dried herbs. These same flours can sometimes overpower a sweeter cake or pancake if it’s a milder, lighter effect you’re after. But having said that, if they are mixed in lesser quantities with other flours in your cake, muffin or cookie recipes, they work just fine.
Experiment with your favorite recipes and see what works best.
Not ready for that yet? Try some of the handpicked recipes on this site to get the feel and taste of grain and gluten free baking.
How should I combine the different flours?
Here are some grain free and gluten free flour combinations that I use to replace gluten and grain flour in so many recipes. I usually need to increase the amount of moisture to some degree from the original recipe:
Grain and gluten free flour mix #1
This first grain and gluten free flour combination of is my number one choice for cake recipes. It’s also great for pancakes.
#1: Guar gum or xanthan gum gives the dough a chewier texture – like the way wheat does in pizza dough. Use in very small amounts (1 tsp or less to start) unless you want to use the results as a hockey puck.
#2: If you’re adapting a wheat flour recipe, do not just replace the flour with the same quantities of gluten free or grain free alternatives. Each flour absorbs different amounts of moisture. Each binds differently. They can require different cooking times and temperatures. They are best mixed with other wheat free flours in your recipe.
#3: Use arrowroot, tapioca flour or potato flour (potato starch) in the same way you would cornflour. Use it to thicken sauces. Also add up to ¼ cup to your recipe to soften and lighten the texture if and to increase the effectiveness of the raising agent if you're using one (such as baking powder, yeast or baking soda). Make up to half of your flour mixture with arrowroot or potato flour if you're baking a bread.
#4: When replacing the flour in a recipe with grain free flour, you will most likely need to adjust the amount of moisture in the recipe (usually increase it), adjust the oven temperature (most likely decrease it) and adjust the cooking time. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules. Experiment in smaller quantities until you get it how you want it.
#5: Fill cake, bread and muffins mixtures right to the top of the pan. Grain free flours are more dense, so they rise less in the oven.
#6: How to make grain free baking powder.
2 parts cream of tartar
1 part potassium bicarbonate
2 parts arrowroot
You can find potassium bicarbonate at health food stores. You can also find it in various forms at the chemist/pharmacy, depending on the restrictions of the country you live in.
#7:How to make self raising, grain free and gluten free flour.
Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder (see tip 6 above) for every cup of grain or gluten free flour of your choosing.
How to bake with coconut flour. 4 must see tips before you start baking. Find out what nutritional value it has, and what storage guidelines you’ll need. Then get started with these easy recipes.
Do you want buckwheat flour in your kitchen, in your diet and in your life? Discover where it comes from, what different types there are and what nutrients are to be had. And don't leave without trying some of the easy recipes on offer.
Made from the South American super grain. Very nutritious and very versatile. Mix with other grain and gluten free flours or use on its own. For sweet or savoury recipes. Add it to your reperatoire before you make one more move.
Versatile, healthy and easy to use. It’s the ingredient you’ve been looking for to make your grain and gluten free baking moist and softly textured.
Arrowroot will revolutionize your grain and gluten free baking. Add it to your cake or bread mix for a softer, lighter texture. It's also a perfect thickener for sauces and glazes.
Here is a nutritious, meal-in-a-mouthful, full of flavour type of flour made from ground seeds of the amaranth plant. And, of course, there are some simple recipes to try.