What are good substitutes for gluten and why are they important? If you enjoy baked goods – bread with a crispy crust and a pulley chewy center; cookies that are short and cakes that are moist, you no doubt enjoy eating gluten whether you know it or not.
Gluten is an ingredient you’ll find in a huge range of common foods around the world. It’s packed into your cookies and cakes, as well as various breads, soups, pastas, and more. While it’s delicious, it’s been shown to have health implications, both mental and physical for many of us.
Not everyone responds well to gluten. In recent years, there’s been a rapid increase in the number of people who are discovering they may actually be gluten intolerant. Around 6% of the U.S. population is diagnosed as gluten intolerant, and 1% has Celiac disease.
If you’re gluten intolerant, it doesn’t mean you’re allergic to gluten although it may mean it amps up the inflammation in your body which can contribute to a blue mood or even to depression. It may also mean you experience symptoms like gas, bloating and even diarrhea.
The question is, if you can’t eat gluten, how are you supposed to bake? I thought it would be helpful to talk about some substitutes for gluten containing flour in creating masterpieces in your kitchen.
Substitutes for Gluten in Baking
A huge number of baked goods, from cookies and muffins to buns and breads, contain gluten. This means if you’re an avid baker, you’re going to need to find an alternative way to enjoy your favorite pastime. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here are some of the top alternatives to gluten in baking.
Rice flour is exactly what it sounds like: a brown or white rice grain ground finely to create a soft creamy flour. This alternative to gluten is a great choice for a range of foods because it has a very neutral taste. It’s great for gluten-free baking on its own, or you can mix it with other gluten-free flours to create a slightly less gritty texture.
Corn flour is what you get when you remove and purify the starch at the center of sweetcorn kernels. Otherwise known as corn starch, this bright and silky flour can be extremely useful for a range of cooking requirements, particularly if you want to lighten the texture of something. It’s important to choose corn that is organic and is not GMO (genetically modified).
If you’re creating gluten-free biscuits, cakes, and pastry from scratch, it’s definitely worth checking out the benefits of corn flour.
Created by grinding dried corn kernels to create a coarse, medium, or fine powder, maize flour varies in color and texture. You’ll find this gluten alternative regularly in most regions of North, Central and South America, where it’s popular for making muffins, corn bread, and tortillas.
The great thing about adding maize flour to something is the bright and sunny color it brings into the mix. You can also get a wonderfully wholesome texture in your baking with this alternative.
Polenta is an Italian version of ground maize, also known as corn meal. Similar to Maize flour, this is an excellent gluten alternative if you want to add texture and color to your baking. You can produce a wide range of delicious breads and unique savory foods with this unique ingredient.
Polenta is particularly effective when used to make warming and hearty foods. I often use an organic version of it that I buy at Trader Joe’s and use it as an alternative to pasta when creating a meal with a red sauce. It’s delicious and easy if you don’t feel like making the polenta yourself from scratch.
Potatoes are such a versatile vegetable, capable of creating everything from vodka to flour. Potato flour is made by extracting the starch from the potato, then purifying it to create a bright white flour capable of adding a great level of softness to all kinds of foods.
Potato flour is a pretty flexible substance and can be added to a range of baking products without leaving any strong unappealing flavors in your food. In other words, if you use it for baking brownies, you don’t have to worry about them tasting like roasted potatoes!
Ground nuts used in conjunction with a combination of gluten-free flours can add extra flavor and texture to your baking. For example, ground almonds and cashews add a versatile, delicate flavor. Alternatively, hazelnuts and pistachios can really turn up the flavor and inject their own “personality” into what you’re creating.
As an added bonus, grinding nuts with the skins still on will create a more fibrous flour, which is great for keeping your gut in good condition. Personally, I use almond flour often in baking. Sometimes I combine it with a gluten free oat flour too.
Despite the name, buckwheat flour doesn’t have any kind of wheat in it at all. The flour is made by milling buckwheat seeds into a soft, brown-gray flour with a unique and wholesome flavor. If you want to add a slightly nutty flavor to things like biscuits and pastries, this could be the ideal gluten-free alternative for you.
Another excellent alternative to your standard flour, tapioca flour is a fine, bright white starch powder, taken from the root of the tropical cassava plant. This plant is a terrific source of minerals and vitamins, ideal for boosting your gut health.
When you mix Tapioca flour with liquids it does become a little sticky, which makes it a good choice if you need to combine various gluten-free mixtures.
Finally, this gluten-free baking alternative is packed with fiber and comes with a coconut kick. If you don’t want to add the flavor of coconut to whatever you’re making, it’s worth mixing this product with rice flour and cornstarch for a more neutral taste. One note of caution; be mindful of the consistency when you use coconut flour. I find it really soaks up the moisture, so I often add extra liquid to keep the consistency the way I want it.
It can be challenging learning to bake with gluten free flour. It requires experimentation and some adjustments to your expectations. Gluten is what gives baked goods that moist pulley texture, but living without gluten can really help you make positive changes in your health, both mental and physical!
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness!
Cheryl A Major, CNWC
I’m author, health coach, and entrepreneur Cheryl A Major, and I would love to connect with you! If you’re new to the world of creating better health, both mental and physical for yourself, please check out my training on how to get gluten out of your diet. Becoming Gluten Free Me is where to check it out. Learn how gluten affects us and how to go about reducing or eliminating it from your diet. You don’t have to suffer with Celiac Disease to benefit from getting gluten out of your life!
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