The word “gluten” is bandied about these days in much the same way the word “communist” was back in the 1950s; only instead of the Red Menace, today it’s more like the Bread Menace.
To be sure, around one percent of the population (1 in 100 people) suffer from an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease, in which the consumption of gluten causes damage to the intestines. This, in turn, prevents the normal absorption of nutrients, leading to malnutrition. It’s a serious condition, and celiac sufferers need to be careful to avoid gluten.
But what exactly is gluten, and how does it figure into the culinary arts?
Gluten-free baking can seem daunting when you’re just getting started, but we have everything you need to know.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
I was in graduate school living across the country from my family doctor when I learned I couldn’t eat gluten. The nurse delivered the news somberly over the phone.
“What’s gluten?” I asked.
I honestly didn’t have the slightest idea of what gluten-free meant, let alone how to adapt to a gluten-free diet, grocery shop or eat at restaurants. I couldn’t even fathom gluten-free baking.
In the decade-plus since, I’ve become an accidental expert. It started with homemade gluten-free cookies, because I couldn’t afford a $9 store-bought box on a student budget. Then I learned to make pizza dough, because I’ve always loved homemade pizza. Fast-forward five years, and I was raising two sourdough starters (one sorghum and one teff, if you’re curious) and baking bread every weekend.
Gluten-free baking is different than traditional baking, but it’s not inherently worse. With practice, you can bake just about anything you used to make with wheat flour, and often have a lot more fun experimenting with different flavors and flours. Here’s everything you need to know.
Bake your best, without the gluten.
Gluten-free baking is an entire world of its own, with specific ingredients, techniques, and recipes that unlock a wonderful, delicious landscape of baked goods.
With the right tools and advice, you’ll be able to make irresistible cakes, cookies, breads, and even pizza. It’s all about understanding what works, and it doesn’t have to be complicated: In some cases, that means nothing more than a simple flour swap to achieve success.
Measure for Measure
Make (almost) any recipe gluten-free
Our innovative Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour makes it easy to turn many of your favorite traditional recipes gluten-free. Simply substitute Measure for Measure 1:1 for the all-purpose flour called for in your recipe, as long as it’s non-yeasted. (For yeasted bakes like bread and pizza, skip to the next section!)
Buy Measure for Measure
Bread and Pizza
Yeasted recipes go gluten-free
Gluten-free baking with yeast can be trickier than other recipes, due to the unique role that gluten plays in breads, pizzas, and other yeasted baked goods. As a result, it’s best not to try to make an existing yeast bread recipe gluten-free; instead, we highly recommend using recipes specifically developed for gluten-free ingredients like our Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour and Gluten-Free Pizza Flour.
Get our go-to flour
Baker’s Tip: If you’re confused about which flour to use or run into problems while baking gluten-free bread, not to worry! Our trusty Baker’s Hotline has you covered. Reach out with questions both big and small and they’ll guide you through your gluten-free journey.
Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
Ideal for recipes that call for gluten-free flour, and our choice for many gluten-free breads.
Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
A tender, high-rising loaf perfect for sandwiches, thanks to Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour.
Get the Recipe
Gluten-Free ’00’ Pizza Flour
Ideal for perfectly chewy, crisp crusts with incredible rise – including Neapolitan-style pizza.
Gluten-Free Neapolitan-Style Pizza Crust
This pizza emulates classic Neapolitan-style pies, but uses our Gluten-Free ‘00’ Pizza Flour.
get the recipe
The most convenient way to bake gluten-free
Delicious flours that are already gluten-free
Some flours, like buckwheat or almond flour, are naturally gluten-free, so baked goods made with them are an excellent option for gluten-free bakers. That said, their lack of gluten means they behave differently in a recipe than wheat-based flours, so they often can’t be swapped in 1:1 to a traditional recipe. Instead, turn to recipes that already call for these flavor-forward flours for the best success.
Get more flavor
Baker’s Tip: Paleo baking typically uses flours like coconut, almond, and cassava – all of which are gluten-free! To go with our grain-free flour blend, we have a collection of paleo recipes to start you on the right path.
Good to know
Tips and terms for better gluten-free baking
Different gluten-free flours are designed for specific recipes. Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour is a “replacement” flour – it’s used in place of all-purpose flour in many traditional recipes. Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour, meanwhile, is meant for recipes that include xanthan gum and call for “gluten-free flour blend,” or similar wording.
If you’re making gluten-free cookies with Measure for Measure Flour, keep an eye on the baking time, as cookies made with this flour may need a few extra minutes to bake.
Consider refrigerating gluten-free cookie doughs overnight to help eliminate any grittiness in the final texture of your cookies. Or, once baked, let your cookies rest for a few hours (or overnight). This resting time will improve the texture of the cookies, in the same way resting the dough will.
If you’re making Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread, bake your loaf in a 9″ x 4″ x 4″ gluten-free loaf pan, which will give you a taller and more shapely loaf. Gluten-free breads require more support as they rise and bake, and the extra-tall sides on this pan provide just that.
Good news: You can make high-rising gluten-free bread in a bread machine. For the best results, you just need to make a few adjustments, including adding an egg and a touch more flour. See more details in the tips at the bottom of our Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread recipe.
More gluten-free baking advice
For gluten-free baking, think beyond just flour
Want to ensure your baked goods are completely gluten-free? It can be a complex process, but here’s how to choose all the right ingredients, from vanilla extract to chocolate chips.
8 tips for making the perfect gluten-free pie crust
Pie crust can be a challenge for any baker, and when you make it gluten-free, things may become more daunting. Not to fear! We have tested tips for your best gluten-free pie crust.
Want to bake and stick to your gluten-free lifestyle? These gluten-free baking recipes are perfect for curbing your cravings.
Gluten-free baking has come a long way. If you’re imagining sad breads, soggy pastry or crumbly cookies, think again! Our gluten-free baking recipes showcase the huge array of bakes you can make without a speck of wheat flour or other gluten—from chewy sandwich bread to lofty cakes, tender cookies to tasty pies. We include classics like chocolate chip cookies, as well as fresh recipes that will become family favorites.
Gluten-Free Banana Bread
A foolproof recipe for beginning gluten-free bakers, GF banana bread is quick to mix and has all the cozy, comforting flavor of traditional banana bread. Since quick breads don’t need the robust structure gluten provides, most translate extremely well to gluten-free baking—and might even be more tender.
Go to Recipe
Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake
Who says a gluten-free dessert can’t be a showstopper? This GF red velvet cake is chocolate-y, slightly tangy and almost fizzy thanks to a secret ingredient. Naturally, our recipe includes a lick-the-bowl homemade cream cheese frosting, too.
Go to Recipe
Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
Our gluten-free bread recipes have chewy crusts, airy crumbs and rich flavor, no gluten required! This gluten-free sandwich bread is a good one to learn, as it’s perfect for a tasty sandwich, sturdy enough to make grilled cheese and delightful toasted with butter. Don’t skip the xanthan gum or gelatin in the recipe, as they contribute crucial structure to the bread.
Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies
Packed with whole grains and lightly sweet, these gluten-free oatmeal cookies make a passably healthy snack as well as a tasty dessert. Thanks to the addition of oats as well as flour, they’re just as chewy as traditional oatmeal cookies. Make sure to use gluten-free oats for this recipe, as they’re grown, harvested and processed differently from gluten-containing grains to ensure that they’re safe.
Go to Recipe
Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake
Want a towering, bold cake with a light crumb and full-on chocolate flavor? Make this gluten-free chocolate cake. Both cocoa powder and espresso make for a decadent flavor, while chia and flax seeds add enough moisture that no one will notice the cake is a vegan dessert, too. Chocolate lovers can even stir in chocolate chips.
Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes
Perfect for birthday parties or any special occasion, gluten-free vanilla cupcakes are festive and fun to make. Add a dash of food coloring to the frosting for extra decoration, or top with sprinkles. This recipe works well with a homemade gluten-free flour mix or a store-bought one.
Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins
You can’t beat a fresh-from-the-oven blueberry muffin, and no one will be able to tell these are gluten-free. If you have leftovers, you’ll be happy to know these muffins freeze well. Just pop in the microwave to reheat. Your future self will thank you!
Go to Recipe
A simple pan of cornbread makes the best accompaniment to a cozy stew or soup. Although cornmeal is naturally gluten-free, many recipes do contain a bit of wheat flour for a softer, more cake-like texture. Our gluten-free recipe is just as good, sans gluten.
Go to Recipe
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
With a creamy, spiced custard filling and tender crust, this gluten-free pumpkin pie will stand proudly on any Thanksgiving dessert table. The crust includes a scoop of almond flour, which is both tasty and rich in oils, contributing to a tender crumb.
Go to Recipe
Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies
Think shortbread cookies are too fussy to make gluten-free? This recipe will prove you wrong. It’s easy to make and full of rich, buttery flavor, proving that the simplest things are sometimes best.
Go to Recipe
Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
A cookie jar staple, gluten-free gingerbread cookies are a fun recipe to bake with kids. Our recipe makes a spiced, rich cookie dough that’s easy to roll out and cut into your favorite shapes. We include several decorating ideas, too.
Go to Recipe
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Blondies
These chewy blondie bar cookies nod to peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, only they’re easy to slice and perfect to pack in a lunch or picnic. This recipe is also dairy-free and diabetic-friendly, making it ideal for people with multiple food sensitivities.
A favorite holiday cookie, snowballs are a tender butter cookie dotted with nuts and dunked in fluffy powdered sugar. Thanks to the use of two starches and light confectioners’ sugar, they almost melt in your mouth. These cookies are a nice one to try if you don’t want to buy special flours, as they only call for pantry staples.
Gluten-free comfort food is definitely possible! These biscuits are made with buttermilk, just like most wheat-based recipes, so their flavor is comfortingly familiar. Serve them with your favorite stew or soup.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread
A rich and cozy fall baking recipe, gluten-free pumpkin bread is quick to mix. The extra-moist bread also keeps well at room temperature for a few days, so you can enjoy it for breakfast all week.
Go to Recipe
A traditional Mediterranean flatbread, socca is actually made with chickpea flour (aka besan), making it naturally gluten-free. Like cornbread, it’s a great dinner side dish but also tasty enjoyed on its own, warm from the oven.
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
As gluten-free eating becomes more common, your local pizzeria might offer a crust made with an unusual ingredient: cauliflower! The healthy vegetable makes a sturdy crust with a warm, savory flavor. It’s easy to make homemade, too.
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
Nostalgic for this classic holiday cookie? It’s easy to make gluten-free. You might be surprised to see applesauce in the ingredients, but it adds both sweetness and moisture to ensure the cookies stay fresh in their tin for days.
Flourless Chocolate Torte
Ultra-indulgent, creamy flourless chocolate cake sometimes tells a fib: Some recipes include a small amount of wheat flour for texture. (If you’re dining out, always ask!) Our recipe is entirely flour- and grain-free.
Gluten Free Peanut & Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars
What’s more decadent than cheesecake? Our gluten-free recipe starts with a no-bake cookie crumb crust. The cream cheese filling is dotted with chocolate chips and topped with a chocolate-peanut butter drizzle.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cookies
One of our favorite pumpkin recipes, these gluten-free pumpkin cookies are super tender and flavorful. They’re sturdy enough to pack for a potluck or school lunch. We use canned pumpkin for the most reliable flavor and texture.
Go to Recipe
Did you know that macarons are naturally gluten-free? Whipped egg whites and ground nuts make a light, melt-y batter. The French recipe has a reputation for fussiness, but really, these are simple enough for a practiced home baker to make.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
These cookies take inspiration from dense, rich European winter cookies. The heartiness of the recipe makes them easy to make gluten-free, and they keep well, too. The powdered sugar-coated exterior cracks in a pleasant, crisp way when baking.
Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Muffins
Perfect for breakfast or snacking, these muffins are flavored with real sweet potato, making them extra moist. A cinnamon-sugar topping raises the bar.
Gluten-Free Almond Crispies
Flavored with cinnamon and maple and flecked with almonds, these cookies are delicious when the weather turns cool. Thanks to whole grain brown rice flour and almond flour, they’re a healthier gluten-free cookie, too. Serve them with tea or dunk into milk.
Flourless Peanut Butter Thumbprints
Sometimes, you don’t even need flour to bake! These thumbprint cookies couldn’t be simpler. They’re reminiscent of a classic peanut butter blossom, but they include a secret ingredient: Nutella!
Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks
A delightful grain-free recipe, this super savory bake is made with a cauliflower crust. It’s also a healthy alternative to pizza that might get your kids eating veggies.
Note: for tips on baking gluten-free bread with a breadmaker, hop to my article here.
For a review of one of my favorite bread makers, hop here.
1. Don’t scoop flour! When measuring flour, don’t scoop from the bag with your measuring cup. This can compress the flour — up to 25%! Use a spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup and level off with a knife instead.
2. Weigh your ingredients. One step better is to weigh your flour. My gfJules™ All Purpose Gluten Free Flour weighs 135 grams per cup. Measuring by weight will ensure that you have the correct amount of flour in any recipe.
3. Room temperature. Room temperature. Room temperature! It is particularly important for yeast recipes that you bring all of your ingredients, such as eggs, to room temperature before adding them together to make bread. Yeast needs warmth to grow and if your ingredients are too cold, it may prevent full yeast growth. Don’t make your wet ingredients too hot though, just nice and warm, the way yeast likes it!
6. High altitude can change the way yeast doughs behave. Have a look at my High Altitude GF Cooking Tips.
7. Take your bread’s temperature. It is very important not to take your bread out of the oven before it is fully cooked. If the bread has a rubbery layer at the bottom, this usually means it was not fully cooked. The best way to tell if the bread is done is to insert an instant read thermometer all the way to the bottom of the loaf (but not touching the pan). The temperature should be approximately 205-210º F when it is done. Your bread should keep its shape when it is completely baked. Internal thermometers are available in my shop.
8. Change your bread pan. Sometimes metal pans work better than glass for fully cooking a loaf of bread. Metal pans do not have to be fancy or expensive, and you can often even find them in your local grocery store.
9. Make sure your rising spot is nice and warm. A great method for letting your yeast breads rise before baking is to turn on your oven to 200º F, then turn it off when it has reached temperature.
Put your un-raised bread into the warmed oven with an oiled piece of parchment on top and a bowl of water in the oven with it, then let it rise according to directions. Once raised, remove the parchment and bake according to directions.
10. Find the perfect rise time and place. The longer you can let your bread rise, the better it will taste and the less likely it will be to collapse. A good rule of thumb is to let the bread rise to the top of your pan before baking; a slower, cooler rise to that level will produce a better loaf, so make sure it isn’t rising in too warm of a spot. If you can let the gluten free bread dough rise overnight in a cool place, the slower rise will provide a stronger cell structure and more of a sourdough flavor when baked the next day.
11. Proof your yeast right. “Proofed” yeast should look like this. If not, throw it out and start with fresh yeast.
If you’re still having issues with getting your yeast breads to rise, try “proofing” your yeast first. I prefer using “Quick Rise” or “Rapid Rise” yeast for gluten-free yeast breads. We don’t have the punch-down and second rise necessary with most gluten loaves, so it works well to activate the yeast and let it start doing its thing right away!
Place the yeast in a bowl with the liquid called for in the recipe (water, milk, etc.), but make sure it’s warm. If you can add a teaspoon of sugar, that’s helpful. Whisk it gently and let it sit for 5 minutes. If it’s starting to have that familiar yeasty smell, foam up and swell, it’s good and you can add it to your recipe; if it’s stagnating and not getting foamy or rising, throw it out.
12. Check ingredient integrity. Yeast can go bad, as can baking soda and baking powder. Sometimes the problem is your ingredients, not you. What a relief, right?
13. Cool bread slowly. When your bread is done cooking, turn off the oven and open the door so that the bread can cool slowly. Taking the bread out of a hot oven and quickly transferring it to a cool counter can sometimes cause the loaf to sink in. If it still sinks, it may have too much moisture to support itself fully. It should still taste great, but if you have your heart set on a nice crowned loaf, next time try cutting back on the liquid a bit in that recipe or adding 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal to help support the bread’s structure and enhance its nutritional value, all in one! Altitude and even the day’s weather can affect sometimes-picky yeast recipes.
14. Calibrate your oven temperature. Oven temperatures are frequently off by as little as 25 degrees and it can make a big difference in something as finicky as a yeast bread. Invest in an oven thermometer and adjust your oven’s temperature so your bread will bake comfortably, at the temperature it likes.
16. Fixing that rubbery bottom. If you still wind up with a rubbery bottom on your loaf, there are a few things that could have gone wrong.
First, you might have over-beaten the dough. Unlike gluten doughs, gluten-free bread doughs should not be overworked, and doing so can sometimes make them a bit rubbery.
Second, if you are baking from scratch and adding your own xanthan or guar gum, you might have added too much.
Third, there might be too much liquid in your recipe, all settling at the bottom and not baking off, while also weighing down the dough. Fourth, the loaf might not have baked all the way. If the top is baked and getting a nice crust, but the bottom isn’t all the way done, cover the loaf with foil and keep baking!
17. Where your loaf is baking also makes a difference. Too close to the top of the oven, and the top will bake much more quickly than the rest of the bread, causing a split in the loaf. That’s quite a chasm, all because the bread rose so high that it nearly touched the oven’s heating element (and heat rises, don’t forget!). The rack of the oven shouldn’t be so high that the crust is that close to the heating element.
Convection bake settings also help with this, as convection keeps the temperature in the whole oven more consistent. Side note: also be sure there’s not an oven rack above the one on which your bread is baking – you don’t want the bread to rise during the bake and bump into the bottom of another rack!
18. You don’t even need a bread pan to make great gluten free bread! Try making a gluten free artisan loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet, or baking in a springform or tall-sided oven-safe bowl or pan. Or even use muffin cups or popover trays! Your bread will be yummy no matter how you bake it, if you use the right ingredients!
Regular flour is made from wheat. Fortunately, there are a variety of gluten-free flours on the market, each with a different taste, texture, and nutrient composition.
Flour is a common ingredient in many foods, including bread, common desserts, and noodles. It’s also often used as a thickener in sauces and soups.
Most products are made from white or wheat flour. While unproblematic for many, people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or those avoiding gluten for other reasons should not consume these two types of flour.
Here are the 14 best gluten-free flours.
1. Almond Flour
Almond flour is one of the most common grain- and gluten-free flours. It’s made from ground, blanched almonds, which means the skin has been removed.
One cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds and has a nutty flavor. It’s commonly used in baked goods and can be a grain-free alternative to breadcrumbs.
It can typically be substituted in a 1:1 ratio in place of regular or wheat flour. If you are baking with this type of flour, use one extra egg. Note that the batter will be thicker and your end product denser.
Almond flour contains many minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. It’s also a good source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fat.
However, its fat content increases its calorie count to 640 per cup, which is 200 calories more than wheat flour (1, 2, 3).
While almonds and all nuts are naturally gluten-free, it’s still important to read the package to confirm the flour was not made in a facility where gluten is processed.
Almond flour is a nutritious replacement for flours containing gluten and can be used in a variety of baking recipes.
2. Buckwheat Flour
Buckwheat may contain the word “wheat,” but it is not a wheat grain and is gluten-free. It belongs to the family of pseudocereals, a group of grains that are eaten like cereals but don’t belong to the grass family.
Buckwheat flour provides a rich, earthy flavor and is good for baking quick and yeast breads.
Due to its lack of gluten, it tends to be crumbly in nature. To make a quality product, it can be combined with other gluten-free flours like brown rice flour.
It contains a variety of B-vitamins and is rich in the minerals iron, folate, magnesium, zinc, manganese and fiber. Buckwheat flour is also high in antioxidants, specifically the polyphenol rutin, which has anti-inflammatory properties (4, 5, 6, 7).
Buckwheat can be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing foods during processing, transportation or when used as a rotational crop with wheat. Be sure to look for certified gluten-free on the label to be safe.
Buckwheat flour is rich in fiber and nutrients and contains antioxidants that help the body fight inflammation.
3. Sorghum Flour
It has a light color and texture, as well as a mild, sweet flavor. Considered a heavy or dense flour, it’s often mixed with other gluten-free flours or used in recipes requiring small amounts of flour.
The sorghum grain is high in fiber and protein, which can help slow sugar absorption. It also contains an abundance of the mineral iron, as well as antioxidants that help you fight inflammation (9, 10, 11).
Sorghum flour may be contaminated with gluten during processing. Look for the certified gluten-free label.
Research suggests that sorghum flour contains nutrients that may help reduce inflammation and balance blood sugar levels.
4. Amaranth Flour
Like buckwheat, amaranth is considered a pseudocereal. It’s a group of more than 60 grains that were once considered a staple food in the Inca, Maya and Aztec civilizations.
Amaranth has an earthy, nutty flavor and tends to take on the flavor of other ingredients. It can replace 25% of wheat flour but should be combined with other flours when baking. The best use of this type of flour is for making tortillas, pie crusts and bread.
It’s rich in fiber, protein and the micronutrients manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and selenium. These nutrients aid brain function, bone health and DNA synthesis (12, 13, 14, 15).
If you have a gluten intolerance, make sure to read labels. Amaranth processed in the same facilities as wheat may contain traces of gluten.
Amaranth flour is rich in nutrients that play a role in brain health, bone health and DNA synthesis.
5. Teff Flour
Teff is the world’s smallest grain and is 1/100 the size of a kernel of wheat.
It comes in a variety of colors, ranging from white to red to dark brown. Light colors have a mild flavor, while darker shades are more earthy in taste.
Teff flour has traditionally been used to make injera, a fermented, sourdough-like Ethiopian bread. It’s now also used for other foods like pancakes, cereals, breads and snacks. It can be substituted for 25–50% of wheat or all-purpose flour.
Teff flour is high in protein, which promotes a feeling of fullness and can help reduce cravings (16, 17).
Its high fiber content can help manage blood sugar, decrease appetite and aid weight loss (18, 19).
What’s more, it contains more calcium than any other grain and is the only ancient grain containing vitamin C (20, 21).
As with any grain, to ensure your teff flour is 100% gluten-free, look at where it was processed.
Teff is the smallest grain in the world. Nonetheless, its flour is packed with a nutritional punch.
6. Arrowroot Flour
Arrowroot flour is a less common gluten- and grain-free powder. It’s made from a starchy substance extracted from a tropical plant known as Maranta arundinacea.
It’s a versatile flour and can be used as a thickener or mixed with almond, coconut or tapioca flours for bread and dessert recipes. If you want a crispy, crunchy product, use it on its own.
This flour is rich in potassium, B-vitamins and iron. Studies have shown it may stimulate immune cells and boost immune function (22, 23).
Starch-based arrowroot flour can be a good thickener or mixed with other flours to create bread products. It might even provide an immune boost.
7. Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is made from ground brown rice. It’s considered a whole-grain flour and contains the bran, germ and endosperm.
It has a nutty flavor and can be used to make a roux, thicken sauces or prepare breaded foods, such as fish and chicken. Brown rice flour is often used to make noodles and can be combined with other gluten-free flours for bread, cookie and cake recipes.
This flour is high in protein and fiber, both of which can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce body weight (24, 25, 26, 27).
It’s also rich in iron, B vitamins, magnesium and manganese, as well as plant compounds called lignans. Research suggests that lignans help protect against heart disease (28, 29, 30).
To avoid contamination with gluten, look for brown rice flours that were not produced in a facility that also processes wheat.
Flour made from brown rice offers a variety of health benefits. It can help lower blood sugar levels, reduce body weight and protect against heart disease.
8. Oat Flour
Oat flour is made by grinding whole-grain oats. It gives baked goods more flavor than all-purpose flour and results in a chewier, crumblier texture.
Baking with oat flour will likely make your end product more moist. Due to its lack of gluten, some ingredients will need to be adjusted to create light and fluffy baked goods.
Oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has numerous health benefits. This fiber can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as blood sugar and insulin levels (31, 32, 33).
They’re also rich in other nutrients like protein, magnesium, phosphorus, B-vitamins and the antioxidant group avenanthramides (34, 35, 36, 37).
Oats and oat flour are often subject to contamination, depending on how they were grown and where they were processed. If you cannot eat gluten, be sure to look for products that have been certified gluten-free.
Oat flour provides soluble fiber and antioxidants that can help protect against heart disease and lower blood sugar levels. Note that it may be contaminated with gluten.
9. Corn Flour
Corn flour is a very finely ground version of cornmeal. Cornmeal is made from the whole kernel, including the bran, germ and endosperm.
It’s commonly used as a thickener for liquids and can be used to make tortillas and breads.
Corn flour comes in white and yellow varieties and can be combined with other gluten-free flours to make pizza crust.
It’s high in fiber and a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These two plant compounds act as antioxidants and can benefit eye health by decreasing age-related macular degeneration and reducing the risk of cataracts (38, 39, 40).
It’s also high in vitamin B6, thiamine, manganese, magnesium and the antioxidant selenium (41).
Corn is from a different branch of the grass family than gluten-rich wheat, barley and rye. Cross-contamination is typically more likely in processed foods made with corn flour. Even cornbread can contain regular flour.
Corn flour is a whole-grain flour, providing fiber and antioxidants that can benefit eye health.
10. Chickpea Flour
Chickpeas are part of the legume family. Chickpea flour is made from dry chickpeas and is also known as garbanzo flour, gram flour and besan.
Chickpeas have a nutty taste and grainy texture and are popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Chickpea flour is used to make falafel, hummus and the flatbread socca.
It’s a good source of fiber and plant-based protein. These nutrients work together to slow digestion, promote fullness and manage body weight (42, 43, 44, 45).
Chickpea flour is also high in the minerals magnesium and potassium, both of which play a positive role in boosting heart health (46, 47, 48).
Cross contamination may occur with certain manufactured foods made with other gluten-containing flours.
As a legume, chickpea flour offers plant-based protein, fiber and other nutrients that may protect against heart disease.
11. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat and offers a mild coconut flavor.
Its light texture yields similar results to regular flour and is good for baking breads and desserts. Note that coconut flour absorbs a lot more water than regular or almond flour.
It’s high in the saturated fat lauric acid. This medium-chain triglyceride can provide energy for your body and may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol in combination with the flour’s fiber content (49, 50).
Research suggests its fiber content may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, as it does not cause them to spike (51).
Coconut flour is a good option for those with nut and gluten allergies. It can be contaminated in the processing phase, so be sure to look at where your flour was produced.
Full of fiber and healthy saturated fat, coconut flour is a good option for those with food allergies.
12. Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour is made from the starchy liquid extracted from the South American cassava root.
This flour is used as a thickener in soups, sauces and pies and has no discernable flavor or taste. It can also be used in combination with other gluten-free flours in bread recipes.
Aside from carbohydrates, tapioca flour provides little nutritional value in the form of fiber, protein or micronutrients. In fact, it’s considered inferior to other whole-grain, gluten-free flours and often thought of as empty calories (52, 53).
One health benefit of tapioca flour is its resistant starch content, which functions like fiber. Resistant to digestion, this starch is linked to improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduced appetite and other digestive benefits (54, 55, 56, 57).
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, ensure that tapioca flour is not combined with another gluten-containing flour.
Low in overall nutrients, tapioca flour is a good grain-, gluten- and nut-free flour option to thicken liquids and use in bread products. It may also offer digestive benefits.
13. Cassava Flour
Cassava is a starchy root vegetable or tuber native to South America. It’s also known as yuca.
In contrast to tapioca flour, which is made from a starchy liquid extracted from the cassava root, cassava flour is made by grating and drying the whole root.
This flour is gluten-, grain- and nut-free.
It’s most similar to white flour and can easily be used in recipes calling for all-purpose flour. It has a neutral flavor and is easily digestible. It’s also lower in calories than coconut or almond flours.
Cassava flour consists of mostly carbohydrates. Similar to tapioca flour, it also provides resistant starch, which has a variety of digestive system benefits (54, 55, 56, 57).
Some research suggests that the resistant starch content in this type of flour may help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Note that processing the cassava root may decrease the levels of resistant starch present in the flour (58, 59, 60).
Because cassava flour can be used alone in food products, it’s less likely to be contaminated. However, it’s always important to look at where the product was processed.
Gluten-, grain- and nut-free, cassava flour is a good choice for those with food allergies. Its resistant starch content may also offer some digestive benefits.
14. Tigernut Flour
Despite its name, tigernut flour is not made from nuts. Tigernuts are small root vegetables that grow in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
Tigernut flour has a sweet and nutty flavor that works well in baked goods. Its sweetness allows you to cut back on the sugar quantity in your recipe.
Note that it’s slightly coarser than white flour and likely results in products with more texture.
One-fourth cup packs 10 grams of fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Tigernut flour is also rich in healthy monounsaturated fat, iron, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins E and C (44, 61, 62, 63).
Newer on the gluten-free market, few companies produce this flour. The risk of gluten contamination is low, as tigernuts are not grain based.
Rich in nutrients, tigernut flour offers an easy white flour alternative in baked goods.
The Bottom Line
A variety of healthy, gluten-free alternatives to regular or wheat flour exist for people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or those avoiding gluten for other reasons.
Some gluten-free flours have more nutrients than others, making them healthier choices to include in your diet.
Many gluten-free flours require recipe adjustments or combinations of different types of gluten-free flours to create a tasty end product. Be sure to evaluate your recipe.
If you choose or require gluten-free flour, be sure to compare the nutrients, taste and recipe composition before making your flour choice.
Is it Possible to Bake Without Gluten?
Gluten provides structure and chewiness, but it’s also the only way to create light, airy baked goods. That’s because, without gluten, bread won’t rise. This is why, if you’ve ever tried gluten-free bread, they’re so heavy and dense. They’re really just lumps of starch.
That doesn’t mean that grains that have little or no gluten aren’t used in baking. It’s just that they need a little help—in the form of wheat flour. Rye bread typically contains more wheat flour than rye flour. Corn also lacks gluten, which is why cornbread is made from about half cornmeal, half wheat flour.
Flours Containing the Most Gluten
There are different varieties of wheat, each with its own gluten content. Flours made from high-gluten wheat are called strong flours and are used for making bread, bagels, pasta, and pizza crusts. Flours made from softer, low-gluten wheat are called weak flours and are used for making cakes and delicate pastries.
All-purpose flour is formulated to have a medium gluten content of around 12 percent or so. This makes it a good middle-of-the-road flour that can be used for a whole range of baking.
Without gluten, baked goods won’t hold their shape. That’s why wheat flour is used in baking. When the glutens in wheat are stretched out through the kneading or mixing process, they form little pockets which can then be inflated by the gases released by the leavening agent. When these air pockets inflate, the dough expands or rises.
And since gluten is a protein, it hardens when it is heated—just like the protein in an egg hardens when we cook it. This hardening of the gluten molecules is what allows the bread to hold its shape and gives it its firm texture.
The more the dough is mixed or kneaded, the more the glutens develop. That’s why we mix the dough for cakes or pastries for a shorter time than for crusty French rolls.
Gluten Free Flour 101
Alexandr Kolesnikov/Getty Images
There are a ton of gluten-free flours out there, from boxed mixes to individual grains sourced from around the world. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.
The Best Gluten-Free Flours
Many bakers like to use an all-purpose mix, which includes a blend of flours and starches that mimic the taste and texture of all-purpose wheat flour. Store-bought mixes are convenient and generally designed to replace standard all-purpose flour one-to-one. We like King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour, which is highly rated for taste and texture and sold at a reasonable price point. Better Batter Original All Purpose Flour Blend won our top marks for most allergy-friendly mix.
For gluten-free baking, we like brown and white rice flours, which are versatile and mild-flavored. Brown rice has a heartier texture that works well in pancakes and muffins, while white rice is lighter and best for cakes. Millet flour has a warm, pleasant flavor, and oat flour is slightly sweet. Sorghum and corn flours lean more savory, but they are still quite mild and add a pleasant chew to breads, muffins and pizza crust.
How to Measure Gluten-Free Flour
The best way to measure flour is to fluff the flour so it’s not too packed, gently spoon flour into a measuring cup and swipe across with the flat side of a knife to level it off. Don’t dip your measuring cup directly in the bag, as that will pack the flour down and serve up a too-heavy scoop. Pouring the flour into the cup also results in overly packed flour, as well as a possible countertop mess.
How to Make Your Own Gluten-Free Flour
Making a homemade flour mix will save you money if you bake often, and it’s quite easy to do. Simply whisk together 2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch flour and 1/3 cup tapioca flour. Scale up the recipe if you bake often. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a combination of the natural proteins found in wheat, and to a much lesser extent, in rye and barley. Gluten molecules are activated when flour is moistened then either kneaded or mixed. When this happens, the glutens literally stretch out as the proteins form longer and longer chains.
These long protein chains are quite elastic, which is why you can stretch out a piece of dough without it breaking or tearing. It’s similar to a balloon.
This elastic property of gluten then works with the gases produced by yeast or another leavening agent. The gases inflate these gluten balloons, which is what causes doughs to rise. Finally, when it’s baked, the dough hardens in its inflated state, giving the bread its structure.
Interaction With Fat
In baking, fats interfere with gluten development process. Cookies are more crumbly than bread because they’ve got more fat in them. What happens is that the fat molecules surround and literally shorten the strands of gluten so that they can’t stretch out as much. That’s where we get the name “shortening” as well as shortbread cookies.
What Is Gluten?
While almost everyone has heard of “gluten-free” by now, the actual definition of gluten is a bit hazier. Is it wheat? Is it flour? It’s neither! Gluten is actually a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, both in whole grain and processed form (like flour). Gluten is strong; it lends structural support to breads and other baked goods, and contributes to most of the chew in breads, bagels and buns. Unfortunately, gluten can be difficult to digest for some people—and in the case of those with celiac disease, it can actively cause harm.
What Does ‘Certified GF’ Mean?
Most foods are naturally gluten-free. This includes the obvious (meat, poultry, eggs, fruits and vegetables), as well as the specality grains that have become more common with the rise of gluten-free diets (think millet, sorghum, rice and buckwheat).
However, depending on how a food is grown, harvested and processed, even a naturally gluten-free food may be exposed to gluten-containing ingredients. This is called cross contamination. For example, oats might be transported alongside wheat, buckwheat may be milled on the same equipment as wheat flour or a plain chocolate bar may be packaged using the same machinery as cookies. Likewise, foods and supplements whose ingredients are more obscure, such as vitamins, might contain hidden sources of gluten.
This is where certification is important. A product that’s “certified gluten-free” is both free of gluten and has not been contaminated with gluten. It’s officially tested and certified as gluten-free, meeting strict standards. Certified foods are safe for sensitive eaters, such as those with celiac disease.
In general, you’ll see “certified gluten-free” labels on processed foods, such as baked goods, cereals, flours, baking ingredients, snacks, canned foods and condiments like salad dressings. Foods that aren’t labeled as certified gluten-free may still be gluten-free, but not officially tested. Depending on personal gluten sensitivities, you may eat them anyway or choose to avoid them.
What Baking Ingredients Contain Gluten?
It’s not always easy to tell whether a food contains gluten. Some ingredients are obvious. For instance, I can buy vital wheat gluten in the bulk bins at my co-op grocery. Others are sneaky sources of gluten. Here are some common gluten suspects:
Naturally Contains Gluten
- Wheat flour, including all-purpose, whole grain, cake flour and self-rising flour
- Ancient grain forms of wheat flour, including einkorn, emmer, durum and spelt
- Rye and pumpernickel
Often Contains Gluten
- Cake and pudding mixes
- Malt powder and malted milk
- Sprinkles and candies (often contain sneaky hidden gluten)
- Brown rice syrups may contain barley
- Grains and starches that aren’t specifically certified gluten-free, including rice flour, potato starch, buckwheat, amaranth, teff and quinoa
- Oats or oat flour that isn’t certified gluten-free
- Corn flour, corn meal and corn starch
- Chocolate (chocolate chips and cocoa powder may be processed with wheat)
- Nuts, both whole and ground
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Baking powder
- Vanilla and other extracts
- Anything in a bulk bin is at high risk of being cross-contaminated
One final major suspect? Wooden cooking utensils and cutting boards that have been in contact with gluten ingredients. If you cook both gluten and gluten-free in your kitchen, make sure to have separate tools for gluten-free baking, preferably silicone or plastic.
How to Store Gluten-Free Baked Goods
The sad truth is that gluten-free baked goods don’t keep quite as well as traditional treats. But it’s not the worst fate! Generally, this only means you should eat them quickly.
As a rule of thumb, the more moist the bake, the longer it will keep. Scones and delicate cookies will last a day or two, while richer treats, like peanut butter cookies or breads, will keep a few days. Very moist bakes, like quick breads and muffins, will keep for several days.
Anything frosted with dairy ingredients should be kept in the fridge. Everything else keeps best at room temperature, wrapped tightly in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. Bread boxes and cookie jars are going to make things dry very quickly.
Afraid a bake will go stale? Freeze it! Almost anything can be frozen for one or two months, and it will taste nearly as good as when it was fresh. Muffins and unfrosted cupcakes, cookies, scones, quick breads (sliced or whole), unfrosted cake layers, breads, bagels and more can be frozen. Allow the baked goods to cool completely, then wrap tightly in at least two layers. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, or heat in the microwave and eat immediately.
Gluten and Pasta
Gluten is also a key component in foods that aren’t baked, like pasta. The gluten is what gives the pasta its firm texture. Strong flours such as those made from durum wheat are good for making pasta because of their high gluten content. Pasta made from low-gluten flour would be too soft and mushy.
How Does Gluten-Free Baking Change Recipes?
Gluten’s role in traditional baked goods is hard to understate. Breads are kneaded and shaped in order to best activate and strengthen gluten. Pizzas are stretched and flung to work the gluten. Cakes are lightly stirred in fear of awakening too much gluten.
So, naturally, gluten-free baking is going to be different, in good ways and bad. First, there’s no fear of making any baked good tough. So go ahead and beat that cake batter, re-roll that pie dough and enjoy stirring up a bread dough in a stand mixer without breaking a sweat.
The downside? No gluten means less structure, less strength, less height, less stretch. To make up for this, most gluten-free baking recipes call for a binding agent that plays a similar role to gluten. Xantham gum, guar gum and psyllium husk are common binders, either added to the recipe or simply included in your flour mix. These binders make it possible to bake gluten-free bread that’s actually chewy and to achieve the loftiness of a fancy cake.
How to Make Recipes Gluten-Free
Alexandr Kolesnikov/Getty Images
When transitioning to a gluten-free diet, the most common worry is whether you’ll ever eat your favorite foods again. The good news is that most recipes can be converted to gluten-free. It’s often easy to find a substitute that will serve the same purpose—using corn starch to thicken a sauce instead of flour, for example, or swapping a gluten-free flour mix in your morning pancake recipe.
To be honest, more complicated baked goods like cakes and breads or pastries like pies and tarts are trickier to bake gluten-free. There’s definitely a learning curve when going gluten-free, so here is our best advice:
- Find a good gluten-free recipe and follow it to the letter. Once you’ve made something GF, you’ll have a better sense of how to adapt your personal recipes.
- Gluten-free batter is almost always more wet than traditional batters, and gluten-free baked goods are almost always more dry. The more you practice, the more you’ll adjust to this new reality and tweak recipes and baking times accordingly.
- Never try to make a wheat bread recipe gluten-free. It just won’t work. Too much of wheat bread baking revolves around the role of gluten. Instead, learn to bake really good gluten-free bread.
- Be patient and have fun! The more you bake gluten-free, the more comfortable you’ll be. You might even enjoy exploring the wide world of gluten-free grains, which offer a huge variety of flavors, textures and recipes.