Gluten-Free

Your Guide to Gluten-Free Flours

April 14, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham

Whether you’re managing a wheat intolerance, are looking to change up your baking routine, or can’t track down all-purpose flour, gluten-free flours are an excellent addition to your kitchen. Made from nuts, seeds, or wheat-less grains, some gluten-free flours are earthy in flavor and sandy in texture, while others are more neutral, disappearing completely in a baked good or sauce. Since no two gluten-free flours act the same—some add moistness, others help create a more even crumb—today we’ll get to know the most commonly found ingredients, from almond to buckwheat to oat. Often, you’ll find that a blend of a few gluten-free flours can produce the most successful baked good. Here’s the scoop on our favorites.


Almond Flour & Almond Meal

Made from skinned, blanched, finely ground, and sifted almonds, almond flour produces tender, moist baked goods. It’s the main ingredient in French macarons, but it’s also a great addition to delicate cake batter, cookies, even shortbread crusts. Almond meal, on the other hand, is typically made from skin-on, sometimes blanched (sometimes unblanched) almonds, and is more coarsely ground. It’s often referred to interchangeably with almond flour, and often bakes up as well—still, the coarse meal is more forgiving in loaf cake batter or for crusting a piece of tofu (or chicken!) than a pillowy macaron.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is dehydrated and finely ground coconut meat. The flour is naturally sweet and very high in fiber, but it can be much tricker to work with than other gluten-free flours. Coconut flour is more absorbent than other flours, so more liquid (be it milk, water, fruit puree, or eggs) is needed to hydrate it. To harness its flavor without having to worry about its tricky texture, try mixing coconut flour with super-moist almond flour when baking.

Rice Flour

Rice flour is mild in flavor compared to other gluten-free flours, just as cooked rice is compared to other cooked grains. Brown rice flour is a bit nuttier in flavor than white rice flour, but both impart a light texture and neutral flavor to baked goods like cakes, muffins, and shortbread. The finely ground long-grain rice flour is also favored by sourdough bread bakers for dusting banneton baskets, as it doesn’t absorb into the dough as quickly as bread flour. Glutinous or sweet rice flour is also gluten-free, but isn’t the same as white or brown rice flour. Made from short-grain rice, sweet rice flour is a better thickening agent than white or brown rice flour in sauces and gravy, and yields a chewy texture, making superior palitaw, mochi, and these Genius pancakes.

Buckwheat Flour

Made from ground buckwheat groats, buckwheat flour is so nutty in flavor it’s almost bitter. It adds complexity to baked goods, like rye or other heritage grain flours, though it’s actually a pseudocereal (seeds that mimic grain in texture). Since its flavor is so strong, buckwheat flour is often used in addition to all-purpose or other mild gluten-free flours—try it in loaf cakes, cookies, or crepes. That said, these famous chocolate cookies from Bien Cuit go all in:

Oat Flour

Oat flour is one of the easiest gluten-free flours to make at home, since it’s just rolled oats finely ground into a powder, which you can do in a standard blender or food processor. (And yes, it’s possible to make other gluten-free flours at home, but it’s tougher to get a fine grind from firmer ingredients with home equipment.) Mild in flavor, oat flour an ideal addition to any baked good where you don’t want to taste the alternative flour.

Chickpea Flour

Made from dehydrated and finely ground chickpeas, chickpea (or garbanzo bean) flour is earthy and nutty in flavor, but more mild than buckwheat. Extremely versatile in savory recipes from Burmese tofu to little crispy crackers, it adds delightful depth to sweets like cookies and muffins. Chickpea flour does have a distinctly beany smell, so it’s best stored in the fridge after opening.

Sorghum Flour

Also known as jowar flour, sorghum is mild and slightly sweet in flavor, so it’s another great addition to gluten-free cakes and cookies. As is the case with many ingredients, sorghum flour is only one way to use the ancient grain—it can also be popped like popcorn and pressed into syrup.

1:1 Gluten-Free Flour

1:1 flours were designed to cut out the challenging step of figuring out which gluten-free flours to blend—and in which ratio—to produce the best flavor and texture in baked goods. Typically a mixture of rice flours, sorghum flour, and starches (see below), 1:1 flours can be used interchangeably with all-purpose flour in nearly any recipe. Bob’s Red Milland Cup4Cup are popular brands, or mix up your own blend:

Starches & Gums

To help bind gluten-free baked goods, thicken sauces and batters that call for flour, and mimic the stretchy texture that gluten provides, you’ll likely need to add a starch or gum along with a gluten-free flour. Many premade 1:1 gluten-free flours already include a starch or gum, and you’ll often see gluten-free recipes include a small amount. The most commonly found at the grocery store (or in your pantry) is cornstarch, but popular starches (like arrowroot, potato, tapioca) and gums (xanthan, gum, and psyllium husk) are often available at grocery stores and online retailers.

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Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl.

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