Using oatmeal flour or rice flour in beef stew to make it gluten-free

I'm minutes away from making a big double batch of beef stew for an out-of-town weekend with friends. The recipe (from "The New Best Recipe" -- I've made it before -- it's delish, though needs more black pepper) calls for a bit of flour to thicken the sauce/gravy.

Unfortunately one of the kids joining us has Celiac disease and is strictly gluten-free.

So, do you think it make sense to use rice flour (which I'd have to buy) or oatmeal flour (which would be preferable as I could just grind up some gluten-free oatmeal I have in the spice grinder)? Would either of these have the same properties when it comes to thicken up the gravy?

  • Posted by: Peter
  • September 27, 2012


ChefJune February 6, 2016
I've been making beef stew for more than 50 years and never even thought about using flour to thicken it. The potatoes cooking in the stew add enough thickener as they break down during the cooking process.
sexyLAMBCHOPx February 6, 2016
You've never floured your beef before browning a stew?
ChefJune October 3, 2012
I've been making Beef Stew since I was a pup and have never used flour in it. We always have potatoes in the stew, and enough of them disintegrate to combine with the reducing of the liquid ingredients to provide plenty of thickening.
Peter October 3, 2012
Hey all, just thought I'd drop an update on how it went.

I used Potato Starch, I added it early on, and started with just 50% of the quantity of flour called for as I didn't know how it would behave.

As it turned out I never added any more and the overall consistency seemed dead-on. The gravy/juices were thick and toothsome -- not at all watery.

Hope this info helps someone in the future and thanks for all the suggestions and information.
sexyLAMBCHOPx October 4, 2012
Great to know!
Ophelia September 28, 2012
We use corn flour (the kind used to make tortilla, not the grittier kind for making tamales) as a thickener for chili and such, maybe 4 tablespoons for a big batch (3 pounds+ of meat), it thickens nicely and doesn't have the problem of losing it's thickening power if cooked too long or at too high a heat. That's what I would go with.
Kitchen F. September 27, 2012
Forgot to add - the reason I like sweet rice flour is that it's texture is the closest to regular flour. It doesn't make the gravy clear and shiny like the starches do.
Kitchen F. September 27, 2012
I agree with the sweet rice flour - I use a slurry of that whenever I thicken gravies. I've never tried oatmeal flour as a thickener. If you want to use cornstarch, be careful not to cook it too long after it has thickened, as cornstarch breaks down and thins out again with long cooking. If you are going to use any of the starches, here is the comparison: 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) cornstarch or potato starch or sweet rice flour = 4 teaspoons tapioca starch = 2 teaspoons arrowroot starch
beyondcelery September 27, 2012
Rice or tapioca flour can both work for a roux; just add more fat than you're used to using for a typical roux. My favorite soup thickener is sweet rice flour, which has a better texture than regular rice flour and won't give the soup a jelly-like consistency the way tapioca flour can. Sweet rice flour also doesn't clump as easily as other flours. I'd use around 3-4 Tbls sweet rice flour for about 8-10 cups stew. But I also like hardlikearmour's suggestion about the potato. I've done that in the past for gluten-free beef stew and it works really well.
Peter September 27, 2012
All of these sound like good answers. I think I'll go rice flour or tapioca flour. It's not for dusting the meat but to stir in the pot to make a roux-like substance before adding everything to the pot.

Does anyone know how much I should use of tapioca or rice flour? Is it a one to one substitution?
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
I'd add it in a slurry, like you would for gravy rather than try to make a roux. I think if you went with the oat flour it would work as a roux. Since the recipe calls for browning the flour, it will have less thickening power so definitely use less starch. I'd start with no more than half (and probably be chicken and start with less) since you can always add more slurry!
SeaJambon September 27, 2012
And -- if you decide to go with the oatmeal -- make sure it is labeled GLUTEN FREE. This is very important when cooking for a celiac. Oats are naturally GF, but there is so much cross-contamination in the growing, storing, processing that Celiacs cannot eat oats unless they are certified GF. You won't have this issue if you go with rice flour, tapioca flour (my favorite), cornstarch or the potato. I haven't tried this particular recipe so don't know what would work best, but did want to provide the caution on oats.
Peter September 27, 2012
Yep, it's certified gluten-free. Thanks for the warning though.
Terry L. February 5, 2016
I never heard that oats are naturally GF. I'll need to research that. From my understanding oats are literally impossible to get GF... I have been told that even if they are said to be GF it's not to be trusted.
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 27, 2012
You could dust the meat with cornstarch (if thats what you're doing) or suggest the rice flour. I know both work but unsure about the oatmeal. For thickening perhaps tapoica? Have fun!
Nancy February 5, 2016
agree. any corn product (cornmeal, grits, etc).
also arrowroot.

Voted the Best Reply!

hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
I think I'd go with grating up a russet potato and adding it for thickening. If you go with one of the flours you're asking about, I think the oatmeal would be fine, and actually maybe even preferable to the rice flour.
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