Ingredient Substitutions for Gluten Free Gigi’s Recipes
I have been developing original recipes for more than 20 years and I still love experimenting in my gluten-free, allergen-free kitchen! You’ve probably guessed I spend quite a bit of my time there.
However, I also spend quite a bit of my time researching and writing for:
- My unique “Smart Nutrition Backed by Science” articles
- The many Resources I create and share here on the website
- My monthly ad-free gluten-free living eZine, Food Solutions
- The Gluten Free Resource Directory, as their Gluten-Free Living Expert
And that’s the “short list”. I invest a large portion of my time creating original content for the gluten-free, allergen-free community. It is my passion! In fact, many of you are shocked to learn I create all the content and recipes here and in my various other publications. There are no “little helpers” writing up a storm here in the Hive. ;)
That being the case, I cannot test every possible ingredient substitution for each recipe I create for you.
Although I did test six egg alternatives in one of my muffin recipes once to present in a webinar. This is an excellent example of how even seemingly minor changes alter the outcome.
See how different those muffins look? Some are flat, others rounded and tall. Some of them are more dense than others. Some were dry, others deliciously moist.
Even between ingredients like flaxseed meal and chia seeds, there were significant differences in the finished muffins.
Until we try a substitution, we cannot really know how it will work in a particular recipe. Experimentation. Trial and error.
Of course, I understand you sometimes need to substitute an ingredient here and there.
That’s why I provide as much information as possible with each recipe. Substitutions I offer with my recipes are based on one or more of the following:
- Testing the actual ingredient substitution.
- Past recipe development and testing with similar ingredients.
- My years of baking experience and understanding of how various ingredients “behave” with others.
You get the benefit of all of the above; however, you do not get a guarantee that your particular substitutions will “work” in my recipes. There are too many variables to consider. For example:
- Are we measuring our ingredients the same way? (Learn about measuring gluten-free flours here.)
- Are we buying the same brands? Gluten-free flours from different manufacturers can produce different results (example: I notice significant differences in my baking results when I use Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour versus King Arthur brand brown rice flour. Same product, different texture due to how they are milled.)
- Is your oven temperature accurate? Being off by more than about 10 degrees can cause substantial changes in a recipe. (I recommend testing oven temp periodically with an oven thermometer.)
- Did you begin with room temperature ingredients, or did you pull your gluten-free flour blend from the freezer? It makes a difference.
Those are only a few of the variables to consider. Amazing, isn’t it?
When I first shared recipes with you, I wrote them with specific ingredients (i.e., granulated white sugar, rice milk, dairy-free soy-free butter substitute).
As our Gluten-Free Gigi Family continues to grow, the volume of questions I receive grows. Many of those are about ingredient substitutions.
Recently, to provide more options and insight for you when it comes to possible substitutions, I began to list more general ingredients when possible (i.e., “milk” instead of specifying a particular type of milk or “fat” versus dairy-free butter substitute). In many recipes, plant- or dairy-based milk is interchangeable. For example, there’s not much difference in a muffin recipe using 1/4 cup “milk” if you use soy milk or if you opt for (my preferred) unsweetened coconut milk.
After all, not all of you are dairy-free. You shouldn’t feel forced to dash out to the market for a special (sometimes more costly) type of milk just to make one of my recipes.
To further streamline my recipes and to help you make the best ingredient substitutions for your unique situation, I created a sort of “master list” of ingredients you will see in many (most?) of my recipes.
Many of your substitution questions will be answered here. Others will not. For those, I encourage you to put on your fancy apron, grab some ingredients and enjoy the process of creating. Experiment and have fun! And when you do, if you find something that works well for you (i.e., you substitute honey for granulated cane sugar in a cake recipe successfully), be sure to leave a comment below the original recipe so others can learn from your tasty trials.
After all, that’s what our little family is all about… sharing what we know and what we learn with one another to make gluten-free living just a little sweeter.
Gluten-Free Flours and Starches
What can I say? This topic deserves its own page. Visit Substituting Gluten-Free Flours and Starches for the in-depth details on how to swap flours and starches and some information on what you can expect when/if you do. I also provide an extensive list of related articles on storing, handling and measuring gluten-free flours, how to keep a gluten-free kitchen (shared or not), and many other pieces on baking (acids, leavening agents, gums, etc.) as well as links to articles explaining a grain-free diet, soy lecithin as an ingredient and label reading for gluten.
For solid fat, use real butter, dairy-free butter substitute or coconut oil.
For oil, use any neutral-tasting light oil you normally use in baking. If you have a soy allergy, keep in mind, most vegetable oil contains soybean oil.
- I am dairy-free, so cannot eat recipes made with butter. I do; however, test recipes with various fats, including butter. My panel of taste testers who are not dairy-free test those for texture and flavor. God bless them for enduring such a task. ;)
- I cannot find a single source to substantiate this, but it is my consistent experience in baking with coconut oil that most recipes require less coconut oil than other fats. For example, in a cake recipe that calls for 8 Tablespoons of butter, I would use 5 or 6 Tablespoons of coconut oil. Otherwise, I find baked goods too oily and “wet” when substituting coconut oil 1:1 for other fats.
- I used Earth Balance brand dairy-free, soy-free butter substitute in most recipes up until about a year and a half ago. The recipe changed (ever so slightly – the amounts of two ingredients changed; the company doesn’t want to discuss this with me, though). I learned this through my own investigations after I experienced an absolute recipe fail in a cookie recipe I’d made successfully with that product dozens of times. After that, I decided to reserve Earth Balance butter substitute for other dishes (i.e., in Little Chef’s mashed potatoes, in a thickening roux for gumbo, to “finish” a sauce for fish, etc.)
For those looking to reduce the amount of fat in food you eat, you may be interested in my article, “Reducing Fat in Gluten-Free Baked Goods“.
Artificial sweeteners, xylitol and stevia
I do not use these ingredients in my baking.
If you would like to use these products to replace sugar in any of these recipes, feel free to experiment, just understand your results may vary dramatically from those intended, as sugar lends more to a recipe than only sweet taste. It contributes significantly to browning, density and texture, as well. That doesn’t mean you can’t have success with alternative products, so have fun and get creative!
Confectioners’ or Powdered Sugar
Confectioners’ sugar usually contains cornstarch. To avoid corn products, choose a brand made with tapioca flour or another starch. Specialty markets tend to carry at least one brand of organic confecitoners’ sugar made with tapioca flour. Make your own confectioners’ sugar using the starch of your choice. Click here for the how-to.
Substituting coconut (palm) sugar for white or light brown granulated sugar works in most recipes. However, results may vary in some recipes because coconut sugar does not fully dissolve as granulated cane sugar does.
Liquid Sugars (Honey, Agave, Maple Syrup, etc.)
Substituting liquid sugars (like honey, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, coconut nectar, brown rice syrup, etc.) for granulated sugar will change the outcome of your efforts. Experimenting is always fun, so if you’d like to substitute a liquid sugar for granulated sugar, here are a few tips:
1. When substituting a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup for granulated sugar, use less. For each cup of sugar called for in a recipe, use 2/3 to 3/4 cup honey or maple syrup.
2. You may need to reduce other liquids called for in the recipe. For example, if you substitute 3/4 cup honey for 1 cup cane sugar, reduce other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
3. For each cup of honey you substitute, add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients to balance the acidity of the honey.
You may also be interested to learn about Date Sugar in gluten-free baking.
To replace eggs in your baking, consider one of the egg alternatives provided on the Egg Alternatives Resource Page.
For individuals with corn allergy, please be aware Ener-G brand egg replacer powder contains corn-derived ingredients at the time this material was assembled. (Always check with manufacturer to confirm, as ingredients in packaged foods can, and often do, change without warning.)
I use unsweetened coconut milk (carton, not canned) almost exclusively. I do test recipes with other milks (almond, soy, rice, hemp, oat, etc.) from time to time, just to be sure these will work well in certain recipes.
My recommendation for substituting milk is to use your preferred variety of dairy- or plant-based milk.
The only varieties I do not recommend substituting in my recipes is dairy skim milk or 1% milk. (You may as well be using water, to be honest, which I don’t recommend, either. )
In some recipes, I will suggest you may use milk OR water, or even a natural fruit juice or puree. When that’s the case, you’ll see a special note. Otherwise, sub your favorite milk whenever you like.
If you are able to eat “regular” chocolate chips, those are fine in my recipes, just be sure your brand is gluten-free with no risk of being cross-contaminated (due to processing on shared equipment or in a facility that uses gluten grains or ingredients).
Keep in mind, depending on the type/brand chocolate you use, those products may contain dairy (casein), most brands contain soy lecithin, and many brands are at risk of cross-contamination with peanuts and/or tree nuts (or other allergens, due to processing). Read all product labels carefully.
This page provides information on gluten-free chocolates for baking (scroll to #4).
If you’re like me and have multiple food allergies, Enjoy Life Foods makes chocolate mini chips and chunks that are free from the top 8 food allergens and also gluten-free .
You may also use chocolate “blocks” instead of chocolate chips. Simply choose your favorite and chop it into small pieces to add to your recipe. (This is a great idea when a higher quality chocolate is desired in baking.)
You can learn how to make your own allergen-free chocolate chunks here.
Spices and Flavorings
Adjust amounts of spices (like ground cinnamon, ground ginger or mace) and flavoring (like pure vanilla extract) to your own taste. This will not alter the finished product in any way other than flavor.
Vanilla and other extracts/flavorings
Be sure your extracts are gluten-free. If the label doesn’t specify, go online to the manufacturers’ website and search the FAQ page for food allergy information, or call the company to inquire.
Rodelle pure extracts are certified kosher, gluten-free and made with natural cane sugar. (Always verify, as ingredients and manufacturing practices can change without our knowing.)
Spices and seasonings
I am often asked about mace, which I use in several of my recipes. Mace is the outer covering of nutmeg, It has a milder flavor than nutmeg. Substitute nutmeg for mace if you prefer.
- This information is not all-inclusive; however, I hope you will enjoy and appreciate the information provided for you here.
- This information will be added to and updated often so please visit frequently!
- Visit the Gluten Free Resource Directory for an extensive listing of gluten-free ingredients and products!