Substituting Gluten-Free Flours and Starches

The following are suggestions for Substituting Gluten-Free Flours and Starches. The listing of flours and starches are not all-inclusive. Any substitution you make is an experiment, so open your mind, put on your apron and have some fun!

Substituting Gluten-Free Flours and Starches

When substituting gluten-free flours and starches, there is a better chance of success if you substitute from the same “flour group”. My groupings, below, are based on nutritional profile of the product, its known properties and my own experience with the product.

Protein Flours

Flours made from higher protein pseudo-grains, nuts, seeds or beans/legumes:

Examples: amaranth flour, garbonzo or fava bean flour, green or yellow pea flour, buckwheat flour (it’s not wheat, it is actually a groat and from the same family as rhubarb), millet flour, quinoa flour, almond meal (or other nut meal), sunflower or pumpkin seed meal, soy flour.

General characteristics: yield a more dense finished product, add structure and nutrients due to protein content, sometimes require more liquid ingredients in a recipe.

Notes:

  • Learn more about amaranth here.
  • Quinoa flour imparts a distinct taste in baked goods – not necessarily a bad taste, but one for which some may need to develop a taste. Some individuals express concern over saponins and quinoa. Learn more about this topic, and quinoa in general, here.
  • Bean flours impart a bean flavor in baked goods. They can also lead to tummy problems if you’re not used to eating lots of beans and you over-indulge in foods prepared with bean flours.
  • Green pea flour yields green baked goods. I like using it for baking St. Patrick’s Day treats, naturally colored green. I love this Gluten-Free Green Pea Flour Bread I created!
  • Yellow pea flour yields very golden colored baked goods. This is not necessarily a negative. A bit of yellow pea flour in plain vanilla cake layers makes them look extra-appealing and golden.
  • I do not use soy, bean or nut-based flours or meals in my baking, so you will not find recipes here calling for them. (I am allergic to soy, tree nuts and peanuts, and I do not find bean flours palatable.) However, I did use nut meals after going gluten-free and prior to developing my tree nut allergy, so I am familiar with their properties (althoug I don’t really miss using them in my baking).

Base Flours

Flours commonly used in gluten-free recipes and blends. I think of these as “common” flours.

Examples: brown or white rice flour, sorghum flour, gluten-free oat flour.

General characteristics: these flours tend to make up the bulk of most gluten-free flour blends. They are mild in flavor, generally easy to work with, but have a low protein content and are not as nutritious as the protein flours.

Notes:

  • I no longer use white rice flour; I find white and brown rice flours are interchangeable, so you decide what you like best. 
  • Sorghum flour reminds me of graham flour (whole wheat), so works well in recipes for gluten-free “graham” crackers and hearty gluten-free breads.
  • While oats do not contain inherently contain gluten, they are often cross-contaminated, so if you use oat flour, be sure it is certified gluten-free (Bob’s Red Mill makes a variety of gluten-free oat products). Of course, not everyone tolerates gluten-free oats well. To learn more about oats on a gluten-free diet, read this article.

Starches

These are what lighten up our gluten-free baked goods. They are necessary in most recipes for gluten free baked goods when we want to mimic gluten-filled items.

Examples: cornstarch (non-GMO corn products are available from companies like Bob’s Red Mill), tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour; these are the same product), potato starch (this is NOT the same as potato flour, you can learn more here), arrowroot starch (also called arrowroot flour and arrowroot powder; these are all the same product).

 General characteristics: Starches tend to make up a significant portion of gluten-free flour blends and mixes. Different starches behave in different ways. For example, tapioca can make baked goods tough and a bit dry, but browns nicely. Potato starch doesn’t do much for browning, but it bakes up nice and light. (This is why you see these two used together quite often…the best of both worlds, we’re trying to capture.)

Now that we have a thorough listing of the various flours and starches and their “groups”, you can substitute by selecting a similar flour from the group the flour you need to sub for is in. Example: a recipe calls for sorghum flour, so you will select either oat or rice flour.

*Here is where I have some news for you… The most accurate substitutions are done by weight. For more on weighing ingredients visit my Gluten-Free Baking by Weight page.*

Meantime, if you aren’t up the learning curve on baking by weight, you can have success by selecting flours from the same group and measuring your ingredients accurately. For how to do that, read my article, “Real Gluten-Free Flour Power“.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is a unique ingredient with its own special properties, so it gets a group of its own.

I do not recommend substituting coconut flour 1:1 in any recipe unless the recipe developer recommends it. It really absorbs liquids in recipes, so you’ll need plenty of moisture when using it. Some folks also believe you need lots of eggs to successfully bake with coconut flour, but that’s simply not true. (Maybe they didn’t experiment enough yet.)

I use quite a bit of coconut flour in my baking and love it. Some recipes on the site call for it, and, soon you’ll see a “Baking with Coconut Flour” section {here}. I’ll tell you all about how to bake with it without the eggs, too. ;)

Other Points to Keep in Mind about Gluten-Free Flour Substitutions:

  • The moisture level in a recipe may need to be adjusted depending on the type flour substituted in a recipe.
  • Altitude makes a difference in baking, whether you substitute an ingredient or not. If you’re at a high altitude, you may want to check out this page on high altitude baking from King Arthur flour. I think it’s a well written, informative piece. (I am not at a high altitude.)

Gigi’s Gluten-Free Flour Blends

I have created numerous gluten-free flour blends. Some of these, I share here on the website for you.

I do not offer substitutes for flours and starches in my blends. It is a blend. It was created to behave a particular way, consistently, across a wide type of recipes. Please understand, by changing any part of the blend, you are likely going to get different results from those intended. However, that’s not to say you cannot experiment and make necessary changes to suit your own special diet. Experiment. 

Try these, and look for more to come…

Gigi’s Everyday Gluten-Free Flour Blend (Gum-Free) If you’re just beginning your gluten-free journey, this is a great blend with which to begin! 

Gigi’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend with Gum I no longer use gums in my baking; however, some of you like to use them. To each her own, I say, which is why I share this blend with you.

Gigi’s High Protein High Fiber Gluten-Free Flour Blend (Gum-Free) This blend requires a few more ingredients, is a bit more pricey to make, and does contain brown rice flour; however, it has a much more pleasing nutrient profile and uses no gums.

Basic White Gluten-Free Flour Blend (Gum-Free) Another basic blend with minimal ingredients, this is the blend I recommend for my Gluten-Free Naan Flat Bread

Gigi’s Rice Flour Free Gluten-Free Flour Blend (with Gum-Free option)

You may also like this recipe for Homemade (Grain-Free) Baking Powder.  Comes in handy if you run out! 

Related articles and useful resources:

Substitutions for other ingredients:

Ingredient Substitutions for Gigi’s Recipes - provides substitutions for common ingredients used in my recipes (fat, milk, sugar, eggs, etc.) and links to this page.

Have Your Gluten-Free Cake (and Eat It, Too!) – how I transformed a gluten-free box mix to make a healthier cake.

Baking Success:

5 Flour-Related Mistakes that Lead to Dry Baked Goods (Plus Tips for Baking Success!)

3 Essential Tips for Gluten-Free Baking Success

Recipe Notes from My Gluten-Free Kitchen

Reducing Fat in Baked Goods:

Reducing Fat in Gluten-Free Baked Goods

How to Replace Fat in Gluten-Free Baking with Nut or Seed Butters for a Nutritional Boost

Leavening Agents in Baking The difference between baking powder and baking soda.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder in Gluten-Free Baking

Acids in Baking:

The Purpose of Acids in Baking

Gums in Baking (Xanthan and Guar):

Is this Food Additive making You Sick?

Reducing cross-contamination in our home kitchen:

Winning Strategies for Staying Safe in a Shared Kitchen

5 Simple Steps to a Gluten-Free Kitchen

Label Reading:

Label Reading 101 for a Gluten-Free Diet

An Explanation of “No Gluten Ingredients” Labeling

Other Nifty Tid-Bits to Help with Your Baking Endeavors:

Homemade All-Natural Food Coloring

Basic Overview of a Grain-Free Diet

Facts about Soy Lecithin in a Soy-Free Diet

Final notes:

  • This is not an all-inclusive resource, but a pretty thorough one, if I do say so myself. I hope you enjoy it!
  • This page will be updated as new articles, flour blends and information are available. Visit often!

Find more baking ingredient substitutions here

 

Don’t miss another delish dish! Sign up for my free eNewsletter, the Daily Gluten Free Fix, and have each new recipe and article delivered to your inbox.

While you’re here, browse the Recipe Index for recipes free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. And be sure to explore my vast collection of “Smart Nutrition Backed by Science” articles in Gluten-Free Updates and check out eBooks in the Shop.

If you’re NEW TO GLUTEN FREE LIVING, click on over to the Essentials.

Wait, there’s more! Let’s connect on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram, too!

Access the current issue of Food Solutions Magazine ~ it’s free to everyone!