Find gluten-free baking confusing? You’re not alone.
When we first started attempting gluten-free recipes, it was overwhelming. Gluten-free flours can be expensive and daunting to know which ones to use when.
Now that we’ve been cooking gluten-free for years, we wanted to share what we’ve learned in the process, as well as a bit about our own Minimalist Baker Gluten-Free Flour Blend, and our favorite gluten-free baking recipes.
Where to Start?
We’ve found that when baking with gluten-free flours, it’s typically best to use a mix of different flours and starches to achieve the ideal texture and flavor. This is because all-purpose flour adds stretch, lightness, crispiness, and neutral flavor to baked goods. With gluten-free, you need a few different flours (depending on the recipe) to replicate these characteristics of gluten flour.
This is why we advocate for buying a pre-made gluten-free all-purpose blend (like ours!) to take the guesswork out of gluten-free baking!
Before we get ahead of ourselves though, let’s dive deeper into which flours to use and when.
Gluten-Free Flours Breakdown
Consider this an educational breakdown of our most common, less common, and uncommonly used gluten-free flours.
Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is about as close to a 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour as it gets since it provides structure and a “wheat-like” flavor. However, because it can be gritty and dense, it works best when paired with lighter starches such as potato and cornstarch, and flours such as almond. It’s the primary base flour in our Gluten-Free Flour Blend, and also makes a great breading for things like Crispy Shallots.
White Rice Flour
White rice flour is lighter in color and texture than brown rice flour, but we still don’t use it as a 1:1 substitute in recipes where flour is called for. It can be slightly gritty and gummy. We find it works best when blended with other gluten-free flours. We included it as a thickener in this Egg-Free Frittata!
Oat flour works well in recipes that require a dense texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor. It puffs up under the right circumstances – TIP: Avoid adding too many heavy, sticky ingredients to oat flour like bananas, and give it some help with a leavening agent, such as baking powder, so it puffs up and yields a lighter texture.
Not only is oat flour easy to make, it’s also rich in fiber! We find it works particularly well when making pancakes. Learn more here and try it in recipes such as our 1-Bowl Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes and 1-Bowl Vegan Banana Oat Pancakes.
Almond flour is a grain-free, protein-rich flour that lends well to cookies, cakes, and more!
Almond flour is made from blanched almonds, meaning without skins (as opposed to almond meal, which is made from raw almonds with skins). This is why it has a fluffy, light texture and pale golden color.
We often reach for almond flour in baking recipes when we’re looking for a light, fluffy, cake-y texture with neutral flavor, because almond flour has a milder flavor than almond meal, and tends to fluff up nicely when baked! It works well in both egg and egg-free baking.
*Find our favorite store-bought Almond Flour here.
Almond meal is made from raw almonds with skins and lends a slightly more wholesome texture in recipes than almond flour – its blanched counterpart.
Almond meal and almond flour are not ideal to be used interchangeably, as almond meal works best in heartier baked goods like wholesome muffins, cookies, and crackers, whereas almond flour is best in cakes and light baked goods.
Note: One of the reasons we like to use almond meal is it can be made from the leftover pulp from making Homemade Almond Milk! When subbing Almond Meal made from Almond Pulp in a recipe that calls for almond meal, you may need to slightly increase the amount of oil or liquid to add back in moisture that gets lost in the process of making almond milk.
Though technically a starch (not a flour), we rely on cornstarch often in gluten-free recipes. It makes a great thickener in things like puddings, sauces, and compotes, and can even add neutral-flavored structure and a crumb-like, light texture to baked goods!
Tapioca Starch (a.k.a. Tapioca Flour)
We don’t typically use tapioca starch on its own in recipes as it can yield quite a sticky, stretchy texture. However, it is neutral in flavor, making it a great option for gluten-free blends. Our favorite recipe with tapioca starch is definitely our Easy Vegan Mozzarella “Cheese” which utilizes tapioca for that quintessential stringy cheese texture!
We’ve also been loving it to add crispness to recipes like our Thin Mint Cookies, because in recipes without much liquid, it browns well and adds a nice snap!
Potato Starch (NOT Potato Flour)
Potato starch works well when trying to achieve a light, cake-y texture, such as in our 1-Bowl Vegan Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake. We don’t typically use it as a 1:1 substitute in recipes where flour is called for, but it works well when blended with other gluten-free flours, including almond flour.
It’s become one of our most-used ingredients when we’re trying to achieve a cake-like texture as it pairs very well with almond flour. It’s so versatile that it’s featured in our Gluten-Free Flour Blend, Chocolate Cake Mix, and Pancake + Waffle Mix!
Less Common Flours
Sorghum flour can be a substitute for oat flour, although it is slightly more gritty and provides less binding. It has a mildly sweet flavor and tender crumb. Sorghum lacks binding capability, so pair with an absorbent and stretchy flour or starch like tapioca.
Despite the name, buckwheat contains no wheat and is actually a grass related to rhubarb. It’s dense and absorbent and great in recipes that have a strong flavor, like chocolate, spices, or banana.
Cassava flour is mild in flavor and provides a light texture to baked goods. It’s also very absorbent and pairs well with brown or white rice flour to add structure without too much grittiness. It’s grain-free and can be used as a 1:1 for all purpose flour in some recipes.
We like it in tortillas, cookies, and crackers, and it’s also featured in our MB Gluten-Free Flour Blend!
Arrowroot starch is extracted from a tropical plant. It can be used interchangeably with tapioca and cornstarch, but is less stretchy than tapioca, and more stretchy than cornstarch. It can become gelatinous if too much liquid is added (such as in puddings). Similar to cornstarch, it’s also great for coating and pan-frying things like tofu.
Coconut flour is a very dense flour made from dried coconut meat. It typically does not substitute well in recipes using a 1:1 ratio, and almost always benefits from having an egg in the mix since it’s so dense. It can brown but won’t crisp up as it’s quite fatty. It’s rich in fiber, more absorbent than most other gluten-free flours, and really shines in no-bake treats like our Carrot Cake Bites. It also works well in recipes that use eggs, such as our Banana Egg Pancakes.
A close substitute for almond flour, cashew flour is made of raw ground cashews! Not super common for our kitchen, but a good substitute in a pinch.
Our least commonly used flours include: chestnut, teff (highly nutritious but hard to find), banana flour (dried ground bananas!), millet flour (nutritious but bitter), tigernut flour (can be used in place of almond flour but hard to find), and quinoa flour (also somewhat bitter and earthy).
Our Gluten-Free Flour Blend
Now that you know a bit more about the nuances of gluten-free baking, you can understand the benefits of a really well-balanced, all purpose blend that takes the guesswork out of gluten-free baking.
Our Gluten-Free Flour Blend is a staple in our kitchen. It relies on brown rice and white rice flour for structure, potato starch for lightness and lift, tapioca starch for stretch and binding, and cassava flour for its mild flavor and ability to absorb liquid. Xanthan gum is also included in a very small amount to provide more stretch. It’s a perfected, more versatile version of our DIY blend from the blog.
Our blend is reliable, thoroughly tested, and an effective 1:1 replacement for all purpose flour in your favorite recipes like quick breads, brownies, cakes, cookies, flatbreads, pie crust, breading, and more! Here are some of our favorite recipes to put it to use!
Can you make your own flours?
Yes! Making homemade gluten-free flours saves money and allows you to better control the consistency, flavor, and freshness of your ingredients. We like to stock our pantry with the following homemade flours for gluten-free baking:
And this concludes our Guide to Gluten-Free Flours! We hope you learned something new and found this resource helpful. Now, put it to use! Find all of our Gluten-Free Recipes here.