Whether you are gluten-free or simply adding extra fibre and nutritional value to your baked goods, baking with gluten-free flours can be a tricky business. In this guide we explain how to bake with gluten-free flours as well as share the flavour profiles of popular gluten-free flours.
First let’s understand gluten and its role in baking.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein that gives bread and pasta that wonderful texture - soft chewiness and elasticity. It provides structure and binding, which keeps baked goods from falling apart. It also assists in helping dough rise. Gluten is present in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, einkorn and the less common, triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye.
How To Bake with Gluten-Free Flours
Baking with gluten-free flours can be tricky because the texture of each flour and how they react when mixed and heated differs greatly. If you’re not familiar with a particular flour you can be left with very gummy and dense, or dry and crumbly baked goods that leaves you feeling like you’ve eaten sawdust.
To compensate for the lack of gluten in gluten-free flour and because each gluten-free flour acts differently, it’s useful to make your own all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. It also might be necessary to add extra ingredients to help the texture of your baked goods – like an additional egg, flax eggs, chia seeds, mashed bananas, apple sauce or more oil.
Handy-Dandy Gluten-Free Flour Conversion Chart
Please keep in mind that many of these flours won’t necessarily be able to fully replace wheat flour in a recipe. Please note that when using nut flours always combine with your favourite gluten-free flour blend, substituting 125g of the flour blend for about 50g nut flour.
If you’re experimenting by replacing wheat flour, use your favourite gluten-free all-purpose flour for most of the recipe with the addition of another flour. For example, if the recipe calls for 300g wheat flour, use 200g gluten-free all-purpose flour and 50g almond flour.
125g wheat flour equals about:
Flour Combinations we Love
- 240g oat flour, 120g buckwheat flour, 70g brown rice flour
- 140g brown rice flour, 110g amaranth flour, 50g almond flour or 50g flaxseed flour
- 120g oat flour, 140g brown rice flour, 75g corn flour
- 300g corn flour, 130g soya flour, 120g buckwheat flour
- 240g oat flour, 100g hazelnut flour
- 130g soya flour, 140g brown rice flour
Grain Flour Profiles
FLAVOUR: nutty and earthy
Amaranth is a thirsty pseudo-grain (like quinoa, it really is a seed!) that absorbs a lot of water. This can make baked goods very dense and heavy, especially if amaranth flour is used on its own. We suggest using amaranth together with other lighter gluten-free flours like buckwheat, rice or oat flours. You can also use it together with your favourite gluten-free all-purpose blend. Amaranth flour is also wonderful to thicken soups, stews, sauces and gravies!
Brown Rice Flour
FLAVOUR: slightly sweet and nutty
TEXTURE: light but gritty
Brown rice flour is a wonderful in cakes, muffins, breads and cookies. It is best combined with other flours as it can lend a gritty, sawdust texture if used on its own or without enough liquid. It is best paired with buckwheat, oat and almond flours. It is also good for thickening sauces. If using brown rice flour on its own, and as a substitute for wheat flour, adjust the recipe by adding additional liquid as it absorbs a lot of moisture.
FLAVOUR: earthy, nutty and slightly bitter
TEXTURE: semi dense
Buckwheat flour is a versatile flour, but do not replace all wheat flour just buckwheat flour. Add brown rice flour and/or your favourite nut flour in addition to adding extra binding ingredients like soaked chia seeds or flaxseed eggs. Additionally, if you’re just experimenting and don’t have to be gluten-free, you can start by substituting 25% with buckwheat flour.
TIP: you can also easily make buckwheat flour by processing the whole grain in a food processor or coffee grinder until finely ground.
FLAVOUR: sweet, mild, most like wheat flour
TEXTURE: medium density, keeps things moist
Oats do not inherently contain gluten but because they’re typically processed in a facility that also processes wheat, it is highly likely there has been some cross-contamination. Therefore, if you have coeliac disease or have a high sensitivity towards gluten, it is advised to get certified gluten-free oats or oat flour.
Oat flour is versatile in that it behaves more like wheat flour than all the gluten-free flours. Whilst is has medium density, it can lighten the texture of baked cooks when used alongside heavier flours like amaranth flour or nut flours. Use the right amount of liquid when primarily using oat flour - too little and your baked goods could fall apart, and too much can make your baked goods gummy.
Like buckwheat, rolled oats easily grind up into flour form in a food processor or coffee grinder!
Purple Corn Flour
TEXTURE: soft and starchy
Corn flour is best used as a binder due to its soft and starchy nature. Try it combined with rice and/or buckwheat flour in cakes and muffins. Corn flour can additionally be used to thicken dishes. Add 2-3 teaspoons to a few tablespoons of liquid to make a paste with which to thicken soups or sauces.
FLAVOUR: earthy, slightly bitter
TEXTURE: semi dense
Quinoa is a seed that is used as a grain – a pseudo-grain! Full of fibre and micro-nutrients, it is also a complete protein. Use as you would buckwheat flour as it has a similar texture in baked goods. Be mindful of its slightly bitter flavour.
Can’t find it but would like to use it? Thankfully it’s easy to make. Just pulse dry quinoa grains in a food processer or coffee grinder until finely ground.
Nut Flour Profiles
Almond Flour / Almond Meal
FLAVOUR: sweet, nutty, neutral
TEXTURE: whole grain texture, adds moisture
Almond flour is made from finely ground skinned and blanched almonds, whilst almond meal can be used interchangeably. Almond meal is slightly coarser due to texture of the skins. However, both can be used in a variety of baked goods. Choose almond flour for lighter dishes and almond meal where the density of the flour won’t matter as much.
Due to the higher fat content, almond flour makes baked goods more moist, and like most gluten-free flours, does not have the same binding qualities of wheat flour.
TIP: store unused almond flour and almond meal in the fridge. Bake at lower temperatures or on lower racks in the oven to prevent burned baked goods.
FLAVOUR: strong, sweet
TEXTURE: extremely dry, highly absorbent, gritty, crumbly
Coconut flour has a strong and distinct flavour and is extremely thirsty. A small amount of coconut flour absorbs a large amounts of liquid, making it tricky to work with especially if you’re not following a tried-and-true recipe. Additionally, coconut flour tends to yield quite a gritty texture.
Before experimenting on your own try a recipe and use it as a base moving forward.
FLAVOUR: sweet, buttery
TEXTURE: whole grain texture, adds moisture
Hazelnut flour imparts a wonderfully nutty flavour in baked goods, and especially with chocolate! Due to the higher fat content, hazelnut flour makes baked goods more moist, and like most gluten-free flours, does not have the same binding qualities of wheat flour. We suggest slightly increase the baking soda, powder or yeast to ensure your baked goods rise properly.
TIP: like almond flour, store unused hazelnut flour in the fridge and bake at lower temperatures or on lower racks in the oven to prevent burned baked goods.
FLAVOUR: earthy, bitter
TEXTURE: whole grain texture, adds moisture
Walnuts can be slightly bitter so use this nut flour sparingly. Use anywhere you’d enjoy a bit of walnut flavour and texture, like in brownies or chocolate cakes. Walnut flour is also wonderful in coffee cakes, and pairs well with apples, bananas and dates. It’s beautiful in a carrot cake and very nice when used alongside cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and maple!
Just like hazelnut and almond flours, walnut flour has a higher fat content, which makes baked goods more moist, and, because it doesn’t have strong binding qualities, we suggest slightly increase the baking soda, powder or yeast to ensure your baked goods rise properly.
TIP: like all nut flours, store unused walnut flour in the fridge and bake at lower temperatures or on lower racks in the oven to prevent burned baked goods.
Legume and Seed Flour Profiles
FLAVOUR: neutral, slightly bitter aftertaste
TEXTURE: soft, dense, very thirsty
Chickpea is so versatile in that it is a great binder, unlike most gluten-free flours. It gives baked goods more structure with its density but keeps things soft and springy.
Chickpea flour is popular internationally. Used in India as batter for fritters, savoury crepes and steamed sponge-like cakes. In France and Italy, chickpea flour is combined with water, olive oil and salt to make flatbreads, savoury pancakes and cooked like polenta, cut into strips and fried.
Experiment with chickpea flour by starting with a recipe to get an understanding of how it works and then build your foundation.
FLAVOUR: mild, earthy
TEXTURE: dense, waxy/oily
Flaxseeds are full of wonderful oils, making flaxseed flour a perfect substitute for eggs and/or fat in baked good recipes. When using a large amount of flaxseed flour in recipes, be mindful of the denser, chewier texture it imparts.
To make a flaxseed egg use 1 tablespoon of flour to 3 tablespoons of water, mix and set aside for 20 minutes. To use flaxseed flour as the fat in a recipe, triple the amount of flaxseed flour for the measurement of oil, butter or margarine. For example, if a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, use 9 tablespoons of flaxseed flour instead.
TIP: as suggested with nut flours, store unused flaxseed flour in the fridge and bake at lower temperatures or on lower racks in the oven to prevent burned baked goods.
FLAVOUR: fragrant, nutty, earthy, slightly bitter
TEXTURE: medium density, adds moisture
Hemp flour is best used in combination with other gluten-free flours. It adds a nutty earthiness to pizza dough, pancakes and muffins. Use like you would any nut flour as its higher fat content adds moisture, lending a heavier texture, and heats more quickly. To combat this, add more leavening agent if using for muffins or cakes. Also store in the fridge and bake at reduced temperatures.
FLAVOUR: earthy, bean-like, slightly bitter aftertaste
Soya flour is high in protein and is primarily used as a thickener in sauces, soup and gravies. It is good in flatbreads and pancakes as well. As it is a bean flour, try using soya flour instead of chickpea flour, or as an added protein source in your all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.