Gluten Free Flour Guide Part 1: My favorite Flours
I started writing you a guide on gluten free flours, but quickly realized that I should first start with the ones I use the most often. Because there’s a lot of options out there, and it’s hard to know where to start! Also initially, I was going to share a standard gluten free blend here that could, theoretically, be used in any recipe. Except if you go through my recipes you’ll notice that I don’t actually use the same flours or even the same amounts in any of my recipes. Perhaps it’s a personal issue, but I just can’t stick to one thing. So sorry, if you want an all-purpose blend you’ll have to look elsewhere. But if you’re ok mixing your own flours and are trying to figure out where the heck you should start, keep reading!
So first, let’s take an imaginary walk down the gluten free flour aisle (or perhaps just a look in my pantry…). Holy crap. There’s a lot of flours! And if you’ve ever read the ingredient label on gluten free bread or looked at someone else’s recipes, you’ll notice that they always include several different flours. Why can’t you just choose one type, throw it in a bowl and call it done, you ask? Turns out there’s lots of reasons. First, we’re used to the taste of wheat flour. News flash: other types of flours don’t taste like wheat flour. Some flours, like quinoa or buckwheat, have really strong flavors and need to be diluted by other flours. Second, bleached wheat all-purpose flour is about 10% protein and 90% starch. This affects how the flour behaves when you bake with it. Different gluten free flours have different protein and starch breakdowns, which makes them behave differently, so we need to blend them to get something closer to wheat.
My method of finding flours I liked was wholly un-scientific; I’d buy a new type of flour, throw it in a recipe, and then either declare it workable or a complete bust. One of my main drivers was finding a combo of flours that was as light and soft feeling as standard wheat flour. I started with rice flour because that’s what I saw in a lot of commercial gluten-free goods. The problem is rice flour is incredibly dense (¼ c of rice flour weighs 40g, compared to ¼ c of quinoa flour which only weighs 28g!), and everything I made was as heavy as a brick. The day I stopped trying to work with rice flour, the angels rejoiced.
I also wanted something that was as close to neutral-flavored as possible. I love the texture of buckwheat flour and it was making my baked goods lighter, but it also makes everything a grayish color, which isn’t exactly appetizing. Quinoa flour also has a very distinct taste, which I happen to love, but apparently other members of this household aren’t as big of a fan. So we add millet and oat flour to create a more neutral tasting blend. I knew I hit gold when I added amaranth flour to my cookies once (*more on that in a sec) and Marc declared them the most “normal” tasting cookies I had made to date! Huzzah!
*If you followed along in the early stages, you may have noticed I’ve started using millet in place of amaranth. After I first developed my blend (with amaranth flour), Monash came out with data that 2/3 cups amaranth flour is high in FODMAPs. Millet flour is very similar so I just put it in place of all the amaranth flour.
I know this is not as easy as going out and buying a pre-made gluten free blend, but I’ve been much more satisfied with this method than any “all purpose flour” I’ve tried. Plus, some blends like the Bob’s Red Mill one have bean flours, which are high FODMAP! I’ve included links to buy the flours on Amazon (thanks internet!), but if you have access to a health food store, especially one with bulk bins (hi, whole foods), it’s super easy to find these. Pro tip on the sticky rice flour: if you live near an asian market, look for it there because it’ll be a whole lot cheaper!
So without any further ado, here are my favorite flours, in order of how often I use them (most frequently first)
My Favorite flours
I buy my flours from bulk bins, but if I were buying them in the size of the packages linked, I’d buy 2-3 bags of quinoa and sticky rice at a time. I use less of the oat, millet, tapioca, and gluten, so one package could probably last me a month or two.
I don’t use these flours in everything, but I like to keep them on hand.
- Vital wheat gluten (If you’re confused about why I’m listing gluten in a list of gluten-free flours, read all about it here.)
- Cornmeal (This is the type I buy but there’s tons of options, just make sure you don’t buy cornbread mix which usually has wheat flour!)
- Coconut flour (I actually buy mine from Trader Joe’s.)
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of my gluten free flour guide! If you’re curious about why exactly I chose the flours I did, and what the differences are between all the flours, you’re in luck! Check out part 2, a more in depth look at all the different flour options!