Gluten Free Flour Guide Part 1: The 5 Essential Flours
This post was originally published back in 2016 but my thinking and baking has changed a lot since then! I’ve updated it with the flours I currently keep in rotation (and an updated picture of my pantry).
I’m not a hoarder. I’m generally terrible at stocking up on things, and have been accused on more than one occasion of throwing away things that we actually needed (sorry, second pitcher). Except… apparently when it comes to flours. If you come to my house and look in our pantry (or, just take a peek at the photo I took for y’all beow), you’ll see that we have over an entire shelf devoted to flour.
What’s my issue, you ask? While I can’t answer that question entirely in a blog post, the short answer is that back when I started this blog, I got REALLY EXCITED about all the different flour options suddenly available. For my entire life until then, I thought the choices were just white or whole wheat. But like, did you know that COCONUTS can be turned into flour?! And, WTF is mesquite flour? I wanted it all.
Don’t worry, I’ve calmed down since then, which is the real reason why we’re here today. If you’ve ever yourself taken a gander down the gluten free aisle at a grocery store, read the ingredients list on a GF baked good, or even maybe read one of my recipes, you have probably been overwhelmed. Today, I’ll be sharing the FIVE ESSENTIAL gluten free flours that you need for all your gluten free baking.
Confused about gluten and FODMAPs? Read my post all about gluten for that.
Now, five proably still sounds excessive, especially if you’re used to using ONE (hi all-purpose wheat flour). 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, in the case of buckwheat, color) 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.
Another difference between wheat and GF flours is weight. Back when I started experimenting with baking gluten free, I was using lots of 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.
Related: read all about why sourdough is low FODMAP (and how to use wheat flour on a low FODMAP diet).
Lastly, yes. You could go out and buy a gluten free “all-purpose” blend and not have to keep an entire shelf in your pantry devoted to flour. But, what’s the fun in that? 😂In all seriousness though, those blends have come a long way in the years since I started baking gluten free and are much more acceptable now. I just still prefer to be able to adjust the proportions depending on what I’m baking, since strawberry shortcake has different needs than detroit-style pizza. If you do decide to try a pre-made blend, be sure to check the ingredients list if you’re sensitive to FODMAPs — many contain bean flours and gums like xanthan or guar which may cause digestive issues.
The Five Essential Gluten Free Flours
Behold. I’ve included a few notes about each, but for more info check out part two!
- Sticky Rice Flour. The holy grail of gluten free flour. Light, and helps hold everything together. Sometimes sold as “glutinous rice flour” (or sweet rice flour) but don’t be confused, it doesn’t have gluten. I buy this brand in bulk at my local Asian supermarket.
- Sorghum Flour. Light and mild-tasting, sorghum is a great filler flour that goes well in everything.
- Millet Flour. Another light and pretty mild-tasting flour.
- Tapioca Starch. Essential for keeping your flour blend light and adding back in some starchiness that sorghum, millet, or oat don’t have.
- Oat Flour. A little goes a long way with oat flour. I don’t usually use a ton, but it adds a great flavor and a touch of sweetness that I love.
- Vital Wheat Gluten. Ok, obviously GLUTEN isn’t gluten free, which is why it’s not in my basic list. But if you’re sensitive to FODMAPs and not gluten, I recommend adding the gluten back in to give your baked goods more structure (and if you’re highly confused at this point, read more about gluten and FODMAPs)!
If you enjoyed this post, check out part two for a more in-depth look at different gluten free flours!
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