6 Gluten-Free Flour Alternatives and Exactly How to Use Them
When switching your diet over to be gluten-free, you don't have to give up some of your favorite foods. Yes, pizza crust typically has gluten, but you can make your own crust without it. Sure, your favorite chocolate chip cookies are most definitely not gluten-free, but I promise you can make an alternative batch that will taste just as good, if not better.
There are a lot of baking products that function virtually the same way as conventional flour, and many of them offer far more health benefits than regular old all-purpose flour. I've experimented with many of them, but the following six are my favorites. Keep in mind, though, that most gluten-free flours don't have the binding agents that all-purpose flour does, so you might need to add xanthan gum to your recipes!
Almond flour is very versatile. The texture is a bit mealy since it's made of ground nuts, but the very subtle nutty flavor works well in a variety of things, like pancakes or these Paleo cookies. Just like the almonds themselves, this flour is chock-full of nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Keep in mind, though, that this flour requires a bit more of a binding agent if used in baking. I have subbed it directly for conventional flour one-to-one, but often add an extra egg to hold everything together.
Try it: almond flour ($18 for a 2-pound bag)
Coconut flour is my favorite gluten-free flour to use in baking because it provides a subtle hint of coconut flavor. The ground coconut is high in fiber — five grams for two tablespoons — and also offers a bit of your daily iron. Coconut flour absorbs liquid slightly more than conventional flour, though, so I often add a little more oil or water to whatever it is I'm making. It requires a bit of eyeballing, unless you have a recipe that specifically calls for coconut flour.
Try it: coconut flour ($9 for a 1-pound bag)
Some brands make a gluten-free-flour blend that combines a variety of gluten-free flour alternatives. Common ingredients include rice flour and sorghum flour, along with a few starches like tapioca and potato. This flour, for me, bears the closest resemblance to conventional flour. I use this a lot when baking, and it bakes up like conventional flour would and doesn't taste any differently. Depending on the gluten-free mix you buy, you may or may not need to add a binder. I like to get mixes that have xanthan gum or something similar included so it's an easy one-to-one swap.
Try it: gluten-free all-purpose flour ($6 for a 24-ounce bag)
You can get either white rice flour or brown rice flour, and both are very allergen-friendly. Like the rice itself, brown rice flour tends to have more nutrients to it, though they'll function basically the same. If you want to make something like pasta, though, brown rice flour is a great option. I have found that I can usually make a pretty straight swap between rice flour and conventional flour by just adding 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of flour.
Try it: Rice flour ($13 for a 5-pound bag)
Tapioca flour is more of a starchy substance than the rest of the flour options. I've used it in baking, and while it works fine, I find that it functions better combined with another gluten-free flour and some xanthan gum for binding. However, tapioca flour works great as a thickening agent, because it is straight up low-calorie carbohydrates. It's a great option in gravies, in particular.
Try it: Tapioca flour ($9 for a 2.5-pound bag)
I have found sorghum works best when combined with other flours, just like tapioca. I don't usually bake with sorghum flour, but I might use it in combination with a rice flour to make pasta. Something like a half-and-half split between those two flours and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum per cup would work well, but I eyeball whatever I'm making and add extra water as needed. Sorghum is also great for decreasing inflammation and may contain tannins that help you lose weight.
Try it: Sorghum flour ($12 for a 2-pound bag)