It’s Complicated: Exploring “Gluten Free” Part Four

August 21, 2021 9 min read

It’s Complicated: Exploring “Gluten Free” Part Four

Part Four of my four-part series on gluten.

Baking with Gluten Free Flours

It’s true. It is possible to cut gluten out of your life and still eat well. However, you have to be smart about replacing gluten in your diet. The boom of allergen-friendly foods these days makes going GF easier, but some of them will do more harm than good. Instead of filling up on highly processed store-bought treats, I recommend you make your own. Below are my guidelines for using gluten free flours in baking.

Not all flour replacements are created equal

When going gluten free, you should stay away from GF processed foods made with cornstarch, and to some extent, riceflour, tapioca starch or potato starch. They promote excessive glucose-insulin provocation and proteinglycation. This can leads to hypertension, diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.These flours are OK to bake with in moderation, but try to avoid GF processed foods that are stuffed with them.

Also, remember that you usually have to use a mixture of flours, as no single GF flour can do what wheat flour can do. Have fun experimenting!

Gluten-Free Flour Replacements

Buckwheat flour

What is it? Despite its name, buckwheat is not wheat. It’s related to rhubarb in the knotweed family. Buckwheat flour is rich in complex carbohydrates, protein and calcium. It is dense flour with natural binding tendencies and an earthy, nut-like flavor.

How do I bake with buckwheat flour? It’s an ideal substitute in cookies, pancakes and recipes that you don’t expect to rise. You can use it to replace up to half the flour called for in cake or bread recipes, in combination with lighter flours.

Coconut flour

What is it? Coconut flour is made from ground coconut meat, which is naturally sweet. It has high fat content and the highest fiber content of any flour.

How do I bake with coconut flour? Coconut flour absorbs liquid so well, you should use it in combination with other flours. It can replace up to 20% of the flour in a recipe. Add eggs or additional liquid to keep your treats from getting dry.

Chickpea flour

What is it? Chickpea or garbanzo flour, is made from ground garbanzo beans. It is high in protein, absorbs liquid quickly and has binding properties that make it great for giving structure to baked goods. It is heavy flour that can also be used as an egg replacement.

How do I bake with chickpea flour? Chickpea flour has a slightly bean-like flavor, so if you use more than ¼ cup in a recipe you may need additional sweetener to mask the taste.

Quinoa flour

What is it? Quinoa flour is made of ground quinoa seed. Quinoa’s considered a pseudograinor seed—not a grasslike wheat. It’s an excellent source of complete protein and essential amino acids.

How do I bake with quinoa flour? Its strong earthy flavor can alter the taste of a recipe, so it's best to substitute up to half of the flour called for in a recipe, combined with a lighter flour and starch.

Almond flour

What is it? Almond flour is made of ground, blanched almonds—unsafe for people with almond and tree nut allergies. It’s naturally on the sweet side and high in protein and fiber. Its natural oils and binding tendencies will give moisture and structure to your baked goods.

How do I bake with almond flour? It can replace all-purpose flour in most recipes in a 1:1 ratio.

Sorghum flour

What is it? Sorghum flour, also called jowar in India, is made from grinding whole grain kernels of the sorghum plant. It’s high in dietary fiber, protein and iron. Its soft, light crumb and mild flavor, create smoother gluten-free baked goods.

How do I bake with sorgum flour? Use it as a 1:1 all-purpose flour substitute in just about any recipe, or blend it with starches, other gluten-free flours and xanthan gum.

Rice flour – use in moderation

What is it? Rice flour is made from ground rice, either brown or white. Both have a neutral flavor. They can be used interchangeably, but brown rice flour is stiffer than white rice flour.

How do I bake with rice flour? Rice flour can produce baked goods with a grainy mouth feel, so it's best to use rice flour in combination with other flours and starches.

Cassava flour

What is it? Cassava flour is made by grating and drying the fibrous cassava root (yuca). It hasa high carbohydrate and fiber profile. 100 grams of cassava has double the calories and carbohydrates as sweet potato. Unlike other gluten-free flours such as almond or coconut, cassava flour is very mild in flavor. Its texture is soft and powdery, not grainy or gritty.

How do I bake with cassava flour? Its texture, along with the fact that it can be replaced on a 1:1 basis with wheat flour in many recipes, make cassava flour a preferred flour for gluten-free, grain-free baking. It’s also a great nut-free flour.

Starches and Gums

Tapioca flour (Starch) – use in moderation

What is it? Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root. It's virtually flavorless and is traditionally used as a thickening agent, but also works well in baking to bind recipes together and add crispness.

How do I bake with tapioca flour? Use tapioca flour in combination with other flours. If you use too much, it can make a recipe a bit dense or gluey.

Potato Starch – use in moderation

What is it? Potato Starch is made from peeled potatoes, and should not be confused with potato flour, which is made from ground dried whole potatoes. Potato starch is flavorless and helps to bind recipes, and add lightness and lift.

How do I bake with tapioca flour? It is best used in combination with another starch or light flour, as too much potato starch can give a recipe a gummy texture. Potato starch can also be used as a thickener, but loses its ability to thicken once it is boiled.

Xanthan gum or guar gum

What is it? Xanthan gum or guar gum can imitate gluten and provide elasticity, binding and volume in recipes. Xanthan gum is made by fermenting the xanthomonas campestris bacterium on a sugar, and guar gum is ground endosperm of guar beans. They are both commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agents and can be used interchangeably.

How do I bake with xantham and guar gums? In standard baking recipes, add 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour blend. In baking that requires yeast, like bread or pizza dough, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour blend.

Wondering if you should go gluten free? Dr. Charny can work with you to diagnose food allergies and sensitivities, and help navigate your diet. Make an appointment today:310-553-4242.

It’s true. It is possible to cut gluten out of your life and still eat well. However, you have to be smart about replacing gluten in your diet. The boom of allergen-friendly foods these days makes going GF easier, but some of them will do more harm than good. Instead of filling up on highly processed store-bought treats, I recommend you make your own. Below are my guidelines for using gluten free flours in baking.

Not all flour replacements are created equal

When going gluten free, you should stay away from GF processed foods made with cornstarch, and to some extent, riceflour, tapioca starch or potato starch. They promote excessive glucose-insulin provocation and proteinglycation. This can leads to hypertension, diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.These flours are OK to bake with in moderation, but try to avoid GF processed foods that are stuffed with them.

Also, remember that you usually have to use a mixture of flours, as no single GF flour can do what wheat flour can do. Have fun experimenting!

Gluten-Free Flour Replacements

Buckwheat flour

What is it? Despite its name, buckwheat is not wheat. It’s related to rhubarb in the knotweed family. Buckwheat flour is rich in complex carbohydrates, protein and calcium. It is dense flour with natural binding tendencies and an earthy, nut-like flavor.

How do I bake with buckwheat flour? It’s an ideal substitute in cookies, pancakes and recipes that you don’t expect to rise. You can use it to replace up to half the flour called for in cake or bread recipes, in combination with lighter flours.

Coconut flour

What is it? Coconut flour is made from ground coconut meat, which is naturally sweet. It has high fat content and the highest fiber content of any flour.

How do I bake with coconut flour? Coconut flour absorbs liquid so well, you should use it in combination with other flours. It can replace up to 20% of the flour in a recipe. Add eggs or additional liquid to keep your treats from getting dry.

Chickpea flour

What is it? Chickpea or garbanzo flour, is made from ground garbanzo beans. It is high in protein, absorbs liquid quickly and has binding properties that make it great for giving structure to baked goods. It is heavy flour that can also be used as an egg replacement.

How do I bake with chickpea flour? Chickpea flour has a slightly bean-like flavor, so if you use more than ¼ cup in a recipe you may need additional sweetener to mask the taste.

Quinoa flour

What is it? Quinoa flour is made of ground quinoa seed. Quinoa’s considered a pseudograinor seed—not a grasslike wheat. It’s an excellent source of complete protein and essential amino acids.

How do I bake with quinoa flour? Its strong earthy flavor can alter the taste of a recipe, so it's best to substitute up to half of the flour called for in a recipe, combined with a lighter flour and starch.

Almond flour

What is it? Almond flour is made of ground, blanched almonds—unsafe for people with almond and tree nut allergies. It’s naturally on the sweet side and high in protein and fiber. Its natural oils and binding tendencies will give moisture and structure to your baked goods.

How do I bake with almond flour? It can replace all-purpose flour in most recipes in a 1:1 ratio.

Sorghum flour

What is it? Sorghum flour, also called jowar in India, is made from grinding whole grain kernels of the sorghum plant. It’s high in dietary fiber, protein and iron. Its soft, light crumb and mild flavor, create smoother gluten-free baked goods.

How do I bake with sorgum flour? Use it as a 1:1 all-purpose flour substitute in just about any recipe, or blend it with starches, other gluten-free flours and xanthan gum.

Rice flour – use in moderation

What is it? Rice flour is made from ground rice, either brown or white. Both have a neutral flavor. They can be used interchangeably, but brown rice flour is stiffer than white rice flour.

How do I bake with rice flour? Rice flour can produce baked goods with a grainy mouth feel, so it's best to use rice flour in combination with other flours and starches.

Cassava flour

What is it? Cassava flour is made by grating and drying the fibrous cassava root (yuca). It hasa high carbohydrate and fiber profile. 100 grams of cassava has double the calories and carbohydrates as sweet potato. Unlike other gluten-free flours such as almond or coconut, cassava flour is very mild in flavor. Its texture is soft and powdery, not grainy or gritty.

How do I bake with cassava flour? Its texture, along with the fact that it can be replaced on a 1:1 basis with wheat flour in many recipes, make cassava flour a preferred flour for gluten-free, grain-free baking. It’s also a great nut-free flour.

Starches and Gums

Tapioca flour (Starch) – use in moderation

What is it? Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root. It's virtually flavorless and is traditionally used as a thickening agent, but also works well in baking to bind recipes together and add crispness.

How do I bake with tapioca flour? Use tapioca flour in combination with other flours. If you use too much, it can make a recipe a bit dense or gluey.

Potato Starch – use in moderation

What is it? Potato Starch is made from peeled potatoes, and should not be confused with potato flour, which is made from ground dried whole potatoes. Potato starch is flavorless and helps to bind recipes, and add lightness and lift.

How do I bake with tapioca flour? It is best used in combination with another starch or light flour, as too much potato starch can give a recipe a gummy texture. Potato starch can also be used as a thickener, but loses its ability to thicken once it is boiled.

Xanthan gum or guar gum

What is it? Xanthan gum or guar gum can imitate gluten and provide elasticity, binding and volume in recipes. Xanthan gum is made by fermenting the xanthomonas campestris bacterium on a sugar, and guar gum is ground endosperm of guar beans. They are both commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agents and can be used interchangeably.

How do I bake with xantham and guar gums? In standard baking recipes, add 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour blend. In baking that requires yeast, like bread or pizza dough, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour blend.

Wondering if you should go gluten free? Dr. Charny can work with you to diagnose food allergies and sensitivities, and help navigate your diet. Make an appointment today:310-553-4242.

Dr. Charny

Dr. Charny

Chiropractic Physician • Diplomat in Clinical Nutrition • Board Certified Naturopathic Physician

Dr. C. Charny is the founder of the Charny Healing Center in Beverly Hills. Dr. Charny has been exploring holistic forms of health care for over 30 years, utilizing a wide variety of innovative therapies to resolve complex problems that have failed to respond to traditional treatment methods. Dr. Charny’s approach is rooted in the nexus of functional and biological medicine – she views the two as integral aspects of holistic healing.


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