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Flour substitutions and Gluten Free Baking

For a dedicated gluten free baking site, see Gluten Free Baking, a membership site. Interesting example of how to use the new excellent gluten-free mixes check out the tips at Karina's Gluten Free Goddess blog.. There is a remarkable gluten free site that has baking and cooking in a crock pot:A Year of Crockpotting, all gluten free, and here is a good British site: Gluten-Free recipes.

When substituting wheat flour with gluten-free flour, you'll usually get best results with recipes which have only a small percentage of flour in them. Your health food shop -- or perhaps even your supermarket -- will sell gluten-free flour.

Gluten free flours will generally absorb more water than "normal" flours and will also lack the robust structure and "tolerance" typical of gluten containing flours.

Generally speaking, where a biscuit, cookie, sponge, swiss roll or other recipe that bakes in a thin layer contains flour, sugar, butter/margarine and eggs, gluten free flour, plain or self raising, can be substituted directly for wheat flour. However, once you come to adding the dry gluten free flour to the wet ingredients, care needs to be taken in the mixing, which needs to be as gentle and for as short a duration as possible to avoid knocking the carbon dioxide and oxygen from the more fragile gluten free structure, especially in the case of sponges and swiss rolls. The biscuit, sponge or whatever should then be put in the oven as quickly as possible to ensure the maximum possible rise.

Gluten-free self-rising flour

   2 tablespoons potato flour
   enough white rice flour to make it up to 1 cup
   1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
   1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
   1 teaspoon xanthan gum OR guar gum 
        OR pre-gel starch

Gluten-free baking powder

   1/4 cup bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
   1/2 cup cream of tartar

Mix well and keep in an airtight container.

Flour combinations

The following combinations of flours work well together:

2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour.
2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour and a teaspoon of xanthan gum.
1/2 soya flour and 1/2 cornstarch.
1/2 soya flour and 1/2 potato flour.
1/2 soya flour and 1/2 rice flour.
1/2 soya flour, 1/4 potato flour, 1/4 rice flour.

Note: When buying soy flour, look for debittered soya flour. It has a milder flavor. Plain full fat soy flour has a noticeable stronger flavor.

Gluten-free pastry

This is good for sweet pies, tarts and cheesecakes.
   60g (2oz) cornstarch (maize cornflour)
   3/4 cup non-instant dry milk powder
   1 1/2 cups coconut
   120g (4oz) melted butter
Simply mix and press into a dish. This isn't exactly pastry, so don't roll it.

To replace the gluten

If you simply take gluten out of your baking, you're likely to have disappointing results. Gluten is sticky stuff which helps prevent your baked goodies from crumbling. It also traps pockets of air, improving the texture of your bread, cakes or biscuits.

Bakers replace it with xanthan gum, guar gum, or pre-gel starch. Xanthan gum is a natural product made from Xanthomonas campestris. This microorganism is grown in the lab for its cell coat, which is dried and ground to form xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is added as a powder to the dry bread ingredients. One teaspoon is needed for every cup of gluten-free flour. You can buy this product at your local health food. You can also use Guar Gum, a vegetable gel, which is cheaper than Xanthan gum.

Gluten-free Flour Mix

   2 cups rice or millet flour
   2/3 cup potato starch
   1/3 cup tapioca flour
   1-2 tsp. of xanthan gum

Each type of flour acts a little differently in relation to other ingredients in a recipe. Many recipes depend on wheat flour for their texture or rising power, so you may have to experiment a bit to see which flours work best when interchanged. To start, change 1/4 of the flour or less. The chart below will give you a good starting point.

You can make your own flour from oatmeal or other rolled grains in a blender or food processor. Use 1-1/2 cups oats to make about 1 cup oat flour. Potato and soy flours are best used in combination with other flours. They have a strong flavor and soy flour has a darker coloring. Rice flour gives a distinctively grainy texture to baked products. Rye flour is frequently used although it has a dark color and distinctive flavor. (Barley, oat, and rye flours all contain some gluten.)

Wheat Flour Substitutions
per cup

Grain (Flour)


Barley (not gluten-free)

1-1/4 cups

Cornmeal 1 cup
Corn flour 1 cup
Oat(May not be gluten-free) 1-1/3 cups
Potato 3/4 cup
Rice 3/4 cup
Rye (not gluten-free) 1-1/3 cups
Soy 1-1/3 cups
Tapioca 1 cup