Strolling the natural foods section of the grocery store this weekend I was quite taken by the number of gluten-free flours. It wasn’t a clouds-parting, birds-singing kind of moment, but definitely one that brought me back to when I was newly g-free and overwhelmed with options. And since flour is a staple for even the culinary inept—and I’ve tried more than my fair share of g-free flours—this felt like a teachable moment.
G-free flours fit one of two categories: naturally g-free flours—a fine grind of naturally g-free foods, like corn, rice, potatoes or tapioca; and blends—mixes of naturally g-free flours (and some other ingredients) usually intended to be an easy substitute for wheat flour. Blends may be packaged similarly to the gluten-eating-world’s “multi-purpose baking mix” or “all purpose flour.” Naturally g-free flours will be labeled simply “brown rice flour” or “tapioca flour.”
Today’s focus: The blends
(Flavor rating: 1 bad–5 delish; Difficult to use: 1 easy as g-free pie–5 forget it; Cost: 1 bargain–5 splurge)
1) King Arthur: Blends like their multi-purpose flour and bread mix are, in this blogger’s opinion, among the best g-free options. They’re smooth, and a great substitute for flour’s small jobs, like dusting a cake pan or thickening gravy. However, bread is almost excessively crumbly, an unfortunate sign of g-free.
(Flavor: 5, Difficulty: 1, Cost: 3)
2) Bob’s Red Mill: Good in a pinch, Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose Baking Flour is sold in nearly any grocery store with a natural foods section and pound-for-pound is among the cheapest. But that’s where the good stuff ends. The blend of bean flours (garbanzo and fava) and sorghum creates a sour, unpleasant taste, and the crumble factor is off the charts. It also requires extra ingredients—like Xanthan gum, arrowroot starch or extra oils—in baking recipes.
(Flavor: 1, Difficulty: 3, Cost: 1)
3) Bisquick Gluten-Free Baking Mix: If you’re a pancake, biscuit or dumpling lover, this one’s for you. Foods made with this are best when right off the griddle or out of the oven, and develop the dreaded crumble after they cool.
(Flavor: 5, Difficulty: 1, Cost: 2)
4) Cup4Cup: The Cadillac of g-free flours, this stuff is where it’s at for anything that relies heavily on the flavor of the flour. It’s main selling point is its literal cup-for-cup substitution for wheat flour in your favorite recipes without sacrificing texture. But all that awesomeness comes with a hefty price tag.
(Flavor: 5, Difficulty: 1, Cost: 5)
5) Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix: A great blend of potato starch, tapioca flour, brown rice flour and more, Arrowhead Mills got it right, even if it’s a bit crumbly. However, they add baking powder and sea salt to the mix, making it inappropriate for some recipes. You’ll always find a box of this in my cabinet.
(Flavor: 4, Difficulty: 2, Cost: 2)
6) Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Flour: A simple mix of brown rice flour, tapioca starch and corn starch make this a smooth, easy substitute for flour in small jobs. It has a neutral flavor great for things like sauces and gravies, and is easy to find. But like Bob’s, this mix requires support from Xanthan gum and other ingredients to be a solid sub for wheat flour.
(Flavor: 5, Difficulty: 3, Cost: 2)
7) Chebe: When I use Chebe, I actually worry that I picked up the wrong box and have glutened myself—that’s how good this stuff is. Chebe’s mixes are from naturally g-free recipes its founders discovered in Brazil, and make chewy, fluffy, delicious breads, rolls and crusts. Their all-purpose bread mix contains cream of tartar and baking soda, so keep that in mind if it’ll alter your recipe. Stock up when you find them, because they’re not carried everywhere.
(Flavor: 5+, Difficulty: 2, Cost: 1)
A naturally g-free recipe with mouth watering results. Subbing the salsa for fresh pico de gallo would make this even better!
- 6 chicken breasts (if they’re large, use 3 and butterfly them to make more reasonable portion sizes)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 cups cooked rice (white, wild or brown)
- 1 medium green pepper, chopped
- 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 jar salsa (your preference mild, medium or hot)
- 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Lightly salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides. Add chicken breasts to the frying pan and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.
- Cook rice according to package directions to yield 2 cups cooked rice.
- In a 9 x 13 baking dish, combine rice, black beans, green peppers and salsa. Mix well.
- Lay chicken breasts over the top of the rice and top with cheese.
- Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees
Serves 6. Per serving: 366 calories, 51 carbs, 6 g fat, 36 protein, 1097 mg sodium
There’s something you need to know about my mom: Girl can cook. She has very kindly agreed to share quite possibly the most delicious black bean salad known to man. She recommends Vlasic jarred roasted red peppers. Find hearts of palm in the canned vegetable section by the artichoke hearts, and use leftovers to jazz up a salad!
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons minced white onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A couple shakes of Tabasco (to taste! I think a little more is better)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup roasted red bell pepper, cut into about 1/2 -inch dice
1 cup diced hearts of palm
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
- In a mixing bowl, combine the beans, minced onion and cilantro.
- In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, oil and cumin. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add to bean mixture.
- Add the red bell pepper, hearts of palm and grape tomatoes. Add the Tabasco to taste. Mix well, cover and chill 1 hour.
- Just before serving, gently stir in the avocado. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Serve with corn chips or g-free crackers.
One of the fun—or complicated—things about being g-free is the exposure to hard-to-pronounce foods that, without a need to be g-free, you’d probably never encounter. Enter quinoa (keen-wah), the tiny wonder food called “the supergrain of the future” with a chameleon-like ability to stand in for a variety of evil but much loved gluten-containing items.
Quinoa is a member of the goosefoot species of plants, closely related to beets, spinach and—prepare thy taste buds—tumbleweed. We harvest and eat the seeds of the plant, giving us the grain-like granules that are quinoa. Like tumbleweed, quinoa thrives in desolate conditions, and most quinoa is grown on a bleak-sounding plateau in the Andes.
A surge in popularity has increased demand, but don’t let The Guardian’s recent shaming on quinoa buyers talk you down from giving it a try. Not only is quinoa a nutritional powerhouse—read about its benefits here—it’s a lifeline for the poverty-stricken regions that cultivate this increasingly popular food.
So, citizens of the world, you can feel good knowing that much like dark chocolate and red wine, you’re consuming something that’s not only good for you, but good for the world.
I can sense your hesitation: “But, GFreeKitchen, what do I DO with quinoa?” (Confession: I stashed my first bag of quinoa in the back of my cupboard for more than six months until I figured it out). A few easy ways to get started:
- Use it in place of rice in side dishes or stuffings
- Prepare it like oats (a la oatmeal) in the morning
- Use it in pace of orzo or cous cous in cold salads
For more ways to use quinoa, discover the Top 20 Quinoa Recipes from AllRecipes.com!