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)
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!