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Baking for a Gluten-Free Diet

Baking for a Gluten-Free Diet

In an era of get-fit-fast schemes and trendy diets, many are quick to write off gluten-free diets as just another fad that will soon be forgotten.

But for at least 3 million Americans diagnosed with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity. For people with the autoimmune disorder, gluten allergies or wheat intolerance, eating gluten-filled foods can cause serious health problems, even leading to cancer.

Others prefer a gluten-free diet to help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, some avoid gluten for all-around well-being, attributing a more balanced mood, more energy and fewer headaches to eating foods without gluten.

Cooking healthy, tasty foods that are free of gluten can be a challenge. Since it’s present in grains like wheat, barley and rye, baking without gluten can be even more difficult than other types of gluten-free cooking. Thanks to an increasing awareness and demand for gluten-free products, many stores now offer quite a few gluten-free flour substitutes that can be used in your favorite recipes in place of wheat flour. And with a few food swaps, you can make just about any recipe safe—and flavorful—for gluten-free eating.


Gluten-free flour substitutes include:

  • All-purpose gluten-free mixes, often a combination of several different types of flours and gums
  • Almond flour
  • Rice flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Quinoa flour

When choosing a flour replacement, there are four primary factors to consider:

  1. Dietary restrictions. If a person depends on gluten-free foods because of a medical issue, the type of non-wheat flour may not play a big role, but it will be important to ensure that the substitute was not processed on equipment that also processes gluten products.
  2. Other allergens. If nut allergies are a concern, options like almond flour will not be safe.
  3. Dietary factors. If a gluten-free diet is being chosen for weight loss, factors like carbohydrate, fiber and protein content will be important to look at carefully.
  4. Flavor. Preference really varies by person, so trial and error is the best way to decide which flour you like best. You may also discover one flour works best in a banana bread recipe, for example, while a different one tastes great in chocolate chip cookies.
  • Look for recipes that don’t call for any sort of flour. For example, you can make flourless peanut butter cookies that taste terrific.
  • Be sure to bake breads and rolls in baking pans with raised sides gluten-free products don’t hold their shape on their own.
  • If you aren’t using a premade mix, add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum to your flour to make it stickier.
  • Watch out for cross-contamination—if you don’t normally cook gluten-free, be sure not to prepare gluten-free products on the same surface you prepare products with gluten.
  • Taste of Home’s Gluten-Free Banana Bread is rich and moist. This recipe calls for all-purpose gluten-free flour.
  • Macarons are a great gluten-free treat because they are naturally gluten-free—just make sure you choose ingredients that promise to be free of cross-contamination. The Baker Chick’s has an excellent recipe.
  • Peanut butter cookies can be entirely grain-free. Try Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies from Domestic Bliss Squared.
  • Gluten Free Girl’s Shortbread Cookies offer a rich, buttery taste.
  • Elana’s Pantry has a great German Chocolate Cake that relies on coconut flour for the cake and coconut milk for the frosting—perfect for a recipe that relies on coconut for flavor.