Gluten-Free Baking and Substitutions

I’m thrilled when folks want to make recipes from this site and my books, including those who are gluten-intolerant or have celiac. However I’m the first to admit that gluten-free baking is not my area of expertise. So I can’t usually say how and what to substitute in recipes that call for wheat flour.

Wheat flour acts as a binder in recipes and gives cakes and cookies, the gluten gives doughs and batters structure. Broadly speaking, if a recipe has just a small amount of wheat flour, such as 2 to 4 tablespoons (20-40 g), you can often just swap out another flour. I like flours such as buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa, corn, and oat flours, because they are “natural” tasting and go well with most other flavors and ingredients used in baking. Note that some of those flours may be processed in a facility that processes wheat flour, so always check and make sure that the flours you are purchasing are gluten-free, especially oat. Other substitutions include nut flours (also called nut “meal”) as well as corn and potato starch. If the recipe calls for more flour than that, I recommend using one of the work-arounds, listed below.

I generally assume that people who are gluten-free, and bake frequently, know better than I do how certain ingredients and substitutions will behave in recipes. So I often defer to gluten-free bakers since most have work-arounds that they have success baking with. Here is a round-up of tips, suggestions, and recipe that should help gluten-free bakers find an appropriate swap-out for wheat flour.

To Buy Pre-Prepared Gluten-Free Flour Mixes

Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour (Bob’s Red Mill, also available on Amazon)

Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour (King Arthur Flour, also available on Amazon)


How to Make Your Own Gluten-Free Flour Mix

How to Make a Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (Gluten-Free Girl)

Make Your Own Gluten-Free Flour Blend (Simple & Delicious)

Homemade All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix (Penniless Parenting)

Gluten-Free Flour Mix (Art of Gluten-Free Baking)

All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend Recipes and Information (Gluten-Free On a Shoestring)


Substitutions for Wheat Flour in Gluten-Free Baking

Baking Substitutions for Gluten-Free Flour (Gluten-Free Goddess)

Gluten-Free Grains (Gluten-Free Mommy)

Gluten-Free Baking (Colorado State University)


Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes from This Site

Gluten-Free Brownies

Ice Cream (Archives)

Baci di Dama Cookies

Chocolate Idiot Cake

Granola

Chocolate Buckwheat Cake

Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee


Gluten-Free Paris Links

Noglu

Gluten-Free Eating and Dining in Paris

Helmut Newcake Bakery


22 comments

  • Your baking recipes are so well written and precise (in weights) that I often just use my favorite homemade gluten-free AP flour gram for gram (with either xantham or psyllium added to help bind) This has worked beautifully with your chocolate chip cookies, tahini almond cookies, d’amande cookies, rosemary polenta cake, zucchini cake, pb cookies, coconut macaroons, and MORE! I got this tip from Gluten Free Girl about a year ago and have been so happy :) Of course, not all recipes work this way, but it’s always a fun challenge to try… I almost exclusively use my own mixes, but sometimes in a pinch I use King Arthur Flour or Pamela’s (the flour blend NOT the baking mix). I do not like Bob’s, I’m not a fan of garbanzo bean flour… Thanks for all the great recipes!

  • David, my father has celiac disease so I have learned to cook with gluten free flour. I have tried so many of them and then discovered Cup 4 Cup, by Thomas Keller. It is magical. Typically, I would not even taste the goodies I would make because the GF flours had a funny taste. This flour works beautifully and in my experience works CUP FOR CUP!!!
    On my most recent visit to my parents, I checked out the C4C website and found a pie crust recipe (the only thing I have not been able to do with GF flour). It also was perfect.

    I just discoverd the there is now a C4C pizza flour (again, in the category of pie…) and I am going to try try it on Mothers Day!

    ANyway, right now you can purchase it from William Sonoma and it is expensive. But totally worth it. It does contain milk.

  • Great post! I eat everything, but regularly bake for crowds including a coeliac. In the UK we have a great brand called Dove’s Farm (also available on Amazon) who produce gluten free plain flour, self-raising flour, baking powder, bread machine mixes – all sorts!

  • for much of our GF baking . we use Pamela’s pancake and baking mix . it is a great substitute if you do not have a nut allergy or a dairy allergy.

  • I found this gem of a flour called Cup 4 Cup and it’s available at Williams Sonoma. It’s expensive but you use it cup for cup as you would regular flour and it allowed me to have a REAL dinner roll at Thanksgiving last year. Let’s face it, I ate 6 to make up for many years without one. It’s tastes very much like wheat based flours. Easy to work with too.

  • I have found certain recipes to be more forgiving than others with substitutions for g-f flours. I have a “core” brownie recipe that uses eggs, butter and melted dark chocolate, I also cook them on a very low temp 325 degrees F making for a gooey, meringue-like center. I think the low heat helps with g-f substitutes. I’ve been able to successfully do a 50/50 blend of King Arthur’s G-F flour and almond flour, instead of white wheat flour, and they turn out great. I’ve also used 100% G-F flour and they’ve been good. All the G-F flour “mixes” have different ingredients, so you have to play around. I don’t like the Bob’s Mill g-f flour mix as it’s very yellow in color; prefer the King Arthur’s mix. I think the Thomas Keller mix is supposed to be good. Things are much trickier when you try to go vegan!

  • Hey…
    my little brother has celiac and that’s why I learned to bake gluten free.
    Honestly I’m baking a lot for him.
    So if you have some questions about GF-baking I can propably help you (especially when your from Germany, Swiss or austria but I think I could answer also other questions :D)
    If you want to ask me something just go to my blog(below!) and email me. (mail button)
    :)
    appleandfabric.blogspot.com

  • Thanks this is really useful! A few of my friends are gluten intolerant so this will make the next dinner party I host a bit easier to handle!

  • Your list of gluten-free recipes from this site left out the buckwheat chocolate cake ( http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/01/buckwheat-chocolate-cake-recipe/ ). When I made it, it was deemed delicious by gluten eaters as well as gluten-free eaters. I also liked the Baci di Dama. When I bake for mixed crowds, I tend to use recipes like these that are inherently gluten free, rather than substituting something for wheat flour.

  • I know there are a lot of plusses and minuses to Cup4Cup, but it has been a godsend for me. Gilt Taste has sales on it periodically; I purchased a 25lb bag for 40% off, which brought the price down from close to $7/lb to a little over $3/lb, which is comparable to specialty wheat flours like cake flour and bread flour. It works REALLY well, in my experience, in pie crust, quick breads, cakes, brownies, and cookies.

    Prior to finding C4C, I did precisely what you suggest – sub out small amounts of flour with a gf blend of my choice. This worked best in brownies, mixed results elsewhere. Gluten-Free Girl got me to bake by weight, which has also been helpful. Her flour blends have worked best for me in things like muffins; had mixed results elsewhere. I like the fun of playing around to see what works, but I have limited time in the kitchen, and C4C has been such a relief because it. just. works.

    I also recommend Gluten Free On A Shoestring – another blogger who has devoted substantial time to working out conversions.

  • Amanda: Thanks. And I agree with trying to find recipes that are inherently gluten-free if possible. There are plenty of baked goods that rely on cornmeal, nut flour, and so forth. And it’s great to discover recipes that use those ingredients already.

    v: That is a good site – I’ve added it to the links in the post!

  • I’ve been using Cup4cup gluten free flour. It’s been developed by various chefs including some at the French Laundry. You can generally sub it cup for cup for AP flour. I’ve had great success w/ cookies, cakes, and biscuits. I’ll be trying bread soon.

  • I love your recipe for sweet galette dough!! I’m 99 percent gluten-free, but I’m not celiac so I do eat wheat now and then. But of course, I had to convert the galette recipe to gluten-free. I make it all the time with summer fruit, or apples and pears in the winter. It’s fabulous!

  • My husband is on a gluten free died and the whole family naturally followed him. Cooking is not a problem at all, we never added flour to sauces before and the only sacrifice we really make are pasta (the gluten free equivalents are quite bad usually) and pizza. Baking is another issue though… There are few cakes or cookies like almond cakes of brownies which don’t require any wheat flour, in some like you said yourself it’s easy to substitute but majority of GF pastries are just too tricky for amateur cooks at home. The worst of all are breads though – I wish someone finally made a nice loaf of gluten free bread :) The stuff you can buy in supermarkets is so fatty and unhealthy that we eat it only when it is absolutely necessary (like eating out).

    Thank you for posting about GF baking – this really helps to rise awareness and helps families like ours!
    M.

  • Thanks David, what a helpful list! We used your gluten-free Paris guide to plan our entire trip! I would also recommend Gluten-Free baking for Dummies by Dr. Jean Layton to anyone who truly wants to understand GF baking at the chemistry level. She has two flour mixes in the book and then all the recipes are based on those, so very easy! If people are looking for gluten-free AND vegan baking recipes, that’s what I feature on my site.

  • first off, baking by weight is a godsend for baking gf. I’ve converted many of your recipes no problem bc half of the work was already done for me. So thank you for that, David!
    Second, not all gf mixes are created equal, and the ones with bean flour are AWFUL. Bob’s Red Mill has a beany, metallic taste to it that is not good for baked goods. I mix my own.

  • Hi David, I love your blog but I cannot find a place to print the recipes sans pictures, ETC. I have to highlight it first and then print. Please help.

    • When the site was launched in 1999, there was no way to have a print option. And a few thousands posts (and years) later, it is possible, but I’d have to go back and reformat all the recipe posts, which would take me weeks (and weeks.) I could start now, however people would ask why the older posts were printable and I’d have to explain. There are online sites that let you plug in a web page URL, but cut-and-paste, and it’ll print it out without the pictures.

  • Hi David! Thank you so much for this information! My family moved to Paris from Florida about 6 months after my daughter, who was 11 at the time, was diagnosed with celiac disease. It was quite difficult living here, in the land of the baguette, at first, but after two years she has adjusted quite well. We picked up lots of info from your blog, like where to find the best sarrasin crêpes. And, necessity being the mother of invention, she has become quite the French gluten free baker! I told her when we move back to the US she should open a GF French bakery. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Great post, very informative, especially for those new (or new’ish) to gluten free living and baking.

    I always tell folks, first, find a superb flourless chocolate cake recipe and cling to it for your life for a few weeks, then venture out to the wonderful world of gluten free flours and blends!

    These days, we’re not simply talking gritty white rice flour anymore. With amaranth flour, quinoa flour, sorghum flour, nut and seed meals and coconut flour, there are sufficient options with excellent baking properites.

    Many of us have even found gums (like xanthan and guar) are not needed to turn out great results, as long as the protein content of the recipe is high enough to support the architecture of our baked good (“bigger” baked goods like cakes are helped by a bit of extra protein, whereas “little” bites like cookies need less to turn out well).

    Thanks for spreading the good gluten free word, David!

    xo,

    Gigi ;)

  • Hi David, this might be a really stupid question but i’d really appreciate a reply. I wanted to make your buckwheat chocolate cake, but I grind my own buckwheat flour, should I use raw buckwheat groats or toasted (kasha). Hope you can help me out because I don’t want to ruin your cake!

  • Here in Australia we have GF flours readily available at supermarkets, despite being roughly twice-three times the price of good quality regular wheat flours. One of my friends tries to limit her gluten intake so many of the dishes we have made for her have used a commercial GF flour (White Wings). It is basically a 50/50 blend of corn and rice flours and has that same silky/chalky feel as true cornflour has. I have used it in dinner dishes fine (white sauce, gravy, etc), and had complete success with cakes, brownies and even sponge cake – in fact it made a better sponge than with wheat flour. We have also made her pasta dishes with dried GF pasta (which uses rice flour) and had success with these too – both penne and lasagne sheets. My hubby even commented that he can’t see what the fuss is about GF cooking because nothing we’ve made with the substitutes seems to fail.