Individuals new to the gluten free diet, who are searching for gluten free substitutes for ingredients to use in their gluten free recipes will definitely benefit from the following information. With so many gluten free recipes available now, through cookbooks, blogs, forums, and manufacturers’ websites you will discover a multitude of gluten free flours, starches, and other ingredients called for in recipes. Rarely does an individual have all of these ingredients in their pantry. Each gluten free flour has its own unique characteristics. Some are heavier than others, some absorb more liquid, and others create more a chewy texture. If you were to use too much of one flour than another, it could result in a gluten free recipe disaster. Learn which flours, starches, gums, and other ingredients you may use as gluten free substitutes in your gluten free recipes.
Gluten Free Substitutes for All-Purpose Flour
You need different types of ingredients to create a gluten free flour blend. The mixture is made up of flour, starch, and usually gum. Depending upon the flour, you will use more or less starch. Depending on what you are using the flour for, will depend upon how much gum to use.
- Starch: A 50 – 60% ratio of multiple combinations of arrowroot powder, potato starch, tapioca flour/starch (they’re the same), and/or cornstarch. (Arrowroot is the heaviest and tapioca is the lightest.) See Gluten Free Starch Substitutes to learn more.
- Flour: A 40 – 50% ratio of a lighter gluten free flour, or combination thereof: white rice, sorghum flour, or certified gluten free oat flour to starch. Soy flour also works, but I don’t promote it because it is known to increase estrogen levels); ” OR” A 40% ratio of a wholegrain gluten free flour: buckwheat, millet flour, sorghum flour, oat, or brown rice to starch. (Either way, you want the starch and the flour you use to add up to 100%.)
- Potato Flour: Potato flour is different than potato starch. It is starchier and stickier than the flours listed in paragraph number two. I suggest using it in small amounts for added moisture and structure. It tends to wad up as soon as comes in contact with liquid; so be sure to whisk it well with other dry ingredients. I suggest using a mixture of potato starch and/or cornstarch with potato flour as tapioca is chewy and sticky already. Therefore, avoid tapioca as part of an all-purpose flour mixture when it includes potato flour. As a substitute for potato flour, try using millet flour. It’s not starchy/chewy at all.
- Heavier Flour: You can replace the entire flour/starch mixture above with up to a 12.5% of a heavy wholegrain flour, seeds or meal: teff or amaranth flour, ground flax seed (meal) or chai seeds.
- Bean flours are usually bitter, but greatly aid in the rising and lightening gluten free baked goods. Use sparingly or in recipes that call for chocolate. For a non-bitter bean flour use fava flour. I use about 1/4 cup in a 3-1/2 cup flour/starch bread recipe to replace any of the flours in number 2 above. A substitute for any bean flour is soy flour. However, I do not like using soy flours because it affects estrogen levels in both males and females. If you desire to substitute bean flours with rice or sorghum flour, try adding 1/4 teaspoon baking powder to each 3 1/2 cups of flour. The only thing you have to watch out for is the baked good falling due to the higher rise/more holes. When making a bread, if it begins to sink in on the sides, bottom, or worse, the top, upon cooling, immediately add it back to the pan and bake in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or so. You have to watch it for the first 10 to 15 minutes of cooling.
- Nut flours contain oil. When substituting rice, sorghum, etc. (in number 2 above) for nut flours add a bit of additional butter or oil to the recipe. When using nut flours to substitute for other flours, reduce the fat in your recipe just a tad.
- If you have nut allergies, you may substitute ground sunflower seeds for almond flour, cup-for-cup. Grind sunflower seeds into a butter to use in place of peanut butter or almond butter.
- Superfine rice flour (white or brown) may be substituted with sweet rice or (aka) Asian flour with fairly the same the result, but not as close to a gluten-like texture like superfine rice flour along with starch(es) and gum produce (see my Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Blend Recipe). Be cautious in the brand of sweet rice flour you purchase. Some are very gritty. Try Bob’s Red Mill first.
- Once you decide on 100% of the flour and starch mixture you wish to use, you will need to add some sort of gum (such as xanthan gum or guar gum) to keep them together. See How to Use Xanthan Gum.
Can I Use a Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Instead of the Flour and Starch Listed in the Recipe?
The answer to this question is not simple. Firstly, gluten-free all-purpose flours are not really all-purpose. Different brands contain different ingredient and different ratios of starch and flour. Some contain gum such as xanthan and guar, while others do not. The amount of gum needed in a recipe for pizza dough is much higher than say in a cake recipe. You use less for fragile items. If you wish to replace all of the flour and starch in one of my recipes, consider it an experiment. Always note whether or not the flour mix you use contains gum or not. If it does not, add it. The higher the ratio of starch in your mix, the more gum you will need. Starch lightens baked goods, which causes them to have less structure/stability.
Though majority of the gluten free substitutes for flours noted above will work, keep in mind that different brands may be ground finer than others. Unless a flour is labeled as “fine” or “superfine” it should be okay. The main thing in using regular gluten free flour or starches is to not compact the flour while measuring. There are various ways of measuring flour. You may scoop from a container; use a spoon to add it to an individual measuring cup such as a 1/2 cup measuring cup; or in a large measuring cup, used for various measurements. The latter is not ideal. It is best to spoon it into an individual measuring cup, and level off with a knife. You will find that each recipe developer measures differently. Because very few people know that this is the best way to measure gluten free flour, I use the scoop method, so that it doesn’t cause confusion, or worse, disasters in the kitchen. Something you should definitely avoid, though, is tapping the measuring cup on the counter in an effort to even it out on top. This will compact the flour further, and will result in heavier baked goods. If you experience a failed gluten free recipe, ask the recipe developer how they measured their ingredients. It may make all the difference in the world.
Measuring by Weight
To convert flours and similar dry ingredients from cups to weight and vice versa, as well as converting from cups to metric values, see the Gluten Free Flour Conversion Chart. It uses the spoon in method as this is the way I measure as of March 2014. Therefore, please note the date of my recipes on this site. Use the scoop method for anything prior to this date.
Gluten Free Bread Baking
When baking gluten free bread, additional protein is required. Eggs make an ideal addition. Egg whites, though, provide more flexible bread. Yolks, though flavorful, tend to create more of a crumbed texture, similar to cake. You can use anywhere from 2 – 4 egg whites in homemade gluten free bread recipes. Beat them until bubbles from, without peaks. Then add remaining wet ingredients. Once mixed, add all your premixed dry ingredients and blend for 4 – 6 minutes, more for heavier, wholegrain flours. This should all be done using a high-speed mixer.
Gluten Free Substitutes for Gums
Some form of gum should be used in most gluten free recipes calling for flour. Gums hold the ingredients together, provide stability, and are considered the gluten free substitutes for gluten in regular flour. You may be able to do without gums all together when the recipe calls for several eggs, such as in pancake batter or other delicate recipes.
The following gums may be used interchangeably, in equal amounts:
- Xanthan and guar gum.
- If you are gum intolerant, use three times the amount of psyllium husk powder with equal amounts of water. Warning: It makes dough much softer.
Read my article on Psyllium Husk.
Flax Seed Meal Substitute
Chia seeds make the best substitute for flax seed meal. While the nutritional benefits of flax seed are present only if they are ground, chia seeds do not require grinding.
For vinegar called for in any recipe, whether baked or not, feel free to use equal parts of lemon juice instead. However, it will impart a lemon flavor. In a baking recipe calling for either, you may substitute with equal parts of cream of tartar.
Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder Substitute
Dutch processed cocoa contains less fat regular/natural /unsweetened cocoa powder. So, use one tablespoon less butter when using regular cocoa powder as a substitute. Since natural cocoa powder is acidic and Dutch is alkaline, try to stick with the type of cocoa called for in that recipe. Using the wrong cocoa can greatly effect the result of the cake. You can use natural cocoa powder for dutch-process. Hwwever, using dutch-process for natural means you will most likely need be an expert at switching out baking baking soda for baking powder.
Non-Fat Milk Substitutes
Mix 1 cup of skim milk with:
1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream = 1% milk
1 Tablespoon heavy cream = 2% milk
2 Tablespoons heavy cream = whole milk
5 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon heavy cream = half & half
9 Tablespoons heavy cream = light cream
1 Tablespoon light cream = 1% milk
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons light cream = 2% milk
3 Tablespoons light cream = whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons light cream = half-&-half
2 Tablespoons half & half = 1% milk
3 Tablespoons half & half = 2% milk
4 Tablespoons half & half = whole milk
Sour Cream and Yogurt Substitute
For every cup of sour cream substitute 2/3 cups of yogurt (regular or Greek), and vice versa.
For dairy-free, look for Tofutti brand.
Cocoa Powder Substitutes
Natural Cocoa Powder Substitute: 3 Tablespoons pure unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Baking Soda/Baking Powder
When substituting baking powder for baking soda, use 3 – 4 times the amount of baking soda called for in the recipe, e.g., recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon baking soda – instead, use 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons baking powder. Conversely, when substituting baking powder for baking soda, use 3 – 4 times less baking powder called for in the recipe, e.g., when a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons baking powder, use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.
Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Milk Substitutes
For those who not only gluten intolerant, but also dairy intolerant it leads to additional substitutions.
Milk: Besides as a liquid, the use of milk in gluten free recipes is often used for its protein value. Dairy-free milk such as soy and almond, or other nut milks, makes for a very good substitution for cow’s milk. In addition, though rice milk is not as high in protein, it does have other useful characteristics which lend similar effects as high protein milk. Rice flour and its milk lighten and raise gluten free baked goods.
Buttermilk: Most people on a gluten free diet are not aware that there is a dairy-free gluten free substitute for buttermilk. Just as you would make homemade buttermilk by mixing vinegar and cow’s milk, you can do the same thing with dairy-free milk. Mix either 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or 1 3/4 tablespoons of cream of tartar (harder to mix); with 1 cup of dairy-free milk and allow to rest for 15 minutes or so. The milk usually curdles. Stir it before incorporating into other ingredients. Another option is to use 3/4 cup plain, dairy-free yogurt and 1/4 cup dairy-free milk.
Yogurt: Brands such as Trader Joe’s, Stoneyfield, and So Delicious all offer dairy free yogurt.
Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute:
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 Tablespoon gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla together. Blend the two together and use as a dairy-free substitute for sweetened condensed milk in baking recipes.
Ground sesame seeds = sesame seed paste (Tahini paste)
Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk Substitute
Add 1 part dairy-free milk powder (unflavored) with 2 parts water and heat in a saucepan until thickened. Not all dairy-free milk is gluten-free. DairiFree brand is free of gluten.
Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute
Make the evaporated milk recipe above and add 1 part granulated sugar. If your recipe can withstand a coconut flavor, coconut milk makes an excellent substitute for sweetened condensed milk, as well.
Gluten Free Dairy-Free Whipped Cream Substitutes
Dairy-free brands of whipped cream include RichWhip Non-Dairy Whip Topping, Soyatoo! Whip Topping, and Soyatoo! Topping Cream.
Dairy-Free Cream Substitutes
Heavy Cream: For sauces calling for cream or other instances where the substitute needs to be heated, you may use coconut milk as a dairy-free substitute.
Cream: For a dairy-free substitute for cream, but not heavy cream, mix non-dairy creamer with enough to form a thick cream.
Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Substitutes:
Look for the following brands:
Tofutti. If you can’t find that brand, try Go Dairy Free. Nasoya is also gluten free, but I haven’t heard how it tastes.
Dairy-Free Ricotta Substitute:
Puree together 1/4 cup cashews (or sesame seeds for nut-free), 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 14 ounces drained and crumbled extra-firm tofu (such as Nasoya brand), and seasonings that compliment your dish (fresh basil, parsley, garlic, onion, etc.)
Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Vegan Butter and Margarine Substitutes
Earth Balance: The most talked about dairy-free brand of buttery spread in the gluten free community is Earth Balance. They make vegan spreads and shortening sticks, but because they contain salt, consider lessening the salt in your gluten free recipe when it calls for unsalted butter. The buttery spreads may cause things such as cookies to spread too much. Be sure to refrigerate cookie and biscuit dough, and try using half shortening sticks in your gluten free recipes. Increasing the temperature of your oven by 25°F will help prevent your cookies from spreading, and decreasing it by 25°F will help them spread more.
Melt Organics: If you’re interested in consuming healthy fats, Melt uses organic virgin coconut oil as a substitute for butter.
Spectrum Organics: Spectrum offers a variety of butter substitutes from oil to shortening.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is hard, but melts just like butter and can be used as to substitute butter.
Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Cheese Substitutes
While Daiya was the brand of dairy-free cheese I have been promoting, I have recently discovered an even better dairy free cheese, Follow Your Heart. It is a must for vegan and dairy-free dieters (if you can tolerate soy). In addition, Go-Veggie is another dairy-free cheese substitute.
To make your own dairy-free cheese in recipes, add some nutritional yeast along with fat (dairy free buttery spread or oil). The nutritional yeast provides that cheesy flavor and the fat provides the creamy texture. Not thick enough? Add some potato or corn starch.
Gluten-Free Corn-Free Corn Syrup Substitute
Brown rice syrup makes an excellent substitute for corn syrup, as evidenced in my Gluten Free Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce. It does produce a little softer caramel. Just cook it for a tad bit longer. When I make carmaels using brown rice syrup, I cook it until it reaches about 240 – 250ºF.
Now that you have a few tips on how to use gluten free substitutes in your gluten free recipes, don’t be afraid to experiment on your own. I believe you’ll find it very rewarding.
Corn-Free Powdered Sugar/Confectioners’ Sugar
In the United States, Trader Joe’s stores sell Organic Powdered Sugar made with tapioca flour instead of cornstarch. Otherwise, grind 1 cup of granulated sugar for each cup of powdered sugar required in your food processor with 2 tablespoons of starch (potato starch preferred, or tapioca flour/starch) until a powder forms.
Agave: To replace sugar with agave, use 2/3 cup agave for each cup of sugar and decrease other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 – 1/3 cup.
Corn Syrup/Brown Syrup: Corn syrup and brown syrup may be substituted for one another in equal amounts.
Stevia: Each manufacturer has different conversions. See some of the links below.
A general rule for stevia conversions.
See other conversion charts for these specific brands:
Dark Brown Sugar Substitute:
1 cup granulated sugar + 3 tablespoons molasses
Gluten Free Egg Substitutes (Click the link for a long list of egg substitutions.)
Substitute Vitamin C with four times the amount of cream of tartar. Example: If a recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon crushed Vitamin C, use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.
If you are allergic to soy, try coconut aminos or my Soy Free Soy Sauce Substitute Recipe. Another substitute for soy sauce is fish sauce.
Substitute for Peanut Butter: sunflower butter
Substitute for Almond Flour: ground sunflower seeds