Gluten Free Dough Enhancers and Bread Baking Tips

I am frequently asked about dough enhancers and why I use certain ingredients in my recipes. This section teaches you a lot about gluten-free baking and which dough enhancers to use when, and in which recipes. Some contain dairy and others are dairy-free. Majority are soy-free.

Which dough enhancer(s) you use is primarily based on which flours and binders (such as xanthan gum and guar gum) you use. A good example of this is when you are using corn flour or cornstarch in dough that contains dairy and xanthan gum, if you add in pectin or agar-agar, the liquids will be absorbed more easily.

When creating a rice-based dough, and most other gluten-free bread, you will need an emulsifier (such as guar gum or lecithin) to combine liquid with oil. However, this lowers the elasticity and density of the dough. Therefore, you’ll create a dough that is closer to a batter. It still works quite well in gluten free bread baking.

It’s all extremely scientific, but the tips I list below are easy to understand.

Learn more about gluten-free baking in my upcoming cookbook, Carla’s Best 125 Gluten-Free Recipes, published and copyrighted Wilkins Publishers LLC.

Manufacturing Baked Goods

For those interested in manufacturing baked goods, I read that if you beat/mix dough, using any flour, long enough you will not need to add commercial enzymes. Enzymes just speed up that process. Though, in manufacturing, speed usually affects costs. In today’s society, I find that though the cost of goods may be higher, most would prefer a more natural product than one filled with chemically processed enzymes.


Gluten Free Dough Enhancers

There are several commercial gluten free dough enhancers on the market. Most include soy lecithin and several other ingredients, some listed below. Authentic Foods makes one which contains: lecithin, ascorbic acid, tapioca, and ginger. They do not list what type of lecithin they use, but you’ll learn more about lecithin below. As a gluten free bakers, you may already use tapioca, potato, and cornstarch in your recipes, the ingredient of tapioca in a dough enhancer is not needed.



Agar-agar may be used as a vegan and dairy-free substitute for eggs when mixed with warm water and allowed to gel. It helps improve moisture and texture. You can also use this to replace xanthan gum; however you’ll need to increase your mixing time. It will also result in a less elastic dough.


Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C

Instead of using apple cider vinegar or vinegar, you may use ascorbic acid, which is powdered vitamin C (not buffered). You can purchase ascorbic acid powder, use Vitamin C from capsules, or grind your own in a coffee grinder. Use 1/8 teaspoon per loaf to increase yeast action, taste, and improve texture. It is also used as a preservative.


Bean Flours

Bean flours add structure and texture to gluten free bread. They also help in rising. Varieties include garbanzo (chickpea), soy, fava, and garfava flour (which is a blend of garbanzo, fava, and Romano beans).



As with all milk, buttermilk aids in browning, texture and flavor. It also helps speed up the action of yeast, immediately and quickly. You can make buttermilk by adding 2 teaspoons vinegar to 1 cup milk (dairy or dairy-free) and allowing it sit for about 5 – 15 minutes, or until it thickens (sours). If your recipe already calls for vinegar, use that vinegar in the milk. Do not add additional vinegar. If you are not looking for buttermilk flavor, you can add about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to offset the taste, though this will cause your batter to thicken and bubble up a bit.



Eggs improve the dough’s texture, increases the rise, and also adds color.


Egg Yolk

Egg yolk naturally contains lecithin. However, lecithin usually works with gluten to lighten dough. Therefore, since you don’t bake with gluten, using lecithin will not help lighten the dough that much. It will, however, create more of a crumb in bread and extend the shelf-life/act as a preservative.


Egg Whites

Egg whites do not contain lecithin but do help with texture and a little bit with leavening. Egg white powder (albumen powder) is a possible replacement. However, I find that it does not help leaven dough as well as fresh egg white.



Garlic is also used when you wish to roll dough, and it adds flavor. I like to use it in pizza dough or flatbread. It also extends shelf-life.



Gelatin helps with moisture and texture. I rarely use gelatin, as tapioca and egg white do that job for us.



One of the other ingredients in a dough enhancer is often ginger. Ginger gives the yeast a boost immediately and continues to give it a boost during baking. Using a couple of healthy pinches doesn’t change the taste of your bread. Use ground ginger, not fresh.



Lecithin is usually made from either egg yolk or soy. (I avoid soy because it affects your estrogen levels.) (UPDATE: Sunflower lecithin may be a good way to go. See my Gluten Free Multi-Grain Bread Recipe.) Lecithin helps combine liquids and oils (binder), and also adds shelf-life to bread. It even helps the dough rise. I read on one website that lecithin works well with gluten. Since we do not bake with gluten, I can only conclude that the protein itself is aiding the dough. Protein aids gluten free baked goods as well.



If you want to roll or shape the dough, add milk, dry milk, or yogurt. It helps with browning, too. Milk also makes gluten free bread richer in taste and gives it more moisture.


Oils and Fats

Fats keep the dough moist, provide a chewier texture, and add flavor.



Pectin can be used to replace fat or to add moisture. You can also use this to replace xanthan gum; however you’ll need to increase your mixing time. It will also result in a less elastic dough.



Flours naturally contain sugar, but when yeast uses all of the sugar from the flours, it needs additional sugar to perform its action. However, you do not need to use refined white sugar. I have used agave nectar syrup, evaporated cane sugar, and honey successfully.


Tofu Powder

Tofu powder is made from soybeans, (which as stated earlier, I do not recommend). However, if you consume soy, tofu powder or dry soy milk powder can be used as a non-dairy substitute for powdered milk, though it does not aid in browning, it adds structure and texture.



Vinegar contributes the same characters as ascorbic acid/Vitamin C. Apple cider vinegar contains a higher acidity level compared to white vinegar, which is why you see it used in so many gluten free recipes.


Whey Isolates

Whey is made from milk; however, whey isolates have the fat and lactose removed, leaving mostly protein. NOW brand states “contains no gluten”, but contains soy lecithin. I have read others having success with this product. I can only assume it is due to the soy lecithin and high protein levels.


Dough Enhancers to Avoid

Some dough enhancer ingredients contain gluten. Avoid such enhancers as vital wheat gluten and malt powder.


You may also be interested in learning about other dough enhancers:

Guar Gum vs. Xanthan

What is Xanthan Gum? How much to use?

Expandex: Modified Tapioca Starch – Better Gluten Free Baked Goods

17 Replies to “Gluten Free Dough Enhancers and Bread Baking Tips”

  1. Do dough enhancers or bread improvers add a lot of sodium per serving of bread? If so, is it possible to make a homemade bread improver that would be “low sodium”?

    I hope my question is relevant on this forum.

  2. I have been using both types of yeast, often when i use a sponge method, i use the active dry yeast for the sponge, then instant yeast with the rest of the flour including the salt and baking powder, but results are not as much as i hoped. Perhaps an addition of ascorbic acid would be a good place to incorporate. how about 1/8tsp per cup of flour?
    Thank you :)
    PS: i would like to know more about expandex and those newer ultra tex too in relation to gum replacement vs starch replacement ( to improve texture and crust?).
    As well, i have been using a tangzhong approach made with cassava flour with some success.
    Cassava flour is not something we see much of and i wander why.

    1. To learn about Gluten-free sponge/ sourdough starter, just search using the search box for “sourdough”.

      Again, in the search box, enter “expand ask how to use“.

      I have never cooked with cassava flour because I rarely use it’s killer part, tapioca. I’m allergic. However in my recipe development business I was forced to use at least tapioca.


  3. Thank you, helpful…. raising many questions… :)
    1. Sugar: yes it feeds the yeast and gluten-free baking required a lot of it. However, in wheat based breads, enzymes fairly quickly ( faster with the help with diastatic powder), the starch is broken down into simple sugars that the yeast makes good use… I get the impression that this is not happening with gluten-free baking… has the yeast been too singlemindedly breed for wheat effectiveness?
    2. Also, something i noticed but have not found any research on is the interaction of the baking powder and the yeast, noticed that the yeast is not performing as well when baking powder is present.
    3. Why is there need to acidify the dough? Less browning results from increasing the acidity… Are the gluten-free flours / starches more alkaline then wheat? hence the rebalancing or is it to improve the yeast effectiveness?
    Thank you!
    I do have more questions but perhaps, we could treat offline :)

    1. Hi Andre,

      Yes, you can achieve dough rising without sugar in gluten free baking. The starches from the flours and starches do feed the yeast.

      What type of yeast are you using when you have combined it with baking powder, instant or active?

      Acids are added to gluten free dough to give them a boost in rising and to create holes. You can easily just use more yeast.

      I look forward to your questions. However, let’s keep them relevant to a recipe or article and keep them online so that others may learn as well.


  4. How much Lecithin is added per cup? You mention Lecithin works with Gluten, so it’s not needed. But, then in the Whey Isolates section you mention that people might be having success with it because of the lecithin in the product. That’s confusing.

    1. Hi Don,

      Sorry to hear you are confused. Allow me to clarify for you…

      In gluten baking, lecithin is said to aid baking due to its gluten. Because lecithin also aids gluten-free baked goods, I can only conclude that it is due to the the lecithin’s protein levels. Protein aids gluten free baked goods.

      As stated, I do not advocate the use of soy lecithin just because soy is known to affect estrogen levels in everyone…females, males, and children. However, I recently ordered some organic liquid sunflower lecithin and experimented with it in a new bread recipe. It didn’t turn out well; therefore, I need to do some additional experimentation. The amount you use will depend upon the amount of gum and other emulsifiers you use in your recipe. Once I know for certain, I will post a new article and try to remember to update this article.


  5. I am only 4 months or so into a gluten free lifestyle. Baked goods in the grocery stores are pretty expensive! I love your website and can’t wait to try some recipes! Thank you!!

  6. I am SO glad I found this site! So much great info in one place. Can’t thank you enough. I hesitate to buy cook books and can’t afford them anyway. Bless you for making all this so accessible to us.

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