Gluten Free baking ingredients glossary

A (still compiling – who knew there were so many GF flours?) list of Gluten Free baking ingredients.

Two basic categories:

Protein/fibre flours: brown rice flour, millet flour, chickpea flour, sorghum, flour provide structure, stability, flavour, texture and nutrition

Starches: corn starch, potato starch, tapioca flour and sweet rice flour are fine in texture and create breads that have a soft crumb and a smooth texture.

A mix of both is required to produce a good loaf of bread.

Almond meal – contains protein, fibre, omega 3.  You can make your own using blanched or unblanched raw almonds in a spice blender, food processor, high speed blender or Thermomix. Widely available as a meal (‘flour’) in most supermarkets.

Agar agar – derived from seaweed, contains a good amount of protein and iron, and is a plant based alternative to gelatin (may be used substituted using equal amounts).

Amaranth – a powerhouse of nutrition and protein packed seed (the highest protein GF flour, higher even than wheat flour), favoured by the Aztecs and Mayans. Contains a large amount of lysine, an amino acid not normally present in large quantities in grains. Also contains phytosterols, antioxidants, more magnesium, iron  and fibre than other GF ‘grains’ and twice as much calcium as cow’s milk. Has a nutty, earth, grassy flavour. The seeds may be ground into a flour. Can be used for thickening sauces or coating foods such as diced meats prior to frying. Use up to 25%/volume in GF mixes to boost nutritional content. More than this may make baked goods too dense or heavy and reduce bread rising as Amaranth readily absorbs liquids. For more info.

Arrowroot – derived from the starch of the Maranta arundinacea plant, a tropical perennial native to Central American and the West Indies. Used as a thickener.

Baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda – must be combined with acidic ingredients such as butter milk to create carbon dioxide to increase volume in baked goods.

Baking powder – a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar, which is acidic. Twice as strong as baking soda but the two can be substituted for each other. Ensure GF product used.

Buckwheat flour – contains manganese and high in protein and fibre. Buckwheat isn’t actually a wheat but a fruit seed from the rhubarb family. It has a robust flavour I find best mixed with other flours.

Chia – another nutritional powerhouse  with a good source of plant based omega 3, antioxidants, calcium and boron. Has a nutlike flavour and holds up to nine times its weight in water and thickens and emulsifies bread dough.  Grind and soak chia prior to adding to your mix (soak in the bowl when proofing yeast).

Chick pea/Garbanzo bean/Besan flour – dried chick peas ground into flour. Used in Indian cookery.  High protein and source of iron. Depending on the brand may have a sweet or slight bitter flavour, may add a yellow tinge (colour of flour) to baked goods.

Coconut flour – a relatively new addition to the gluten free flour family. It is produced as a byproduct of either extracting coconut oil or making coconut milk and is made from the fibre from coconut meat. It readily absorbs liquids and can be tricky to bake with.  Because of this you’ll notice many coconut flour recipes contain a lot of eggs/egg replacers/liquids which don’t look like your usual baking liquids/dry ratio. It also doesn’t lose the ‘coconutty flavour’ when baked – which some people love or loath.  You could look at substituting 1/3 cup coconut flour for a cup of nut meal such as almond meal.  I’m going to experiment with adding some to GF breads to add some dryness/stiffness.

Cornmeal – made from dried corn kernels and may be ground fine, medium or coarse. Each grind suits a particular dish so follow the recipe. Choose stone ground or water ground where available as it is thought they are more nutritious than steel ground (more corn kernel retained) *Purchase Gluten Free labelled corn meal.

Cornstarch – made by grinding the corn kernel endosperm (inner tissue) after the kernels have been steeped for several days.  Used as a thickener. Can cause lumps if added by itself – best used by mixing with other gluten free dry ingredients for breads, and mixed with a small amount of cold water to make a smooth roux before adding to hot liquids as a thickener.

Gelatin – made from animal bones/connective tissue. Binds cold dough, holds it together and reduces crumbling when baked.

Guar gum – ground from seeds of a plant grown in Pakistan and northern parts of India.  Better in cold foods such as ice-creams than baked goods.

Hazelnut meal – generally produced following the removal of the oil from pressed hazelnuts. Contains vitamin E and adds a sweet, buttery and nutty flavour to baked goods.

Flaxseed meal – ground linseeds. Great nutritional value, containing most of the B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, alpha linolenic acid/omega 3, fibre and antioxidants. Flaxseed oil is not saturated and is prone to rancidity.  Purchase small amounts of flaxseed meal and turn over fairly quickly (make sure you buy pre-ground meal that has been stored in a refrigerator, not from the supermarket shelf, and store in the fridge at home).

Millet – most commonly found as the small seed in bird seed, belongs to the grass family. A good source of protein, B vitamins and magnesium.  Has a slightly sweet taste. Prone to rancidity so purchase small amounts/turn over regularly.

*Oat flour – technically oats do not contain gluten but not many oats in Australia are certified gluten free (that is, produced in a facility not contaminated by gluten or grown in fields where gluten containing grains are not adjacent).

Pecan meal – pecans have antioxidant properties, are cardio-protective and contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which may reduce the breast cancer risk.

Potato starch – very different from potato flour, made from raw potatoes, used as a thickener or to add body to dough.

Potato flour – see above, made from cooked potatoes and denser than potato starch.

Pumpkin seed meal – Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron & plant based omega 3 and have anti-inflammatory & antioxidant actions. Pumpkin Seeds also contain a good amount of copper which pyroluria sufferers should monitor. You can use Pumpkin Seed Meal to replace Almond Meal and this would be beneficial when baking treats for ‘nut & gluten free’ school lunches. Either make yourself or source from here.

Quinoa flour – Quinoa is native to South America and is a protein rich pseudo-grain (it’s actually a seed). It is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and reasonably high in vitamin E,  B1, B2, B6 and folate. Quinoa flour can have a bitter flavour and some recommend baking the flour prior to use.  If making your own, rinse thoroughly (and again and again to wash out the saponins), lay out on a tray and dry completely, toast and grind – it’s worth the effort to remove the bitterness, trust me.

Rice flour – may be made from white or brown rice (brown rice has a better nutritional profile) which has the outer husk removed.

Skim milk powder – Adds to nutrient profile by adding calcium and protein, helps bread rise and maintain moisture when baked.

Sorghum flour – a cereal grain and important food crop in Africa. It also known as milo or jowar.  Contains three times the natural fibre and twice the protein of white rice flour

Soy flour – roasted soybeans ground into a flour. Also comes in a defatted version that has had the oils removed which improves shelf life. Has a bright yellow colour. May be genetically modified.

Sweet rice flour – known as mochiko in Japanese, it is made from short grained glutinous Japanese rice and has similar properties to starches as it adds body to dough.

Tapioca/Cassava flour – derived from the yucca plant which is a starchy topical tuber. Adds body and chewy texture to breads and aids in browning the crust.

Teff flour – another important African food crop, and is the staple grain in Ethiopia. A nutrient rich flour as the grain contains the bran and germ, it contains good amounts of protein, iron and calcium.  It has a deep brown colour and has a slightly sweet, molasses-like flavour.  Used to make the fantastic Ethiopian flat bread, Injera.

Xanthan gum – A natural carbohydrate, produced by the fermentation of the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris , which when combined with corn sugar creates a colourless translucent substance which is dehydrated and ground into Xanthan gum. The corn used may be genetically modified, and perhaps not soaked prior to processing, which may reduce mineral absorption in the body (due to the phytates).  Used in ice creams to provide a smooth mouth feel.  More info here.

Most of the seeds, beans and grains list here can be sprouted and ground into flour but this is a post for another day.

Have I missed any GF ‘flours’?  Any feedback on using in baking? As a new GF baker I welcome your feedback.

Other reference

Brown, E 2013, Gluten-Free Bread, Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia.


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