Thankfully, the days of tasteless gluten free foods are mostly gone, with a number of manufacturers offering a range of certified gluten free products suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten/wheat sensitivity as well as ideal for those of us who want gluten free for other dietary or lifestyle reasons.As home baking is often the only option to ensure baked goods are gluten free, finding the best gluten free flour can be challenging - especially when the properties of gluten free flours means you often need to custom blend flours for the right consistency and flavor. If time is limited, an all-purpose gluten free flour pre-blended with a variety of flours and starches and/or gums can give consistent results and is often used cup for cup as a wheat flour substitute. In this article we take an in-depth look at different gluten free flours as well as reviewing some of the bestsellers currently available.
The Better Batter all purpose flour mix is our best pick certified gluten free flour which can be used as cup for cup.
Pamela’s Products all-purpose flour is our budget pick certified gluten free flour which is also produced in a certified gluten free facility.
Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Gluten Free Flour
1. Better Batter Gluten-Free Flour
The Better Batter all purpose flour mix is a certified gluten free flour that can be used as a cup for cup wheat flour substitute. It may require extra liquid in the mix as per the guidelines; although this can mean that the mix stays slightly wetter than it should be. The texture can of this flour can also leave some baked goods a little on the grittier side so it may not be as suitable for all types of baking.
As well as being gluten free, this flour is free from allergens such as dairy, fish/shellfish, tree nuts, peanut, soy, mustard, sesame, egg and sulfites. It is also made in a top 11 free facility; although the facility does process dairy, soy, eggs and tree nuts.This flour is made with a blend of rice and brown rice flours, potato flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, pectin and xanthan gum. Coming as a 5 lbs. pack, this flour is also free from any GMO ingredients and certified OU kosher.
2. Pamela's Products Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend
Certified gluten free and produced in a certified gluten free facility, Pamela’s Products all-purpose flour comes as a 4 lbs. pack. Made from a blend of brown, white and sweet rice flours, sorghum flour and tapioca, potato and arrowroot starches, as well as guar gum and rice bran, this flour is suitable as a cup for cup replacement, although you may need to do a little tweaking.Some bakers have found that the consistency of some foods can be rubbery and starch-heavy, depending on what is being made and that this flour can retain too much moisture. This flour is also processed in a facility which handles milk, eggs, soy and tree nuts so may not be suitable for all types of diets.
3. Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour
With a neutral flavor making it ideal for many uses, the Cup4Cup multipurpose flour is certified gluten free and is also Non-GMO Project Verified and kosher. This is made with a blend of cornstarch, rice flours, rBST-free milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch and xanthan gum.As this flour does contain milk powder, it will not be suitable for those who may also have dairy allergies/intolerances or vegans. Cornstarch is also the main ingredient in this which can lack nutritional value.
4. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour
Manufactured in a gluten free facility and certified gluten free, Bob’s Red Mill gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour is also vegan and Kosher Pareve. Suitable for replacing cup for cup in most recipes, this flour is made of a blend of sweet white and whole grain brown rice flours, whole grain sweet sorghum flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and xanthan gum.There can be a risk of this 22 oz pack of flour arriving with damaged packaging and the ‘use by date’ can sometimes be a little short on this flour. Some baked goods may also need extra egg and other flours adding to prevent recipes from being on the gummy side.
5. gfJules Gluten Free Flour
Made in a dedicated gluten free facility, gfJules all-purpose flour is also kosher, vegan and free from any GMO ingredients. This is made with a blend of modified tapioca, potato and corn starches, white rice and corn flours and xanthan gum.This 4.5 lbs. pack can cost considerably more than other gluten free flour blends and it may not yield as much as expected. Some baked goods may also have less taste than expected and can be too gummy.
6. King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour
Made with a blend of white and whole grain brown rice flours, potato and tapioca starch, the King Arthur gluten free all-purpose flour is certified gluten free and packed in a dedicated gluten and allergen free facility. This is also kosher approved.Although this flour does not contain xanthan gum, depending on the recipe, you may need to add some and this flour may not always be cup for cup replacement. This flour comes as three 2 lbs. boxes and you may find it slightly more awkward to dispense or scoop from the box than a bag.
7. Hearthy Foods Delicious Mango Flour, Gluten Free
Free from any processed sugar, this sweeter Hearthy Foods mango flour is gluten free, non-GMO, nut free and vegan. This US-made mango flour has a sweet and citrus flour that can absorb into the recipe. Ideal for using in combination with almond flours, pumpkin, banana and apple flours, this mango flour best suits sweeter recipes such as waffles, pancakes and muffins and is not as suitable for all-purpose cooking and baking like other gluten free flour blends.
It can also be used in shakes and ice creams and is suitable for paleo diets. Coming as a 16 oz pack, this will also cost more than other types of gluten free flours and it is not confirmed whether this is certified gluten free rather than being a naturally gluten free product.
8. JOVIAL Gluten Free Whole Grain Pastry Flour
Made with a blend sorghum, whole grain teff, whole grain brown top millet, organic brown rice flours, xanthan and Tara gum, the Jovial whole grain gluten free pastry flour No. 04 is made in Italy in a facility which is free from all major allergens. This ancient grain flour is also certified as gluten free. Coming as a 24 oz pack, this contains one gram of fiber per 30 grams (1.06 oz) serving. The ‘use by’ date on this product may be slightly shorter than expected.
Things to Consider Before Buying Gluten Free Flour
Flour is not just wheat flour, a flour can be made by grinding other grains, nuts, seeds or legumes into fine powder. If these are ground into a course powder, it is known as a meal. For those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, flours made from wheat, rye or barley cannot be eaten as these all contain gluten.
There is a lot of experimentation needed with favorite recipes when switching to gluten free flours and because gluten free products often contain more calories and carbs than ‘regular’ products then some dietary adjustments may also be needed.
Wheat flour is also enriched with iron, B vitamins and folic acid and gluten free flours rarely provide this same nutritional content. By keeping an eye on the nutrition of gluten free flour, or indeed any packaged gluten free foods, it can help you avoid some of the dietary shortfalls, such as the lower fiber content.
Unlike traditional flours, gluten free flours are best stored in the refrigerator or freezer and allowed to come up to room temperature before using.
The Role of Gluten
Gluten is a general term for a family of proteins found in wheat, barley and other grains as well as grain based products such as food colorings, beer and malt vinegar. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. It is the gliadin that is responsible for most of the negative health impacts.
Gluten makes food ‘doughy’, in fact the name gluten comes from the glue-like consistency that it forms. Once the glutenin and gliadin are surrounded by water, the gluten molecules begin to form elastic, strong and sticky bonds which allows doughs to stretch.
The more water that is added to a mix, the more the gluten develops and the chewier the dough becomes. Kneading and mixing also helps the bonded gluten molecules form into sheets or strands. This is why bread rises when yeast is added; the yeast gives off gas which gets trapped between the gluten molecule sheets.
Cake mixes do not contain as much gluten as bread or pizza as they do not need to be as chewy. The main purpose of gluten in cakes is to prevent them from crumbling. Similarly, pie crust dough only contains a small amount of liquid in with the fat to keep the crust flaky and tender.
Just removing gluten sources from baking will give poor results, a mix of gluten free flours is needed for better baked goods. Unless the flour is pre-blended, you may need to use a mix of three or more gluten free flours to get the right structure, taste and texture.
If you bake breads gluten free, bake them in a loaf pan or Bundt pan as without any wall support the bread will not keep its shape. Gums such as xanthan gum or guar gum are often in blended gluten free flours as these have the same sticky effect as gluten. If not already in the flour, a small amount (around ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon per cup of flour) can be added to the mix. If possible, adding extra protein in the form of an egg or liquid egg white to a gluten free recipe can also help.
Types of Gluten Free Flours
Gluten free flours can be categorized depending on their protein content (high or low) but also their taste (neutral or strong). Some gluten free flours are also starches.
Low Protein Gluten Free Flour
Grains such as corn, rice and millet are low protein which gives a low protein flour when they are ground. Although these grains are fine for use in baking, they do not hold baked goods together well so often need to be combined.
Brown and/or white rice flour is a popular low protein gluten free flour which is also one of the lower costing gluten free flours. Although it can be on the gritty side, it has quite a neutral taste. Millet flour and corn flour do have better textures than rice flour but also a stronger taste.
Grains such as quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and buckwheat are strong tasting, so these are best used where the taste is acceptable – such as in bread. Smaller amounts of these can also be mixed with a higher protein gluten free flour.
Low protein gluten free flours are best used for coatings, as thickeners and for baking flatbreads or making tempura.
High Protein Gluten Free Flour
These types of flours are ground from legumes such as soybeans or fava beans, rather than from grains. As these are heavy and dense flours with quite a strong bean flavor it is best not to use these in large quantities when baking as the flavor will be too strong. They are also unsuitable for thickening or gravies. They are best mixed with a low protein gluten free flour and then used for baking. You can also use them when sautéing meats.
Gluten Free Starches
When the gluten is separated from grains, it leaves a starch. As these starches are gluten free, they can be used in baking alongside gluten free flours to add texture to baked goods or even just for thickening liquids. A starch cannot be used on its own in baking as the food will not bind together properly.
Popular starches include cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot starch and tapioca starch. These contain minimal flavor and can sometimes be difficult to work with as they will form lumps when heated. You can find it easier to mix starch and liquid together separately before adding it to the pan. If the liquid is too thick after cooling, then heating it up again will usually thin it out. Starches also give clearer liquids when used in soups or casseroles rather than the creamier color usually seen with flours.
Most gluten free flour blends will contain one or more of these starches alongside the flours.
Gluten Free Flour Blends
Although these can cost more than single types of gluten free flour, these blends are often all-purpose and can cut some of the guesswork out of baking as they often just substitute wheat flour 1:1; although some may need extra liquid or egg adding to the mix.
Types of Gluten Free Flours
As well as the flours below being available as they are, a number of these are also contained within gluten free all-purpose blends:
Made from finely ground blanched almonds, almond flour is ideal for darker baked goods as well as rustic breads and fine pastries such as macaroons.
This has a nutty flavor and is best for pasta and baked goods.
Best used in savory dishes or in desserts where spices or chocolate can mask the bean flavor.
The earthy flavor of this suits pasta, crepes and pancakes.
Ideal in small amounts for baked goods such as cakes, cookies and muffins.
Usually used for cornbreads, fritters, polenta, hushpuppies and muffins, corn flours and cornmeal can be purchased whole grain for the extra fiber and nutrition.
Multipurpose for either sweet or savory goods such as cornbread, muffins and cookies.
Brown rice flour and white rice flour are ideal for a wide range of cakes, breads, noodles, sauces and tempura. Sweet white rice flour lacks sweetness and is very starchy and this is usually used to make sticky rice; similarly, sweet brown rice flour is used more as a binder than as a flour.
As this is wholegrain and mild flavored, gluten free oat flour is ideal for a wide range of goods including breads, pancakes and cookies. Not everyone with celiac disease will be able to tolerate oats though - medical professionals often recommend consuming less than 1/3 of a cup per day.
Its nutty flavor and light color is suitable for cakes and cookies as well as savory muffins and breads.
A wholegrain flour with a smoother texture, sorghum is ideal for more delicate baked goods such as breads as well as pancakes. It can also be used to make roti, traditional Indian flatbreads.
This nutty flour is high fiber and a good vitamin C source and is ideal for pie crusts, scones, shortbreads and pancakes. It is also used to make traditional Ethiopian flatbreads, Injera.
Gluten Free Labelling
Any foods which do not contain a gluten free label or certification and contain any types of wheat (including spelt), barley, rye, oats, malt or brewer’s yeast will not be gluten free.
Gluten free products which carry third party certifications such as GIG’s Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) are generally considered safe for gluten free needs.
For a product to be labelled as gluten free, the FDA says it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm). A number of manufacturers may also batch test their gluten free products to less than the threshold required by the FDA.
Any products FDA regulated and labelled as ‘gluten free’, ‘no gluten’, ‘free of gluten’ or ‘without gluten’ are also considered safe as the regulations mean that manufacturers have complied with the definition within the FDA regulation. This labelling is part of the FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act) but it only applies to packaged foods regulated by the FDA.
Some gluten free products may contain wheat in the ingredients list but if this is gluten free, then the product will also contain the statement: ‘The wheat has been processed to allow this food to meet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for gluten-free foods’.
The USDA does not have to follow FALCPA though, and it is the USDA, rather than the FDA, which regulates meats, eggs and other products. However, as many as 90% of products regulated by the USDA are estimated to do follow FALCPA voluntarily. This may be identified with a statement along the lines of ‘this USDA regulated product complies with FALCPA’.
If foods are labelled gluten free it also means the odds are usually lower that the grain has not been grown, harvested or manufactured in the same facility as gluten containing grains such as wheat or oats.
In this article we have taken an-depth look at gluten and the important role it plays in baking. We also looked at different types of gluten free flours and discussed why they can be difficult to use and what labelling to look for to ensure that a flour is actually gluten free.Whether you are new to gluten free flours or have been a celiac or gluten/wheat sensitivity sufferer for some time, we trust that you have found this article interesting and that our reviews on the best gluten free flour have helped you to choose the right multi-purpose flour; whether for baking bread, cakes, muffins or just for sautéing meats and thickening gravies and sauces.