Replacing Gluten When Cooking and Baking

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When you’re new to living gluten-free, it can seem like so much of what you used to cook contains gluten. The idea of giving up our favorite gluten-containing dishes can be overwhelming and downright depressing. Luckily, there are so many great ways to make gluten-free substitutes in the kitchen while you cook and bake. 


Baking typically requires flour, but the gluten in wheat flour that provides structure and texture to baked goods is off limits. What can you do? Over recent years, many excellent gluten-free flour and baking blends have entered the market. In addition, more recipes are being developed that incorporate delicious gluten-free grains like buckwheat and coconut flour.  

When can you substitute a gluten-free flour into a favorite gluten-containing recipe? When is it better to find a recipe that is developed specifically for gluten-free baking?  

There’s no hard and fast answer to those questions, but in general cookies, bars, quick breads, fruit cobblers, crisps, and crumbles can be made with a straight substitution using a gluten-free flour blend.  

Important to note: If the gluten-free flour you use doesn’t contain xanthan gum or another binding agent, add your own. Most gluten-free flour blends these days are made to be used measure for measure, meaning substituting the exact amount of gluten-free flour for the gluten-containing flour. 

Cakes and pie crusts are a little trickier. While straight subs often work for these items, you may want to do a test run before planning a party item. Bread recipes can be very touchy, so when baking your own, you’ll want to use recipes developed specifically for gluten-free bread making. 

A few more points on baking: 

  • Pie crusts  – Try a cookie crumb crust using packaged gluten-free cookies (like ginger snaps for a pumpkin pie) or nut-based crusts with any fruit filling. 
  • Cakes – Cakes made with nut flour, sometimes referred to as tortes or flourless cakes, are a traditional favorite of dessert fans. These cakes are typically gluten-free, but not always. Make yours entirely gluten-free by looking for recipes using almond or hazelnut flour, to name a couple of standout nut flours. 
  • Other baked goods – In place of a gluten-containing pound cake or sponge cake to serve with berries or peaches on top, make a Pavlova, a naturally gluten-free, meringue-like dessert. Pavlovas are beautiful and tasty, too. 


Using Bread 

If you’re a sandwich fan, use the crispy leaves of iceberg or romaine lettuce instead of bread to get added texture and crunch. Another option to switch up your sandwich is to roll up slices of cucumber and chopped tomato inside of your gluten-free cold cuts and/or cheese slices. 

If you like to make croutons from bread to toss in your salads, use toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds or nuts to add flavor, crunch, and nutrition. 

Cooking Pasta Dishes 

Yes, there are good gluten-free pastas on the market, but consider these substitutes to mix things up:  

Spaghetti squash or “zoodles” (spiralized zucchini) topped with a pasta sauce or prepared like other popular spaghetti dishes – carbonara, a la vodka, alfredo, primavera, etc. 

Sliced polenta under marinara, Bolognese sauce, or in lasagna 

A plant-based pasta substitute or alternative pasta made from artichokes, lentils, or chickpeas. 

For cold pasta salads, sub in cooked and chilled wild rice or other rice of choice, millet,  or quinoa. 


Making Quiche  

For a variation on a quiche dish, make a quiche crust out of grated potatoes or cauliflower with a little cheese added in. Fill with your favorite quiche mixture. Delicious! 


Preparing Sauces and Gravies 

Sauces and gravies are often thickened with wheat flour or using a roux (a blend of butter and flour). You can easily make any sauce or gravy gluten-free by using white rice flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot. 


As you can see, with a little knowledge and creativity, you can cook and bake your favorite dishes with ease using gluten-free substitutions and alternatives. Read our educational bulletin on Gluten-Free Flours & Thickening Agents. 



The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.  

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