If you thought you couldn’t tuck into breads, pizzas, cakes, biscuits, and other baked treats, think again! There’s a vast array of gluten-free and wheat-free flours available, many of them inexpensive and easy to find. You’ll always be able to find a good selection in any health-food shop, but supermarkets are now starting to stock these, too. Without gluten, the flours may not form such a glue-like consistency, so they may not hold all the other ingredients together so easily. But there are always ways around this – and ingredients and methods which will enable you to make a cake which won’t crumble, and biscuits which won’t fall apart. Take a leap and try some of these flours – and perhaps some of the recipes linked here – and you’ll soon get used to how they work. And you’ll be able to dive into delicious delicacies once again.
Rich in minerals, especially iron, calcium and magnesium, all of the eight amino acids including lycine, and the highest amount of protein of any cereal, amaranth is a highly nutritious grain. Dating back to the Aztecs and Incas, it has a lovely nutty taste and the flour works well for baking and thickening.
The oldest cultivated cereal, barley does contain gluten but only a low amount. So it’s a good alternative to wheat for those who are sensitive to just wheat, rather than wheat and gluten. It is highly alkalising and contains high levels of calcium and potassium, antioxidants, including vitamin C and E and B vitamins, as well as selenium and chlorophyll. Barley has binding qualities and therefore extremely useful for baking, but it is best to use it in small quantities as the taste can overpower other ingredients.
related recipes: apricot and cardamom soufflés
Confusingly, buckwheat isn’t related to wheat but comes from the seeds of a herb instead – and, unlike wheat, doesn’t contain gluten. Asian countries have used buckwheat as a staple for hundreds of years and it is famously used in Russia for making blinis. Easy to use and widely available, it is rich in B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, rutin and all eight essential amino acids, including the valuable lysine. Buckwheat is wonderfully versatile and, although it gives a strong flavour and dark colour to any mixture, the flour is great for baking.
Made from dried chestnuts, this flour can be used to give a wonderfully strong nutty flavour in cakes and biscuits. High in B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium, so a good way to make a sweet treat healthy!
related recipes: chocolate birthday cake
The various flours produced from corn have all been used for centuries throughout the world. Maize, or polenta, is a coarse version of cornmeal, a staple food in southern Europe, particularly Italy, and the southern parts of USA as well as other countries. You can buy polenta in a powder form which imparts a delicious flavour and texture when used like flour, baked into a cake or bread. Corn itself makes a fine, white powder – cornpowder – which is an essential thickening agent in many soups and sauces, particularly Asian-style ones. Corn is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin A, B vitamins, beta-carotene, magnesium and zinc.
related recipes: parma ham and rocket pizza, corn bread, apricot and cardamom soufflés, brioche with caramelized peaches
related ingredients: corn pasta, corn syrup
A fine, golden-yellow coloured flour with a lovely subtle taste, gram flour is also known as besan flour. Full of isoflavones and flavonoids, chickpeas are a valuable source of nutrition, including high levels of vitamin E and zinc. A staple in Indian cooking for both savoury and sweet dishes, it is widely available. It’s often inexpensive to buy, too, particularly in large bags in the Indian sections of supermarkets or specialist stores.
related recipes: blueberry and banana muffins, parma ham and rocket pizza, chocolate and hazelnut brownies, raspberry tarts, gnocchi with mushroom and pancetta sauce, roasted vegetable tarts, tarte tatin, plum crumble, the ultimate gluten-free & dairy-free chocolate cake, brioche with caramelized peaches, cherry pie
This ancient grain is related to wheat but is often fine for wheat-sensitive people as it is a non-hybridized version. Kamut flour is naturally rich in selenium and protein, and low in gluten.
related recipes: harry’s nut-free pesto pasta
related ingredients: spelt wheat
contains: gluten, wheat
Rich in minerals, including potassium, magnesium and iron, and especially rich in silicon, millet also contains all eight of the essential amino acids. It is also the most alkaline of all the grains. The taste of millet flour can override other flavours, so it is good to use this one when combined with others.
Particularly high in soluble fibre, and with a low GI, oats are packed with calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, silicon and antioxidant. Oat flour makes delicious breads, biscuits, muffins and pancakes and is great for using as a thickener. It contains small amounts of gluten, so cannot be tolerated by those sensitive to gluten.
related ingredients: oat milk
The dried starch of potatoes is used to make a flour which is a useful thickening agent. Full of vitamin C, B vitamins and potassium, potatoes are also a valuable source of fibre.
Pronounced ‘keenwha’, quinoa is closely related to amaranth and was once a sacred food of the Incas. A fantastically nutritious grain, it contains all eight amino acids, several of the B vitamins and vitamin E and is an excellent source of magnesium, zinc, calcium and iron.
Dating back to at least 5,000 BC in China, rice is a staple food throughout the world. Generally, rice is the most easily tolerated grain, which is why it often features as one of the first foods in an Elimination Diet. Packed full of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, copper and iron, the flour is a wonderfully light, subtle-tasting one which is fantastically useful, especially when combined with another flour. There are usually two types of flour available – ground rice which is rice that has been ground to a coarse powder and is creamy white in colour, and rice flour which is a very fine white powder. You can often buy these in large, inexpensive bags, particularly in Indian or Asian sections of supermarkets or specialist stores.
related recipes: blueberry and banana muffins, parma ham and rocket pizza, chocolate and hazelnut brownies, raspberry tarts, corn bread, gnocchi with mushroom and pancetta sauce, roasted vegetable tarts, tarte tatin, plum crumble, the ultimate gluten-free & dairy-free chocolate cake, brioche with caramelized peaches, raspberry and rosewater cupcakes, chocolate birthday cake, cherry pie
related ingredients: rice milk, rice pasta, rice noodles, rice paper sheets, rice, rice syrup
Great for taste and texture, the dark brown flour makes dense, richly-flavoured foods. Rye is a staple of central and Eastern Europe – and the main component of the ever-popular Pumpernickel bread. High in calcium, iron and potassium, rye does contain gluten, but less than wheat, so it can often be tolerated by those who are sensitive to wheat, but not to gluten.
A starch made from the sago palm, this is very similar to tapioca but has a more subtle flavour. Good for baking and using as a thickener, particularly in sweet dishes or desserts.
Soya products have been receiving a slightly mixed-press recently. However, there is evidence that the isoflavones found in soya beans can help reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood and can have beneficial effects on the body. Rich in lecithin, vitamin E and B vitamins, antioxidants such as phytic acid and all eight essential amino acids and the valuable omega-3, soya also has a low GI. Organic soya products, which don’t use genetically modified soya beans, are widely available. The flour itself has a strong flavour and is fairly heavy, making it better used in small quantities when baking, or in recipes such as pancakes.
related ingredients: soya milk, tofu, soya margarines
Spelt is an ancient type of wheat grown by the Romans with a slightly nutty flavour. Low in gluten and non-hybridized, this can sometimes be tolerated by wheat-allergic people if they aren’t sensitive to gluten.
related ingredients: kamut flour, spelt wheat
contains: gluten, wheat
Tapioca is made from the cassava root and the flour is useful as a filler or thickener, and can also be used for baking.