Ask Essie: Flour Power

Janet asks what gluten free flours we use in the GFCanteen kitchen.

PhotobucketBack in the dark ages when we first began preparing gluten free food, there was but one choice for flour.  It was a gluten free flour blend that was meant to mimic AP flour.  It was pretty horrible.  Not only was it super gritty, but I am pretty sure it was a blend of bean flours that smelled awful.  Not what you want in your favorite chocolate cookie recipe.

But thankfully, things have evolved and we have some fine sources for gluten free flours. Some are available in the grocery store these days, and at least where I live, Whole Foods has an entire section of GF flours offering a variety of brands.

One caution though – if you buy GF flour from the grocery store, be sure to read the package and make sure it is actually labeled gluten free.  Just because it is  corn flour, for example, does not automatically make it GF – and just because it is located in the GF section doesn’t automatically qualify it as GF either.  Just be cautious.

I primarily use  two brands of flours for  baking and I buy them online most of the time.  I use Authentic Foods superfine brown and superfine white rice flours.  No one makes superfine grinds like they do, and when you feel it you will understand what I mean.  No grit at all.

And I use tons of Bob’s Red Mill flours.  The one I reach for the most is gluten free oat flour as well as many of their other whole grains, like teff, millet, sorghum, corn, potato, almond, coconut, a little amaranth as well as their starches: corn, tapioca, potato and arrowroot.

I use buckwheat (which is not wheat) by buying Wolf’s Kasha from the grocery and grinding it myself.  I like that mixed texture in some breads.

On my counter I keep four Zak polycarb containers.  One is loaded with Authentic superfine brown.  Another is filled with Bob’s GF oat, the other contains Authentic superfine white, and the last one is full of Bob’s GF potato starch.  I keep the remainder in Oxyo or Cambro> containers in the cupboards.

Tapioca is good for thickening stuff when cornstarch won’t work (berries) and when potato starch would be too, well, potato like.

Teff is excellent in making dark breads seem like rye, or useful in GF oreos or graham crackers, and our English Muffin (still being tested).  It has a nutty flavor.

Amaranth is good for some breads that offer an earthy smell and feel (honestly, it does smell like dirt).

Coconut flour will absorb liquid like a sponge so use it sparingly but it makes for some awesome back notes in some baked goods and pastries.  I like to use it to thicken berry pies because  it is like AP flour but way better tasting as a note in  the overall flavors.

Millet – love this stuff in all my breads and it smells good.

Corn flour can go in anything because it smells really great.

I use almond flour when I want a structured flavor to help a cookie or cake.  Look for it in many of my recipes.  A little goes a long way.

I use brown rice and oat flours most of the time, along with a tiny bit of starch.  Those are my go-to flours for most everything.  When I experiment, I begin with those and then build from there.

You can find Authentic Flours here and Bob’s Red Mill GF goodies here.

And I bet there are tons of other good GF flour mills out there.  Let me know if you have a favorite or have had success with another type of flour.

And, as always, feel free to ask Essie anything in the comments below or send an email to [email protected]


  1. So many flours! Thanks for the information on them. How do you decide which one to use for which recipe, or is it simply a matter of trial and error? Does each flour have specific qualities that work better in certain recipes?

    • luluandphoebe says:

      Yep. Mostly trial and error. And also, yes – most of them have a place where they work best. Almond is great in so many things, but it is especially great in pastry crusts and cookies and quick breads. Millet (for me) is always a bread-like grain. Brown flour/white rice/sweet rice are the neutral flours to use in everything. And lately I’ve been using a lot of oat flour for both flavor and fiber. If I was limited in space I would have brown/white/sweet rice, oat flours and one starch – probably potato or corn.

  2. I moved from the US to Australia they have a really good all purpose flour from white wings which works pretty well.

    Unfortunately, they think all oats have gluten in them and stare at me blankly when I asked for gluten free oats – le sigh!

  3. thanks for this writeup on the different gluten-free flours and their uses. What would you say is a good combination for an all purpose flour? Also is there a difference between brown and white rice flour in terms of the purpose it serves in baking, but non-nutrititionally wise? (unsoaked brown rice is hard for my mum to digest!) thanks!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Thanks for the kind feedback – always here to help! Hmmm. I am not by any means an expert on the chemistry of the GF flours but I can tell you what I do. For cookies I like to generally use a combination of brown, white, maybe oat and a little starch. Brown is neutral and white rice gives baked goods a little snap. You could perhaps use a combination of sweet white rice (which is not sweet at all but made from short grain rice – think sticky rice) which is softer and add some regular superfine white rice for the snap. GF oat flour gives it a nice nutty edge if oats can be tolerated. I would imagine (and I could be wrong) that superfine brown rice flour would be digestible since the grain is so finely ground – but some people do well with it and others do not. So you could probably do ok with a combination of sweet white rice and white rice with a little bit of starch to lighten it up. Any of the starches will work. I like to do about 80% grain (rice) and 20% starch and sometimes even less.

      For cakes, I would do a little more starch since it lightens up the flours and gives it a better crumb – but you could stick with white rice and sweet white rice for cakes, too.

      But if I had to pick an alternative to brown rice flour for an GF AP flour, I would do a combination of GF oat, white rice, and a little starch. Some people really like sweet white rice flour, but I am not a huge fan – but that is just me.

      Also – be aware that different brands of flours, brown, white, sweet white, starches, are ALL different and if one gives you trouble, try another brand first before you eliminate it altogether. I’ve gone through so many brands and ended up tossing some because they didn’t work for me but found great success with another. Hope that helps!

      • what about the ratios of the sweet rice/brown rice/oat flour to the white rice flour? or does that depend on the type of baked good? also, that was really really helpful and thank you so so so so much! I’m more partial towards the sweet rice flour because I’m asian and have sweet rice and rice flour in my pantry more readily (:

      • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

        yes, it does depend on the baked good. I would use less sweet white rice for cookies than brown or white rice because you want a snap in the cookie most of the time, but for softer cookie, you could use more sweet white rice. I’d say, use what you have one hand and see what works best for you. Some people like softer chocolate chip cookies, for example and you could use more sweet white rice than if you wanted a crispier cookie. If you look at each recipe in the Canteen I’ve indicated the amount of each flour I use and hopefully I’ve described how each baked good should be (cripsy, gooey, chewy, soft, soft crumb etc.). Hope that helps.

  4. What if you use glutinous rice flour, should that be substituted for the tapioca or for the rice flour?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      not tapioca. rice, maybe. but only if you are wanting something to have a soft chew – and then sub out only part of the regular white rice for sweet white rice.

  5. I don’t know where to start…..I can’t eat wheat,corn or daiiry? Help! Ginny

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Ginny – probably best to do as much reading as possible and google other blogs that offer wheat, corn and dairy free recipes. There are plenty to pick from. You’ll find some good stuff, but be patient. It takes everyone a little time to get accustomed to a new way of eating. Best of luck.

  6. If a recipe calls for potato flour and potato starch flour for a biscuit with no measurements on the recipe,how can you figure out the right amts to try in the recipe.Would you start with more of one and less of the other or try equal amts.

  7. grace wilson says:

    I love cornbread but Bob’s is so gritty. Does anybody know of a non gritty brand?