Chatelaine Kitchen

12 important tips for gluten-free cooking

With the right ingredients and a few savvy tips, you’ll notice a lot of improvements in the kitchen.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

According to the Canadian Celiac Association, it’s estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians suffer from celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to have an inflammatory reaction to gluten, the protein in wheat and other grains. Individuals with celiac disease need to stick to a 100 percent gluten-free diet, or else risk malnutrition and intestinal damage. Others may choose to avoid gluten to ease intolerances and digestive complaints.

Preparing gluten-free recipes for celiacs — whether it’s for yourself or for family and friends — can be a daunting task. Some common questions that come up are:

Q. What flours and ingredients do I use?
Q. How can I bake a gluten-free dish without it tasting like cardboard?
Q. How do I get that nice ‘chewy’ texture without using wheat flour?

When developing gluten-free recipes, we ask ourselves the same questions, and we’ve come up with a slew of delicious recipes that will satisfy all savoury and sweet tooths. Of course, we also discovered a few tips, tricks and ‘a-ha’ moments along the way that we couldn’t wait to share with you:

1. The key to successful gluten-free baking is using a combination of flour and starches. Ingredient lists might look long, but once you have a pantry supply of flours, baking will be a cinch.

2. Because each flour/starch has a distinct taste and character, they are not interchangeable. Recipes should be followed to a tee to ensure a great end product.

3. Rice flours are the closest to wheat flour in behaviour. They are made from either white or brown rice, and each has its own characteristics. Try it in our gingerbread brownies or carrot cupcakes.

4. Ground flax meal gives a “whole-wheat” texture, as in our multi-grain bread.

5. Ground almonds add moisture, flavour and texture, as in our crispy and chewy chocolate-chip cookies — my personal favourite!

Related: 16 ways to go gluten-free from breakfast to dinner

6. Oats are considered gluten-free, however, because cross-contamination with gluten is common in traditional oat products, look for pure, uncontaminated, certified gluten-free oats.

7. Yellow-corn flour and cornmeal are both gluten-free. The difference is that yellow-corn flour has a much finer texture than cornmeal (almost like a starch). Use cornmeal in our thin-crust pizza dough recipe.

8. Buckwheat flour is high in fibre and available in light and dark varieties. Dark buckwheat is more mineral-rich and nutritious. Try it in our buckwheat pancakes.

9. Sorghum and teff flours add texture and flavour to our multi-grain bread.

10. Cornstarch and tapioca starch add a pleasant fluffy texture. But be cautious: too much starch can make baked goods hard and heavy.

11. Xanthan gum is a corn-based product that is used in gluten-free recipes to replicate the ‘chewy’ texture of wheat flour. It makes a remarkable difference in your baking, and a little bit goes a long way.

12. Sometimes you don’t have the time to run around town looking for flours and starches. Bob’s Red Mill is a popular brand that offers gluten-free all-purpose flour and is available across Canada. We found most of our gluten-free ingredients at Bulk Barn, but major supermarkets and many ethnic food stores also carry a variety of gluten-free flours.

Gluten-free pizza dough
Should you go gluten-free?
16 ways to go gluten-free from breakfast to dinner

Originally published August 2011. Updated May 2016.

Get Chatelaine in your inbox!

Our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers. Delivered a couple of times a week.