When and How to Substitute Gluten-Free Flours in Baking
We often get asked about gluten-free baking substitutions, and though there is no one-size-fits-all answer, we do have plenty of tips that will help you create delicious gluten-free versions of the baked goods you love: cookies, cakes, breads, and more. Here, we're sharing our best advice for navigating the possible pitfalls associated with making gluten-free substitutions in your own recipes as well as offer tips that will help you to know when it's better to find a tried-and-true gluten-free recipe to bake instead.
The first rule of gluten-free baking? Start by managing your expectations; traditional baked goods lean on gluten for their texture and rise. Replicating this is challenging and the result might not be exactly the same, but it can get pretty close with the right flours. Don't just use just any gluten-free flour in place of white flour and expect the same results.
Substitute with an All-In-One Gluten-Free Flour
For the best bet, adjust your favorite recipes by substituting regular flour for an all-in-one gluten-free flour blend. Think of these blends as formulas that combine the strengths of different gluten free flours with stabilizers to mimic regular flour. They have been tested for versatility and overall do a great job. Just remember that there are gluten-free flour blends that are not all-in-one, meaning you can't just swap them into any recipe without adjusting other ingredients and no two blends are the same. Our top picks for all-in-one blends are Bob Red Mill's Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour ($6.09, instacart.com), Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour ($8.99, target.com), and King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour ($6.70, walmart.com).
Usually all-in-one blends are a one-to-one swap with regular flour, and the blend should say that on the front of the bag or in its name. Check the back of the bag to be certain, but a one to one swap should be just that: substitute one cup of all-purpose flour with one cup of the gluten-free flour. The key with all-in-one blends is that they have stabilizers, such as xantham gum, which provide structure that is lost without gluten. Check the back of the bag for this ingredient. As for where these blends substitute well, batters that use baking powder and/or baking soda to leaven—such as cookies, muffins, and cakes—are usually a good bet. They also work especially well when these batters are wetter in texture like pancakes and quick breads. In baked goods that rely more on other ingredients than flour, like fudgy brownies and angel food cake, the swap is barely noticeable.
While these all-in-one baking blends can be used in yeasted baked goods, we do not advise substituting them into a recipe created with regular flour. Too many variables would need to be changed to get the same rise that gluten provides. Instead, look for a tested gluten-free recipe, like this gluten-free bread, which uses a blend we developed in the Martha Stewart Living test kitchen.
Find a Recipe That Calls for a Single Gluten-Free Flour
Flours like quinoa, rice, almond, coconut, or sorghum can be the base for delicious baked goods, but they cannot be substituted for all-purpose flour without adjusting other aspects of the recipe. Look for recipes that have been tested and call for these or other gluten-free flours outright. Some of our favorites include a Lemon Cornmeal Cake that substitutes cornmeal and almond for wheat flour, our Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownies which swap flour for cornstarch, and our Buckwheat and Chocolate Torte.