Going on a gluten-free diet can be overwhelming! It certainly was for me. It seemed like it was a huge challenge recreating our favorite dishes and making them into a gluten-free versions. Through the years I have learned a thing or two. Here’s How to Make Almost Any Recipe Gluten-Free! (It’s easier than you think!)
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This post is for you, if:
- You are not gluten-free but are trying to cook for someone who is.
- You’re overwhelmed with cooking gluten-free.
- You miss your favorite recipes and aren’t sure how to make them gluten-free.
- You won’t try a new recipe unless all the ingredients are specifically gluten-free.
The most important step to gluten-free cooking is to find a gluten-free flour mix that you love and that works well as a substitute for regular wheat flour.
Check out this post for 5 different gluten-free flour blends. My favorite is the first one listed in that post! Of course, these days it’s easy to go out and buy a gluten-free blend from almost any grocery store, you just might pay a little bit extra.
Another important step is to make sure that the ingredients you are going to use actually ARE gluten-free. Reading labels and knowing terminology is extremely important.
Even though some ingredients on labels are naturally gluten-free, it doesn’t mean that the whole product is truly gluten-free. Many times the product becomes contaminated during the packaging process. (For example, bacon may itself be gluten-free but during the packaging process, the factory may use a dusting of flour to keep the plastic from sticking to the bacon. Therefore, what was once gluten-free bacon is no longer gluten-free).
Many more brands are starting to label their products certified gluten-free, which is extremely helpful. Never be afraid to contact a company regarding their products. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Most companies are very good at answering questions.
For more on this topic read my post, Gluten-Free 101.
Another post on this topic is Gluten-Free Diet: What’s Allowed, What’s Not.
Simple Solution: Use a 1:1 ratio of gluten-free flour blend plus xanthan, guar gum, or any binding agent (see a full list here). If there isn’t one included in a gluten-free flour blend you can add it separately, (it only takes a small amount).
When baking you can usually substitute a gluten-free flour blend for regular flour in a 1:1 ratio. Just be sure to add a thickener, such as xanthan gum or guar gum. These binding agents prevent your food from turning into a pile of tiny crumbs. This is especially true for cookies, bars, cakes, muffins, pies, etc…
The general rule is to add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour.
Check out all of our gluten-free desserts under our Desserts and Snacks page.
If you are making a sauce or soup from scratch and the recipe calls for flour as a thickener the easiest way to change this recipe to a gluten-free one is by using cornstarch instead. Cornstarch can substitute for flour in a 1:2 ratio (for example: the recipe calls for 1/2 C flour, use 1/4 C cornstarch instead). If corn bothers you or you don’t have any you can also use rice starch or potato starch.
Check out my Made from Scratch Spaghetti Sauce which is naturally gluten-free!
Simple Solution: Use gluten-free pasta.
For a long time, my family avoided pasta altogether, but thankfully, there are now many delicious gluten-free pasta noodles available.
Cooking gluten-free pasta (from a package) is pretty much the same as cooking regular pasta. It may take a few extra minutes to cook so always be sure to read the directions. You will want to be careful not to overcook it because it can easily turn to mush.
After the pasta is finished cooking, strain it immediately, and rinse with cold water to prevent it from getting clumpy. Now just make sure your sauce is gluten-free (see above).
Unfortunately, this is where it gets tricky. You can’t just substitute gluten-free flour for normal flour. Gluten is what makes bread fluffy, soft, and elastic.
When you remove the gluten, bread quickly turns powdery or it turns into a brick. There is a fine science to making awesome gluten-free bread and you really do need a specific gluten-free recipe for yeast bread recipes.
Check out my recipe for GF Cinnamon Raisin Bread that is made in a bread machine!
There is an exception! Most non-yeast loaves of bread are easy to convert. For example, a few of our favorites are Old Fashioned Praline Apple Bread, Cream Cheese Zucchini Bread, Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bread, and Golden Cornbread. These recipes were originally made with wheat flour. The only thing my mom did differently when she made them was to use a gluten-free flour blend and a binding agent.
So how can you tell when you can use gluten-free flour as a substitute and when you can’t? If a recipe calls for yeast it’s probably best to avoid trying to change it and go find a specific gluten-free yeast bread recipe.
If there is some sort of stabilizer to it that will keep it moist (such as, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, applesauce, mashed banana, etc.) it is probably safe to attempt to substitute gluten-free flour for normal flour. After trying a few recipes you’ll get a better feel for what works and what doesn’t!
A lot of casseroles call for a cream soup, such as chicken, mushroom, celery. I used to avoid these recipes altogether since these canned soups contain gluten.
Over time I’ve figured out how to my own homemade gluten-free cream soups. This has opened up my world to casseroles once again. It might seem intimidating at first but this homemade soup is very easy. Once I became comfortable making creamed soups I can easily whip up a batch in just a few minutes.
You can buy gluten-free creamed soups, however, they will probably be very expensive and they won’t be as healthy as a homemade version.
Cream of Chicken soup
(I’ve made this so often I don’t even measure anymore, these measurements are estimates)
- 1 cup chicken broth or stock
- 1/2-3/4 C half and half (or whole milk)
- 2-4 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
- 1 clove crushed garlic (garlic powder can be substituted)
- Parsley (fresh or dried)
- salt and pepper
- Heat chicken broth over medium heat in a saucepan.
- Mix cornstarch and half-and-half and stir well.
- Add half and half mixture to chicken broth and stir until slightly thick and bubbly.
- Add seasonings.
- Remove from heat.
Optional: Add small pieces of diced chicken for Cream of Chicken; small pieces of mushrooms for Cream of mushroom; chopped pieces of celery for Cream of Celery.
If your casserole calls for noodles you can easily substitute rice to make it gluten-free. Cook your rice before adding it to the casserole. My family does this all the time!
Check out this Upside Down Chicken Pot Pie
A Few More Tips for Random Recipes!
Meatloaf: my meatloaf recipe calls for breadcrumbs. I substitute gluten-free organic oatmeal for the breadcrumbs and it turns out AMAZING!! Check out the recipe here. Side note: My family loves smoked meatloaf but this recipe is also delicious cooked in an oven.
Mexican: When making homemade Mexican food you probably are going to need stock-up on a few supplies. You can still use many of your normal recipes but be sure to use gluten-free corn shells, tortillas, or chips.
Taco Seasoning: As of the writing of this post, I have not found a taco seasoning packet that is gluten-free. I’m sure they exist somewhere but in the meantime, I’ve learned to make my own.
The main ingredient in taco seasoning is cumin. Cumin provides that nice taco flavor. When I brown my meat for Mexican dishes I add a tablespoon or so of cumin and a shake or two of whatever spices I have on hand, such as, chili powder, onion powder, garlic salt/powder, salt, pepper, etc. I might add a few tablespoons of water if it looks dry.
UPDATE: Check out this post for a homemade Taco Seasoning Recipe.
If you are having a hard time finding Allergy-Friendly Products check out this post.
Over the years, I have discovered that modifying recipes to be gluten-free really isn’t a big deal. All it takes is some knowledge, some time, and a little bit of experimenting.
What recipes do you struggle with making gluten-free?
More great ideas: