How to Make Almost Any Recipe Gluten Free! (It’s easier than you think!)
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 version.
This post is for you, if:
- You are not gluten free but are trying to cook for someone who is.
- You are 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 mixture that you love and 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 listed ingredients themselves are 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 when packaging the bacon the factory may use a dusting of flour to keep the plastic from sticking to the bacon. Therefore, the 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 about 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 1:1 ratio of gluten free flour blend plus xanthan, guar gum or any binding agent (see a full list here).
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 a xanthan gum or guar gum. If there isn’t one included in the blend you can add this separately, (it only takes a small amount). 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…
Check out all of our gluten free desserts under our Desserts and Snacks page.
Simple Solution: Use corn starch, potato starch or rice starch as a thickener instead of flour.
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 corn starch instead. Corn starch can substitute for flour in a 1:2 ratio (example: recipe calls for 1/2 C flour, use 1/4 C corn starch 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!
Check out these delicious gluten free SOUP recipes
Simple Solution: Use gluten free pasta.
My family avoided pasta all together for a long time. Thankfully, in the 3 years we have been gluten free, many more delicious gluten free pasta options are available. Cooking gluten free pasta from a package is the same as cooking regular pasta. It may take a few extra minutes to cook; 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).
Check out this recipe for Spaghetti Pie, all I did to make it gluten free was use gluten free noodles.
Unfortunately, this is where it gets tricky. You can’t just substitute gluten free flour for normal flour. Gluten is what makes bread awesome. Gluten makes bread fluffy, soft, and elastic. When you remove the gluten then the bread 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 a loaf of bread.
Check out this 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. Take these: Old Fashioned Praline Apple Bread and Cream Cheese Zucchini Bread. These recipes were originally made with wheat flour. The only thing my mom did differently when she made them was that she used 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 gluten free specific recipe. If a 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 corn starch
- 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
Meatloaf: my meatloaf recipes calls for bread crumbs. 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 taco shells, burrito wrap, or nacho chips. You can still use your normal recipe by making sure you by corn shells, tortillas, or chips. Most of these are gluten free.
Taco Seasoning: I have not found a taco seasoning packet that is gluten free. I’m sure they exist somewhere. I’ve learned to make my own, which is actually a lot cheaper. The main ingredient in these seasoning packets is cumin. Cumin gives it that 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 hare 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 some experimenting.
What recipes do you struggle with making gluten free?