Can madeleines be gluten free?

Madeleines are a classic French teacake known for their distinctive shell-like shape and light, buttery flavor. Originally from the Lorraine region of France, madeleines rose to fame in the 18th century and became intricately linked to the writings of Marcel Proust. In his novel In Search of Lost Time, Proust vividly describes the powerful sense memories that are evoked from tasting madeleines dipped in tea. Since then, madeleines have become a beloved staple in pâtisseries and home kitchens around the world. Their popularity extends to gluten-free bakers as well, who wish to enjoy the nostalgic flavors of madeleines without the gluten. But can madeleines really be successfully made gluten-free?

What Makes Traditional Madeleines Contain Gluten?

Traditional madeleine recipes call for ingredients that contain gluten. The main source of gluten comes from regular all-purpose flour, which gives madeleines their distinctive cake-like texture. All-purpose flour contains gluten proteins which provide structure and elasticity during baking. When combined with eggs, sugar, butter, and other wet ingredients, the gluten develops into a batter that bakes up light and tender. Typical madeleine batters get their rise from the stretch and lift of gluten networks. So in traditional recipes, gluten plays an essential role.

Gluten-Free Flours Lack Gluten Proteins

When baking gluten-free, alternative flours must be used in place of regular wheat flours. Gluten-free flours are made from ingredients that do not contain gluten proteins. Common gluten-free flour choices include:

  • Rice flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Potato starch
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Gluten-free oat flour

While these gluten-free flours provide flavor, they do not replicate the protein network formed by gluten. This poses a challenge when attempting to bake gluten-free madeleines. Without gluten for structure, rise, and texture, gluten-free madeleines can turn out dense or flat compared to their traditional counterparts.

Binding Agents Can Mimic Gluten

To produce tasty, tender gluten-free madeleines, gluten-free bakers use binder ingredients to mimic the effects of gluten. Common binding agents include:

  • Xanthan gum
  • Guar gum
  • Eggs
  • Gelatin
  • Starches such as tapioca starch or cornstarch

These ingredients add structure to batters and doughs, improving the rise and texture of gluten-free baked goods. When used correctly, binders can greatly enhance the lightness and appeal of gluten-free madeleines.

Recipe Adaptations Are Required

In addition to binders, gluten-free madeleine recipes must be adapted to work with alternative flours. More liquid or leavening may be needed to achieve rise without gluten. The ratio of flours tends to vary as well. Test batches are often required to perfect the texture and flavor. Dietary restrictions beyond gluten-free must also be considered, as many pre-made gluten-free flour blends contain dairy, eggs, nuts or other allergens. Creating a custom flour blend is best for allergen-free diets.

Tips for Gluten-Free Madeleines

Here are some helpful tips for achieving great results with your gluten-free madeleines:

  • Use a blend of 2-3 gluten-free flours for better texture and flavor
  • Add xanthan gum or other binder to mimic gluten
  • Increase eggs and liquid compared to regular recipes
  • Let batter rest before baking to hydrate the flours
  • Grease molds well to prevent sticking
  • Avoid overmixing the batter to prevent denseness
  • Bake at a slightly lower temperature and increase time
  • Cool madeleines completely before removing from pan
  • Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week

Sample Gluten-Free Madeleine Recipes

To demonstrate that delicious gluten-free madeleines are achievable, here are two sample recipes to try:

Recipe 1: Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines

Makes 12 madeleines

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, if needed


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease madeleine mold with butter or non-stick spray and dust with gluten-free flour blend. Tap out excess.
  2. In one bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients except poppy seeds. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients except milk.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix to combine. Batter should be thick but pourable. If too thick, add milk as needed to adjust consistency.
  4. Fold lemon zest and poppy seeds into batter.
  5. Fill the madeleine molds about two-thirds full.
  6. Bake for 13-15 minutes until set and lightly golden. Cool pan on rack 5 minutes, then unmold madeleines.
  7. Serve madeleines with tea or lemon curd.

Recipe 2: Honey Almond Madeleines

Makes 15-18 madeleines

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease madeleine pan with butter and dust with rice flour. Tap out excess.
  2. In one bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Scoop thick batter into prepared molds, filling about halfway.
  5. Bake for 11-13 minutes until lightly golden. Cool pan on rack 5 minutes before unmolding.
  6. Dust warm madeleines with powdered sugar. Store airtight at room temperature.

Are Gluten-Free Madeleines Different from Regular Madeleines?

Gluten-free madeleines do have some differences from their traditional counterparts. Due to the alternative flours and lack of gluten, the texture tends to be more dense and cakelike rather than light and pillowy. The outsides also toast up differently. Gluten-free madeleine shells may not achieve the same delicate ridges or ruffled appearance.

However, gluten-free madeleines make up for textural differences with strong flavors from ingredient blends like almond-rice flour or coconut-tapioca starch. They can pack bright citrus, warm spice, or rich chocolate flavors. Visually, they may resemble mini gluten-free muffins or cakelets more than classic madeleines. But despite aesthetic variations, gluten-free madeleines remain utterly enjoyable to eat.

Comparing Traditional and Gluten-Free Madeleines

Attribute Traditional Madeleines Gluten-Free Madeleines
Texture Light, delicate, pillowy Dense and cakelike
Shell Appearance Distinct ridged shell shape Shorter, less defined ridges
Main Flours All-purpose wheat flour Gluten-free flour blends
Binding Agent Gluten Xanthan gum, starches
Flavor Subtle, butter forward Can be more bold, distinct
Nutrition Higher carb Often higher protein, fiber

Are Gluten-Free Madeleines Healthy?

Compared to traditional madeleines, gluten-free versions can provide some additional nutritional benefits:

  • Higher protein – Nut flours like almond are naturally high in plant-based protein.
  • More fiber – Coconut flour especially boosts the fiber content.
  • Lower carbs – Grain-free flours offer fewer starchy carbs than wheat flour.
  • Vitamins & minerals – Gluten-free flours like buckwheat provide antioxidants and minerals.

However, madeleines are still a sweet treat. Both traditional and gluten-free madeleines remain high in sugar and fat. Portion control is advised, even when enjoying healthier gluten-free options. Those with food intolerances beyond gluten should also check labels for potential allergens. Overall, gluten-free madeleines can be considered a better-for-you dessert, though they should be consumed mindfully as part of a balanced diet.

Where to Buy Gluten-Free Madeleine Pans and Mixes

Specialized kitchenware helps home bakers prepare picture-perfect gluten-free madeleines. Purchasing a quality madeleine pan ensures the batter cooks evenly and molds well. Here are some reputable brands of gluten-free madeleine pans:

  • Nordic Ware ProCast Aluminum Madeleine Pan
  • USA Pan Aluminized Steel Madeleine Pan
  • Fox Run Nonstick Steel Madeleine Pan
  • KYOCERA Advanced Ceramic Madeleine Pan
  • Mrs. Anderson’s Baking European Style Madeleine Pan

For quick baking, gluten-free madeleine mixes are also available. Look for brands that avoid dairy, soy, and other allergens. Popular pre-made mixes include:

  • Krusteaz Meyer Lemon Madeleine Mix
  • Crazy Cake Lady Vanilla Madeleine Mix
  • Miss Roben’s Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Madeleines
  • Belle Of The Kitchen Sweet Vanilla Madeleines
  • Grow & Behold Cocoa Sprinkle Madeleines

Always check the ingredient list for any gluten-containing additions before purchasing a product labeled gluten-free. Reputable brands will detail their safety protocols and allergen testing.

In Conclusion

While gluten-free madeleines require some recipe adaptations, they can absolutely fulfill the same tender, nostalgic flavors as the original French teacake. With the proper specialized ingredients and careful technique adjustments to compensate for the lack of gluten, gluten-free bakers can create satisfying madeleine batter and well-formed shell shapes. Though the texture may differ from traditional madeleines, gluten-free varieties make up for this with intensified flavors and added nutritional benefits. With the popularity of gluten-free diets today, recipe creators have fine-tuned ways to allow all bakers to enjoy this cherished bake. Madeleines hold a special place in many food memories, so improving access with gluten-free options allows more people the comforts of Proust’s famous little cakes.

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