Gluten-free diets are becoming increasingly popular, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for health or lifestyle reasons. For those who follow a strict gluten-free diet, having access to good quality gluten-free flour alternatives is essential for baking and cooking. But with the price of specialty gluten-free flours often being much higher than regular wheat flours, many wonder if it would be cheaper to make their own gluten-free flour at home.
What is gluten and why do some people need to avoid it?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It helps give elasticity to dough, allowing it to rise and keep its shape. For most people, consuming gluten is not a problem. But for those with certain health conditions like celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause issues:
- Celiac disease – An autoimmune disorder where gluten consumption causes damage to the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and malnutrition.
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity – Gluten triggers symptoms like brain fog, fatigue and joint pain. The mechanism is not fully understood.
- Wheat allergy – An allergy to wheat proteins, which often improves by following a gluten-free diet.
The only treatment for celiac disease or wheat allergy is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. For those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten may improve symptoms, so a gluten-free or reduced gluten diet is often helpful.
What are the options for purchasing gluten-free flour?
There are a few options for buying gluten-free flour:
- Specialty gluten-free flour – Brands like Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur and Pamela’s make all-purpose flour blends using ingredients like rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch and xanthan gum. These mimic wheat flour and work well for baking.
- Single ingredient flours – You can buy bags of single gluten-free flours like almond flour, coconut flour or cassava flour. Using a blend of these can substitute for wheat flour.
- Asian grocery stores – Flours made from gluten-free grains like rice flour, buckwheat flour, chickpea flour and millet flour are readily available.
- Online stores – A wide variety of specialty gluten-free flours, flour blends and ancient grain flours can be found online.
What are the most common gluten-free flour alternatives?
Here are some of the most popular gluten-free flours and starches used to substitute wheat flour:
|Rice Flour||Made from finely ground rice. Light and powdery texture. Often used in gluten-free blends.|
|Brown Rice Flour||Made from ground brown rice. Higher in nutrients than white rice flour. Adds flavor.|
|Almond Flour||Made from finely ground almonds. Nutty flavor good for baking. Higher in fat.|
|Coconut Flour||Made from dried, ground coconut. Very high in fiber so absorbs moisture. Use less than wheat flour.|
|Tapioca Flour||Derived from cassava root. Light and fluffy texture. Used to improve elasticity.|
|Arrowroot Starch||Starch extracted from arrowroot vegetable. Used as a thickener in sauces or as part of flour blends.|
|Potato Starch||Starch extracted from potatoes. When cooked, provides binding and improves texture.|
Other gluten-free flours like sorghum flour, chickpea flour, amaranth flour and teff flour are also used, especially in recipes for breads and baked goods.
What are the pros and cons of making your own flour versus buying pre-made blends?
Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of making homemade gluten-free flour compared to purchasing specialty blends:
Pros of making your own gluten-free flour:
- Cost savings – Separate gluten-free flours bought in bulk are usually cheaper per pound compared to pre-made blends.
- Control ingredients – You can customize your flour mix and leave out any ingredients you want to avoid.
- Use whole grain flours – Homemade blends can incorporate more nutritious whole grain flours.
- Adjust texture – Vary the flours and starches to achieve your ideal flour consistency.
- Avoid additives – Make flour without unnecessary additives like preservatives, emulsifiers or anti-caking agents.
Cons of making your own gluten-free flour:
- More effort – Requires researching recipes and experimenting to get the right blend.
- Consistency – Blending your own flour takes more effort to achieve consistent results compared to store-bought.
- Access to supplies – Getting a variety of gluten-free flours and starches can be challenging depending on where you live.
- Shorter shelf life – Homemade blends may not stay fresh as long as commercially made blends with preservatives.
- No specialty ingredients – Some ingredients like xanthan gum or psyllium husk can be harder to source.
What are some sample recipes for homemade gluten-free flour blends?
Making your own all-purpose gluten-free flour blend only requires a few ingredients. Here are two recipes to try:
Gluten-Free Flour Blend #1
- 2 cups white rice flour
- 2 cups brown rice flour
- 1 cup tapioca starch
- 1 cup potato starch
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Use in recipes at a 1:1 ratio to replace regular wheat flour. This basic rice flour blend provides structure for baking.
Gluten-Free Flour Blend #2
- 1 1⁄4 cups brown rice flour
- 3⁄4 cup white rice flour
- 1⁄2 cup chickpea flour
- 1⁄2 cup tapioca starch
- 1⁄4 cup potato starch
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
Mix ingredients well and store in an airtight container. The chickpea flour adds protein and fiber. Xanthan gum helps with binding and mimicking the properties of gluten. Use this blend in a 1:1 ratio when baking.
In addition to all-purpose blends, you can make customized blends for cookies, cakes or bread. Try adding nut flours, sorghum flour or teff flour to adjust texture and flavor.
How much does it cost to make your own gluten-free flour compared to buying it?
To analyze the actual cost difference, let’s compare making a simple gluten-free flour blend at home versus purchasing a commercial blend. For example:
|Homemade Gluten-Free Flour||Purchased Gluten-Free Flour|
– 5 lbs white rice flour ($8)
– 5 lbs brown rice flour ($9)
– 2 lbs potato starch ($3)
– 2 lb tapioca starch ($4)
Makes: 14 lbs (at $1.71/lb)
– One 5 lb bag Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Flour ($12.99)
Makes: 5 lbs (at $2.60/lb)
Based on this comparison, the homemade gluten-free flour costs $1.71 per pound while the store-bought blend costs $2.60 per pound. This is a difference of around $0.90 per pound, meaning there are significant cost savings – about 35% – from making your own flour versus buying pre-made blends.
Of course, prices vary depending on the specific ingredients, brands and quantities purchased. But in most cases, buying gluten-free flours in bulk and blending them at home can cut costs substantially compared to specialty flour blends.
What tools and supplies are needed to make gluten-free flour at home?
Making your own gluten-free flour only requires a few basic tools and supplies:
- Dry measuring cups – Essential for accurately measuring out flour and starch ingredients by volume.
- Food storage containers – Air-tight containers like glass jars or plastic bins to store finished flour blends.
- Mixing bowls – Bowls in a range of sizes make it easy to thoroughly mix flour blends.
- Sifter or fine mesh strainer – Help remove lumps and evenly mix flours for a smooth, lump-free texture.
- Digital kitchen scale – For weighing out exact gram measurements rather than using cup measurements.
- Vacuum sealer – Removes air from storage containers to prolong freshness of flour.
- Spice grinder – Allows you to grind whole grains at home into fresh flour.
Aside from these tools, you also need a supply of individual gluten-free flours and starches to create your custom blends.
What are some tips for making gluten-free flour successfully?
Follow these tips when making DIY gluten-free flour at home:
- Start with high quality ingredients from trustworthy sources.
- Only make small batches at first while testing recipes.
- Combine dry ingredients thoroughly to evenly distribute components.
- Use a sifter or strainer to remove any lumps or clumps.
- Store flour in airtight containers or bags, away from heat and sunlight.
- Write the blend recipe, date and any substitutions on the container for reference.
- Freeze excess flour for longer freshness if not using right away.
- Substitute flours in recipes at a 1:1 ratio by weight, not volume.
- Adjust baking time and liquid in recipes to account for moisture differences.
Expect a learning curve as you experiment with ratios and get a feel for how your customized flour performs. Varying the ingredients and proportions will allow you to create the ideal gluten-free flour for your needs.
Making your own gluten-free flour at home can offer big cost savings compared to buying specialty blends. With a few simple ingredients and tools, you can customize affordable flour mixes to suit your dietary needs and baking preferences.
While it does take more hands-on effort, a homemade flour blend allows you to control the quality, avoid additives and tailor the texture. Your best bet is to start small with a few trusted recipes, and tweak and adjust the flours and amounts over time to land on your perfect blend.