Gluten-Free Baking Guide
The complete guide:

Gluten-Free Baking

Avoiding gluten isn't the end of baking. Discover a new beginning here.

Does a gluten-free diet mean the end of sandwiches and brownies, apple pie and pizza? Not at all. Adjust your ingredients, amend your techniques where necessary, and soon the tempting aroma of homemade rolls and cookies will be wafting out of your kitchen once more.

Need help? We're here for you. If you're new to gluten-free baking, start with one of our easy fail-safe mixes. Or simply substitute our Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour for the regular flour in many of your favorite traditional recipes. Once you've gained confidence, branch out into our carefully selected, kitchen-tested gluten-free recipes. Are you a seasoned gluten-free baker? Discover new ideas on our blog.

Getting started: the basics.

Gluten is found in certain grains, chiefly wheat, barley and rye. Those following a gluten-free diet avoid not just flour milled from these grains, but any of their derivatives, which can sometimes be surprising: some brands of vanilla extract contain gluten, for instance.

Baking gluten-free can be tricky. For best results, follow gluten-free recipes from a trusted source; and use the ingredients called for, rather than substitutes.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a combination of proteins in flour that form an elastic network responsible for baked goods' structure. The most common grains and flours that contain gluten include wheat, barley, and rye, as well as spelt, kamut, and other wheat relatives.

Oats, though gluten-free, are often problematic because of cross-contamination with wheat. Also, oats contain a protein similar to the protein in gluten, and can be problematic for people with celiac disease. In the past, oats had been cited as a product to avoid when you're baking gluten-free. But these days, it's possible to obtain oats that are certified gluten-free - a good choice for those with severe gluten intolerance.

What other baking ingredients, besides flour, might contain gluten?

While certain grains are the chief sources of gluten, it can be found in other baking ingredients that include derivatives of those grains. For instance, vanilla extract might contain gluten, as might baking powder, confectioners' sugar, or certain starch-based thickeners. Read labels carefully - and choose certified gluten-free products when possible.

How do gluten-free baked goods differ from regular ones?

When baking gluten-free for the first time, it helps to manage your expectations. It can be challenging to replicate exactly your favorite gluten-based baked treats. But if you learn what gluten-free baked goods taste like, and their typical texture, it's easier to track your progress towards your goal of great gluten-free baking.

Because they lack the structure gluten adds, some gluten-free baked goods may seem more crumbly than their wheat-based equivalent. Due to the combination of flours used, they also may become stale more quickly. As you learn to bake gluten-free, you'll figure out which ingredients, and combinations of ingredients, yield your favorite combination of taste, texture, and freshness.

Ready. Set. Bake!

The simplest, easiest way to begin baking gluten-free is with our mixes. Packed at a certified gluten-free facility, the only thing you'll need to add is milk, eggs, butter, or other everyday kitchen staples; no need to search out specialty gluten-free ingredients. Discover our fully array of quality mixes.

Once you've become familiar with gluten-free baking, it's time to move on to our baker-tested gluten-free recipes. Our test kitchen has spent years developing these delicious recipes, all of which you'll find on our recipe site. Here are some favorites to get you started:

  • Sandwich Bread
    Sandwich Bread

    Enjoy your favorite sandwiches again! This recipe yields a tender, tasty, high-rising loaf.

  • Pizza Crust
    Pizza Crust

    Crisp and chewy, this is a wonderful base for your favorite toppings.

  • Pie Crust
    Pie Crust

    Thorough baking and a golden brown color will give this crust a wonderful toasty flavor.

  • Banana Muffins
    Banana Muffins

    Moist, tender, and flavorful, you'd never guess these delicious muffins are gluten-free.

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Chocolate Chip Cookies

    These cookies are open to your own imaginative interpretation.

  • Chocolate Cake
    Chocolate Cake

    Moist, fluffy, chocolate-y - and delicious!

Step-by-step gluten-free

Many gluten-free recipes benefit from step-by-step photos, instructions and baking tips. Our blog devotes multiple posts to gluten-free baking; enjoy these examples:

Your essential ingredients

If you decide gluten-free baking will be a regular part of your routine, you'll want to stock your pantry. Here are the common ingredients you'll need for your best gluten-free baking.

Flour

Let's begin with the backbone of any gluten-free recipe: flour.

It's easy to make traditional recipes gluten-free with King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour, a simple 1:1 substitute for the all-purpose or whole-grain flour in most of your favorite non-yeast recipes. Fortified with iron, calcium and vitamin B, Measure for Measure also adds the goodness of whole grains to whatever you bake.

The ideal choice for gluten-free recipes is King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour, our carefully tested blend of white and brown rice flours, tapioca starch, and potato starch. We also offer King Arthur Gluten-Free Whole Grain Flour Blend, with the added fiber, protein, and flavor of whole grains.

Xanthan Gum

Because gluten-free baked goods lack the proteins necessary for structure-building, they can sometimes become crumbly, or not rise very well. Xanthan gum, a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer, improves the texture, "body," and rise of gluten-free baked goods.

Many recipes call for additional flours or starches beyond a basic gluten-free flour blend. These can add flavor and enhance texture; use them when called for in a recipe.

Almond Flour

Milled from whole almonds, fine-textured almond flour is full of protein, fiber, and good fats. Add it to everything from scones to cakes to cookies to tart crusts for a rich, buttery flavor.

Ancient Grains Flour Blend

Ancient Grains Blend, a blend of four 100% whole-grain gluten-free flours (amaranth, millet, sorghum, and quinoa), adds nutrition and fiber to baked goods.

Coconut flour

Finely ground coconut flour adds protein and fiber to recipes. It's delicious in cakes and cookies, and creates a more tender texture in pancakes, quick breads, and more.

Rice flour

Rice flour is used in many commercial gluten-free mixes. There are several types to choose from, and most recipes will specify which to use: regular long-grain rice flour, medium-grain rice flour, short "sweet" rice flour, or brown rice flour. Purchase stabilized brown rice flour when possible, as rice bran gets rancid very quickly. Rice flour is used as the backbone of many gluten-free recipes, but if used alone will have a gritty texture.

Potato flour

Used in small amounts in bread, potato flour includes the skin of the potato as well as its flesh. It contains fiber, and adds noticeable potato flavor to baked goods. It's particularly good in yeast breads.

Cornmeal

Cornmeal can be either whole-grain (ground from the entire corn kernel), or de-germed (the germ removed to preserve freshness). It adds wonderful corn flavor to your baked treats, but no structure; it must be used in conjunction with other flours.

Cornstarch

Cornstarch, a familiar pantry ingredient, is pure white starch. It lightens the texture of baked goods, without adding any flavor.

Hi-maize fiber

Derived from corn, this gluten-free dietary fiber is an easy shortcut to a healthier gluten-free diet. One serving contains 20-25% of your suggested daily fiber requirement.

Potato starch

This pure white starch feels similar to cornstarch, and contains no fiber. It's used to smooth the texture of gluten-free baked goods.

Tapioca starch

Tapioca starch (a.k.a. tapioca flour), also known as cassava or manioc, is a pure white starch. It's used to add "body" to baked goods, especially yeast breads, where it imparts chewy texture. Too much tapioca can make baked goods rubbery, so measure carefully.

Branching out

Once you've become a confident gluten-free baker, you'll no doubt want to start converting your own tried-and-true recipes to gluten-free versions. How do you make a standard recipe gluten-free?

Simple! Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour is the easiest way to make any standard recipe gluten-free. Just substitute Measure for Measure 1:1 for the all-purpose or whole wheat flour in your favorite traditional (non-yeast) recipe; no other ingredients or changes needed.

Want to use King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour in your favorite traditional recipes? Follow these tips:

  • Recipes using less than 1/2 cup flour can usually be made gluten free simply by substituting gluten-free flour. In addition, any other ingredients in the recipe should be checked to see if they include gluten.
  • For recipes using more than 1/2 cup flour, you'll need to make additional changes, such as adding xanthan gum to step in for the missing gluten. How much? Start with 1/4 teaspoon per cup of gluten-free flour used, and experiment until you find the level you like.
  • Understand that taking a regular recipe and substituting gluten-free ingredients will change the recipe substantially. You'll need to experiment to find just which tweaks work with any particular recipe.
  • It's best not to try to make an existing yeast bread recipe gluten-free. Better to use yeast recipes specifically developed for gluten-free ingredients; discover the wide array of gluten-free bread, roll, and pizza recipes on our site.

Finally, we've done our own experiments around converting standard recipes to gluten-free. See what we've learned:

Tips & Techniques

Gluten-free baking is a continual learning experience - for us as much as you. We've compiled some of our favorite gluten-free baking tips, and invite you to discover something new today.

Mixing

Gluten-free muffin, quick bread, cake, and yeast bread recipes call for beating with an electric mixer - hand, or stand. Why? Because without gluten, baked goods have a hard time rising. Thorough beating adds air to the batter or dough, producing lighter texture.

The vast majority of bakers are unable to beat batter long enough or hard enough by hand to lighten it sufficiently; thus our strong suggestion (read: requirement) that you use an electric mixer, for your best chance at success.

Before mixing, unless the recipe specifies otherwise, bring eggs, butter, milk, and other refrigerated ingredients to room temperature. This makes them easier to work with, and will yield a better final product than will cold ingredients.

Bread

Measure carefully; the flour/liquid ratio is important. Too much flour, your bread will be dry and crumbly. Too much liquid, and it may sink on the top. Measure flour by fluffing it in the container, sprinkling it into your dry measuring cup, then leveling it off. Don't tamp it down.

Heat liquids to lukewarm, about 100°F, before starting.

Unlike most stiff, kneadable yeast doughs, gluten-free bread starts with a batter. You can't successfully mix yeast bread batter by hand; you must use a machine of some kind - stand mixer, electric hand mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle. Note that gluten-free yeast batter will be very soft, and silky smooth; but it won't be elastic, like a typical wheat-based yeast dough.

Your wet fingers (or a wet plastic bowl scraper or spatula) are the best tool for smoothing the top of sticky, unbaked bread batter in its loaf pan. The smoother it is going into the oven, the nicer your baked loaf will look.

For best texture, try baking breads in smaller loaf pans. Make two loaves from one recipe by dividing the dough in half, and baking each in a separate smaller pan.

Gluten-free yeast bread is soft and fairly moist the first day it's baked, but dries out very quickly. For best results, any bread not eaten the first day should be toasted before serving. Or slice bread, wrap several slices together in plastic, and freeze for up to a month or so; toast before eating.

Even "failure" loaves can be made into bread crumbs. Top casseroles with bread crumbs, add as a filler to meatballs, or use anywhere you'd use regular bread crumbs.

If your bread recipe calls for eggs but your diet doesn't include them, replace the eggs with a flax gel egg replacer. Use finely ground golden flax if you want a mild flavor and light color; brown flax for a more "whole grain" taste and appearance: For the equivalent of 1 large egg, use 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) flax meal (the more finely ground, the better) blended with 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes to thicken before using.

Pie

Gluten-free pie crust can be quite delicate and a challenge to handle before it's baked. If the bottom crust cracks or breaks while you're transferring it to the pan, simply press the cracks together again; this will prevent filling from leaking out the bottom of the crust.

If your top crust cracks while you're placing it over the filling, simply brush it with milk, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and tell everyone it's a rustic-style pie; it needed to be vented, anyway. Brushing the top crust with milk and sprinkling it with sugar will also add sparkle and sweet crunch.

Making fruit pie?

For best results, use a metal pie pan, aluminum preferred. Bake the pie at 425°F on the bottom rack of your oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F, move your pie to the middle rack, and continue to bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly, another 40 minutes or so.

Making a custard-type pie, e.g., pumpkin?

We recommend pre-baking the crust, then cooling it for 15 minutes before pouring in the custard. To pre-bake the crust, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the bottom with pie weights (or the weight of your choice), add a shield or aluminum foil to the edge of the crust to prevent over-browning, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the weights, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes (still with the shield or foil), until the crust is a light golden brown.

Cakes, muffins & quick breads

Cake batter may be thicker than you're used to, and muffin batter much stickier; that's OK. King Arthur Cake Enhancer increases the shelf life of gluten-free cakes, muffins, and quick breads, keeping them moister and fresher longer. Alternatively, try adding a couple of tablespoons of applesauce (or puréed fruit baby food) or yogurt.

If your cakes and muffins are consistently dense and doughy, try separating any eggs called for in the recipe, and beating the whites separately, then folding them in.

To prevent sogginess, remove round cake layers, muffins, and quick breads from the pan as soon as you safely can, and place them on a rack to cool. Generally, about 2 to 3 minutes of cooling for muffins, and 10 minutes for cake layers or quick breads is sufficient.

Cookies

Gluten-free cookie dough tends to spread more easily when baking. Chill the dough before scooping, and bake on parchment, if possible, to limit spread. Another way to limit spread (and boost flavor!) is to add chips, nuts, or dried fruit to cookie dough.

Want cookies in a hurry? Dough may be scooped into balls, wrapped well, and frozen for up to several months. For hot homemade cookies, FAST, simply place frozen dough balls on a baking sheet, and bake for a minute or so longer than the directions indicate. To make sure your oven temperature is exactly right, bake a sample cookie first. If the cookie spreads too much, raise the oven temperature slightly. If it doesn't spread enough, lower the oven temperature slightly, or pat the dough down slightly before baking.

Cookies will generally stay nice and fresh for a day or so after baking. Freeze for longer storage. If your cookie recipe calls for eggs but your diet doesn't include them, replace the egg with either a flax gel, or a starch-based egg replacer. Both types of egg replacers worked well; the flax gel makes chewier cookies, while the starch-based replacer yields crisper cookies.

Flax gel egg replacer: For 1 large egg, use 2 tablespoons flax meal (the more finely ground, the better) blended with 6 tablespoons cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes to thicken before blending into cookie mix. Starch-based egg replacer: for 1 large egg, whisk together the following:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons potato starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water

Let sit for 10 minutes, then whisk until it appears lighter; the mixture will increase in volume a bit. The idea is to trap some air bubbles to help with leavening the same way eggs do.

Pizza

For crisp, thin-crust pizza, use a dark pan. Spray the pan with non-stick vegetable oil spray, then drizzle with olive oil; use about 1 tablespoon oil for a 12" pizza. The oil increases the crust's crispness and flavor.

For thicker and deep-dish pizza crusts, see our blog post: Gluten-Free Pizza Crust 3 Ways.

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