The 3 Best Gluten-Free Flours for Baking and Cooking
We tested different brands in a variety of recipes to find the best (and most versatile) gluten-free flours.
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Going gluten free is no longer just a trendy thing to do. With more awareness around gluten intolerance and celiac disease, adopting a gluten-free diet has become so widespread, most likely you or someone you know is doing it, has tried it, does it sometimes, or all of the above.
But, of course, the desire or need to go gluten free doesn’t erase the cravings for baked goods, pancakes, breaded foods and the like — hence the onslaught of gluten-free flour blends and baking mixes that have flooded the market.
There are about as many different brands of gluten-free flour as there are reasons to go gluten free, but not all of them are worth your hard-earned cash. Some have less-than-optimal ingredients, some contain items that may work for some people and not others (one major brand we tried has milk powder; fine for my family, but not anyone who’s cooking for someone with a dairy allergy), some just don’t work as well or impart a flavor you might not want. So how do you know which flour blend to buy?
As a recipe developer who works frequently on healthy recipes, I've come up with plenty of gluten-free dishes. And personally, my husband has an autoimmune disease, so he’s been gluten free for nearly three years. With all of that, I’ve tried many gluten-free flours, with mixed results (some are good for cookies but not so great for pancakes, others aren’t good for baking but work nicely as breading). So we created a more formal test, trying out seven popular brands of gluten-free flour in pancakes, shortbread and chicken cutlets (yep, I was very popular with my neighbors there for a while), to bring you the very best ones on the market.
Not a huge surprise that a company with expertise in many different grains and a range of popular baking mixes got gluten free right. This mix, which has all recognizable ingredients (including sweet white rice flour, which is the main ingredient in mochi, a nice light, powdery, starchy flour that doubles as a binder), worked well in all three of our tests. The shortbread dough came together beautifully, sliced easily and held its shape during baking. The cookies themselves were buttery, crisp and delicious, and held together perfectly (some brands yielded cookies so fragile that they shattered with one bite). Pancake batter poured easily and cooked up into light, fluffy flapjacks. Chicken dredged in this flour and lightly fried in avocado oil had a nice crust and good flavor. Plus, we give Bob’s extra points for its thoughtful packaging. I can’t be the only person who finds "resealable" bags frustrating? Bob’s bags stand upright on their own and reseal easily every time — a definite plus if you cook and/or bake with them a lot.
King Arthur Flour is another company with so much institutional knowledge about baking, I wasn’t surprised their gluten-free offering is so good. Made with rice and brown rice flours, whole sorghum flour, and tapioca and potato starches, this blend is well-balanced. The shortbread was perfect; easy-to-work-with dough that sliced without fuss, beautiful cookies that held their shape during baking and came out crisp and buttery yet not too fragile. The pancakes were stellar, with batter exactly like the traditional batter you grew up with, and flapjacks that were fluffy and light with great flavor. The chicken, with a good crust and nice flavor, came out with a lovely golden color. Everything I made was smooth and grit-free, and all had great flavor with no weird aftertaste. Extra points for this mix boasting the Non-GMO Verified label.
Here’s a flour blend that gave great results and is really easy on the wallet. With whole grain sorghum flour, brown rice flour, whole grain millet flour and rice flour, it has some overlap ingredient-wise to our other winners, and some differences — yet it performed well across all categories. Both shortbread and pancakes were hassle-free to make, yielding great cookies and beautiful, fluffy flapjacks, both with good flavor and no aftertaste. The chicken came out with a tasty, golden crust and nice neutral flavor. Plus, this was the best price I saw for a good gluten-free flour blend (another brand we tried cost literally twice as much and wasn’t as good).
How We Tested
I bought seven popular, commonly available brands of gluten-free flour, all of which claimed to be one-to-one replacements for wheat flour. For each, I made a batch of this shortbread and a batch of these pancakes, weighing the flour according to the measurements on the labels. Then I used each to bread chicken cutlets and pan-fried them in avocado oil. It’s been my experience anecdotally that some gluten-free flours work well for baking but for some reason can’t pull off pancakes, and that proved true here. Some were fine for baking and pancakes, but left me with a weird aftertaste on the chicken, a sort of tangy flavor that was less than desirable. I compared all of their prices, as well as noting the ingredients. Interestingly, one brand’s label was way off on the weight of the flour, so the shortbread was a complete bust. For the pancakes for just that brand I used the scoop/sweep method for measuring and it worked fine, though neither the pancakes nor the chicken held up to other brands. Though some brands did really well with one application but not others, I selected as favorites the ones that proved most versatile.