What's the Best Place to Buy Gluten-free Flour?
Buying gluten-free prepared treats is expensive. Cookies, cakes, and muffins that are safe for celiacs can cost up to 183% of the cost of their gluten-containing counterparts. After all that expense, may of them don’t even taste good!
It’s a recipe for frustration.
My Easy, Tasty, Gluten Free recipes generally don’t use commercial flour mixes for the same reasons: they are expensive, not universally available, and don’t all behave the same way.
My recipes rely primarily on rice flour and sweet rice flour, with the occasional addition of another flour for a specific purpose. But even rice flour and sweet rice flour textures can vary.
Skip the gritty supermarket white rice flour
I’ve found that the rice flours I buy in the supermarket or health food store are often grainy, making my baked goods grainy too. I hate that feeling of grit on my tongue when I chew on a brownie. I want my brownies to be rich, chewy and smooth. Not grainy, gritty and sand-like! When I first started baking gluten-free treats after diagnosis, this was one of my biggest disappointments.
Get your white rice flour at the Asian market
Years ago, I found a new and better source of rice flour that works well in my recipes. I was living in New Jersey in the late 1990s, still learning about the gluten-free diet. Bored with the same old vegetables and meats and yet another batch of rice, I decided to stop into someplace more interesting.
My town had a little hole-in-the-wall Asian market. I had driven by it a thousand times but never stopped in. Still, the parking lot was always busy, so I on this day I decided to give it a try. Best thing I ever did!
Not only did they have gluten-free soy sauce, Asian vegetables that I love, and great shrimp, they had rice flour, sweet rice flour, and tapioca starch, all for far less money than I was paying for big bags of road grit AKA supermarket rice flour. Makes sense when you think about it - rice flour is at the heart of so many Asian dishes, including noodles, pancakes and dumplings. The first time I baked with it, I was pleasantly surprised by the mouth feel – not gritty at all!
I’ve never gone back.
Rice flours can have different textures, colors, and even tastes, depending on whether they have the bran included and what type of flour is used. I have found that among all of their qualities, the fluffiness of the different flour sources matters the most to the final texture. That and price are usually most important for my purchase decisions. So I make regular trips to my local Asian market, no matter where I happen to be living.
Whether in New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Switzerland, Australian, Canada or Germany or France, they all look pretty much the same. The photo above was taken in Switzerland. This video is from New York. You get the idea. There’s probably one in your town!
Find the fluffy gluten-free flour
The flours these markets sell all look pretty much the same too. Maybe they all come from one big conglomerate; I have no idea. There are many different company names. Sometimes one label is blue, instead of red or green. But the flours always seem to be in the same little bags.
They look like this.
And their texture is always fluffy.
What about commercial gluten-free flour blends?
If you like the commercial blends, go ahead and use them. Be aware: the ingredients and percentages between the various brands vary, so what works in one recipe may not work in another. One may have rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch and gluten-free oat flour. Another might have rice flour, coconut flour and milk powder. Others might include nut flours, tapioca starch, quinoa flour, or even gluten-free wheat starch, like some of the Dr Schär products. (Gluten-free wheat starch is supposed to be safe for celiacs, though not for people with wheat allergies. Many people are skeptical about gluten-free wheat starch and frankly, I am one of them. If you are comfortable with it, go ahead and use it.
The recipes in Easy, Tasty, Gluten Free are not designed for commercial blends, though the recipes are so forgiving that they are likely to be just fine with many of the commercial gluten-free baking mixes. Remember that using one blend in a recipe can give you a different result than the same recipe with a different blend.
In general, if you want to use commercial gluten-free flour mixes I recommend that you find a blend that you like and can buy consistently. Get used to how it behaves in recipes and have fun with it. Baking is about fun, happiness and love, after all.
And I’ll see you at the Asian market!