Finding Gluten-Free Substitutions

Part of the Gluten-Free Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Just because you’re living a gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice good food. You can still make your favorite recipes in many ways by just substituting gluten-free ingredients for the gluten-containing ingredients. Here are some savvy substitutions for some of your favorite ingredients.

  • Flour: If your recipe calls for flour, consider using cornstarch or a gluten-free flour or mix. Experiment with the many new flours available, like bean flours, sorghum, and amaranth. They’re nutritious and add flavor, and oh yeah — they’re gluten-free!

  • Breading and coatings: If a recipe calls for breading, bread crumbs, flour coating, or a similar preparation, consider using a wheat- or gluten-free mix (either homemade or store bought). Bread and muffin mixes work well for coatings on chicken and other fried goodies. Seasoned cornmeal or corn flour (masa) and crushed potato chips (my favorite chips for coatings are barbecued flavor) are also excellent alternatives.

  • Thickeners: Cornstarch, arrowroot flour, and tapioca starch make great substitutes for flour and other thickeners. Dry pudding mix works well for sweet recipes, and bread or baking mixes work well for just about anything.

  • Binders: Consider using gelatin, xanthan gum, or guar gum.

  • Pie crust: People think that if something calls for a pie crust — say a quiche or a pie — then it’s off limits unless they make a really complicated crust from a really complicated recipe. Think again! First, consider making the dish without the crust. Seriously — a quiche without a crust is still a quiche. And admit it — when you eat a pie, you just eat the crust to be polite, right? The crust is really just a means to get to the gushy stuff inside. Okay, if you really want to make a gluten-free crust without a schmancy recipe, crush a couple of handfuls of gluten-free cookies or a sugary gluten-free cereal, add some butter or margarine (a glob or a dopple, whichever you prefer), and press the stuff into a greased pie pan. Then follow the baking instructions for a regular pie. You’ll probably just eat the good stuff out of the middle, anyway.

  • Bread crumbs: Some gluten-free breads turn to crumbs when you look at them. And certainly, there are always plenty of crumbs in the bag; just use them as extras for cooking. Or crumble some bread slices, and toast or broil the crumbs to make them crunchy.

  • Croutons: Cut fresh, gluten-free bread into cubes, deep fry or pan fry, and then roll in Parmesan cheese and spices. Some people suggest letting the bread get just a tad stale (not moldy) before making croutons this way.

  • Granola: If you can find gluten-free oats, you’re set. But if you can’t, you can still make granola. Toss together toasted nuts and seeds, and then mix them with gluten-free cereal, honey, vanilla, a tiny bit of oil, and spices or seasonings. How much spices and seasonings? A smidge or so, till it tastes like you like it. Bake at 300 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Add dried fruit (that’s been soaked in water for 10 minutes), let cool, then refrigerate or vacuum seal and freeze.

  • Trail mix: Lots of trail mixes that are available at the stores are already gluten-free, but if you like to make your own, mix some peanuts, raisins, dried fruit, and gluten-free chocolate candies or chips. If you do buy store-bought trail mix, beware of prepared trail-mix dates, which are often rolled in oat flour (and therefore not gluten-free).

  • Oatmeal/hot breakfast: Try corn grits. Prepare them like oatmeal and top with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, or fry them. Hot cereals are also available from the producers of gluten-free flours. Some new amaranth and quinoa hot cereals also are available that are nutritional powerhouses.

  • Buns and flour tortillas: Substitute lettuce, gluten-free bread, corn tortillas, or rice wraps (found in Asian markets and often used in Thai cooking). If you like nori (the seaweed wrap on sushi), you can use it as a wrap with anything stuffed inside.

  • Soy and teriyaki sauce: Asian markets carry some absolutely amazing Asian sauces that are gluten-free, but you have to read labels carefully (and sometimes that requires a crash course in another language). A few of the large soy-sauce manufacturers are starting to make wheat-free (usually gluten-free) versions that are widely available, too. If you can’t find a gluten-free soy sauce, you can substitute Bragg Liquid Aminos. You can find Bragg in the health-food aisle of your grocery store or at a natural-foods retailer. To make your own teriyaki, add equal parts of sugar and wine to your favorite soy-sauce substitute.

Remember: When in doubt, leave it out. And really, what’s the harm in leaving it out, anyway? If your soup recipe calls for a tablespoon or two of flour, try leaving it out and see what you think.

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Gluten-Free Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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