1. Food
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Gluten-Free Flour and Starch Glossary

Learn more about the unique characteristics of gluten-free flours and starches



Teff is an ancient seed grain that has been an important food source in Ethiopia for thousands of years. Teff is high in protein and has a nutty, sweet flavor. It is available in white, tan and brown varieties. Whole grain teff can be used alone, or combined with millet or rice in pilaf recipes. It can also be served as a hot, nutritious breakfast cereal. Add teff flour in small amounts to gluten free bread, muffin, cookie, pancake, pizza crust and cracker recipes to improve nutritional quality. Teff flour can also be used as a thickener in soups, stews and gravies.

Garbanzo Bean Flour

Teri Lee Gruss
Garbanzo (chickpea) bean flour is a high protein/fiber flour that adds moisture, good texture and nutritional quality to gluten free recipes. Garbanzo bean flour is also blended with fava bean flour to make "garfava" bean flour. These products can be used interchangeably in flour mixes and recipes. Bean flours are creamy-colored and have a sweet, bean flavor. Some manufacturers heat-treat bean flour during processing to make the flour more digestible, but some people do experience digestive distress when using bean flours. Use bean flours as a portion- about 25% of total flour ratio in all purpose gluten free flour mixes and recipes. Bean flours can also be used to replace brown rice in gluten free recipes.

Soy Flour

Soy flour is naturally high in protein and fats but it is available as a processed, low-fat defatted product. It is pale yellow and has a somewhat beany, strong flavor. It adds moisture and texture to baked goods and browns quickly. Soy is listed in the top eight food allergens, along with milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Amaranth or sorghum flours work well as a substitute for soy flour in most recipes.

Almond Meal/Flour

Teri Lee Gruss
Almond meal is made by grinding blanched (dark skin removed) almonds. It's a high fiber, high fat flour that adds moisture, flavor, texture and nutritional value to gluten free baked goods. Nut flours- including almond, pecan or hazelnut also make delicious coatings for chicken, fish or vegetables. Nut flours can also be used to replace powdered milk in most recipes, making them a useful, dairy-free alternative ingredient.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour can be used in small quantities in gluten free recipes to increase fiber content. It is almost 60% fiber, is high in fats and lower in carbohydrates than other GF flours. Coconut flour works best in recipes that include eggs and has a short shelf life. Refrigerate baked goods made with coconut flour to prevent spoilage.

Chestnut Flour

Chestnut flour is a light tan-colored flour made from ground whole chestnuts. It adds sweetness, moisture and texture to baked goods. Chestnut is traditionally used in rich Italian and French pastries.


Teri Lee Gruss
Arrowroot is a powdery white starch ground from the root of the tropical herb Maranta. It is an excellent thickener in sauces, adds body and texture to gluten free backed goods and works well as a batter coating or breading for chicken, fish and vegetables. It can be used in place of cornstarch in recipes.

Potato Flour

Potato flour, not to be confused with potato starch is ground from whole potatoes. It is cream-colored flour with a potato flavor. It is a moist, heavy flour- use it in small quantities in flour mixes and recipes for gluten free breads.

Potato Starch

Potato starch is a refined starch used to add moisture and texture in gluten free baked goods. Like other starches, including cornstarch, arrowroot and tapioca, potato starch is high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber and nutrients. Use in all purpose gluten-free flour mixes and recipes for light, fine-textured baked goods.


Teri Lee Gruss
Tapioca starch is ground from the root of the tropical cassava plant. It's used extensively in commercial gluten free products and recipes. It is a flavorless, high carbohydrate starch and, like other starches used in gluten free cooking, it is very low in nutrients. Use it as a portion- up to 50% of total flour ratio, in all purpose flour mixes and recipes to lighten the texture of baked goods. It is also used in batter coatings and breading recipes for crisp, golden crusts.
Combine nutritious gluten free flours with high starch flours to improve the nutritional quality of gluten free cooking.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a corn-based, fermented product. It is used extensively in the food industry to make products thicker and it's a common ingredient in gluten free recipes.

If you use too much xanthan gum in a recipe you may notice a heavy, gummy or even "slimmy" texture in your baked goods- so measure carefully when using xanthan gum.

People with allergies or sensitivity to corn may be advised by their physician to avoid xanthan gum. Also, xanthan gum generally costs almost 3 times as much as guar gum.


Herbst, Sharon Tyler and Herbst, Ron, The New Food Lovers Companion, Barron's Cooking Guide, 4th Ed., Barron's Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, NY, 2007

Washburn, Donna and Butt, Heather, Complete Gluten-Free Cookbook, Robert Rose, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada , 2007

Case, Shelley, Gluten-Free Diet- A Comprehensive Resource Guide, Case Nutrition Consulting, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, 2006

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.