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Gluten-Free Flour and Starch Glossary

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


Learning how to use combinations of gluten-free flours is the secret to successful gluten-free cooking. Gluten-free flours have different tastes, characteristics, uses and nutritional content. The following descriptions will help you choose different flours for specific gluten-free recipes and individual nutritional needs.
  • Any whole grain can be ground to fresh flour using an electric coffee bean grinder.
  • To prevent rancidity, always store whole grains and flours in the refrigerator or freezer, in sealed and labeled containers.


Teri Lee Gruss
Amaranth tastes slightly sweet and nutty. It is a cream-colored flour, ground from the seed of the ancient amaranth plant. It has a high moisture content, browns quickly and forms thick crusts. Amaranth works well in recipes that do not contain large amounts of liquids. Use amaranth flour as a portion (up to 25%) of total flour ratio in all purpose gluten free flour mixes and recipes for bread, pancakes, muffins, cookies and pizza dough. Amaranth is also an excellent thickener for roux, sauces and gravies.


Buckwheat is a strong, earthy-flavored flour, available in light and dark varieties. Use light-colored flour for best results in gluten free recipes. Despite its' name, buckwheat does not contain wheat- it's a relative of the rhubarb family.

Buckwheat flour adds protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to gluten free recipes and can be used to make delicious pancakes. Kasha- not be be confused with kamut(wheat), is a whole grain cereal made from roasted whole buckwheat groats. Japanese soba noodles traditionally contain buckwheat flour. Read labels carefully when shopping for packaged buckwheat pancake mixes and boxed soba noodles- commercial products frequently contain gluten.

Corn Flour/Masa Harina

Teri Lee Gruss
Corn flour/masa harina has a light corn flavor and is the main ingredient in corn tortillas and tamale dough. Masa harina, or dough flour is corn flour milled from whole corn soaked in limewater (water and calcium oxide). It has a unique, delicious flavor. Corn flour can be used to replace a portion of cornmeal in most recipes for a lighter, less crumbly texture.


Cornmeal has a sweet flavor and crunchy texture. It is available in white, yellow and blue varieties. Blue cornmeal is especially high in antioxidants. Cornmeal is used to make cornbread, corn pancakes (Johnny Cakes), muffins, polenta and is a good breading ingredient for fried foods. Look for "stoneground" products which are more nutritious than steel milled meals.

Guar Gum

Guar gum comes from the seed of bean-like (legume) plant, sometimes referred to as the Indian tree. It is high in soluble fiber. Like xanthan gum, measure carefully when using guar gum in gluten free recipes or you may end up with heavy, stringy baked goods.

Guar gum is a high fiber product and has been associated with gastrointestinal upset in some people.


Teri Lee Gruss
This tiny grain is thought to be the oldest grain consumed by humans. Millet is an important source of easily digestible protein, vitamins and minerals for millions of people in Africa, Asia and India. Fresh ground millet looks like yellow cornmeal and adds a light, sweet flavor and somewhat crumbly texture to baked goods. Cook whole grain millet like rice, for a nutritious grit-like breakfast cereal or as a substitute for rice and barley in pilaf and tabbouleh recipes. Add small amounts of millet flour to gluten free baking recipes to improve nutritional quality.

Oats: Certified Gluten Free Only!

Teri Lee Gruss
Oats, with nutty taste and chewy texture, add protein, soluble fiber, vitamins and minerals to gluten free recipes. Use gluten free oats and oat flour in bread, pancake, muffin, cookie, cake, granola and museli recipes. Museli is a hearty Swiss breakfast cereal.
NOTE: The use of oats in gluten free diets is controversial. Cross-contamination with gluten is common in traditional oat products. The Gluten Intolerance Group®, the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Canadian Celiac Association approve the use of moderate amounts of "Certified Gluten Free Oats" but the Celiac Sprue Association recommends that oats be avoided. If you plan to use certified gluten free oats, start by using small quantities to make sure that you can tolerant them.

Quinoa (keen-wah)

Teri Lee Gruss
Quinoa is a high-quality source of protein. This ancient grain was a major food source for the Inca civilization thousands of years ago. Quinoa is available as a whole seed, flakes and flour. The seed can be used to replace rice and barley in pilaf, couscous and soup recipes. Quinoa flakes can be used as a substitute for rolled oats. Quinoa flour has a somewhat strong, bitter flavor, can be used in small amounts in gluten free mixes and baking recipes to improve nutritional quality. Prior to cooking, whole seed quinoa should be thoroughly rinsed in cold water to remove bitter "saponins", a natural coating found on quinoa seed.


Teri Lee Gruss
White rice flour and sweet rice flour add lightness and texture to gluten free baked goods. Brown rice and wild rice flours add fiber and nutritional quality. Wild rice flour is a light brown, flecked flour with a pleasant, nutty flavor. White and brown rice flours are neutral-flavored, are somewhat gritty and make dry, crumbly baked goods. Use rice flours in combination with other gluten free flours for better texture and nutritional quality. Sweet rice flour, sometimes called “glutinous” rice, doesn’t contain gluten. It has a unique, gelatinous quality. Add sweet rice flour in small amouts to improve the texture and ‘chew’ of gluten free baked goods, as a thickener in sauce recipes and to dust baking pans to prevent sticking.


Teri Lee Gruss
Sorghum, also known as Jowar or milo, is growing in popularity in gluten free cooking. It's a high protein, cream-colored, smooth flour with a wheat-like taste. Sorghum doesn't have the gritty texture found in brown rice flour or the heavy bean-flavor of garfava or garbanzo bean flours. Use this nutritious gluten free flour as a portion- up to 25% of the total flour ratio, in all purpose gluten free flour mixes and bread, muffin, cookie, pancake and pizza dough recipes.

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