Whether you’re allergic to gluten or just a bit sensitive to it, you’ll want to find good gluten alternatives that you enjoy. Gluten is a common ingredient in a wide range of foods, from pasta and soups to cookies and tortillas. As part of a balanced diet, gluten can help to give you a regular dose of whole grains, boost your fiber levels, and support a healthy gut biome.
Unfortunately, not everyone can eat gluten. Approximately 6% of the US is gluten intolerant, and 1% suffer from celiac disease, a severe condition wherein the immune system attacks your own tissues when exposed to gluten.
If you need to avoid gluten, it can often feel as though your diet becomes extremely restricted. However, a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be bland or boring. There are various delicious gluten alternatives available to help replace gluten once and for all.
The Best Gluten Alternatives for Baking
If you love baking cakes, muffins, cookies, biscuits and pastries at home, then discovering you cannot eat gluten can feel frustrating. Gluten seems like such a natural ingredient in baking. However, there are a number of gluten alternatives for baking, including gluten-free flours and flour alternatives.
Some of the best substitutes for gluten in baking include:
- Rice flour: White or brown rice ground to a soft, neutral flour. This is an ideal flour for gluten-free baking, but it’s usually better in savory goods than cakes.
- Almond flour: Ideal for adding a smooth nutty flavor to your baked goods almond flour is packed full of extra minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and potassium. Just be careful about the extra fat content in almond flour.
- Buckwheat flour: Don’t let the name fool you, there are no wheat grains in buckwheat flour. This flour is great for producing a rich, earthy flavor, for breads and wraps. Buckwheat flour is also rich in iron, magnesium, and folate.
- Sorghum flour: Made from an ancient cereal, Sorghum is naturally gluten-free, and has a sweet, mild flavor. This gluten-free flour alternative is also high in protein and fiber.
- Amaranth flour: A pseudo cereal made from a selection of more than 60 grains, Amaranth has a nutty and earthy flavor, as well as a strong ability to take on the taste of other ingredients. This flour is great for bread and pie crusts.
- Arrowroot flour: A less-common gluten-free powder, arrowroot flour is a versatile substance ideal as a thickener in all kinds of recipes. The substance can be mixed with almond flour for desserts too.
- Oat flour: Oats contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has a range of health benefits, including the ability to reduce bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Oat flour is great for all kinds of cooking, including when you want to make fluffy baked goods.
The Best Gluten-Free Options Instead of Bread
Bread is one of the most common gluten-rich foods people struggle to replace after discovering theirgluten sensitivity. If you love bread, you can use some of the flour options above to make your own bread from scratch. Aside from the choices above, you can also explore things like cornflour, which is rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium, or chickpea flour to make delicious breads.
One particularly popular ingredient for gluten-free bread-making is Teff flour. Commonly used to make injera, a kind of sourdough-type bread, Teff is growing increasingly popular worldwide. It’s high in protein and can help with managing blood sugar.
Alternatively, try to some of the following bread alternatives:
- Lettuce wraps: Popular as a bread alternative among people on the Keto diet, lettuce leaves can be a refreshing and crunchy way to create your own flexible wrap. Big iceberg lettuce leaves, or romaine lettuce leaves are also excellent taco shell alternatives.
- Corn tortillas: Many people who are not sensitive to gluten still prefer the gluten-free alternative of corn tortillas. These delicious yellow tortillas have a unique and satisfying flavour, and taste great when you make a quesadilla with them.
- Steamed collard greens: A collard green leaf can be an excellent durable option for a wrap, with extra nutrients already baked-in. You can use kale and similar greens to get a dose of vitamin A, folate, and alpha-linoleic acid into your meal.
- Rice paper wraps: Ideal if you like Asian cuisine, rice paper wraps can be filled with everything from shredded lettuce and cabbage, to rice noodles and meats. Try some of these recipes to get a taste for what rice paper wraps can do.
- Cauliflower: Usually intended to replace the bread base of a pizza crust, a cauliflower crust made from vegetables and eggs can make a simple and low-carb solution for anyone craving pizza when avoiding gluten.
- Sweet potato: Sweet potato is a delicious alternative to bread, particularly when transformed into toast. All you need to do is take a large, sweet potato and cut slices out of it (around a quarter inch thick). Toast the slices on both sides until they’re crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Best Gluten Alternatives for Pasta Lovers
Pasta is another food staple, similar to bread which can be hard to cut out of your diet. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to typical pasta on the shelves today. You can find “gluten free” pasta made with some of the flours mentioned above in your supermarket, or you can consider making your own. Here’s a recipe for 3-ingredient gluten-free pasta.
Alternatively, if you want something completely different, you can consider jumping on the trend of using vegetables and produce as a fun alternative to carbs. Not only are vegetable pastas usually gluten-free, but they’re also low in carbs and fat. Try:
- Spaghetti squash: Spaghetti squash is a fantastic substitute for pasta. Once cooked, it’s easy to separate the flesh of a squash with a fork to create strings which appear similar to spaghetti noodles. Squash is also rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, and B!
- Zucchini noodles: Investing in your own spiralizer is a great way to create all kinds of vegetable pastas at home. One of the most common choices is zucchini pasta, which is rich in nutrients, and antioxidants. Zucchini is also quite a sturdy plant, so it’s easy to turn into noodles.
- Eggplant lasagna: Eggplants are actually berries, but they’re also a fantastic alternative to pasta. Eggplants contain high doses of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, manganese and thiamine. Check out this eggplant lasagna recipe.
Spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles and eggplant are all much lower in calories than regular pasta as well, so that’s another benefit of these gluten alternatives.
For a unique alternative to a standard pasta meal, you can also consider cauliflower rice or cauliflower couscous. Many people have already started using blended and mashed cauliflower in all kinds of carb-free recipes. You can also make couscous using celeriac.
Other Popular Gluten Alternatives
Once you’ve replaced gluten in your baking, bread, and pasta, it’s easier to see how a little creativity can help you remove this substance from your life, without demolishing your diet options. Here are some extra alternatives to consider for common gluten foods:
- Condiments: Many condiments are high in gluten, but there are plenty of sauces and flavor boosters out there with no gluten. Consider replacing ketchup with Dijon mustard, or mayonnaise. Horseradish, sriracha chilli sauce and balsamic vinegar are usually gluten-free too. Check the label if you’re not sure.
- Beer: While many drinks can contain gluten, beer is one of the most common issues. Today, a number of beer companies are beginning to produce special, gluten-free beer, like New Grist, or Estrella Damm Daura. You can also consider different kinds of drinks, like hard seltzers, mead, or even vodka.
- Desserts: Doughnuts, cakes, and many other pastries are often rich in gluten. However, there are a number of great gluten free dessert options available, such as frozen yogurt, gluten-free cake, and apple crumble bars. Here are some fantastic gluten-free recipes.
- Crackers: Crackers are usually high in gluten, but there are some fantastic alternatives on the market, such as sea salt almond flour crackers, pecan nut-thins, and almond nut thins. Look for crackers made without gluten-based flour.
Remember, you can always check the gluten-free aisles in your supermarket for direct substitutes for some of your favourite products. New ranges of gluten-free cookies, bread, and crackers are appearing all the time. Plus, you can always make your own treats for more variety.
If you do decide to make your gluten-free foods yourself, be careful about cross-contamination. A tiny bit of gluten can be enough to cause symptoms if you have celiac disease. Wash down kitchen surfaces, and use different utensils when moving between gluten, and non-gluten foods.
Enjoy a Gluten-Free Diet
Going gluten-free can be an excellent way to improve your health and care for yourself if you have an issue with gluten intolerance. As soon as you discover your gluten sensitivities, via a blood test or a DNA test, you can start to make meaningful changes to your diet.
Find out more about your possible genetic food sensitivities with a CircleDNA test.
If you’re having trouble making the transition away from gluten, you can also talk to your doctor for advice. They may be able to refer you to a dietician.