Flours & Starches: Gluten Free

by Cat, Jan 2008

Flour is a very basic ingredient in almost all baked goods.  The most common flour is made from wheat, but it can be made from many other grains, and also from nuts and legumes.  Flour is used mainly for its carbohydrate content, but also for its protein content.  While the major protein in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and kamut flour is gluten, many people have sensitivity to gluten or are intolerant of gluten. Thus gluten-free flours and starches, such as those made from pseudo-grains like quinoa, gluten-free grains like rice and corn, as well as nuts, legumes and roots have become increasingly popular.

Flour vs Starch

See also TheKitchn.com: What’s the difference? Flour and starch

Flour is ground seed, which may be further processed by removing the bran and germ of the seed (“white” flour), or left “whole.” It can also be ground from sprouted grains/seeds.

Starch is more highly refined than flour and may come from other sources besides seeds (for example, roots), resulting in polysaccharides of glucose (long chains of glucose, or glucans). Note that some plants produce a similar polysaccharide that is termed ‘fiber’ because we cannot digest it; it consists of long chains of fructose, or fructans, and is also called inulin. Starches are not soluble in cold water or alcohol, but will dissolve and thicken in warm water.


Although these are referred to as grains, technically they are not grain, and contain no gluten. And while they contain lectins, they do not contain the problematic WGA lectin (Wheat Germ Agglutinin).

Buckwheat Flour

Buckwheat isn’t actually ‘wheat’ at all, but behaves similar to grains. It can be ground into a flour or made into a porridge. See Buckwheat/Kasha for more, including recipes.

Kasha is a form of buckwheat that is either parboiled or sprouted, then toasted and cracked. Refer to Sprouting Grains, Legumes, Nuts & Seeds for details.  Rinse 2 – 3 times per day; tiny sprouts will be ready in 2 days.

Millet Flour

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Quinoa Flour

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Amaranth Flour

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Nut and Legume Flour

People who are gluten intolerant often find they can tolerate baked goods made with nut or bean flours instead of grain flour.  These are fairly new to me, but I am currently experimenting with the use of a bit of coconut flour in many of my quick bread, cake and cookie recipes, as it increases the moisture of the final product and adds a light coconutty taste.

See also Wheat-Free Flour

Almond Flour

Bob’s Red Mill offers an Almond Meal flour (16), which is basically ground almonds. However, if you plan to use almond flour regularly, use sprouted almonds and grind it yourself. it is excellent when substituted for up to ¼ of the grain flour in recipes. Or it can be combined with pseudo-grains like quinoa flour.

I’m learning to use almond meal flour as I try to reduce my grain consumption in recipes I use regularly (like Fruit Kuchen).

Store almond flour (after opening package or grinding your own) in an airtight container, in the refrigerator/cold root cellar or freezer to extend shelf-life.

Coconut Flour

Bob’s Red Mill also offers an Organic coconut flour (16), which  I’ve used in many of my sweet-treat recipes to increase fiber (and slow down absorption of sugar).

Coconut flour does not behave like gluten flours for baking, because it lacks the protein that helps to hold the baked item together. The recommended rule of thumb for substituting part of the total flour with coconut flour (to increase fiber content):

Substitute up to ¼ of the total flour with coconut flour.  However, it will absorb a lot of moisture, so add an equal amount of liquid (water, milk, juice, etc.).  For example, if recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, you can reduce that to ¾ cup flour; and add ¼ cup coconut flour plus ¼ cup liquid.

Alternately, you can use all coconut flour in baked goods if you add eggs; the eggs add protein required for lofty structure:

Add one egg per ounce of coconut flour, on average (15).

Store coconut flour (after opening package) in an airtight container, in the refrigerator/cold root cellar or freezer to extend shelf-life.

Soy and Bean Flour

I would not recommend using soy flour because I do not recommend soy in the diet unless it is fermented (refer to my articles on soy).  But other bean flours hold promise if used in moderation (but are not appropriate for a Paleo Diet).  Bob’s Red Mill (16) offers several different bean flours including black bean, fava bean, garbanzo bean, white bean, and  gluten-free garbanzo and fava bean flours,

Non-Flour Starches & Other Thickeners

This section moved to Non-Flour Starches & Other Thickeners.


  1. newstarget.com/008191.html
  2. womenfitness.net/ugly_truths.htm
  3. angelfire.com/folk/naturalife/whiteflr.html
  4. bellybytes.com/bytes/wheatgermandwheatbran.shtml
  5. rwood.com/Articles/Spelt_and_Kamut.htm
  6. pacificbakery.com/faq.htm#kamut
  7. pacificbakery.com/spelt.htm
  8. whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/FlourTypes.htm
  9. joakitchen.blogspot.com/2005_03_06_archive.html
  10. wisegeek.com/what-is-barley-flour.htm
  11. practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/encyclopaedia!openframeset&frame=Right&Src=/edible.nsf/pages/maltedbarleyflour!opendocument
  12. bhg.com/recipes/how-to/cooking-basics/thickening-with-cornstarch-or-flour/
  13. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrowroot
  14. Dr. Royal Lee, reprinted in Nourishing Traditions
  15. Mercola on using coconut flour: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/05/healthy-baking-secrets.aspx
  16. Bob’s Red Mill (links removed at their request)

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