What to Know About Gluten-free Bread

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on July 14, 2023
3 min read

If you have Celiac disease, gluten is off-limits. It’s a type of protein that’s in a lot of baked goods, and it’s what gives them structure.

If your doctor tells you to avoid gluten, you’ve still got options. Gluten-free bread lets you enjoy bread without the risk of causing harm to your intestines. And when you swap out white flour for a gluten-free alternative, it might make your bread healthier in certain ways. Other flours often have nutrients you wouldn’t get with white flour.

Baking bread is a skill that can take lots of practice to get right. When you add the challenge of making bread without gluten, you have to use different flour and adjust your baking techniques to make sure you get the right texture and taste.

Before you decide how to tweak your recipe, first you have to choose a gluten-free flour. There are lots of options, like:

Amaranth flour. This flour has a nutty, toasted, slightly sweet flavor. Since it’s dark, it usually works best for baked goods that turn out darker, like brownies. 

Arrowroot flour. This is a good substitute for recipes that call for cornstarch. Use this flour for breading meat and fish, thickening sauces, or as an addition to gluten-free flours for baking. 

Bean flour. This is made from dried, ground beans. It’s good to use with sorghum flour and is ideal for recipes rich with flavors, like gingerbread or chocolate cake.

Corn flour. Milled from ground corn kernels, this flour is light and slightly nutty in flavor. It’s similar to cornmeal, although it’s ground to a much finer consistency. 

Mesquite flour. This has a sweet flavor that may remind you of chocolate or molasses. It’s great to use in pancakes, bread, muffins, cookies, and cakes.

Millet flour. With a sweet flavor that is part corn and part nut, this flour may be best when you pair it with other flours.

Nut flours. These are ground up almonds, chestnuts, or hazelnuts. They’re rich in flavor and best used in baked goods.

Potato flour. This is a heavier flour. Use it as a thickener in soup, gravy, and sauce.

Potato starch. This is not the same as potato flour. It is ground to a fine consistency, and it doesn’t have a potato flavor. It lends a light, fluffy texture to baked goods. 

Quinoa flour. It has a bold and slightly nutty flavor. Use it in recipes as a one-fourth blend with other flours because of its bold taste. 

Brown rice flour. Made from whole-grain brown rice, this flour tends to be gritty. Combine it with other flours to keep your finished product from being dry.

Sweet rice flour. This is made from sticky, short-grain white rice and has much more starch. It’s good for thickening gravy, sauce, and soup.

White rice flour. Ground from white rice, this flour is bland, so it won’t add taste to your recipe.

Sorghum flour. This earthy flour comes from ground sorghum and goes with bean flavors. 

Soy flour. Ground from soybeans, this flour may be best when you mix it with other flours. It pairs well with chocolate, nuts, and spices. ‌

Tapioca flour. Don’t use more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup of this flour in a blend for baking. It tends to make your finished baked good chewier. 

Since each gluten-free flour acts differently in recipes, you may have to adjust wet ingredients to get the right consistency. If you’re not following a gluten-free recipe, baking gluten-free bread may take trial-and-error as you figure out what works.

For best results, use a blend of multiple flours in your baked goods. To get the best texture, use a 2-to-1 ratio of flour to starch mixture. Too much starch means your gluten-free bread may be gummy.

When you use a gluten-free flour, you also need to add in guar gum to make sure your bread has the right texture.‌‌‌

Once your bread is baked, be mindful of how much you eat. If you’re purchasing a kind that’s pre-baked at the store, read the label so you know what a serving size is.