Pantry basics for a gluten-free holiday

Your favorite holiday dishes are back on the table, thanks to these gluten-free recipe substitutions from a Mayo Clinic chef.

During the holidays, food traditions move front and center. But if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, your favorite family dishes might be off-limits. However, with a little know-how from Jennifer A. Welper, executive chef for the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, you can convert grandma's special casserole or dad's secret sauce into a just-as-delicious, gluten-free version. Stock up on Jen's recommended pantry alternatives for easy recipe substitutions.

Gluten-free flours

In recipes that call for all-purpose wheat flour (like that scrumptious topping on apple crumble or breading on chicken), use a gluten-free flour instead. Some common options are:

  • Oat flour is made from oats and is available at many grocery stores. Or save yourself a trip and make it yourself. Just grind oats in a blender or food processor until you achieve a texture like flour. Be sure to use certified gluten-free oats. Regular oats are often processed in facilities that also process wheat, which can contaminate the oats with gluten.
  • Almond flour is made by grinding almonds together. You can purchase it at the store or make it yourself. To make your own, grind raw or blanched almonds in a blender or food processor. Don't grind them for too long. Otherwise you'll end up with something more like almond butter than almond flour.
  • Rice flour is made from white or brown rice. Rice flour is difficult to make at home. So it's probably best to purchase it at the grocery store.

Gluten-free gravy

Some recipes use wheat flour as a thickening agent (think gravy or white sauce). Try a gluten-free thickener instead:

  • Cornstarch, tapioca flour or arrowroot powder. You only need one of these options to make a thickening agent. Tapioca flour and arrowroot powder are sometimes used in gluten-free baked goods and nice to have on hand, although they are a little harder to find than cornstarch.

Gluten-free bread crumbs

If your recipe calls for bread crumbs (like meatballs), panko (panko-crusted fish) or wheat crackers (casserole topped with crumbled crackers), try:

  • Gluten-free cereals. You can find many gluten-free cereals at the grocery store. They're often made of oats, rice, corn or a mix of gluten-free grains. Just be sure to choose one that doesn't include sugar or other sweeteners. Add the desired amount to your blender or food processor and grind the cereal into a coarse bread-crumb texture.

Gluten-free glaze

In recipes that call for soy sauce in a meat glaze, marinade or other recipe, use:

  • Tamari is a wheat-free version of soy sauce. You can find it at your grocery store on the same shelves as the soy sauce.

How to make a substitution

For most basic recipes, you can make a 1:1 substitution. For example, if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, use 1/2 cup of gluten-free flour. All other ingredients in the recipe — given that they are gluten-free — stay the same.

Substituting gluten in baked goods

Substituting flours in baked goods is more complex. The 1:1 substitution ratio for cookies, cakes and breads — which need to rise in the oven — doesn't hold up. To achieve the correct texture in baked goods, you typically need to mix several gluten-free flours together. And it can take a lot of trial and error to find the right mixture. So instead of adapting your favorite baked recipe yourself, seek out a new-to-you gluten-free recipe to try. The hard work of figuring out the baking ratios will already be done for you.

Storage tips

If you don't use gluten-free flours very often, store them in the freezer. Many flours, wheat flour included, go bad when they sit on the shelf for a long time.

Nov. 16, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 5 tasty ways to tweak recipes for healthier eating
  2. A healthier take on a breakfast favorite
  3. A new way to enjoy fresh fruit
  4. A spoonful of sugar helps the veggies go down
  5. Add kick to fresh fruit
  6. Secrets of low-fat cooking
  7. An easy way to add omega-3
  8. Bake with less sugar
  9. Beans and other legumes: Cooking tips
  10. Canned pumpkin
  11. Benefits of cooking at home
  12. Cooking dinner? Try these techniques
  13. Strategies to prepare and enjoy healthy meals at home more often
  14. E. coli and food safety
  15. Easy fish for four
  16. Fit more fruit into your diet
  17. Fit in more fruit with a smoothie
  18. Flip your burger
  19. Food safety
  20. Foodborne illness
  21. Get a fiber boost
  22. Gluten-free alternatives to wheat flour
  23. Grilled fruit? Try it!
  24. Healthier recipes? Delete 1 ingredient
  25. Healthy cooking for singles or couples
  26. Healthy cooking make-over
  27. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  28. Ingredient substitutions
  29. Healthy-cooking techniques
  30. Hold the soap when washing fruits and veggies
  31. How long are leftovers safe to eat?
  32. Include food safety in your party plans
  33. Ingredient substitutions that pack a punch
  34. Lentils: How do I cook with them?
  35. Mashed potatoes: Cut the fat
  36. Meatless meals
  37. Menu planning for 1
  38. Mold on your cheddar? Don't despair
  39. Moldy cheese
  40. Olive oil
  41. One-pot meals for healthy eating
  42. Put fish on the menu
  43. Quick fix: Acorn squash
  44. Quick fix: Bean salad
  45. Quick fix: Flatbread pizza
  46. Quick fix: Sauteed corn
  47. Quick lunch: Veggie pita pocket
  48. Recipe makeovers
  49. Safely reheat leftovers
  50. Salsa: Not just for chips anymore
  51. Simple steps to making fall soups
  52. Simple ways to cook healthier
  53. Vegetable recipes
  54. Fruit 5 ways
  55. Guide to gourmet salt
  56. Cooking fish
  57. Guide to beans and legumes
  58. Guide to herbs and spices
  59. Sodium: Smarten up
  60. Sweet endings: Poached peaches
  61. Take breakfast with you
  62. Cooking frozen turkey
  63. The right way to wash fruits and vegetables
  64. Top it off with fruit
  65. Try a new salad: Corn and barley
  66. Veggie how to: Grilled vegetable kebabs
  67. Want a healthy dessert? Grill fruit!
  68. Want healthier recipes? Swap ingredients!
  69. What are legumes, anyway?
  70. Cooking oil
  71. Whole grains for a healthy heart
  72. Whole grains
  73. Cook a perfect Thanksgiving dinner