|How to Make Your Own|
Gluten-Free Flour Mix
While cheaper brands, such as VitaCost, can be purchased online for as little as $2.50 a pound, if you go with the flour mixes that contain modified ingredients and specialty conditioners to make them act more like all-purpose flour, the price will be quite a bit more.
Ready mixes contain an undisclosed amount of Xanthan gum. Very few come with only gluten-free flours and starches, so they are difficult to bake with. You don't know how much vegetable gum is in there. Correcting the problem isn't as simple as tossing in a little more. In my own experience, mixes have too much Xanthan gum to make them very useful.
The point to affordable gluten-free cooking is to make your meals and snacks as inexpensive as possible, so it doesn't make sense to use an expensive, pre-packaged gluten-free flour blend when it's so simple to make it yourself at home.
Yes, a packaged flour is easy to use and convenient, but if you have a stand mixer or you only use a small amount of gluten-free flour per month, it's more affordable – and just as convenient – to make up your own blend.
If you store your gluten-free flour blend in an air-tight container on the kitchen counter, it will always be available whenever you have the urge to bake something that's gluten free.
Why Do You Need to Use a Gluten-Free Flour Blend?
Baking with gluten-free flour isn't like traditional baking. If you use only one type of flour, such as rice flour, you'll end up with a pretty gritty cookie.
When I was new to gluten free, I found a recipe on the internet for chocolate chip cookies that used only sweet rice flour. Since that type of flour was easily available in the oriental section of our local grocery store, I ran out and picked up a box.
Recipe reviews were chock-full of praise for these little gems, saying how you really didn't need to use a variety of flours and starches to bake gluten free.
Boy, were they ever wrong.
Hubby ate only one cookie, and the rest went into the trash. They were horrible.
For most things, you cannot just use one type of flour. You need to use a variety of flours and starches.
Each flour or starch brings a different property or quality to the mix. Since no single gluten-free flour contains all of the properties of wheat flour, you need to combine different flours, starches, and some type of binder like Xanthan gum to get the same effect as wheat gluten.
My Go-To Gluten-Free Flour Mix Recipe
This affordable flour blend recipe is the best gluten-free flour mix I've ever tried. Whenever I experiment with a new recipe, this is the mix I always start with.
Although the official recipe calls for a small amount of brown rice flour, if you need to cut costs further, I have made this recipe by eliminating the brown rice flour completely and replacing it with additional white rice flour.
If you do that, the taste and texture of the finished product will be slightly different, but everything you make will turn out fine since the amount of brown rice flour in this recipe is so small.
The only thing that seriously affects the way things turn out is the grind of the flour.
Super-fine flours soak up more liquid, so you don't have to use quite as much flour as you do with a more chunky flour grind, often referred to as stone-ground flour. However, that is something you adjust at the recipe level. As far as the flour mix is concerned, it doesn't matter what type of rice flour you use.
If affordability is most important, just go with the least expensive brand you can find. However, online sources like VitaCost and Amazon are often more convenient than chasing from health-food store to health-food store trying to find everything you need.
5 cups white rice flour
½ cup brown rice flour
2 cups tapioca flour or starch
2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
½ cup Argo cornstarch
Measure out the flours and starches into the bowl of a stand mixer. I have a 6-quart KitchenAid, but any brand of mixer will work for this. Using a medium speed, allow the mixer to stir the flour for several minutes. You want to blend the flours and starches as well as you can.
If you don't use a lot of flour in a month or you don't have a stand mixer, you can cut the recipe in half:
2-1/2 cups of white rice flour
¼ cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour or starch
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
¼ cup Argo & Kingsford's cornstarch
If stirring by hand, half a recipe is definitely easier to stir. The better blended the mixture is, the better the flour mix will work in your recipes.
A Word of Caution About Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
The gluten-free flour mix you use in a recipe matters. Most recipes created by recipe curators like me have been fine-tuned and dialed in to work with a particular flour mix. In fact, all of the ingredients in a recipe are designed that way.
If you substitute any of the ingredients in the flour mix or in the recipe itself, you may or may not get the same results. I've seen a lot of people online complain about gluten-free recipes not working, and most of the time, the individual didn't follow the recipe.
While some people do replace the flour called for in a recipe with whatever type of gluten-free flour they have on hand, you are always taking a risk when you do that. The recipe may or may not work with your substitutions, depending on the type of flour or starch you changed to.
Since each flour alternative has a different characteristic, substitutions can make baked goods gummy, dry and crumbly, or not bake properly.
There are many variables that come into play when baking gluten free:
humidity that day
gluten-free flour mix recipe
brand of flours and starches
type of milk or milk alternative used
size of your eggs
Xanthan gum brand
size of the pan used
type of pan – glass or metal
If you change even one variable, the recipe can fail.
That doesn't mean you should never experiment with a recipe or never try something new. When I try an online recipe or recipe out of an old cookbook, I rarely use the type of flour mix called for in a recipe.
Sometimes, things will work out okay, and sometimes, I have to play around with the recipe's ingredients before I can get it to come out right. They key is to not expect the recipe to work on the very first try.
How Much Does this Gluten-Free Flour Mix Cost?
Over the years, the brand of gluten-free flours and starches I've used has drastically changed.
When I was new to a gluten-free diet, I could use Bob's Red Mill products just fine. While I didn't like their stone-ground flours, often they were the only brand I could find in our small, rural community.
As time went on, I became more and more sensitive to gluten, so eventually I had to stop using Bob's products. Today, I almost always buy my specialty flours and other gluten-free products online from VitaCost or Amazon.
When I first switched to the VitaCost brand, the flours and starches came in paper bags, but they were compressed and ground superfine exactly like Authentic Foods. On my last order, the starches came in two-pound boxes instead of paper bags.
I don't know if VitaCost is using the same dedicated gluten-free facility supplier that Authentic Foods is using for their flours, but I have never reacted to VitaCost flours and starches. Since I'm super sensitive to gluten, I don't like jumping from brand to brand, although I will use Authentic Foods since they are produced in a gluten-free facility.
However, there are many brands of flours and starches on the market that you can choose from. You don't have to use VitaCost or Authentic Foods flours for my recipes to work.
If you go with a brand that offers free shipping, the cost for the flour mix will be less.
After doing the math, I discovered that I can make up a 10-cup batch of this flour blend, which comes to almost 4 pounds of mix, for a little more than 7 dollars. On the average, that makes the flour mix about 2 dollars a pound for us.
While that's more than I used to pay for all-purpose wheat flour, it's far less than what most online gluten-free flour blends cost.