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Gluten and corn free thickeners? Help!

  • c

My daughter(and it's looking like her daughter as well) has celiac disease, and very recently discovered that corn is also a problem. I have been using corn starch for gravy, cream sauce, etc as a sub for wheat flour, but that's out now. I have been looking online and can easily find lists of thickeners, but what I am looking for is actual personal experience with some of them. I presently have tapioca flour, and plan to get some arrowroot. The specific dishes I will be making for TG dinner that need thickening are the gravy, and creamed onions(which my daughter LOVES). Which thickeners would be best?
Any advice??

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  1. I use tapioca in fruit pies, and like it much better than cornstarch or flour. It has a nice body to it.

    I got some arrowroot from Penzey's recently, and have just used it once in a meat sauce, and it was just fine. No issues.

    1. I don't use any thickener in my creamed onions, just heavy cream reduced and then mixed with onions and baked--the secret ingredient in Parmigiano Reggiano though you could use any cheese.

      1. Potato flakes or flour?

        1. Potato starch flour is a very versatile thickener.

          1. Tapioca, arrowroot, sweetpotato, and water chestnut starches are excellent substitutes. Rice flour is very good for some things as well.

            1. You can also throw in xanthan gum as a thickener as it's going to be part of your repertoire for gluten-free cooking.

              2 Replies
              1. re: wattacetti

                But do not use much of the zanthan gum. I had the gum on my hands after cleaning up a mouse spill, bugger ate thru all the plastic bags of non gluten thickeners. So I brushed off my hands into something I was cooking and it made it kind of slimy.

                I cook gluten free and use almond flour, coconut flour, and flax seed flour as thickeners. I can't say one is better than the others, maybe the almond. Have heard good things about arrowroot, that is the next one I will buy.

                1. re: Nanzi

                  That is most certainly true. Depending on the quantity of liquid, it could be as little as a knife tip.

                  I keep mine in a bottle.

              2. I like to use sweet rice flour for gravy. I make a roux, just like I would with wheat flour.

                3 Replies
                1. re: flourless

                  This is what I do also. You'd never know it was gluten/corn free. If you want an all-purpose GF mix that doesn't contain corn, Pamela's Pancake and Baking Mix is fairly readily available. One caveat is that it contains dairy and tree nuts. Another option (one I'm just starting to become familiar with) is Pamela's Bread Mix. It's also corn free and is dairy and nut free also.

                  But for a thickener, you're absolutely right, flourless. Sweet rice flour is a great choice. I'm making my gravy roux with it tomorrow.

                  1. re: flourless

                    My sister was diagnosed with celiac about 2 years ago, and we have yet to find a good roux for things like gumbo, or green chile stew (Colorado style Mexican). Would the sweet rice flour work for that? Since a dark roux actually adds flavor, we just have not been able to find something that works quite right. Thanks for any advice!

                  2. I like to think of the starch I use as part of the flavor profile, and match it to the dish. I mostly use different starches depending on what flavor and texture I want. Beefy and hearty red meat dishes taste great thickened with ground oatmeal (oat flour) or potato starch. Rice flour can be used to thicken very mild flavored dishes (just think about risottos to imagine how that tastes). Nut flours and bean flours are also great thickeners, that add their own flavor notes to a dish. A bit of ground toasted almond can be interesting in a creamy chicken sauce, for example.

                    I haven't used arrowroot or tapioca much, but this is from my notes on starches: Tapioca and arrowroot impart a glossy texture to sauces. They both thicken at relatively low temperatures. Arrowroot is not good to thicken dairy based sauces as it will get slimy, but it tolerates acids well.

                    1. Thanks for all the feedback!
                      I have read that some people react to the xanthan gum, as corn is used in its production, so I don't want to chance it... my daughter *just* discovered this sensitivity so hasn't experimented much yet. She also seemed to think that potato starch gets lumpy too easily. Maybe she just didn't like it, lol. I will certainly experiment, but I think for TG dinner I will try tapioca flour for the onions, and arrowroot for the gravy.
                      @escondido your onions sound good- I will be trying that method soon, but not tomorrow so as not to upset traditionalists:-)

                      1. Follow-up: I used the tapioca starch and not arrowroot... the onions came out well, the gravy- well, not so thick but not bad. Arrowroot will be an experiment for the future.