HOME > Chowhound > Special Diets >


Sharing Ideas for Gluten-free Eating

My wife was diagnosed with celiac disease about a year ago. I'm the main cook in our house, and have been poking around ever since for food prep ideas. The commercially available gluten free products are mostly pretty boring for a committed 'hound, not to mention expensive. And one can only eat so many salads. We'd like to keep eating old favorites as much as possible, and I'd like to hear what others have come up with to get a handle on the problem, and share ideas.

I have been experimenting with non-wheat flours, and have had good luck with lentil flour, available in Indian food sections, both for breading (e.g. fried chicken) and as a thickener (e.g. bechamel).

I have also read in various places that many/most?? soy sauces are actually not a problem. Similarly, and amazingly, I have heard that bread made with levain (true sour dough, which most SD bread isn't) is actually OK-- something about how the wild yeast affects the gluten. We have a local baker who uses levain -- she has tentatively experimented with eating small amounts of his bread and has not experienced pain. So take it FWIW -- her celiac may not be as severe as others.

What ideas have you come up with for a more satisfying gluten-free diet?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What a lucky wife to have your support and great cooking! I was also diagnosed with celiac a year ago and now it is second nature and easy (except for going out and traveling to foreign countries can be a challenge at times). What I do is mainly stick to naturally gluten free dshes such as risottos, proteins such as lamb and duck and common chicken, beef and pork and lots of roasted or grilled veg. I do make bread and bake (I have over 20 kinds of flour) and make my own pasta. I find eating at home to be very easy. We eat incredibly varied and delicious food 7 days a week (or 6 if I get lazy). I make crackers and snacks but try to use whole foods where possible.

    I believe there is absolutely no reason why we cannot (or should not) eat just as well as ever and therefore I cook creative and lovely meals. Whenever I create a dish I try to inject it with as much love and flavour as is possible.

    On a typical day we will have roast leg of lamb with roasted butternut squash puree and prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus with dessert sometimes (often fresh fruit). I like to make GF angel food cake, cookies, pavlova... I might make vichyssoise soup for lunch (or smoked chipotle bean soup or roasted poblano pepper and corn soup). What inspires me is the ingredients I see at the store (we have no market here - our growing season is far too short). However, a few hours' drive away we have specialty stores where I purchase wonderfully unusual ingredients. Then I create a meal around that. Ethnic cooking is often naturally gluten free as well. I enjoy making tons of Thai, Malaysian, Italian, French, Turkish, Syrian...foods. My huge library of food/culinary/cookbooks also inspires me.

    2 Replies
    1. re: asulikeit

      I cook gluten free for my sister with cakes and meals when she is over for dinner. I am from Australia and the Australian Coeliac Society does an annual gluten free expo where you can go and sample new gluten free products available from supermarkets and specialty stores. Some are quite expensive and I agree that using fresh foods naturally gluten free is a good way to go. With Asian cookery, is the Ayam brand available in the US? We were shopping yesterday and discovered Ayam has a range of GF certified sauces such as soy, hoi sin, black bean, plum and fish sauce. We have been able to buy a different brand of GF soy sauce for several years, not Tamari which is quite expensive in comparison to the one we buy.

      1. re: margiabc

        Unfortunately Ayam products are only available in the Asia-Pacific region and the UK. Eden Foods, San-J, Lee Kum Kee and Choy Sun all offer GF options in the US. I'm actually partial to tamari over soy sauce because I prefer the flavor.

    2. Lentil flour! What a great idea. I've been trying to find a good grain-free thickener for my cauliflower gratin (which is my cheaty low-grain version of the mac and cheese I fiend for) but haven't had any luck. I'll have to give that a try.

      I've heard similar things about true sourdoughs -- how great that your wife can eat levain bread!

      WRT soy sauce, is it the fermentation that's the difference? I know some of the cheaper grocery-store brands are made by a different method than the traditional way of fermenting.

      Though I don't have a gluten allergy, I find that I feel better if I keep most of my diet very low to no grain and mostly gluten-free, so I've tried quite a few GF hacks to keep my cravings under control. Kale chips satisfy my "crunchy" craving, and are so easy and versatile. I've also fallen in love with spaghetti squash as a sub for noodles of all kinds -- I've used them in Southeast Asian soups, instead of pasta or egg noodles, in creamy baked dishes, etc. I haven't had pasta in ages and I don't miss it because of that.

      I agree with asulikeit that sticking to naturally GF dishes works best for me. When I try to keep my diet focused on proteins and vegetables the other stuff falls into place.

      1. I'm early in the process of learning about gluten free cooking, and mostly I just sub rice products for wheat products. I do a rice flour roux to thicken sauces and use rice noodles for most things. I often just use the dry Asian ones, but rice flour makes great fresh pasta too. I did two yolks and two eggs to amp up the yellow color, added 3 or 4 tsp of xanthan and rice flour until it felt similar to normal fresh pasta dough. It does have to sit before you roll it out though- preferably an hour. It's a little finicky- I usually had to smash it really flat with my fingers and put it through the biggest setting a few times, and I could only roll it out to the second thinnest setting. But it was worth the trouble; the result was excellent, and it even reheats well. I find a lot that if I explore Asian and Latin American, I run into fewer situations where I have to substitute. I'm interested in trying to handle bread next. I'm curious about whether stiff egg whites (beaten with cream of tartar) would be a good addition. I tried eggs once, and the lift was pretty good, but the result smelled sulfurous. I think I overcooked it and that I need to actually use a temperature probe next time. A baguette is my white rhinoceros. I'm trying to avoid buying a ton of flours because I'm moving, but I'd really like to figure it out.

        9 Replies
        1. re: jvanderh

          I find a lot that if I explore Asian and Latin American, I run into fewer situations where I have to substitute.
          i'm so glad you've all said this in one way or another. when i counsel clients who are transitioning to GF, one of the first things i suggest is to start exploring more foods that are naturally GF rather than trying to substitute with sub-par GF versions of everything. it's far more useful than stocking up on ersatz products that leave you feeling unsatisfied (and 10-15 lbs heavier thanks to all that refined starch and sugar).

          as for adding stiffly beaten egg whites to bread, they can help provide a nice lightness and rise, but may also dry it out a bit. this is one of the best GF baguettes i've seen, if you're willing to give it a shot...

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Hi, I was hoping you'd show up :-)

            I look forward to trying the "perfect gluten-free bread" recipe, but what I'm really chasing is a round and very skinny loaf made from regular old flour/water/yeast/salt (no eggs, fat, etc) with a crust so shatteringly crunchy it makes the inside of my mouth bleed, and a middle that's pillowy soft with large air holes. SIgh. If I could do that, I think I could really truly embrace gluten free living.

            1. re: jvanderh

              Google the Gluten Free Doctor (Dr. Jean Layton) and her sourdough. It's awesome.

              I've also found that baking my bread in a perforated baguette tray worked well. Good crust!

              1. re: Vetter

                I can't seem to find it. Is it the recipe from the bagels?

                      1. re: ItalianNana

                        Looks like she's changed her web address since then. Here's the same link from her new one:

                        And a more recent revision of the recipe without any gums:

            2. re: jvanderh

              I miss pasta a LOT. It's a vehicle for so many of the sauces I grew up with. Rice works for some things...but...

              Is there a place here where we can post methods and actual recipes? It sounds like the is good bread and pasta being made in homes?

            3. - injera is a great GF alternative to wraps or lavash.
              - split and stuffed arepas are a really satisfying alternative to traditional sandwiches.
              - quinoa makes terrific "tabbouleh" and can stand in for couscous in most dishes.
              - sweet rice flour, millet flour and arrowroot all make great thickeners for gravies & sauces.
              - use seeds, crushed nuts/nut meals, cornmeal or coconut flour in place of breading for meat or fish - you'll never miss the bread crumbs.
              - a tempura-style batter with rice flour and club soda makes killer onion rings, fried calamari or squash blossoms.
              - polenta & steel-cut oats are both amazingly versatile for both and sweet dishes, and can be prepared soft or firm, even grilled or pan-fried.
              - masa and corn tortillas offer a world of GF possibilities.
              - long strips of blanched zucchini & carrot make a really light & tasty alternative to pasta. just toss in the pan with your favorite sauce & serve.
              - buckwheat is highly underrated - the flour is terrific for baking (or, crepes, anyone?) and toasted buckwheat groats make wonderful side dishes like pilaf & grain salads, and a really satisfying hot cereal for breakfast.

              even better, if you fill your plate with an array of colorful veggies, clean protein and healthy fats, you won't have much room for the bread, pasta, cookies or cakes...and you just might find after a while that you don't miss it all that much.

              6 Replies
              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Good list. I'm interested, however, that you mentioned arepas. We were in a Latin restaurant a few days ago that specialized in them, and we asked about the GF factor. They told us their arepas did have a small amount of wheat flour. So it would be good to know if this is normal or an exception. In any case, it would suggest that checking before consuming is a good idea.

                1. re: johnb

                  that's a bit of an exception, arepas don't typically contain wheat flour. but yes, ALWAYS ask - unfortunately that comes with the territory. the good news is that you can safely work GF magic in your own kitchen with all the things i mentioned. (i was operating on the assumption that we were discussing home-prepared items made from scratch. sorry!)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Nothing to be sorry for. I think we are indeed mostly discussing home made, but restaurants are in the picture as well, so no reason not to discuss both. Right now my wife and I are traveling (have been for a month), so restaurants are very much on our minds.

                    Thank you for your excellent input.

                    1. re: johnb

                      you're a lucky couple to have that kind of freedom - i hope you're enjoying every moment! have you checked out any of the GF travel or city-centric websites? depending on where you go, you might find some really useful information and restaurant recommendations/reviews.

                      and when it comes to preparation, here's one of my favorite resources:

                      they actually have a separate category for GF items, including packets of GF soy sauce which are super-handy to bring with you when you're out for sushi.

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I understand that the flour for injera in the US is often cut with flours other than teff. Some, like buckwheat, are GF. Others, wheat or barley, aren't. So I would be careful before eating injera.

                  1. re: Lori D

                    The OP was talking specifically about foods to be made at home, so I suggested injera based on the assumption that he would be preparing it from scratch using a traditional teff-only recipe. But you raise a good point - never assume something is GF, and always ask unless you made it yourself.

                3. my sister changed to a GF diet after life long battle with nausea, IBS, fatigue, etc. she also has thyroid issues which contributes to her health problems and turning to a GF diet has helped her tremendously.

                  she etas tons of japanese food and don't know where you're located but there's quite a few selections of potato starch type of noodles in the noodle section of our Japanese market.

                  if you ever want the best fried chicken try japanese tatsuta age. marinated chicken pieces in tamari, rice wine, sugar, garlic and ginger. dust it with corn starch and fry away.

                  my sister eats tons of mochi for dessert too.

                  bread does seem to be an issue. so far she's failed at all attempts to make it successfully at home so she's given in to Udi's for now

                  1. Be careful of buying the ethnic brand flours. I have personally contacted quite a few of them and most are at risk of cross contamination. Check the Goya website for their current list of what is gluten free(http://www.goya.com/english/nutrition...). Last time I called Swad they did not recommend me using any of their products except for the chickpea flour because of the risk of cross contamination. I have contacted other brands but it has been about 10 years for some. The same with corn tortillas, some of the smaller companies make their flour and corn tortillas in the same space.

                    I have found the following are safe:
                    *corn tortilla's, some do indicate they are gluten free on their packages. according to my phone calls to Ole Foods their corn tortillas are gf, they have various brands around the country so check their website for the names & call them. Hopefully we can get them to change their packaging. I find their tortillas are more flexible and "flakier" than Mission. I literally will drive miles out of my way to get these. I buy a large bag and freeze them in small bags (10 per bag), just remember to take them out about a day before you need them.
                    *tapioca flour, etc from Thailand only (was recommended by several people that deal with food companies from PRC, Peoples Republic of China, to never buy my flour from there). I have checked Asian Best for their tapioca and someone else checked (I believe) Erewhon.
                    *chickpea flour from Meera or Swad (they are both from Canada from a plant that only processes beans).
                    *Masa harina, maseca brand says right on the package that it is gluten free.

                    I cannot comment on other flours from ethnic stores since I have not researched them. I do buy beans from the local Indian store but make sure I always rinse the beans well.
                    re levain. I personally would test the bread for gluten content and if your wife wants to eat it then make sure she is tested to verify her antibody numbers are going/staying down. Including myself there are celiacs that found prior to diagnosis that they tolerated whole grain wheat bread better than other breads. No reaction doesn't mean no damage.
                    I have been making Brazilian Pao de queso from scratch and even tried it without the cheese. Nice change from other breads and easy to do. Turned several gluten eater children on to this, when they visited last summer at their request I made it at least 4 times in 7 days. There are naturally gluten free recipes for similar recipes but using different flours from Columbia called Pan de bono.

                    For my bread I have been putting it in a cold oven (got the idea from Carol Fenster) and boy does it get a great crust. I also ignore the advise (unless I don't have enough time) to only do 1 rise, I normally do 2 rises. This increases the flavor, helps the bread last longer without freezing (it generally is edible without toasting or freezing for 4-5 days), and my bread can be used successfully as a sandwich. I still remember the first bread I would make, it had good spring & wasn't blech tasting, but it would mold within 2 days & forget about a sandwich. Changing the flour, doing the extra rising and the way I baked it gives an entirely different bread. There are others in my support group that now do their bread with the 2 risings after they tasted my bread.

                    Although it doesn't make a big difference substituting 1 T expandex per cup of flour does make a difference, it's subtle but there is a difference in the texture. When we did a taste testing of various bread flour combinations (including one where the oil and eggs were left out which makes it taste more like italian bread) people could tell the difference (including our youngest that day who was about 6 and sat paying attention the whole time through a 1 1/2 hour talk/demonstration on breadmaking--definitely a foodie).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kosherGlutenFree

                      If "certified gluten free" means less than 10 ppm gluten, does cross-contamination necessarily mean more than 10 ppm? I can't find anything saying that they are actually required to have separate equipment- just that they do an audit to "determine certification feasibility". Is this a reliable indicator of anything, or just a marketing gimmick for companies that can afford to jump through the hoops?

                      I'm totally looking forward to making that Pan de bono.

                      1. re: jvanderh

                        Actually there is no legal definition of gluten free in the US. Until the FDA gets the rules finalized the definition is up to the company, except if they are certified by one of the organizations which each have their own definition (cannot remember what they are since I read them months ago). So if their definition is 10ppm or lower is gluten free, then greater than 10ppm would not be gluten free.

                        If the company knows how to clean the equipment/work area properly then there should be no problem with them making both gluten free and gluten containing items on that equipment. Based on my conversations over the years with various companies it can be as expensive as having fantastic filtering of the air or as simple as making a physical separation between the additions like spices that contain gluten from the ones that are gluten free or even just ensuring the bags of spices are not dragged through the company next door that makes flour (actual case, this was actually what was found when someone was checking for kosher for passover certification, the shortest path to the trucks was through the neighboring company and of course the bags were porous so they all contained gluten). How you ensure a product will consistently be gluten free and will test below the ppm threshold is different depending upon what is being made and where there is a risk for cross contamination in the facility. I understand that it can take flour 3 days to settle from the air which would mean cleaning everything one day, let the air settle for 3 days and probably reclean the outside of everything prior to making a product. You would not need to do this with liquids.

                        I have noticed that some of the small companies are getting certified even though they are making things in a gluten free facility. Yes it is a marketing ploy but it also means they know their products are gf and they don't have as great a liability issue when they state their products are gf which seems to be an issue with the small companies since they cannot know everything and this gives them expert advice. I know of several companies that could say some of their items are gluten free but they are so afraid of having something happen and someone get sick they refuse to say anything they make is gluten free (in 3 of the cases it is an honest fear that they could accidently make someone sick and not the legal issues). If they would be certified then they would be comfortable saying something is gluten free, they would have someone ensuring they know how to prevent cross contamination and it would make their insurance company/lawyers happy.

                    2. Most soy sauce IS a problem. Look on the label - usually it's "soy and wheat" and nothing else. Maybe some water. That is absolutely not OK. Japanese soy sauce, called tamari, is usually safe because it usually does not contain wheat, but sometimes it can so you have to be careful.

                      1. I'm allergic to wheat (as opposed to celiac) but for all intents and purposes, I eat gluten free (except I can have spelt) and I am head over heels in love with brown rice flour. I make everything from onion rings to rich sauces to breading. Ditto for brown rice "bread crumbs". They go in my crab cakes and meatballs. The old stand-by used to be white rice flour but I find it gritty/pasty and never enjoyed how my baked goods come out. THE BESt chocolate chip cookies are from an Alton Brown recipe using brown rice flour. No one ever knows the difference:


                        My other favorite is blanched almond flour. I was afraid I'd never be able to have cake again until I discovered this wonderful substitute. It makes a delicious, angel-food like cake. I haven't tried making a chocolate version yet, but I love that I can make CAKE! Again, it doesn't taste like a 'substitute' - it just tastes like freakin' good cake. So many lovely, delicate french pastries are made just almond flour that it inspired me to start looking around (macarons anyone?). Below is a picture a friend took of a cake I made for a party.

                        I also use a lot of tapioca flour and am going to start venturing more into buckwheat flour.

                        Good luck! Be sure and share any great finds!!

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: krissywats

                          Would you share your angelfood recipe, pretty please? :-)

                          1. re: jvanderh

                            Sure! I honestly can't remember where I found the recipe initially but I've altered it enough that it's not all that similar anyway:

                            This makes 1 8-inch round.

                            3 large eggs
                            1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar)
                            6 tablespoons of sugar
                            1 teaspoon of baking soda
                            1/4 cup of oil
                            1/2 tablespoon of vanilla
                            1 tablespoon of lemon juice
                            1 cup of almond flour (finely ground, blanched almonds)

                            Taste the batter - you may feel it needs more sugar but I like a lightly sweetened cake with fantastic frosting.

                            325 oven
                            Prepare pan with oil, then parchment, then more oil and GF flour or I like to use sugar.
                            Separate yolks and whites.
                            Beat the whites with the vinegar until stiff peaks.
                            In a separate bowl combine the yolks with sugar, baking soda, oil and vanilla. Mix well.
                            Add lemon juice, blend to combine.
                            Add the almond flour into the yolk mixture and once mixed, fold in the egg whites.
                            Bake about 20 minutes.

                            Let me know if you try any flavors with it! Oh, also, you can use honey but I prefer sugar.

                            1. re: krissywats

                              That sounds delicious!! Know what I'm making for my birthday!!

                              1. re: krissywats

                                Thank you, thank you! I will probably try it just as written, with sweetened whipped cream or cream cheese.

                                1. re: krissywats

                                  it's the same as the recipe for "Fluffy Cupcakes" from a blog called Comfy Belly (she uses honey). and you're right, it's a great one - the first time i saw her photo of those cupcakes i thought the color, rise and consistency looked exactly like mini angel food cakes!

                                  i once made them into strawberry shortcakes for a BBQ where everyone else could eat gluten, and they were a huge hit. they also take cream fillings really well :)

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Oooooh - what a great idea! I bet they WOULD take cream filling very well.

                              2. re: krissywats

                                I am a similar situation, wheat allergy rather than celiac. Spelt flour is a great stand in but apparently it is not gluten free. I use it in pastries, cookies, cakes etc. This spelt french bread turns out quite good. An egg wash makes it nice and crusty. http://cottagemagpie.com/cooking-baki...

                                I eat much more ethnic food than I used to. More Asian, Mexican, Japanese, Mediterranean etc.
                                Rice pasta is good, there are lots of types of rice noodles in Asian foods. I found a tamari gluten free soy sauce San-J brand. I use rice stick noodles to make home made ramen. Rice flour makes great cookies, they end up crispy. Rice flour shortbread I think is better than spelt or wheat. For breading things I use ground in the blender rice crackers. For meatloaf and meatball type things oats work well. IIRC there are some oats labeled as GF?

                                Corn starch can work as a stand in to thicken many things. I have found lots of pudding recipes online that use cornstarch rather than a flour thickener. It works well if you need to dust meat before frying. I have used potato starch, oat flour or corn starch to thicken soups.

                                If you can find Schar baked goods they are all GF and better than any of the others I have tried including Udi's. They are shelf stable so they are not in a freezer section. They have a chibatta (sp?) roll that is good and stands up to sandwiches better than other GF bread. They make cookies and have a regular roll that could be used for burgers.

                                Applegate farms makes breaded chicken breast strips that are GF and very good. I have yet to find a GF frozen pizza that didn't taste horrible. I usually make spelt pizza crust and make pizza at home when I need a fix. I did manage to freeze pizzas on a piece of cardboard covered in foil then wrapped so I had frozen pizzas. It should work if you can find a decent GF pizza crust recipe.

                                I find that rice, lentils and potatoes help stand in for the need for carbs. I have made taboulli out of brown lentils that is very good.

                                1. re: blackpointyboots

                                  quinoa also make a great tabbouli.

                                  FWIW, i've seen some recommendations here on CH for Whole Foods' own brand of frozen GF pizza crusts. and for prepared breads & muffins, i've also heard positive reviews for Canyon Bakehouse (though i've never had any of the products myself).

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Re: quinoa and tabbouli, I prefer quinoa to couscous 100% of the time (texture thing -- ordinary couscous reminds me of wet sand) and I LOVE that it's GF for potlucks where I know there'll be folks with and without celiac. It's always a hit.

                                    1. re: LauraGrace

                                      millet, amaranth & teff all make great tabouli as well.

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        Carol Fenster recommends using whole sorghum. I got the following off her blog (the link doesn't work to the actual article but this is where I got the following http://www.carolfenstercooks.com/?s=s...):

                                        "Hearty, wholesome Tabbouleh is typically made with bulgur (wheat) but whole grain sorghum is a perfect substitute because it has about the same size and chewiness. "

                                        I haven't tried this yet, but I just bought some whole grain sorghum from nuts.com to use for tabbouleh.

                                        1. re: kosherGlutenFree

                                          i'll be interested to hear how it works out for you - i personally don't care for the flavor of sorghum so i've never used it as a whole grain.

                                          BTW, i'm a HUGE fan of nuts. com :)

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            It may be a couple of weeks but I will post the results and the recipe that I use. Since I have never made this (was diagnosed with celiac 12 years ago but have known I was allergic to wheat for about 20 years) I don't have a recipe so will be looking now that I have the sorghum.

                                  2. re: blackpointyboots

                                    I really enjoy udi's GF pizza crust but I feel it must be pre-baked first. But I also like a really crispy crust.

                                2. What an awesome husband you are!!! It is hard to get used to but you can do this. first READ ALL LABELS!!! Some soy sauce has wheat in it. There are books out there including Gluten cooking for Dummies & my favorite cookbook Cooking for Isiah. The author of this cookbook was a baker and has tested all the different flour, etc. I had a banana pancake the other day. there are great things out there once you get over sticker shock. It is not a cheap way to eat but what is the alternative? I found if I get the staples and then all I have to do is add to it. you don't have to eat just salads. Talk to grocery stores find their gluten free. there is amazing ice cream made with coconut milk. (So delicious-brand & it is) almond milk is the best I think & they have vanilla flavor that is great on cereal (chex makes gluten free) & reg almond milk great in mashed potatoes. My friends husband makesin a half gallon jar olive oil, apple cider vinegar & yellow mustard (helps prevent seperate) start with oil add vinegar little less than same amount of oil add mustard same amount. use fro potatoes salad instead of mayo, marinate chicken then cook in some,can use instead of mayo in anything. It is awesome.
                                  Good luck

                                  1. dishtoweldiaries.com is author of Cooking for Isiah cookbook site but get the book