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How to teach someone to cook GF

A close friend of mine recently discovered a gluten intolerance and has decided that she now needs to learn to cook. I am a decent cook and know my way around my own kitchen and food preferences, and she has asked me to teach her how to cook so she can live a healthier, GF life. The problem is, I've never taught anyone to cook, much less teaching someone to cook GF.

My first instinct is to help her master some basic techniques and go-to recipes based in items that are naturally gluten free. If anyone has recommendations for simple prep, gluten free dishes, that would be much appreciated! One of her requests is not for things that require her to stand over a stovetop for very long -- she is impatient and hates cooking already, so we're going to avoid those recipes altogether for now.

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  1. Basic technique will go far! Also, work with your friend to understand food labels, so that she can purchase items with confidence. The celiac associations often have published lists or guides available for purchase.
    That said, if your friend doesn't like to cook, then she could do well by going to talk w/ the GF specialists at her local Whole Foods.

    1. For very fast stuff I would go for basics.

      How to pan fry or bake meat (chicken breasts, pork chops, steak). How to cook eggs (fried, scrambled, poached). How to make a salad and microwave or saute vegetables, and some basic seasonings for them. How to boil and bake potatoes and cook rice.

      Then a few basic stick in the oven and forget casseroles.

      A lot of the easy/cheap/nutritious options are stewed dishes or soups, which are easy, but do take time to cook.

      1. My daughter cooks gluten free. She is only 22,so she was just beginning to cook when she discovered gluten was the problem. To complicate things, she is also vegetarian and allergic to soy :(

        She got a good GF cookbook and started trying out the recipes, step by step. Hearty salads with roasted vegetables involve learning to roast or grill, making a dressing, learning about what makes a complete meal, etc. she makes all kinds of "burgers, balls and loaves" from lentils, beans,veg and eggs (and different seasonings) then makes sauces for dipping or spreading. Just between these 2 things ( loaves and salads) she can make a wide variety of meals.

        she has learned a lot about cooking -and is now branching out to baking a little (baking is a whole different challenge).

        1. I'll definitely get a gluten-free cookbook - there are many good ones out there.

          There are so many items that contain gluten, so she needs to be careful but there are some decent substitutions. One gem I found in the Asian market was pasta (elbow macaroni and the like) made with rice flour - excellent substitute.

          1. Even though she isn't that experienced at cooking, does she have much ingredient knowledge - i.e. does she know what grains are GF and which aren't? If not, start with rice and point her in the direction of a website with a comprehensive list.

            As you've already said, start with the basics (as per the above, different ways of cooking meat, vegetables, eggs etc) and build on it with the flavours she likes. No/minimal cooking options - have her look at a decent recipe collection of salads.

            My fast options for GF - smoked mackerel and potato salad, larb gai (ground chicken in lettuce cups), brown rice with tofu and edamame, scrambled eggs on GF toast, steak, salad and oven wedges, stir-fried vegetables with chicken or shrimp on rice, rice noodles or 'naked'.

            Popcorn. Fresh fruit. Raw nuts and roasted seeds. Yoghurt. Cucumber and carrot sticks with hummus. A cube of cheese. That's my list of go-to snacks that are coincidentally GF.

            1. My first instinct is to help her master some basic techniques and go-to recipes based in items that are naturally gluten free.
              That's the perfect plan. Since she's impatient & hates cooking she's obviously not planning to tackle the major challenges like scratch GF baking...so she needs just two things:
              1. Skill in basic cooking techniques
              2. Knowledge about which ingredients are/aren't GF

              You're going to handle #1. Help her develop decent knife skills, and teach her basic cooking methods like sautéing, poaching, broiling & roasting. Others have already offered many great suggestions for naturally GF dishes that can be prepared quickly on the stove or left in the oven without requiring too much watching. I'll add some more ideas:
              - simple roast chicken
              - oven-baked polenta
              - meat loaf (use store-bought GF bread crumbs or omit altogether)
              - vegetable frittata
              - shakshuka
              - quinoa-stuffed vegetables (peppers, zucchini, eggplant)
              - spaghetti squash or zucchini ribbons with various sauces
              - meat & vegetable kebabs with rice
              - roasted salmon
              - fish veracruz
              - quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos & tostadas w/GF corn tortillas
              - a basic burger with oven-roasted potatoes or fries
              - potato hash
              - oatmeal using certified GF oats
              - hummus & other bean dips

              Regarding #2, send her to celiac.com for a basic overview of all things GF, including this list of forbidden ingredients:

              If she wants to invest in some books on GF lifestyle & cooking, I can recommend a few, as well as other informative websites.

              It's really kind of you to do this for her!

              1 Reply
              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                +1 (...as always...)
                find out what her favorite foods are... if they're easily revamped, maybe consider them...
                i.e. lasagna --> sub eggplant slices and/or zucchini slices for noodles; and if homemade sauce is too much or overwhelming, teach quick fixes to doctor jarred
                stir-fries - sub braggs amino acids or gluten-free tamari for soy; easily variable and easy to make
                basic gluten free quick loaf bread -- i.e. a coconut flour gluten free bread
                pancakes - almond flour is a great base

                basic staples
                since she's not a big cook (though she may develop a liking or love or passion...), some things she can make in larger batches and freeze in portions or use over a few days or esp crockpot cooking that requires little maintenance
                -chicken cacciatore
                -brisket or braised meat of some kind
                -basic salad dressings - vinaigrettes

                definitely second the uses of spaghetti squash, mediterranean foods (hummus, baba ghanoush, kebabs)

                things i make regularly that don't require much of me:
                --salmon croquettes - canned boneless skinless salmon, cooked diced onions (i will often cook/steam in micro), egg, almond meal, S&P, and a little chopped parsley. bake to reduce stovetop time
                --corn soup - can use frozen corn - saute scallion with chipotle in adobo with S&P in butter or earth balance, add corn, almond milk and water. simmer til corn softens. puree in blender.
                --broccoli pie - cooked chopped broccoli and onions (again microwave prep), mix with eggs, almond milk, salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg and grated parmesan cheese... bake.
                --lentil-quinoa veggie burgers -- quick cook lentils/quinoa/grain mix, grated zucchini, onion, minced garlic (there are frozen minced cubes...), salt, pepper, a little cayenne or red pepper flakes, some roasted pepper pieces (torn by hand from the jar...), worcester, egg and almond meal... bake or pan fry.
                --turkey hummus burgers - lean or extra lean ground turkey, mixed with a high proportion of cooked minced onion (i do almost 3 parts turkey to 2 parts onion for moisture), bits of roasted red pepper, minced garlic, hummus, a dash of worcestershire, and almond meal...
                ...there are definitely more, but they're a tad more labor-intensive (not a big deal for me... maybe an extra ten minutes, but i'm at home in my kitchen, so...)

                you're a hero.

              2. I agree with the others. Rice, rice noodles, potatoes, and stuff with corn tortillas would be high on my list. The package directions on rice noodles seem to be almost useless- some seem to take half as long as they say, others take three times as long- so if you can pick some up from a store near her and teach her how to cook them, I think that would be a help. Rice, I like the Royal stuff in the burlap sack- a lot of brands just don't seem to cook properly on the stovetop, and teaching her the absorption method rather than boiling and draining would be good. And baked or nuked potatoes always cover a multitude of sins :-)

                1. she needs to be very careful if using any processed foods. most are processed in plants where there is gluten present. she needs to be a hawk reading labels.

                  i gave up gluten 4 years ago and have never made an alternative pancake or waffle, so i don't know that mussing with various flours is necessary now, especially for somebody who doesn't like to cook.

                  instead of trying to find replacements for gluten-based foods just go in another direction. rice, corn and potato are endlessly versatile. people get so strung up on "zomg, i can't eat bagels!", they don't relax and realize it's actually pretty easy to feed yourself without wheat.

                  many good examples here, but i will add getting a crockpot. set it and forget it.

                  work with batch-cooking too, this way not every meal is from scratch and won't seem a chore to her.

                  good luck!

                  1. I don't think there's much of a difference between teaching someone to cook, period, and teaching someone to cook gluten free. Gluten free baking is another thing...

                    But I do think it would be good for her to start out with an awareness of the common foods and ingredients in which gluten is found, and common substitutions.

                    When looking for recipes, it might be a good idea to look to cuisines that don't use wheat as a staple grain. Many Asian cuisines rely on rice and other gluten free grains, generally, so if she already enjoys those foods, that might be an easy transition.

                    You're a good friend. Good luck. :)