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How to use rice flour explores the new basics of gluten free baking

How to use rice flour in gluten free baking is one of the first challenges for anyone new to the gluten free diet. In the past I had no interest in knowing why wheat flour worked. I could successfully bake so I never thought too much about it. After several years of gluten free baking I can tell you that understanding a few basics about flour is very helpful for gluten free bakers.

How To Use Rice Flour – The New Basics

You might think (or hope) that you can simply buy a gluten free flour blend to replace wheat flour and bake all your old recipes. This is simply not true.

No single gluten free flour or starch behaves like wheat flour. Thus begins the journey of trial and error with gluten free baking.

All flour contains protein, starch and fat…who knew! Flour is typically used to create structure in baked goods, to thicken sauces or as a coating for foods. These processes rely on the different properties of flour and they are not all the same.

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Photo of the Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet in black, holding coffee mug with logo, underneath is picture of her using rice flour on a black background.

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An Overview

White rice, brown rice and sweet rice flour are all commonly used in gluten free baking. The flour is made from rice so like white rice and brown rice, each flour is a little different. Here are two important things to know about rice flour.

  • The milling process affects the texture of the flour and not all brands are the same. Finely milled rice flours are preferred. I buy Erawan brand white and sweet rice flours at my Asian grocery store and Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour. America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) recommends all of Bob’s Red Mill brand of rice flours and I find them readily available.
  • Rice flour doesn’t absorb liquid and fat like wheat flour. This causes cookies to spread and cakes/muffins to be mushy or greasy. Letting batter/dough rest for several minutes, or up to thirty minutes, allows for proper hydration and gives a better result.
Learn about the gluten free flours available to bake the foods that you love gluten free.

How To Use Rice Flour – White, Brown and Sweet

Store bought gluten free flour blends and the majority of gluten free baked goods contain rice flour. Since no single gluten free flour behaves like wheat flour using rice flour in combination with other starches and flours will yield the best results.

If you have a store bought flour blend that works for you great. Just know that most blends will not give the best result in all recipes. I can make any muffin recipe and quick breads with my gluten free flour mix that contains sweet rice flour. However, for crisp cookies using some brown rice flour, potato starch and/or almond flour gives a better result.

America’s Test Kitchen has two excellent resources, How Can It Be Gluten Free and How Can It Be Gluten Free Volume 2. These two cookbooks are full of helpful information and a lifetime of learning for an everyday home cook, especially if you want to know what makes a recipe work. Their first “all purpose gluten free flour blend” includes white and brown rice flour. But the fact that they made another flour blend in their second cookbook demonstrates that…no single gluten free flour or blend behaves like wheat flour for all uses.

I now bake and experiment with my homemade flour mix that has sweet rice flour. In the final post of this series I write about How To Use a Gluten Free Flour Mix for all the reasons gluten free cooks need to adjust recipes.

The four flour and starch combination for my gluten free flour mix
Gluten Free Flour Mix -photo credit Jim Little

White Rice Flour

PROPERTIES

  • Neutral flavour and smooth texture
  • Affordable and easy to find
  • long shelf life

CONS

  • Not ideal in recipes with low liquid and high fat content like cookies and muffins
  • Gives baked goods with an unappealing, translucent-white colour

BEST USES

  • 30-60% of a flour combination for all uses

Brown Rice Flour

PROPERTIES

  • Affordable and easy to find
  • Mild flavour and texture
  • The tan colour gives baked goods a slightly browner look

CONS

  • Some brands have an odd earthy flavour
  • High fat content means shorter shelf life so is best stored in the fridge or freezer

BEST USES

  • Adds a crispness to cookies
  • 30-60% of a flour combination for all uses

Sweet Rice Flour (AKA Glutinous Rice Flour)

PROPERTIES

  • Combines more readily with fat than other rice flours
  • Freeze and thaw stable
  • Its’ natural elasticity makes it ideal for rice noodles

CONS

  • Name is confusing since this flour is not sweet and does not contain gluten

BEST USES

  • As a thickener for soups and sauces
  • Up to 40% of a flour combination for all uses
  • Making rice noodles and wrappers

Tips for Successful Baking

Enjoying freshly baked goods at home is one of the joys of baking. You don’t need to bake every day or even every week but the ability to make cookies, cupcakes and the occasional birthday cake is a life skill worth learning. If you have kids in your life, whether they have celiac disease or not, be sure to involve them in the adventure.

Start with that first successful recipe you like then make it over and over. That is how I have learned to bake gluten free. Gradually I learned how I could substitute one type of flour for another, or alter some ingredient to suit my taste. Sometimes I make a double batch of muffins but I don’t double the ingredients in one bowl. I simply make two recipes side by side using a different flour combination. I often do this with my basic recipe for banana muffins, knowing how they should turn out so I can compare and adjust accordingly. Doing this will help you become more confident making substitutions, and that is an important skill for a gluten free baker.

Gluten free Banana Muffins just out of the oven.
My favourite recipe for experimenting – Gluten Free Banana Muffins

How to Use Rice Flour – The Recipes

I use my homemade flour mix in some of my recipes but not all. I typically try a new recipe the way it is written first then I make adjustments from there. This table lists recipes on my website and shows which rice flour is used in them.

There are no links in this table. Use the SEARCH magnifying glass in the top right hand corner from any page on this website to find what you are looking for.

Remember, no single gluten free flour can mimic all the properties of wheat flour. This means that each recipe almost always calls for another flour or starch therefore the table is only to give you an idea of how the rice flours are commonly used in different recipes.

Happy Baking!


This is the first in a series of blog posts on gluten free flours. My intention is to provide a basic overview of several gluten free flours for the everyday home cook, both new and experienced. Let me know in the comments below if you have a baking story to share or a problem you are trying to solve.

How To Use Gluten Free Flour series:

  1. How To Use Rice Flour in Gluten Free Baking
  2. How To Use Starch in Gluten Free Baking
  3. How To Use Millet Flour and Sorghum Flour
  4. How To Use Corn Flour, Cornmeal and Masa Harina
  5. How To Use Almond Flour and Quinoa Flour
  6. How To Use Binders in Gluten Free Baking
  7. How To Use Chickpea Flour
  8. How To Use Teff Flour
  9. How To Use Buckwheat Flour
  10. How To Use Coconut Flour
  11. How To Use Oat Flour
  12. How To Use A Gluten Free Flour Mix

4 Comments

  • Jacqueline says:

    Hi. I am not celiac but would like to bake for my gluten free friends. 🙂. I am truly confused!!! Can you replace wheat flour with gluten free flour straight up? Or is there something that needs to be added to help things bind?

    • Cinde Little says:

      Oh Jacqueline, that is so kind of you. There is a lot to learn about using gluten free flour but more importantly about avoiding cross contact. Wheat is on most surfaces in every kitchen and you can read more in this post, How To Cook A Meal For A Celiac – https://everydayglutenfreegourmet.ca/2021/05/28/how-to-cook-a-meal-for-a-celiac/. There are long-term health consequences so you need to understand this before you can bake for them.

      The answer to your question isn’t simple. Sometimes you can replace wheat flour with a gluten free flour blend. Depending on the recipe you may or may not need a binder. All blends are different combinations of flours and starches, a binder may be in the blend or may be needed depending on what you’re baking.

      I’ve got 3 suggestions for you; 1) Start with recipes that don’t use flour like this Quinoa Chocolate Cake – https://www.everydayglutenfreegourmet.ca/fw-recipe-slug/quinoa-chocolate-cake/, 2) Plan a night to cook together with your friends so you can learn what they need you to know to make something safe for them to eat, and 3) Once you’ve got that figured out consider taking a VIRTUAL private cooking class with your group to cook something you’re all excited about. You can do this together in one kitchen or all in your own kitchens. Learn more about that here – https://everydayglutenfreegourmet.ca/cooking-classes/diy-create-your-own-class/.

      I hope that helps and I’d love to hear how it goes.

      • Jacqueline says:

        Thank you for the information. My friend is not Celiac but gluten sensitive so her diet is not as sensitive to cross contamination per say.🙂. I am someone who loves to bake and that is what I am interested in learning who to do first. Then meals at some point! My friend also cannot eat chocolate or yellow cheese as it gives her migraines. So the chocolate cake I cannot bake for her.

        • Cinde Little says:

          That’s great Jacqueline! So you can bake many things with a gluten free flour blend and your friend probably has a favourite blend she can recommend. The results will vary so I recommend starting with a recipe that’s written for gluten free. These recipes probably have had adjustments to the liquid and fat to make up for the different properties of gluten free flours. Some bloggers only have recipes with blends, some only have recipes with individually measured flours/starches and some have both. I have both. Most recipes will require a binder like xanthan gum to help create the structure needed in baked goods. Have a look at a dozen recipes or so and decide which flours you want to buy. I use my ‘EGFG flour blend’ in these recipes: Mug Cakes, Sticky Date Pudding, Bourbon Caramel Pumpkin Tart, Crepe Cake and all my pies. Desserts where I measure separate flours are Orange Cupcakes, Fruit Pizza, Angel Food Cake and Lamingtons. Scroll through the DESSERT category under the RECIPES TAB or use the SEARCH feature in the top right corner of every page on my website. Doing it on an iPad or laptop is quicker and easier. Happy Baking!

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