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How to use rice flour in gluten free baking is one of the first challenges for everyone 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.

Understanding Gluten Free Flour

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. (You’ll get over it, this is definitely 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 for three purposes:

  • to create structure in baked goods,
  • thicken sauces,
  • as a coating for meat and vegetables.

These three processes rely on the different properties of wheat flour and they’re not all the same. With gluten free flours we want to use the ones that best mimic the property of wheat flour in each specific recipe. The good news is there is always more than one flour to do this.

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The Difference Between White, Brown and Sweet Rice Flour

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. Further down I will list the properties, cons and best uses of each flour but this general understanding is helpful.

Most store bought flour blends contain rice flour and if you have one that works for the baking you do that’s awesome. It takes many people a long time to find a blend that works best for the type of baking they do.

You can see on the label what is included but the challenge is that you don’t really know how much of each flour is in your blend.

Discovering my EGFG flour blend is what finally took my baking to the next level. At that time my baking was “good for gluten free” but quickly went stale. With this blend the sweet rice flour helped with freshness because it retains moisture better than white rice flour.

For crisp cookies I had better luck when I added brown rice flour to my blend or used a specific combination of flours that included brown rice flour (and/or potato starch and almond flour). If you’re a cookie lover like me be sure to check out this post, Cookie Flour Blend.

Around this time was when I started sharing this quote:

The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.

Unknown

How To Buy Finely Ground Rice Flour

The milling process affects the texture of every flour and it varies by brand. Finely milled rice flours are preferred for gluten free baking.

I can’t tell the difference in texture by the feel of the flour but through research I learned that Asian brands are known for their fine grind. They’re readily available at Asian grocery stores and I buy Erawan white and sweet rice flours.

America’s Test Kitchen recommends all of Bob’s Red Mill rice flours and I find them to work well and be readily available to me.

Gluten Free Flour Doesn’t Absorb Liquid Like Wheat Flour

This tip is just the tip of the iceberg for gluten free bakers.

Rice flour doesn’t absorb liquid and fat like wheat flour. This causes cookies to spread and cakes/muffins to be mushy or greasy. There are many tips to adjust for this in different types of recipes. Letting batter or dough rest for several minutes allows for improved hydration in some recipes but there’s so much more to the science of baking.

Resources for Gluten Free Bakers and Cooks

For those of you that are interested I recommend these two excellent resources from America’s Test Kitchen; How Can It Be Gluten Free and How Can It Be Gluten Free Volume 2. These two cookbooks will give you a lifetime of learning about gluten free baking and cooking. They explain why a recipe works so you can apply these principles to your recipes.

In their first cookbook the ‘all purpose gluten free flour blend’ includes white and brown rice flour. After more than a year of baking with their flour blend I finally figured out that it has too much rice flour for my taste. I love these books and refer to them often but I prefer the blend I now call my EGFG gluten free flour blend.

For this reason I am always reminding my readers that you need to bake, taste and repeat. Over time you will have a more discerning palate and be confident to make adjustments that improve your baking.

In cookbook volume 2 America’s Test Kitchen created more blends once again proving that no single gluten free flour blend behaves like wheat flour for all uses.

How To Use Rice Flour on YouTube

If you visit YouTube (like 1000 times a day) you can watch my video on this topic. When you’re there please give me a thumbs up and subscribe if you want to see more videos. Thank you in advance.

Learn about the gluten free flours available to bake the foods that you love gluten free.

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
  • When purchasing this flour the package may not even say sweet rice flour

BEST USES

  • As a thickener for soups and sauces
  • Up to 40% of a flour combination for all uses
  • Making rice noodles and wrappers (the kind we buy)
The four flour and starch combination for my gluten free flour mix
EGFG Gluten Free Flour Blend

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 muffins, cookies and the occasional birthday cake is a basic 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 gluten free recipe you made (I hope you have at least one). Then make it often and focus on learning to improve your baking.

Learn how to substitute one flour for another, alter other ingredients to suit my taste or incorporate those tips you keep hearing about.

My Best Tip to Quickly Learn About Gluten Free Baking

Make a double batch of muffins (or whatever recipe you like) but don’t double the ingredients in one bowl. Instead, make two recipes side by side using a different flour combination.

I often do this with my recipe for banana muffins or Granola Bars. Knowing what to expect I can compare the difference in texture, taste and how well they hold together.

In no time you’ll be more confident making substitutions and you’ll perfect your favourite recipes.

How to Use Rice Flour – The Recipes

There are so many recipes using rice flour I couldn’t begin to list them. For the majority of baking I do, my homemade EGFG flour blend works great and makes life easier. I make pancakes, crepes and waffles, muffins and quick breads, pie pastry and tart pastry, brownies and cookies, and many more.

The table below is simply to give you an idea of the variety of flours that can be used successfully. You will be happiest when you have figured out what works for most of the recipes you like to make.

Cooking is the best way to figure this out.

There are no links in this table. It simply demonstrates some of the uses and how common rice flour is in baking. To find the recipes use the SEARCH magnifying glass in the top right corner of every page on the website.

Happy Baking!


This is the first in my series of 12 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.

How To Use Gluten Free Flour series:

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