Can you sub gluten free flour for regular all purpose flour?
Yes and no. Helpful, right?
I’m sure many of you have seen gluten free flour blends for sale at your local grocery stores. Even in our small, North Idaho town, we can find multiple brands of gluten free flour locally.
These are great, unless they contain ingredients I’m not thrilled with…more on that later.
Gluten-free flours can successfully be used 1:1 in recipes that use about a cup or less of regular all purpose flour. These include recipes like pancakes, waffles, quick-breads and some cookies.
When you’re working with recipes like breads, most cookies, cakes, bagels, pizza crust, etc. (where the bulk of your recipe is flour) you have to use a binder. For this reason, the recipe below has the option of adding guar gum.
Most gluten free flour blends you’ll find on the internet will have some sort of “binder” included.
Most often, this is binder is xanthan gum.
What is Xanthan Gum?
In short, xanthan gum is “a substance produced by bacterial fermentation or synthetically and used in foods as a gelling agent and thickener. It is a polysaccharide composed of glucose, mannose, and glucuronic acid.”
That probably didn’t answer your question, did it?
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find hundreds of thousands of answers…but who has time to read all that?
I’ve sifted through a hefty portion of them and have found conflicting answers like, “xanthan gum is a healthy, natural substance” to the complete other end of the spectrum with, “xanthan gum can cause problems such as nausea, vomiting and hard stools”.
Not only that, but I’ve also read that it’s possible to build up an intolerance to xanthan gum, so those buying gluten free products at the grocery store, but still experiencing some intestinal upset, may be dealing with intolerances other than gluten.
As with any other health decision, what you’re comfortable with is going to boil down to your own convictions and decisions about “healthy food” and products you decide worthy to put in (or on) your body.
What I can share are my opinions on xanthan gum.
How Xanthan Gum is Made
The “natural” form of xanthan gum is produced by fermenting glucose, sucrose or lactose using the bacteria Xanthamonas campestris. Once it’s fermented it’s then turned into a solid using isopropyl alcohol. It’s then dried and ground into a fine powder, packaged up and put on the grocery store shelf or added to thousands of products (both food and non-food alike).
Now I don’t know about you, but adding isopropyl alcohol to make this product solid, to then dry it out and grind it down to add to my food doesn’t seem so “natural”.
Because we try to stick pretty closely to a non-processed diet, this definitely doesn’t make it onto our “OK foods to eat” list.
Xanthan Gum Alternative
Thankfully, there are alternatives! All of our gluten free recipes call for binders, but they’re binders that are added to the recipe, not the flour blend.
Ingredients like eggs, flax, gelatin and psyllium husk can all give you the necessary binding needed for a successful recipe.
But if you’re sitting there thinking, “I just want something I can swap out 1:1 for my regular, gluten filled flour!”...there may be another option!
What is Guar Gum
We have since discovered guar gum which, because it’s a “gum”, initially raised some red flags, but after some more research we concluded that guar gum was an acceptable solution for our gluten free flour blend because it’s made from the seeds of the guar bean. AND, to avoid any GMO contamination, you can find an organic option here.
Now, before you get too excited, we must mention that we still don’t regularly use guar gum in our gluten free flour blend.
Guar gum just isn’t something we’ve found necessary as we’ve found other “real food” binders that work just as well.
However, for those of you just getting started to gluten free baking and really want a 1:1 replacement, guar gum may just be your solution!