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Baking Substitutions for Flour

By Susan Lundman ; Updated April 18, 2017

Whether you need to bake flour-free briefly for Passover or full-time to manage a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, you’ll find ingredients to substitute for flour readily available on grocery shelves. Some substitutions will work for everyone, while others still pose a risk if you have Celiac disease. Experiment with different flours and substitutes to see what works best for you. Luckily, there are also flourless baking recipes that are so good that no one will miss the flour.

Alternate Flours

Look for wheat flour substitutes at your local grocery or health food store or search online, where you will find a wide variety of available flours. According to the University of Colorado Extension office, for 1 cup of flour, substitute 7/8 to 1 cup of corn meal, 5/8 cup of potato flour, 7/8 cup of rice flour, 1 1/3 cups of rolled oats or 1 1/4 cups of rye flour. For a more elaborate substitution, mix 1/2 cup of cornstarch with 1/2 cup of either rye, potato or rice flour and sift the mixture together six times along with 2 tsp. of baking powder per cup.

Gluten-free Flours

Barley, rye graham, matzo, semolina and spelt flours are all off limits if you have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Oats may or may not cause problems -- research is still ongoing. Good substitutes for flour include any baking mixes specifically labeled “gluten-free” or gluten-free flours. In addition to the substitute flours recommended by the University of Colorado, experiment with amaranth, buckwheat, chickpea, millet, sorghum or tapioca flours.

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Nuts and Eggs

Many flourless cakes and cupcakes use nut pastes or meals while others rely on eggs to thicken the batter. The "Chocolate Nut Cake" recipe from King Arthur Flour, for instance, uses 2 cups of pecans that you grind in a blender or food processor or that you buy as pecan meal. Chef Emeril Lagasse’s "Chocolate-Ancho Chili Flourless Cake," on the other hand, uses six eggs with the whites beaten until thick and then folded into the cake batter.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a corn- or soy-based carbohydrate formed when food manufacturers add bacteria to corn sugar. The resulting xanthan gum, when added to a non-wheat flour, thickens and stabilizes the final food product. You’ll find xanthan gum in a powdered form at your local health food store or online. According to the Xanthan Gum website, you can add 1 tsp. of xanthan gum for each cup of wheat or gluten-free flour for cakes and cookies and 2 tsp. for breads and pizza.

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