When you just learn that you have to eat a gluten-free diet and first start trying to bake things without wheat flour, it becomes rapidly apparent that wheat is the best thing in the world to make bread out of. But you can’t use wheat, so you are faced with having to learn what all these other kinds of flours are. Many of these flours are costly and temperamental. With others it can be hard to find a place to buy them. Even worse, it can be hard to figure out which ones are good for what.
Most of these are used by gluten-free bakers to mix along with other flours into versatile mixes which are put together ahead of time and then kept around for when the person wants to do some baking.
Amaranth - This flour isn’t strong flavored but the flavor is malt-like and can be nutty. It is made from a plant seed and is nutritious with lots of protein. Should be used in mixes.
Arrowroot - A handy substitute for cornstarch, this is a actually a ground up root (as the name would indicate.) When substituting for cornstarch you use it one for one. Arrowroot stores on the shelf and isn’t very flavorful.
Buckwheat - It sounds like it must be wheat, but it isn’t. It is actually made from the ground seeds of a plant related to rhubarb. The flour is flavorful and has a dark color. Works really well for more robust whole grain breads.
Cornstarch - Flour that has been refined from corn. It has almost no flavor, and is used in mixes. It doesn’t go bad easily when stored in a cool dark place.
Garbanzo Bean - A.k.a. Chick Peas, the flour is very flavorful and contains lots of protein. It should be refrigerated.
Garfava - Fava beans and garbanzos. Like the garbanzo bean flour, it has a strong flavor, but it stores better. You can use this flour as a substitute for rice flour. Has lots of protein. Good for a wide variety of baked goodies.
Millet - An excellent source of protein. Popular for breads. Millet has been cultivated for thousands of years and is a member of the grass family. The flavor is sweet and subtle. Best used in mixes. Works well in breads.
Potato - Popular as a thickening agent for stews, soups, and gravies. Ground dried pototoes. Bob’s Red Mill declares that potato flour imparts a “moist crumb.” Used sparingly in flour mixes. It tastes like potatoes (like one would expect) and stores well. Great for baking. Helps make dough elastic. Has more subtle flavor than Potato Flour.
Quinoa - Ground from seeds of a plant that is related to beets and spinach. The resulting flour is a good source of protien. The flavor is not strong. Works the best in flour mixes.
Brown Rice - Frequently used in breads, and a great flour mix ingredient. It is nutty and imparts a “whole grain” feel to breads. Has more flavor than white rice flour and needs to be refrigerated.
White Rice - One of the few flours on this list that is used alone in baking. It is ground white rice. Is still best when mixed with other flours. Baked goods are spongy and the flour imparts a light texture. Not very nutritious and much less flavorful. Stores nicely.
Sorghum - Has a sweet flavor. Contains B vitamins and protein. Should be used mixed with other flours. Good for all kinds of baked goodies. Easy to store.
Soy Flour - Should be refrigerated because of high protein content. Has nutty tasts. Works very well in mixes, especially when used with rice flour.
Tapioca - Although it isn’t called tapioca starch, it is the same product. Cassava root in ground form. Imparts a chewiness to gluten-free treats. Not very nutritious. Little flavor. Stores easily. Needs to be used in flour mixes.
Teff - Popular in flour mixes for cookies and bread. Very nutritious and contains protein, zinc, iron, calcium, and lots of fiber. Bob’s Red Mill says that teff is the smallest of grains.
Xanthan Gum - Xanthomonas campestris is a bacteria used to make xanthan gum from. Xanthan Gum absorbs moisture and becomes sticky. Handy for replacing gluten in baked goods. Used in very small amounts.