Getting the celiac disease diagnosis can be kind of scary. Hey, I was kind of scared when I first entered this gluten-free world – and I’m not even the one with the allergy!
All of a sudden you realize that there’s wheat in everything, and WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO EAT.
And then, if you’re a cook, you all of a sudden realize that you don’t actually know how to cook. Not gluten-free anyway. I mean, try making your old wheat bread recipe with rice flour. I dare you. (not really. Don’t do it)
With that said, it won’t always be this hard. You’ll learn that it’s actually easy to make your favorite foods into gluten-free masterpieces.
Ya just gotta know where to start. Lemme give you a hand with that!
Get some basic food staples.
Meat and veggies are always gluten-free (assuming we’re talking about meat and not sausages and pre-made stuff), so we’ll skip right over them and get to the good stuff.
Rice flour – This is going to be your base for flour mixes. Your go-to. It’s pretty blandly flavored, so it’s especially good for desserts and things have other flavor sources (vanilla, cocoa, fruit, etc.). There are a whole host of other flours out there, each with its own specific qualities, but rice is the most universally used flour in most recipes, and even commercial mixes. It also happens to be one of the cheapest gluten-free flours you can get. Score! Find rice flour here.
Corn starch – Another component of your basic flour mix. It can be replaced with similar results by tapioca starch for those of you allergic to corn, but keep in mind, corn starch is much, much cheaper, and most reliable starch you can get. Not only will you use it in your flour mixes, but it’s a must for making gravy. Get cornstarch here.
Xanthan (or guar) gum – You’re gonna need a binder for those flours. See, since we don’t get to take advantage of that wonderfully sticky protein called gluten, we have to find something else to keep our baked goods together. Xanthan gum is made from corn products, while guar gum is made from the guar bean. Opinions differ on which is better, and for what purpose. Personally, I find that my results are about the same with either gum, and stick mostly with guar because I can get it insanely cheaply. Find Guar Gum here.
Find some reputable recipes.
I personally have an index of gluten-free recipes here on The Frugal Farm Wife that I think pretty highly of, but of course, there are tons of other places to get good recipes. 🙂 If you do a google search, you can find almost anything, so how do you know if it will live up to your expectations?
- Look at the comment section on blog recipes to see how it turned out for others (use your discretion though! some folks say mean things without even having tried the recipe).
- Find popular pins on Pinterest by searching for the recipe. It’s there are several thousand repins of a recipe, it may be based solely on the pretty picture, but then again, the Pin probably originally came from a reputable source.
- Get recommendations from friends or family with celiac disease. Chances are, somebody you know has some good recipes!
Additionally you can check out my eBooks page where I have two super inexpensive gluten-free cook books for sale (you know I had to plug myself, right?)
Get a little more advanced
Rice is great and all, but eventually, you’re going to want to branch out and try other flours. Trust me, you are. Every flour has its own unique flavors and attributes that can turn boring baked goods – especially breads – into something extraordinary.
Corn flour – This is by far my favorite. I love, love, love corn flour and if you don’t have a corn allergy, I highly recommend it. Corn flour has a mild flavor that blends extremely well with brown rice flour, and makes up a third part of my favorite gluten-free flour mix ever. The best part? It’s relatively high protein content, and it’s own minimal form of harmless gluten give baked goods a beautiful structure and texture. Order corn flour here.
Sorghum Flour – This is another mild tasting flour for those of you who prefer not to use corn. Sorghum is very common in homemade gluten-free flour mixes, and so it’s very easy to find. See sorghum flour here.
millet Flour – This one has a lovely, rich, unique flavor that is perfect for bread making. One odd thing I’ve found about millet is that it doesn’t brown very well, but it’s a small price to pay for so much deliciousness. This one is soft enough that you can buy whole seeds to grind in your blender or coffeee grinder even if you don’t have a real flour mill! Get millet flour here.
Tools Of The Trade
Glass Baking dishes – You want your baking dishes to stand the test of time, and the wear and tear that comes with it. Aluminum or tin pans just don’t do that. With glass, you can scrub to your hearts content and not worry about damaging pan finish or teflon coating, plus, you can see the bottom of what your baking which is invaluable for people like me who tend to over brown things otherwise. I have and love Anchor bakeware, which you can find here.
Sturdy Mixing bowls – I’ll have to admit – I”m pretty picky about my mixing bowls. Not so much the brand, size, or even shape so much as what they’re made of. Like baking dishes, they need to be sturdy, and scrub proof, but they also need to be germ-proof. Plastic is tempting with two little kids “helping” with the cooking chore and dishes, but they scratch easily, and those scratches breed bacteria like nobody’s business. Plus, plastic tends to hold odors and flavors – yuck! I let it be made known early on that nothing other than glass or stainless steel was welcome in my kitchen. mine are kind of a hodgepodge that I’ve picked up at various thrift stores over the years – like I said, I’m not picky about brand or shape – and I love them. You can find a great selection of mixing bowls on Amazon.
Food Processor – This is by far my number one most used tool in the kitchen. As I cook from scratch both to make sure our food is compatible with my family’s food allergies, and to save (a lot!) of money, the food processor cuts my pre time tremendously. You can use it from everything to cutting butter into biscuit or pie crust dough within seconds, or to make dairy-free “nice cream’ from frozen fruit. It’s a huge, huge blessing! Here is the food processor I have and love. (I think mine is an older model though – I got it six years ago!)
Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer – Strictly speaking, you could forgo the expensive mixer, and use a hand-held beater-mixer (like this one), but for longevity’s sake, the stand mixer can’t be beat. You don’t have to worry about the motor burning out in a sturdy stand mixer after too many batches of bread or pizza dough, or cake icing! Here is the mixer I have – it’s a beast and I love it!
Immersion Blender – Necessary? Maybe not. Super duper handy? You bet! As an allergy-friendly cook, you’ll find yourself making a lot of unconventional things. For instance, who knew you could make a mock Alfredo sauce out of white beans? The immersion blender make making those kinds of things super easy. Plus I use mine for soap making, which more than makes up for the cost of the hand blender itself, and my husband uses it every day to blend coconut oil into his coffee. (I’m not even kidding – he loves it!) Cuisinart has really good immersion blender options.
Flour Mill – Y’all. If there’s one thing in my kitchen that has saved me money, it’s the flour mill. What – if? There is no if! I can buy rice at Walmart of $0.60 and grind it myself, whereas it costs me at least $2.00 a pound to buy rice flour. I’ve had this grinder for six years, and needless to say, it paid for itself very quickly, and now it sits in my kitchen and makes money! See the grinder I use (and love!) here.
There are a lot of things that you don’t have to have, but they sure are nice. After all, it’s the little things that make all the difference in your quality of life, er – food.
Gluten-free oatmeal. My kids love oatmeal, so I finally broke down and started buying Bob’s Red Mill certified gluten-free oats for them. They’re nice and thick and have some texture to them which makes for perfect baked oatmeal!
Gluten-Free Pasta – Fortunately for us, GF pasta has pretty much become common place. You can get pretty good pasta at Walmart now, and I stock up on Aldi’s brand every time I go. One way you can save a lot of money on pasta is to buy it at international markets. Asian pasta is often made of gluten-free flours such as rice, bean, and even sweet potato starch. There’s even a brand of high-protein bean pasta which I, in my quest to get my protein macros every day love (it’s actually the only pasta I personally eat now – I make a pot of corn/rice pasta for the kids, and separate pot for me – totally worth the effort!) I’m talking 20 grams of protein per serving. Woot! Move over protein shake! (I should totally be a protein pasta brand ambassador) But do be aware that it has a different flavor than the bland pasta you’re use to.
Gluten-Free Vanilla – Are you surprised to find that something as innocuous as vanilla could have gluten in it? Me too! Fortunately, there are gluten-free options out there – just don’t buy vanilla with caramel color in it!
Gluten-free soy sauce. Meals of beans, rice, and soy sauce used to be a staple for my family growing up (there was a period of time where we were beyond dirt poor), Add a few stir-fry veggies with chicken, and it’s still one of my favorite meals. Soy sauce it also a must have for asian cooking, but I learned the hard way that even soy sauce often has gluten in it. Fortunately, La Choy is always gluten-free.
Breakfast cereal. Cheerios is now gluten-free. Hooray for brining back a childhood favorite! My son is a nut about anything with honey in it (see what I did there?), so naturally, honey nut cheerios are a favorite with him.
That about wraps up my take on gluten-free pantry essentials. most of the things on this list (except sorghum flour) are in my pantry right now.
Now it’s your turn: What are your favorite gluten-free essentials?
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Thank you so much for your support!