For some, it’s a choice. For others, a necessity. But regardless of the reasons, gluten-free has become a huge food trend in the last few years. But one word of advice before hitting the kitchen: even when using natural or specialty gluten-free products, make sure to double check with the manufacturer to ensure there's no risk of cross-contamination with gluten in production. With that in mind, here’s our list of the 27 best gluten-free cooking substitutions to satisfy any need.
1. Corn tortillas for sandwich. bread Cold cuts and deli cheese just aren’t the same unless they’re sandwiched between something starchy. When gluten-free bread isn’t an option (or if trying to watch the carbs and calories), corn tortillas are a great stand-in.
2. Brown rice tortillas for crackers. Feeling crafty? When cut into squares and toasted, gluten-free brown rice tortillas make a great substitute for crackers.
3. Gluten-free oats for breadcrumbs. A quick whirl in a food processor or blender makes rolled oats the perfect substitute for traditional breadcrumbs. Add a sprinkle of herbs and some Parmesan cheese for Italian-flavored seasoning!
4. Crushed flax or fiber cereal for breadcrumbs Crush up that gluten-free cereal and mix in some herbs for a lower-sodium substitution for traditional breadcrumbs. Plus, it’s an easy way to get an extra dose of fiber or omega-3s!
5. Mashed potatoes for pizza crust. Believe it or not, leftover mashed potatoes make a great alternative to pizza crust. Mix one serving with about ¼ cup of any gluten-free flour. Smooth the mixture into a thin layer onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for a few minutes until crisp. Add favorite traditional pizza toppings, return to the oven until warmed through, and enjoy!
6. Lettuce leaves for tortilla wraps. It’s not a perfect swap, but forgoing the carbs for fresh lettuce is a fun (and easy) switch that can lighten up any wrap or taco dish. Plus, replacing the bread with an extra veggie will give the dish a nutritional boost with added vitamins and folate.
7. Corn tortillas for flour tortillas. Half the calories and fat. ‘Nuff said. Just make sure to pick a certified gluten-free brand.
8. Grits for oatmeal. Craving carbs for breakfast? If gluten-free oats aren’t available, try substituting corn grits. They’re often higher in calories and carbs, but they’re typically lower in fat and contain more folate.
9. Cornmeal pancakes for regular pancakes. Sometimes it’s just a pancake kind of morning. Replacing the wheat flour with cornmeal or corn flour (like in this recipe) can be a perfect substitute.
10. Chopped nuts for granola in yogurt The oats in most commercially-sold granolas are usually grown and processed with wheat or other gluten-containing grains, making them unsafe for people who have to avoid gluten. Instead of grabbing the granola bag, opt for some fresh toasted nuts to go with yogurt or fruit.
11. Meringue for pre-made frosting. Store-bought frosting can sometimes have gluten-based thickeners in it (bummer, right?). Made from just egg whites and sugar, meringue can be a tasty fat-free substitution for traditional frosting. Feel like going a step further? Take a torch to it. Lightly charring the edges of the meringue can add a nice caramelized flavor.
12. Nuts for croutons. Every salad needs that extra crunch. To avoid gluten-filled croutons, try some lightly toasted slivered almonds, pecans, or walnuts. For a savory salad (think Caesar) try a spice or herb roasted variety!
13. Sorghum flour, almond meal, rice flour, chickpea flour, brown rice flour, or buckwheat flour PLUS cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Aside from the classic wheat, there are dozens of other unique types of flours safe for the gluten-free population. One problem: There isn’t really an exact 1:1 swap for wheat— a blend of several flours is needed to get the same texture. When in doubt, check out these recipes from Gluten-Free Goddess and Living Without for some flour combinations that work perfectly in place of wheat flour!
14. Black beans for flour. Substituting a can of back beans (drained and rinsed) for flour in brownies is a simple way to avoid gluten and also add an extra dose of protein! And don’t be fooled— they taste great.
15. Almond flour for wheat flour. This gluten-free switch lends baked goods a dose of protein, omega-3s, and a delicious nutty flavor. Start with something like a simple butter cookie to get a hang for the switch. Feeling creative? Try other nut flours like walnut or hazelnut for another fun switch!
16. Coconut flour for flour. High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, coconut flour is a great partial substitute for wheat flour in baking recipes. Be careful, though— more than ¼ to ½ cup, and the flour’s bitterness can take over.
17. Zucchini or eggplant for lasagna noodles or pasta. Thin strips (cut with a knife) or ribbons (easily made with a vegetable peeler) are a great substitute for wheat-filled pastas. The wider ribbons work perfectly in lasagna, and strips are a great replacement for spaghetti!
19. Rice noodles for pasta. When veggie substitutes just won’t cut it, go for one of the many gluten-free rice-based noodles on the market. Chances are, they’ll be stocked in at the grocer’s international aisle.
20. Polenta for pasta or couscous Polenta is another great option to take the place of traditional pastas. Plus, it goes perfectly with all the classic pasta toppings, from marinara sauce to breaded chicken or sautéed veggies.
21. Grated steamed cauliflower for couscous. Cut calories, carbs, and gluten with this simple switch. Plus, cauliflower offers a handful of other health benefits including vitamins and minerals, and even some cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates.
22. Quinoa for couscous. While couscous is made from processed wheat flour, quinoa is a whole grain superfood packed with protein and nutrients. Bonus points for having almost the exact same texture.
23. Tamari for soy sauce. Many plain soy sauces contain wheat. Avoid getting accidently gluten-ated by going with tamari, a type of soy sauce that’s wheat-free.
25. Cornstarch and water for roux. Cut gluten— and fat! To thicken soups, stews, and stir-fries, replace the traditional fat-and-flour roux mixture with a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch and water (start with a tablespoon of each).
26. Potatoes for roux. Another great option for thickening soups and stews is to add a few chunks of starchy potato (like Idaho). As the potatoes cook and soften, they break apart and slowly thicken.
27. Rice cakes for… just about anything. Rice cakes work perfectly as a stand-in for crackers, pizza crust, and even bagels (we swear, they’re really good with cream cheese— just stick to one serving!).