Gluten-Free Staples: What do you have in your cupboards?

I think we can all agree that learning about Gluten-free living is *definitely* a gradual process. While “giving up gluten’ can be instantaneous, it is a huge process to get back in the kitchen with confidence. Please help add whatever information you feel is lacking in the comments section.
I’ve thought about this post for a long time. Never quite sure how to lay it all out so that it made sense. Then I got an email from Stacy asking me about my standard pantry ingredients. And she’s right. It’s time to stop putting this post off and just get to it.

When I was diagnosed, we lived in a funky apartment in Chicago. It was in a brown stone in Wrigleyville. The building had obviously been a single family home that had once been converted into three flats. And then the flats had been divided in half and six apartments were born. Thus my funky apartment had a kitchen actually larger than one of the bedrooms. It was a weird layout. My favorite part of it was the fact that in addition to the awesome kitchen space, there was a walk in pantry.

A walk in pantry which had been filled to the brim with glorious gluten-filled food stuffs. All of which need to find new homes when I learned I couldn’t eat them any more. The unopened items were all donated to the food shelter. The opened ones either hit the trash or were given to close friends. A few were saved and eaten by my love.

And then the restructuring of the pantry began.

Are you in the process of restructuring your pantry? Well then, this post is for you.

  • First things first. Don’t worry if it feels like a slow process. It is. It *has* to start slowly. Not only are the ingredients more expensive than what you may have been purchasing, but they also work differently.
  • Only buy the basics that you will use. Build from there. Check out a few recipes you want to try, on blogs, at the library, at the bookstore or from your GI’s office or local support group. What are the basic flours they use? Some people find it easier to begin with – or even stick with – using a flour mix (like “Pamela’s” or Bob’s Red Mill GF Mix – Two general, and widely known, gluten-free flour mixes).
  • Pick up some basic cookbooks -but be warned: as with any cookbook, they depend greatly on your cooking knowledge and comfort. Many gluten-free cookbooks highlight basic recipes that are gluten-free and others cater to people who are more adventurous or experienced in baking. Cooking gluten free is easier to learn than baking gluten free. (See note above about flours.)

And What do we have in our pantry now? Well, a lot!
I sometimes think that each diagnosis of Celiac or Gluten-Intolerance should come with a gift certificate for a kitchen renovation. Mine is seriously lacking in storage space to begin with…and then enter the Gluten-Free baker? Oh yea. It’s a tight fit around here.

Basic Starches: There are three basic starches used in the majority of gluten free cooking. While there are more gluten free starches (like arrowroot), I have only included the ones I have used the most frequently. Hands down, I prefer to work with Tapioca Starch for most of my gluten-free baking needs.

  • Cornstarch
    Called corn flour in Europe. Not to be confused with American corn flour used for corn bread or tamales, etc.
    Has a relatively neutral flavor for most people
    Lightens heavy textures and creates a smooth crisp crust
  • Potato Starch
    Sometimes called Potato Starch Flour. It is NOT the same as potato flour.
    Has a sweet, strong potato flavor
    Creats a moist crumb, lightens heavy textures
  • Tapioca Starch
    Sometimes called Tapioca Starch Flour or Manioc Flour
    Slightly sweet flavor
    Creates a chewy, slightly springy texture and a crisp smooth crust

Basic Flours:

If you are a visual person, this is a great page to look at. It has photos of many of the flours so you can compare and contrast what they look like.

I actually have several flours on hand at any given time. But I began with basic rice flour. Sorghum (or Jowar) flour was not as widely available even 8 years ago, but now it is another staple. My top four flours are sorghum, rice, sweet rice, and millet. For other things I love to use coconut flour, almond flour, teff flour, quinoa flour, buckwheat flour, etc. I actually find it enjoyable to try out the new flavors available to us. I consider it a “perk”, if you will. Who knows if I would have been so adventurous had I not been diagnosed with Celiac Sprue.

  • Rice Flour
    Available as Brown rice flour, White rice flour, or Superfine (finely ground) rice flour.
    People have found the superfine rice flour to create lighter goods with a less dense texture than typical rice flour based baked goods.
    Creates a dry, fine crumb with a soft crust
  • Sorghum Flour
    Also called Jowar Flour
    Has a slightly sweet flavor.
    Creates baked goods with a fine crumb and a crisp crust.
  • Sweet Rice Flour
    Also called “Glutinous rice flour” or Mochi flour. (It is gluten free.)
    Ground from a different type of rice than the regular rice flour, this is still gluten free
    It can be used as a starch (for thickening) or as part of a flour combination (for cakes, dumplings, etc)
    Slightly sweet in flavor.
    Creates a tender crumb
  • Millet Flour
    Mildly sweet when fresh to slightly bitter if old.
    Creates a dry, delicate crumb and a smooth thin crust.

I have pages and pages of more information for the other flours and starches I use. I thought maybe this would be a great place to start. There are a few other posts from others that you may find helpful as well.

Check out these posts as you begin your gluten-free journey as well.

I hope this helps someone get a start on this lifestyle. It really is an adventure.

If you are looking for more information about the texture, crumb, etc of a particular flour, please just ask or leave a comment. I would love to know how to better develop this post and resource.

-Kate

PS. I’ve gotten a couple emails asking about the containers I use. I used to have a mishmash of containers of different shapes – which made storage a mess! I recently purchased a bunch of Lock & Lock airtight containers. These have worked GREAT. In fact, I’ve even had one fly out of my hands and crash into the flour… WITHOUT it opening! Oh man! It would have been a HUGE mess (it was a tub of tapioca starch) to clean up. The ones that I bought have locking tabs on all four sides – which is why, I’m sure, it didn’t open. While I have linked to the ones available on Amazon, you can often find them at larger Asian markets in urban areas for relatively the same price and sometimes MUCH cheaper on sale.

25 comments on “Gluten-Free Staples: What do you have in your cupboards?
  1. Cassandra says:

    I love the countertop. :)

    Thanks, Cassandra! It’s actually our kitchen table. We got a butcher-block table at a garage sale for $10 a few years ago! We brought it home and painted it and wood-burned table trim with phrases like “Eat good food. Take a nap. Read. Hold Hands.”, etc. I *wish* it were our countertop – because that is ugly! LOL – Kate

  2. glutenfreesoxfan says:

    I SO need more stackable containers like you have. I’m starting to have more variety of “stuff” but am horribly unorganized! help!
    (great post, btw)
    - Karen

  3. Natalie says:

    Thanks, Kate! Although I am not so sure about the organized thing…tee hee.

  4. Rachel says:

    Great post. This is so organized! I keep picking up plastic containers at thrift shops and tag sales and popping in my various bags of flours, xanthan gum, cornstarch, etc. to keep things fresher, but they are much more random looking than your cupboard components.

    I’ve also bookmarked a bunch of your recipes for my to-cook lists and looking forward to smacking my gob over them.

    -Rachel
    http://wheat-free-meat-free.blogspot.com

  5. Kristina says:

    What a great list! I wish a guide this thorough had been around when I was diagnosed. Is tapioca starch the same thing as tapioca flour? I recently made a recipe that called for tapioca starch, and I just used tapioca flour- it seemed to work out okay.

    I keep my flours in old yogurt containers- you can tell when I first got into a certain GF flour based on which brand yogurt container it’s kept in. :)

    Yes, tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing. I wish I had some of this information at the beginning too! :) – Kate

  6. What a great post! I just stocked up on all those starches — but could not find POTATO! Thank goodness it’s Passover — in a few weeks, I can buy marked down potato starch all over!

  7. carrie says:

    What a wonderful post Kate!! I agree with everyone else! Your containers are AWESOME! I use smaller stackable containers, but I really wish I had space for bigger ones! I love that kitchen table too!!

  8. Great posting, Kate! This is so helpful to all of us whether or not we’re a newbie or a few years in. A+ for the Teacher!

  9. Karen says:

    I love this post! What a great resource for someone first starting on this GF lifestyle. I am in the process of re-organizing to accomodate all the GF flours and paraphanelia and I think it makes a difference to be in an organized atmosphere. I have splurged a little on new measuring cups and spoons and some spice jars to keep things organized and to keep things fun!

    Love the blog,

    Thanks,
    Karen

  10. Stacy says:

    Yay!!! Thanks a million Kate! Right now I have my new flours and starches in a mix of ziploc bags, large-ish jam jars (gums), and (most) unopened bags. Once everything is opened, however, it is going to be out of control because we have a TINY kitchen with almost no pantry (and two kids and a husband who are not GF! Read “lots of snacks that mommy can no longer eat and therefore has lost 3 lbs in the first GF week!!!”). We’ve decided that instead of our overflow pantry being in the basement, since it will no longer be overflow but necessary, we need to open up and convert our strange little broom closet in the hallway into a pantry. It will be perfect.

    Yet another house project on the wish list…

    Thanks again Kate!
    Stacy

  11. Misa says:

    Wow, Kate. This post is SO helpful. I need to work on getting organized and “stocking up”, but it seems so overwhelming. Almost every time I see a recipe I’d like to make, there’s five different “specialty” flours or gums. And they tend to hang out in bags, cluttering my cupboard. I need to get containers like you have and clearly mark them.

  12. anonymouswoman says:

    great inspirational post for getting that pantry of mine organized. I use the smaller Lock N Lock containers for bento, but never understood the appeal of the larger boxy sizes they have. welcome to my light-bulb moment.

    As for where to obtain them, Target stocks a huge supply now in various shapes and size.

  13. Michelle says:

    Hi Kate,

    I’m just wondering how you find the containers you have in the picture for storage? I’m trying to figure out the best way to store my flours, and right now they’re in jars – definitely not that great an idea.

    Thanks,
    Michelle

    Hello Michelle -

    I actually shopped around for quite a while before I found what fit me/my cupboards. I liked the square boxes as it better uses my cramped storage space. And I also like the seals- not only are there rubber seals in the lids to keep it air tight but the lids also have snaps on all four sides to ensure that even if I drop these bad-boys, I’m NOT going to have cornstarch or rice flour all over the house. LOL

    I bought these at a large Asian grocer near our house, but you can find this same brand on Amazon. (I put the links in the post.) The brand is called “Lock & Lock”. There are other brands that make similar containers, but these were the ones I found I liked the best. I also looked on eBay but just happened in to the Asian market one day to find a huge lot of these guys on sale (practically two for one) and I had been saving for them. They also had some great bento boxes on sale too…LOL.. while not the items I’d been saving for – for an extra $5.00 I bought my lunch box that I carry 2-3 times a week. LOL

    Hope this helps!
    Kate

  14. zebe912 says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been trying to get switched over to a healthier diet to see if it helps me with some health issues. I’ve always been taught that the whole wheat & whole grains were the way to go, but now one of my doctors has said whole wheat is almost as bad as white flour. His overall advise was to aim for gluten free. Since I don’t have any obvious bodily reactions to the gluten or wheat, this is REALLY hard for me to get started with. There isn’t any way for me to tell (via my body) whether something has gluten in it or not. I’m going completely by reading labels and working out of cookbooks right now. There’s no “feel for it” like I had with normal baking and cooking.

    I’ve been checking tons of books out from the library just to try and get started even thinking the right way. I wish this lifestyle weren’t so expensive. It’s really hard to justify with current economy when I don’t HAVE to do it, but just SHOULD. Since I’m also supposed to cut out refined sugars, and dairy it makes this whole process even harder. I decorate cakes too, so I’m really going to miss all of my baking and snitching the extras. Any suggestions on sweeteners that actually bake up well?

  15. rfaulkner06 says:

    I haven’t got the extra income to get the different flours except for brown and white rice, garbanzo bean flour, soy flour, cornstarch, and masa harina. Do you have recipes using these for irish soda bread, sandwhich bread, drop dumplings used in stews or chicken and dumplings, cakes?

  16. Phil Holman says:

    I am looking for a flour mix using the various ‘allowed’ flours that I can replace my old flour with and it will perform close to the same in all my favorite eats…. any one have one that works…..

  17. this is a great list of staples. especially for the newbie.

  18. Motheroflittle says:

    Are there any flours or starches that should NOT be stored in a freezer?

    • Good question. I wouldn’t put self-rising flour in the freezer – as it has a short shelf life anyway and I imagine the freezer would make it worse. Other than that, I *think* all other flours can be stored there.

      Also – i would bring the flours to room temperature when baking as well for most bread-like things. Do you do that or just use them straight from the freezer.

      • Motheroflittle says:

        Thanks for the freezer answer. Since I buy in bulk, I have always stored my whole grains, dry beans, butter, and my massa harina in the freezer. They last for ages when stored this way. I use them cold for most recipes unless ALL ingredients are called for at room temp… I’ve milled my wheat fresh so its been warm from the machine. Cold,refrigerated yeast does fine if the water is really warm but not too hot.

        To bring a cold egg to room temp faster I set the whole egg( in shell )in a cup of hot tap water for 5 min. Frozen butter can be grated for biscuits and cookies. Just a couple of tips that can speed up the whole process when your ingredients are stored in a freezer or fridg….

        I’m not sure I need to be gluten free . I’m in the ellimination proccess to find out what is causing my digestive issues . So, I’ll give the gluten free a try first. Your website has eased my feelings of being overwhelmed and starved for breads! I almost cried at the store looking at all the things I THOUGHT I would have to live without! Today I feel incouraged. Thank you so much.

        I found that Vitacost.com has great prices and low shipping cost on gluten free foods. Also Honeyville.com has gluten free items and low shipping costs.. Check them out!

  19. sarah says:

    xantham gum is a staple =] and your website rocks

  20. Leslie says:

    Thanks for this wonderful information to a mom who’s daughter is off to college and is now gluten free. I felt like I had no information on what staples I needed to start baking! THANK YOU!!!!

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  1. [...] & Lock has a line of lunch bags with their great containers within.  (I use their containers for my flours and LOVE them!) I’ve seen two versions of this lunch container.  This is the smaller of the [...]

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