Spelt is Not Gluten Free

We don’t usually do this sort of informational post here, because we tend to focus on restaurant reviews, but lately I’ve noticed a trend where spelt is thought to be gluten-free. Unfortunately, spelt is a variety of wheat and contains the same sort of gluten. From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website:

In the context of celiac disease, the term “gluten” is used to collectively refer to gluten in wheat, and to the proteins in other grains that have been demonstrated to cause harmful health effects in individuals who have celiac disease. These grains are wheat (including different varieties such as spelt and kamut), rye, barley, cross-bred hybrids (e.g., triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye), and possibly oats.”


Flours for a Gluten-Free Diet

Different Gluten Free Flours

When you can’t use wheat flour for cooking, one of the obvious problems that comes up is what to use instead. Most beginners to being gluten-free find themselves launched into an orbit with spinning satellites of all these expensive flours that can be hard to track down. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to use. Here is a short alphabetical list of some gluten-free flours and basic information about them. Once you have all these you’re ready to make some bread. Check here to see choices for the best gluten-free bread machine.

Very few of these flours can be used alone to make anything edible. People who do a lot of gluten-free baking will often create flour mixes, which they will mix up in some quantity and then have handy for use any time.

Amaranth Flour – Has a light but pleasing nutty like or malt flavor. Ground from a plant seed. High in protein and nutritious. Added in small quantities to flour mixes for baking.

Arrowroot – Like the name would imply this is made from a root. If you are allergic to corn, this makes a great substitute. You can substitute measure for measure. Arrowroot is basically tasteless and keeps well.

Buckwheat – Despite it’s name, this is not wheat. It is actually a relative of rhubarb. A dark flour with a strong distinctive flavor. The seeds of the plant are ground to make this flour. Good in flour mixes for “whole grain” baked goods.

Cornstarch – This is starch that has been refined from corn. It is bland and should be used with other flours to create flour mixes. It stores well.

Garbanzo Bean Flour – Garbanzo beans are also known as chick peas. This flour is made from ground beans. The flour is high in protein and has a strong flavor. It should be stored in the refrigerator.

Garfava flour – This is made from garbanzo beans and fava beans. It stores well and has a strong flavor. Makes a good substitute for rice flour. It is also high in protein. Good for bread, cakes, and cookies.

Millet flour – Millet comes from the grass family and is one of the earliest cultivated grains. It is nutritious and a good source of protein. It has a wonderful flavor and is a little sweet. Good in flour mixes. Popular for breads.

Potato flour – Made from dehydrated potatoes. Mostly used for thickening sauces, gravies, and soups. When added to flour mixes, it adds a moist crumb. Very useful for baked goods, but usually only used in small amounts. Can impart elasticity to dough. Has strong potato flavor and keeps well.

Potato starch – Made from dehydrated potatoes. Mostly used for thickening sauces, gravies, and soups. When added to flour mixes, it adds a moist crumb. Very useful for baked goods. Can impart elasticity to dough. Not as flavorful as potato flour.

Quinoa Flour Related to spinach and beets. Made from ground plant seeds. The flour is high in protein and has a mellow flavor. Add to flour mixes.

Rice Flour, Brown – Brown rice flour is more flavorful than white rice flour. Slightly nutty flavors. It is used in flour mixes with other flours and is popular from putting in breads. Refrigerate.

Rice Flour, White – This flour is made from white rice. It can be used alone, but most people add it to other flours. It adds a sponginess to baked goods. Best for recipes that need a light texture. It is bland, not very nutritious, and stores well.

Sorghum Flour – This flour is high in protein and B vitamins and is sweet and flavorful. It is almost always used in mixes. It is good for making breads and other baked goods. It stores well on a shelf.

Soy Flour – High in protein and has a nutty flavor. Good used in mixes. Does not store well. Combines well with rice flours. Is good for making cookies.

Tapioca Flour – Same as tapioca starch. This is ground cassava root. It makes gluten-free baked goods more chewy. Low in nutrients. It stores well, is bland, and should be used mixed with other flours.

Teff Flour – Teff is the smallest grain in the world. Teff flour is high in protein, calcium, zinc, iron, and fiber. It is used in flour mixes to make breads and cookies.

Xanthan Gum – Xanthan gum is made from a kind of bacteria, Xanrhomonas Campestris. It is used for thickening and is sticky in a way that makes it handy for gluten-free baking. It is used very sparingly in flour mixes.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Flours

Well that’s some of the basics. Obviously there are lots of other kinds of flour. When you are eating gluten-free, these flours can be very useful.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flours on Amazon

Gluten-Free Basics: Beware Foods You Might Not Expect to Have Gluten

I’m at home sick today and was doing some reading on gluten-free living and ran across an excellent list of foods and food ingredients that are not gluten-free. While reading through the list I was checking off items on my mental list of what is safe and what is not. I didn’t actually get too far down the list before I hit “blue cheese” – blue cheese!?!!? It turns out that blue cheese is made with bread.

On further investigation, it happens that REAL blue cheese is made with bread. Manufacturers who make blue cheese the traditional way still start with bread to get their mold and then introduce the mold to milk curds. So how likely is it that the bleu cheese you’re looking at in the store has gluten? It looks like it’s less likely than you might expect. Here’s a site with further information on blue cheese.

While we’re on the subject of foods you would never suspect, I’ve put together a quick list of less obvious gluten-containing items. It’s sort of like a “I remembered that you’re vegetarian so I made you a chicken salad” list. (This is not an exhaustive list of gluten-containing foods by any means.)

It may be organic, but it isn't gluten-free.

It may be organic, but it isn't gluten-free.

Beer – I was gluten-free for a while before I gave any thought to our little fermented friends. Beer is just plain not gluten-free. Also, any alcoholic beverage that is made with wheat and not distilled is suspect.

Bouillon – This is one where a person would probably catch it by checking the ingredients, but might not think to. It’s supposed to be dried chicken broth and spices and salt and salt and salt, right? Wrong!

Bulgar – I always forget this one for some reason. It is another name for wheat that has been processed.

Chewing Gum – Manufacturers coat some chewing gums with wheat flour to keep them fresh. So you have to check the labels. I grew up in the 70s so I believed (or at least liked to believe) the urban legend that chewing gum was made with spiders eggs. Little did I know.

Couscous – You can call it what you like but it’s really pasta. I get it confused with polenta, which is corn, and risotto, which is rice.

Graham Crackers and Graham Flour – Our pal wheat by another name.

Malt, Malt Extract, Malt Syrup, Malt Flavoring, Malt Vinegar – Wave bye-bye to a startlingly long list of breakfast cereals.

Semolina – Fancy name for wheat they make pasta out of.

Tabbouleh – Made with bulgar, which appears above. Yes, I have thoughtlessly eaten tabbouleh at our favorite Lebanese Restaurant.

Udon – Although I love Japanese food, I never really liked these Japanese noodles anyhow. I do mourn for my loss of ramen, though. *sigh*

This deserves its own paragraph: Any Broth, Sauce or Gravy – These are all suspect and should be checked before you eat them. You would never expect it, but the roux in gumbo has a ton of flour in it. Apparently, chefs love to put some roux in their jambalaya. Ouch! And I love a good jambalaya.

OK well that’s enough depressing news for one day. I hope everybody will chime in with comments on food items that you were surprised to find contained wheat or gluten.