A lot of people have asked me where they can find basic gluten-free baking ingredients, so I thought I would post a few shopping tips today to share my experiences.
In my book, I emphasize the importance of keeping things simple – this really helps keep costs down, takes up less space in your kitchen, and well, makes life a little simpler too. For that reason, I generally only carry three types of flour in my pantry at all times: brown rice flour, sweet rice flour and tapioca starch. I use brown rice flour as my “base” flour for volume, and use the other two as my binders. Sweet rice flour is best for moist items (like cake) and tapioca starch is best for crunchier items (like crusts or cookies) and also to thicken sauces or stews.
Brown rice flour is relatively easy to find in most grocery stores that have a natural or healthy food section. I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill flours everywhere including at Loblaws (in the natural section behind pharmacy), Sobeys and Safeway, in the US, Canada and even during my last trip to Singapore. Bob’s Red Mill packages their flour in 680g bags. They produce in dedicated gluten-free facilities and test for gluten as well – so this is a very safe option for Celiacs.
Kinnikinnick is a Canadian company based in Edmonton. They sell their flours in 1kg resealable bags. I’ve seen Kinnikinnick mixes in mainstream grocery stores, but personally, I just buy my brown rice flour direct from their website in large quantities once or twice a year. Because the bags are sealed nicely, I just keep extras in my freezer to keep them fresh. Kinnikinnick has a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free processing facility.
For those of you who are not very sensitive or concerned about cross contamination, the cheapest place to find brown rice flour is Bulk Barn. Your local bulk store may also have it – although I prefer to shop at higher traffic stores to be sure that flours, especially, are fresh.
Sweet Rice Flour is a little trickier to find. One reason you might miss it is because it’s also called glutinous rice flour. “But Victoria!” you say, “Why would you buy glutinous flour if you’re trying to eat gluten-free?” Glutinous rice flour is only called so because it’s sticky – it does not in fact contain the nutritional “gluten” that Celiacs cannot tolerate.
There are two places where you can buy sweet rice flour (or glutinous rice flour) that I know of. The first is Kinnikinnik, and the second is at Chinese grocery stores. If you’re looking for it in the Chinese market, you will find it in a small transparent bag (I believe it’s a 200g bag, but it’s been a while since I’ve bought it there).
If you’re venturing into a Chinese grocery store, you’ll also see white rice flour (which can be used interchangeably with brown rice flour, although with less fibre and nutritient content) and tapioca starch. Tapioca starch is from the cassava plant root. It can be used interchangeably with arrowroot flour, and is much less expensive. Tapioca starch is also a great substitute for corn starch for those who are going corn-free too. You can also find tapioca starch at Bulk Barn and Kinnikinnick.
So there you have it – just a few flours and a few stores to choose from, and you’ll be on your way to converting any recipe into a gluten-free version. For more information on adapting your recipes to make them gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free, you can pick up my book at www.glutenfreeliving.ca