The Substitution Question

Video Transcript

Hi, and welcome back. I’m Nicole Hunn from Gluten Free on a Shoestring, where I share great gluten free recipes that really work.

For as long as I’ve been sharing gluten free recipes (since 2009!), readers have been asking me how to change those recipes in one way or another. The dreaded substitution question!

Now I’m not talking about the time that someone asked me how to make my recipe for banana bread … without bananas. I’m talking about:

When you’re baking for someone with a second (or third!) food allergy, beyond gluten.

Or when you don’t have or can’t get access to an ingredient.

I always want to help as best I can. Sometimes, it’s just not possible, but it doesn’t stop me from trying!

An educated guess

Now I can’t possibly try every recipe, and every flour blend, with every possible substitution. But I’ve been doing this for long enough that I can usually at least give an educated guess. And often, I can give a definitive answer about what ingredient can be substituted for what other ingredient.

But please keep this in mind:

A baking recipe is a chemical formula. In a well-written recipe, every single ingredient has a function—and often multiple functions:

  • Sugar doesn’t just make foods sweet, but it also makes baked goods tender. When rice flour is extremely finely ground, gluten free baked goods feel good in your mouth—but it’s so much more than that.
  • Superfine rice flour blends well into the other ingredients in the recipe, and they all complement one another exactly right. Gritty rice flours just can’t do that, and the recipe often simply won’t work. You get the idea.


So let’s talk about some of the most common substitution questions I get, and my best responses:

1. Dairy free:

  • When it comes to flour blend recipes, my gum-free flour blend (which is my most useful blend, day to day) is already free of the top 8 allergens, and that includes dairy! It’s the same for my mock Better Batter blend (and Better Batter itself). My Cup4Cup style blends have nonfat milk powder as a major ingredient, and I’ve had some luck replacing that with coconut milk powder and even with blanched almond flour. But if you can’t have dairy and want a flour blend, I’d stick with the mock Better Batter and you’ll have no issues.
  • When it comes to recipe ingredients, here are my favorite dairy replacements:
    • Sour cream and plain yogurt can usually be replaced by plain nonfat yogurt. Anita coconut milk yogurt is my absolute favorite brand.
    • Butter can often be replaced with non hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Earth Balance buttery sticks are sometimes useful, but they have a ton of water and tend to make baked goods like cookies spread too much.
    • Milk is easy. Just use an unsweetened non-dairy milk, preferably one with some fat like unsweetened almond milk.
    • Cheese is a lot harder. My favorite non-dairy cheeses are made by Daiya (which has come a long way indeed, and seems to be soy-free all the time?) and Vegan Gourmet (which is totally soy-based like 99% of the time). But nothing truly behaves like good cow’s milk cheese. *whomp whomp whomp*

2. Egg free:

  • My flour blend recipes contain no eggs. Period.
  • When a recipe itself calls for eggs as an ingredient, I usually will replace it with a “chia egg,” which is just 1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds mixed with 1 tablespoon of water and allowed to gel. My rule of thumb is that up to 2 eggs can usually be replaced in this way. Beyond that, things seem to break down.

3. Potato free: This comes up more than you might expect, so I’ve got some deep thoughts.

  • My mock Better Batter recipe calls for potato flour. It is one of only very few flour ingredients that cannot be replaced with an effective substitute. Just use my mock Cup4Cup!
  • Potato starch can usually be replaced with cornstarch or arrowroot.

4. Tapioca free:

  • Tapioca starch/flour is a super useful ingredient. It bends, it stretches, it’s just a lovely ingredient. I know of absolutely NO substitute for it. If you can’t have tapioca starch, which is an ingredient in every rice-based flour blend I make, I’d suggest you stick to most of my Paleo recipes, which tend to be tapioca-free (although tapioca starch is Paleo-friendly).

5. Rice free:

  • You simply can’t make any of my all purpose gluten free flour blends without rice flour. Like for tapioca starch, I’d suggest you stick to most of my Paleo recipes, which are all rice-free.

Of course, I get questions about everything under the sun, but these are the most common additional allergens I am asked about.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the next video. I’m going to tell you all about the online course that I’ve created to show you exactly how to build your own gluten free flour blend for every single possible purpose there is. In it, we’ll discuss:

  • Exactly where to buy ingredients;
  • How to build each blend step by step including how to use a cheap digital kitchen scale;
  • What purpose each ingredient in each flour blend serves; and
  • What each blend is good for, and even best for.

Once you feel comfortable with gluten free flours and blends, the whole world of gluten free recipes that I’ve created opens up to you. At a moment’s notice.

Until next time!

Useful links

Gluten Free on a Shoestring, my food blog

The previous video in this series.

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