When you look up recipes, do you only search for ones that are gluten-free and then feel limited by your choices? Whether you are gluten-free by necessity or choice, it’s easy to take any recipe and convert it into a gluten-free one. Believe me, I know. When I first became gluten-free, it felt daunting. I had to learn to cook without gluten which felt like I could no longer eat bread, pasta, flour or anything! Baking was an even bigger challenge. Once I learned which foods contained gluten, how to read labels and the appropriate swap-outs, it all became extremely manageable. Not only did I find gluten-free dishes delicious, I actually preferred most of them to their gluten-filled versions. Let me show you how easy it is to make any dish gluten-free.
1. Become a Gluten-Free Guru
A little knowledge can go a long way. If you are cooking for someone who is gluten-free, you need to know which foods contain gluten so you can avoid them. Most people know that wheat, barley and rye contain gluten but so do many products that you may not have thought about such as soy sauce, beer, and many processed foods. Once you learn which foods and products contain gluten, learn about all the foods that don’t. There are probably more than you think and once you know your options, you won’t feel like you have to sacrifice the foods you love.
2. Reading Recipes
To convert a recipe to gluten-free, you have to first read through the recipe and look for any gluten-filled ingredients. Does the recipe call for flour? Does the dish contain sauces such as soy sauce, hoisin sauce or teriyaki sauce? Does the recipe use bread crumbs, pasta or grains? Read through the recipe and circle any items that contain gluten. Those are the ones you need to replace. Next to those items, write down the substitution you will use to make the recipe gluten-free.
For instance, let’s say you really want to make vegan fish and chips. You could make a gluten-free recipe like this Tempeh “Fish” and Chips or you can take this Vegan Fish and Chips recipe and make it gluten-free. Looking at the recipe for possible gluten-filled ingredients, you would circle the soy sauce, the vegan “fish” sauce and the Panko bread crumbs. These are the 3 ingredients you would have to swap out to make the dish gluten-free. All you have to do is buy a gluten-free tamari or soy sauce, use a vegan “fish” sauce labeled gluten-free or make your own and use gluten-free bread crumbs or cornmeal instead of the Panko. That’s it! Now you can enjoy this recipe and have it gluten-free too.
3. Flip the Flour
If a recipe contains flour, it’s easy to swap it out for gluten-free flour. Most recipes call for all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour, both of which contain gluten. My favorite flour for everything from vegan omelets to breading tofu cutlets to thickening sauces and gravies is chickpea or garbanzo bean flour. It’s high in protein, inexpensive and has a great taste. See 7 Ways to Use Chickpea Flour in Holiday Meals: From Breakfast to Dessert. There are many gluten-free flours to choose from including teff, quinoa, soy, amaranth, millet, bean flours and nut flours. Check out these 5 Uncommon, Gluten-Free Flours that are High in Protein. If you don’t want to stock up on a bunch of different flours, consider buying or making your own gluten-free flour blend that you can use for cooking and baking.
Flour is the main ingredient that makes the difference between regular baking and gluten-free baking. Learn all about how to bake with gluten-free flours in 7 Tips for Gluten-Free Baking and The Ultimate Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Substitution Guide.
4. Gluten-Free Grains
Many people who eat gluten-free turn to rice as their grain of choice. Rice is great, especially brown rice, but that doesn’t mean you have no other choices. Barley and cous cous are out but instead you can have millet, amaranth, fava, teff, buckwheat and quinoa. Each grain has its own taste and texture and are delicious, healthy and hearty alternatives to rice. Try this Veggie Quinoa Bowl, Red Lentil and Amaranth Protein Patties With Spicy Avocado Mayo, and Mediterranean Spartan Strength Millet. Get more recipes and how-tos in 8 Incredible Ways to Cook with Millet, What are Ancient Grains and Why You Should Eat Them, and Your Guide to Cooking Perfect Whole Grains.
5. Bread and Bread Crumbs
You might think that bread is the most difficult food to give up but you don’t have to live without it. If you want to do it yourself and bake your own bread, we have lots of help for you. Check out Tips on How to Make Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread, How to Make Raw, Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread, Gluten-Free, Quinoa Garlic Bread Bites, Ooh La La Gluten-Free French Bread, Gluten-Free Ciabatta Bread with Garlic and Rosemary, Gluten-Free Multigrain Rolls, Buckwheat English Muffin Buns and even Gluten-Free Biscuits and Mushroom Gravy. Or you can skip the baking and buy gluten-free bread. Read about The Best Gluten-Free Bread Options for the best brands available.
Bread crumbs are not out of the question either. You can eat bread crumbs if they are gluten-free. Commercial gluten-free bread crumbs are available or you can make your own. Put leftover gluten-free bread (whether bought or homemade) in a food processor and store the crumbs in storage bags in the freezer. It’s also a great use of any gluten-free baking attempts that didn’t come out as expected. You can even make gluten-free Panko crumbs by pulsing corn flake crumbs in a food processor. Other substitutions for bread crumbs are cornmeal, quinoa flakes and rolled oats that have been certified gluten-free. These all make perfect binders for burgers, veggie loaves and vegan meatballs.
6. Wrap It Up
Don’t think you’ll be left out of Taco Tuesdays or amazing wraps either. Whole wheat flour tortillas may be out of the question but you can use corn tortillas to make tacos, tostadas, enchiladas or even Mexican lasagna. Make all kinds of tamales with corn husks. Or skip the grains completely and wrap your favorite foods in greens. Lettuce, cabbage, collard greens and Swiss chard make perfect wraps for a delicious and healthy meal. Try these Grilled Artichoke and Quinoa Lettuce Wraps, Raw Zucchini Wraps and learn How to Make Raw Vegan Veggie-Stuffed Collard Wraps. See 7 Ways to Make Gluten-Free and Grain-Free Tortillas and Wraps for more recipes and ideas including how to make gluten-free crepes.
7. Use Your Noodle
Not only is gluten-free pasta available, I think it tastes better than the kind made with wheat or white flour. Pasta made from other grains is heartier and healthier. Whether you are making Mac and Cheese, Spaghetti with Vegan Bolognese Sauce, Rich Vegan Soba Soup or Street Pad Thai, there is a gluten-free noodle that is perfect for the job. You can buy gluten-free noodles or you can make your own. To see all your options (and there are a lot of them), read Gluten-Free Pasta Options and What to Cook with Them and 7 Wheat-Free Noodle Options to Use in Your Favorite Dishes.
8. Full Flavors
Gluten-free grains are denser and so you need to up the amount of ingredients you use to add flavor. Make sure you have a pantry filled with spices and gluten-free condiments. Have lots of flavor at hand by stocking up on spices and spice blends. There are gluten-free versions of soy sauce, tamari, hoisin sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce, barbeque sauce and more. Plus, many condiments, sauces and toppings are naturally gluten-free such as hummus, guacamole, salsa, pickle relish and hot sauce. See 10 Condiments You Should Always Have and How to Use Them in Dishes. Just be sure to read the labels to make sure there is no gluten hiding out. You can also learn to make your own condiments so you can choose the ingredients. Learn how easy it is to Make Healthy, Organic Homemade Ketchup and The World’s Healthiest Homemade Barbecue Sauce.
9. Renounce Seitan
For me, cutting out seitan was one of the most difficult parts of going gluten-free. Seitan is made entirely from gluten, that’s why it’s called “wheat meat.” Vital wheat gluten, which seitan is made from, is in so many products and recipes. A burger may be made from chickpeas but it may also have vital wheat gluten in it to give it a chewy texture and help hold it together. You really need to carefully read labels and recipes. I missed seitan so much that I worked for over a year to come up with a recipe for a gluten-free version of it. Try my V-Meat, V-Chicken and V-Turkey which are vegan, gluten-free meats that can be used in all recipes that call for seitan.
Many dishes made with seitan can also be made with other gluten-free ingredients including vegetables, beans, legumes, tofu and tempeh. Try the gluten-free side of dishes like Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteaks, Gluten-Free Italian Sausages made with black-eyed peas and Portobello Mushroom Steaks.
10. Keep It Healthy
Just because you can buy gluten-free cakes, cookies and other convenience products, doesn’t mean you should. At least, you probably shouldn’t eat them all the time. Focus on whole, naturally gluten-free foods. Plan your meals with tofu, tempeh and mushrooms. Fill your plates with a rainbow of vegetables and fruits. Satisfy your hunger with legumes, nuts and seeds. Make your own healthy, homemade veggie burgers like these Roasted Beet Burgers and these Pizza Burgers. Learn How to Make Different Veggie Bowls for Every Type of Flavor Craving like this Soy Maple Tempeh Bowl or this Mexican Bowl over Spaghetti Squash. You are most likely gluten-free to improve your health so make sure to eat healthfully beyond the gluten.
Sure, it takes some time and practice to learn what has gluten and what doesn’t and switch over to a new way of cooking. But the more you do it, the easier it will get and you’ll forget it was ever a challenge at all.
Lead Image Photo: Red Lentil and Amaranth Protein Patties With Spicy Avocado Mayo