Baking the Low-FODMAP Way


As someone who very much enjoys cookies, cakes and other confections (I was a pastry chef, after all) this whole no wheat thing really had me concerned–especially when so many gluten-free baked goods are gritty or crumbly or just plain miss the mark. And since we started the testing portion just after Thanksgiving, I wanted to make sure I could make desserts and sweets that family and coworkers would enjoy that were also safe for me.

It was, thankfully, a lot easier than I thought it would be, and it’s mainly due to a book I’ve mentioned before: the Favorite Brand Name Gluten-Free 3 Books in 1 put out by Publications International Ltd. As I mentioned before, I picked it up on the discount rack of Marshalls or TJ Maxx, so it might be tough to find in your regular store, but if you see it, it’s definitely worth picking up.

That said, here’s the two most important things I got from that book: replacement flour blends, one for quick breads and cooking making, and one for yeast breads.

Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend

1 cup White Rice Flour
1 cup Sorghum Flour
1 cup Tapioca Flour/Starch
1 cup Arrowroot
1 cup Coconut Flour

Mix together and store in an air-tight container. Refrigerate if you bake infrequently.

Gluten-Free Flour Blend for Breads

1 cup Brown Rice Flour
1 cup Sorghum Flour
1 cup Tapioca Flour
1 cup Arrowroot
3/4 cup Millet Flour
1/3 cup Instant Mashed Potato Flakes

Mix together and store in an air-tight container. Refrigerate if you bake infrequently.

The original recipes list cornstarch but I use arrowroot because it’s easier for more people to digest and it dissolves and thickens faster, so I like to have it on hand anyway. You can use almond flour in place of coconut flour if you’re just looking for gluten-free, but almonds were recently found to be even higher in FODMAPs that originally thought, so really should be used sparingly. Same goes for bean flours–Bob’s Red Mill, for instance, has an all-purpose gluten-free baking mix but it’s primarily bean-based, which would make it high in FODMAPs, and not a good option for this particular lifestyle.

The thing about these flour blends and why they work is that each ingredient performs a certain function that wheat flour does on it’s own. The grains alone (rice, sorghum, millet) won’t really give you the same results without the addition of some sort of starch (tapioca, arrowroot, cornstarch) and even those two components together aren’t doing much in the way of protein (which the nut flours contribute). The other benefit to these blends is that no one ingredient takes center stage in either texture or flavor. So even though coconut flour tends to be very coconutty on it’s own, when it’s in the blend it’s not very noticeable, and when the baked goods are finished you can hardly tell it’s there at all (unless you’ve got sensitive taste buds, like me).

What about commercially available blends? So far the only gluten-free and Low-FODMAP flour blend I’ve been satisfied with is Gluten-Free Bisquik, and even then it tends to be a little more on the gritty side than I prefer. More times than not I use the blends above and have far better results than any of the mixes or pre-fab products I’ve tested.

collection of Bob's Red Mill products on a kitchen counter

Not all of these go into my flour blends, but many do!

Now, when I go to put together batches of these flours, it tends to look like a Bob’s Red Mill love-fest on the counter. Simply put, they are the best resource for these specialty flours and I’ve been known to hunt through 4 grocery stores to find all the components I need on any given shopping trip. That said, they are not the only resource for certain flours as I’ve recently discovered that our local Indian market carries bags of white rice and millet flours for a fraction of the cost of BRM. Granted, BRM takes every precaution to prevent cross-contamination of their flours and other products so if you’re concerned about that, stick to them. But if you’re less concerned about being strictly gluten-free (as gluten itself is not a FODMAP), then that might be an option for you. Plus, they carry powdered coconut milk, which is fabulous if you’re wanting a substitute for powdered milk that is lactose-free and isn’t heavy on the soy. (I’ve searched for a good powdered rice milk but all the ones I’ve found have FOS or other high-FODMAP additives.)

There’s one other thing you need in order to successfully bake gluten-free and/or Low-FODMAP: Xanthum or Guar Gum. Gums get a certain amount of smack talked about them, but they are the best way to prevent the crumbly, mealy texture so common in wheat-free baked goods. Xanthum gum is usually made from corn while guar gum comes from a bean. Both are used in such small amounts that neither are likely to impact digestion to any large degree, but use whichever you feel most comfortable with. I use xanthum gum because I had it on hand from a previous ice cream experiment (it’s commonly found on low-fat or fat-free dairy products to improve texture, though too much will make the end product more slippery than anything else).

The general rule I follow when working with a new recipe or substituting the above flour blends is this:

  • For Yeast Breads or Pizza Dough use 1 tsp of Xanthum Gum per cup of replacement flour
  • For Cakes, Muffins, and other Quick Breads use 1/2 tsp of Xanthum Gum per cup of replacement flour
  • For Cookies or Bars use up to 1/2 tsp of Xanthum Gum per cup of flour

I didn’t write down where I found that but it’s come in handy as I’ve converted old recipes to my new lifestyle. Xanthum gum is also the only ingredient I keep in the freezer to preserve it as it’s one of the more expensive ingredients and gets used up so slowly.

Did I succeed that first Christmas in making delectable goodies for friends and family? Yes. So much so that most didn’t realized they were eating anything out of the ordinary. I’ve continued to bake with these flour blends, and use them in stove-top preparations like roux and gravies, for the last half a year and my friends routinely comment that if the commercial products came out like mine, no one would mind going gluten-free (or whatever) when necessary.

Confection with confidence!

Perfect Pasta Without the Wheat


In honor of National Noodle Month, I though it’d be a good time to talk about the wheat-free pasta situation. Is it a situation at all? That’s for you to decide.

Pasta and sauce has always been the go-to meal for the time and cash strapped individuals and families out there. Spaghetti is cheap (about a dollar a pound for the basics) and a sauce can be anything from seasoned crushed tomatoes to olive oil with a little Parmesan cheese. It’s a satisfying meal, no question. And who hasn’t loved gooey mac & cheese at some point in their lives, right?

With many people looking to get whole grains in their diet, whole wheat pasta has secured a place on the shelves and–while not always as tasty as the refined durum semolina products out there, many of us accept it as one of those little steps we can take to be that much healthier.

When you go wheat free (like I did when I switched to a Low-FODMAP diet), pasta is one of those things you automatically kiss goodbye, usually with a heavy heart.

That doesn’t have to be the case, however, if you’re willing to give some alternate grains a try.

Rice, corn, and quinoa are the major players you’ll find when you hunt down the non-wheat pasta possibilities in your local grocery store. Some brands (like Heartland’s pretty blue and yellow packaging) can be found alongside the usual suspects in the pasta and sauce aisle. Their gluten-free pasta features a blend of corn and rice flours which taste very much like what we’re used to from their what counterparts. The only down-side I’ve experienced with this brand is that they tend to get dry and crumbly when refrigerated. They still eat fine, the texture just doesn’t hold up as well for leftovers. Still, when I made Macaroni and Cheese for our family of relatively picky eaters, I used their elbow macaroni noodles and no one had anything bad to say about my substitution.

Image via Heartland Pasta

Image via Heartland Pasta

Others, like Ancient Harvest’s quinoa pastas are more likely to be found in the specialty foods section of larger stores. We’ve been big quinoa fans for a while, and it’s such a great food on it’s own, but those unfamiliar with quinoa might need to get accustomed to this pasta’s flavor. It is a little heavier (akin to whole wheat pasta) than the corn and rice versions, but very tasty and probably comes in the most variety of sizes and shapes, though it’s usually the specialty stores that carry more of those options.

Image via Ancient Harvest

Image via Ancient Harvest

Or you can look for rice noodles in the ethnic foods section. These range from the usual cellophane noodles (though not much of a substitute for spaghetti) to almost clear rice pastas that offer substance if not a lot of flavor, to the Tinkyada brand of brown rice noodles. These noodles, to me, have the best flavor and texture of all the “substitute” pastas we’ve tried over the last several months and also reheat the best–important if you like to cook extra for leftovers. I’ve yet to find a local source that carries the variety that the product picture, below, shows, but we can usually find the elbows, fettucini, and spirals even in our local Wal-Marts tiny gluten-free section.

Image via Tinkyada

Image via Tinkyada

To get the best results from a wheat-free pasta, it’s very important not to over-cook them. Almost all of the noodles we’ve tried can get a little mushy, a little less than al dente, a little quicker than the sturdier wheat noodles. I’ve also found that it doesn’t always take the time the package says for them to reach perfect doneness, so don’t get distracted the first time you make a particular brand to avoid unpleasant results.

The other downside to these alternative noodles is that they cost about twice as much as the old standbys, sometimes a little more that double in fact. Still, if it’s a matter of being able to eat the foods I love without becoming ill afterwards, it’s a price I’m willing to pay (at least on occasion). After all, the other option is to make your own gluten-free pastas and while that’s something on the list to try one of these days, it’s nice to know that’s not my only option.


This post is based solely on our own experience with the brands listed above. We have received no compensation (direct or product-in-kind) for mentioning these brands and as food is strictly a matter of taste, your mileage may well vary. I encourage anyone on the hunt for gluten-free pasta to use this only as a starting point and get out there and explore the possibilities. Going wheat-free doesn’t have to mean giving up the foods you love.