Cooking Gluten-Free

Need to cook gluten-free? Here's a set of basic guidelines of what to eat, and what to avoid for those avoiding gluten.

Photography Credit: Karina Allrich

Please welcome Simply Recipes guest author Karina Allrich of the gorgeous and ever informative food blog, Karina’s Kitchen: Gluten-free Recipes. Karina is kicking off a series of articles on gluten-free cooking and recipes. ~Elise

Imagine if you were told you had to give up bread. And pasta. And cookies! Here’s a statistic for you. Roughly three million people in the U.S. have to do just that. The reason? Celiac disease. Celiac is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by eating gluten, the sticky elastic protein in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt that makes pizza dough stretchy and bagels pleasantly chewy. The cure is a gluten-free diet.

Learning to cook gluten-free is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Armed with accurate information and a hefty dash of patience, scratch cooks can adapt most recipes to gluten-free. Here are a few beginner’s tips to get you started.

Keep it simple. Focus on whole, naturally gluten-free foods. A good place to start? Fresh plain meat, poultry, and fish (check labels for added broths, seasonings and marinades that may contain gluten). Whole eggs and plain cheeses (again, read labels for added ingredients; whole milk products, plain and block cheeses are generally safer than their low fat or fat free cousins). Dairy based products such as milk, yogurt, sour cream and butter are safe if additive-free. Vegetarians can enjoy legumes, nuts, seeds, and plain tofu for protein. Vegetables and fruit are gluten-free. Potatoes are a lifesaver (many a night I have based a meal around baked or mashed potatoes).

Gluten-free grain choices include rice and risotto, quinoa, corn and polenta, millet and buckwheat. White and yellow corn tortillas make Mexican recipes a family favorite in our gluten-free kitchen. Enchiladas, tacos and fajitas are easily gluten-free. Brown rice tortilla wraps are fabulous for burrito style sandwiches and even BLT’s. Gluten-free pasta made from brown rice is excellent, as are traditional Asian rice noodles. Rice paper wraps (used to make spring rolls) are usually gluten-free; wonton wraps are not.

Starches and thickeners for gluten-free cooking include tapioca and tapioca starch, arrowroot, cornstarch and potato starch. Sweet rice flour makes a smooth gravy.

Other foods to avoid include white flour, wheat berries and bran, rye, barley, spelt, faro, cous cous, pasta, malt and beer. Hidden gluten is a troublemaker. Places gluten may lurk include soy sauce, gravy, broth, marinades and sauces, spice mixtures and blends, roux and thickeners in soup, malt vinegar and flavoring, seitan, mustard, salad dressings, tortillas and wraps, breaded coatings, Japanese panko crumbs, cereal, granola, roasted nuts. Commercial oats and oatmeal products are often contaminated (choose only certified gluten-free oats).

When I first began my gluten-free diet eight years ago I relied on back to basics scratch cooking to get me through. Planning simple home cooked meals and choosing naturally gluten-free whole foods made my transition into the gluten-free lifestyle much easier. Here are some tasty gluten-free recipes here on Simply Recipes to get you cooking:

Mushroom Risotto
Creamy Polenta
Butternut Squash Apple Soup
Chicken Enchiladas Verdes
Mom’s Ground Turkey and Peppers

Additional resources:

The Celiac Disease Foundation
The Gluten Free Girl
Karina’s Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes
Celiac Chicks
Simply Recipes Food Blog Spotlight: Gluten-Free

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Karina Allrich

Artist, script girl and creative cook Karina Allrich develops gluten-free recipes on her popular food and recipe blog Gluten-free Goddess, mentioned in Newsweek magazine as the go-to on-line source for "creative recipes and cooking tips from an experienced gluten-free chef."

More from Karina

Showing 4 of 26 Comments

  • Denise Webb

    I am new to the gluten free world. I see that there is a recipe for Beef Barley Stew. I thought barley had gluten. Please explain.

  • Ellen

    From one gluten free blogger to another, I can say that Karina really knows her stuff. She is a pioneer in our small (but growing) gluten free (Celiac, for some) world. Her reliable and delicious recipes and her personable writing style makes for a blog that is unique and always a joy to read. You go, girl.

    ~Ellen

  • Ruthlessma

    Haven’t been here for a while. Glad I stopped by. Good article. First time I’ve seen the term “scratch cook”. That describes me perfectly. I rarely purchase pre-processed foods…..unless I go on strike and refuse to cook, usually due to sheer bone-idle laziness. Take a day off, hang in the hammock and have a store-bought pizza for dinner. Doesn’t happen often.

  • Anna

    So glad to see this post. My family has been officially gluten-free only for 9 months, but I had already reduced a lot of our reliance on grains for several years when my husband and I drastically reduced sugar and starch intake to lose weight and maintain blood sugar in a normal range. So the transition was fairly easy and much less expensive compared to “re-inventing a GF wheel”.

    I have a huge cookbook collection, but I haven’t yet bought any GF cookbooks because they seem to primarily focus on recreating GF versions of wheat-centric foods using other grains. Given my need to also maintain normal blood glucose levels throughout the day, shifting to non-gluten but high starch grains doesn’t really help. I do like to consult Simply Recipes for GF ideas, though.

    We’ve simply shifted away from all grain foods – the biggest change has been we use knives and forks far more often instead of holding food with our hands (with sandwiches, crackers, or grainy “edible platforms”); we fill up on non-starchy veggies instead of starchy grain side dishes (which are less nutritionally dense anyway); and we don’t rely very much on processed convenience foods, GF or not.

    Invariably, when I mention to an acquaintance that we eat GF, I will get a comment on the high cost of eating GF. Not so, in my experience, if not purchasing many $6 loaves of GF bread, specialty GF flours and baking ingredients, GF snacks like chips, crackers, and pretzels, etc. Most of these items are fairly empty nutritionally anyway, so in addition to spending money on then, there is also room in the diet and the budget for delicious non-grain nutrient-dense foods that one usually consumes with these items.

    On occasion I do bake/cook a few GF items that resemble “traditional” foods, usually with coconut flour & lots of eggs (pancakes for kids’ sleepovers, muffins for classroom celebrations, unfrosted cakes for birthdays and celebrations, etc.), but they aren’t a big part of our family’s food culture anymore.

  • Judy

    I’m a whole 4weeks old in the gluten free arena. After 56 years, I find ANOTHER gi issue i have to deal with(I have a “mechanical” defect that surgery has only made MORE precarious!) Now this…I’m a baker, proud of my home made bagels and country Italian breads, that I no more can eat. What a trial!I’ve tried the mixes, and scratch recipes, Xanthan gum seems to be something that does not agree with me very well.

    In browsing the ‘net 3 days ago I stumbled on Chebe bread, made of manioc (AKA tapioca), there is no yeast, gums or offending grasses. You add A few tablespoons of milk (or milk substitute) a couple eggs, and Voila!…bread! It rises on it’s own, has a wonderful chewiness, comes in pizza, cinnamon, cheese, foccacia, or plain flavors—dry mix or even frozen. This Western PA girl is in Heaven! After 4 weeks of no italian, chewy crusty bread, I can make my own and it tastes GOOD. Just thought I’d pass this along.

    Thanks Karina for doing so much of the leg work. Read, Read, read Kids…There’s really a lot we can eat…

    Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for Chebe bread. I am glad you enjoy it. It’s not my cup of tea (or rather, loaf of bread) but I’m glad you found something you like. ~Karina

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