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

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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


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  1. Anne

    What can I use to replace barley in beef and barley stew? Anything close?!

    Show Replies (1)
  2. 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.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Liz

    Having been gluten free for over 7 years, I know first-hand how far its come. When I first was diagnosed, there were very few resources out there. Mainly list-serves with paranoid crazy gluten-free fanatics. It was enough to put the fear of death by gluten in me!

    7 years ago, you had to travel far and wide for decent gluten free bread, and gluten-free beer in the package store? Forget it. Nevermind the looks from friends, family and acquaintances who never heard of such a crazy thing.

    Thank you to everyone out there who has helped mainstream the no-gluten movement. You know you’ve made it when Betty Crocker and Budweiser jump on board.

  4. Kristin

    I wish it was this simple for me!! I just found out I’m allergic to gluten AND eggs, dairy, almonds, soy, and much more…it’s a trip but this is a good way to start…if anyone has any tips re: egg replacement let me know please!!!

    Kristin, You are not alone in this! I am also baking without dairy and eggs, almonds and soy. There are several alternatives to eggs. I find Ener-G Egg Replacer very useful. It is better at rising than binding, however, so egg-free recipes need a boost in that department. I often add a tablespoon of honey to a recipe, or some fruit puree, or a touch more xanthan gum to help bind the batter. ~Karina

  5. Melissa Jones

    I was dx a year ago, and am trying so hard to follow this diet to a T so that I can begin to heal my body. I have complicating medical conditions, but this is something I can CONTROL! I am running out of ideas, and am finding many off the shelf items are just gross ( still haven’t found a good bread or pizza dough) so this really came at a great time for me.
    There are many of us out there, and thank you… from the bottom of my belly ;)


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Cooking Gluten-Free