There is a world in which you can make biscuits that are gluten-free. The process is not complicated, nor is it full of esoteric steps or ingredients.
These buttery biscuits rise and are flaky; the flour does not impart any of the grittiness that gluten-free flours can sometimes have. It is the real world, the one we live in, populated with grocery stores and online recipes and food shopping and other ways to buy the ingredients you need to make the likes of a gluten-free biscuit. It is happening!
The only “special” ingredient you need is a gluten-free flour mix that you can buy at most supermarkets.
In fact, the steps to making these biscuits are so similar to making traditional buttermilk biscuits, it may come as a bit of a surprise. Sometimes, thankfully, you really don’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
What to Expect With Gluten-Free Biscuits
With gluten-free baking, we sometimes have to adjust our expectations slightly. These biscuits are not going to rise quite as high as a traditional biscuit made with all-purpose flour.
But you will have a rise and some flaky layers, promise!
The Best Gluten-Free Flour to Use
So, gluten-free flours are of course a little different than all-purpose flour. They’re often more finely ground, and they absorb liquid and fat differently. They also—and this is the most important difference—don’t have gluten, that magic ingredient that helps baked goods retain their structure.
I like to use the Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Blend for this recipe. In fact, this is often our go-to recommendation for gluten-free recipes on Simply Recipes. It is reliable, and it already has xanthan gum in it (an ingredient in many gluten-free biscuit recipes that mimics the role of gluten).
King Arthur also makes a Measure for Measure Gluten-Free baking blend, and that one works seamlessly with this recipe as well—it already has xanthan gum in it, so no need to add it. Their regular gluten-free flour blend also works well; just make sure you are adding a teaspoon of xanthan gum to this recipe, in with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
Also, I don't recommend Pillsbury’s gluten-free flour for this recipe; the results weren’t as good.
A Word About Buttermilk
Buttermilk is traditional for biscuits and it works well here, too, and imparts a bit of a tang. I start by mixing just a couple of tablespoons into the dry ingredients to hydrate and then add the rest. This helps everything mix evenly without forming clumps.
I used a low-fat buttermilk for this recipe, but buttermilk sometimes varies in thickness and you may find yours is thinner or thicker. It will work with any kind of buttermilk, but you may find that the temperature in the room or the humidity level may dictate that you need a little more or less. The dough will look like it has no business coming together—i.e., it may look a little crumbly—but it will.
If the dough is really and truly dry, add additional buttermilk a tablespoon at a time and incorporate before adding more. You don’t want a wet dough.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can always add a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of apple cider vinegar to the same amount of milk. It will help acidify the milk; I’d recommend using whole milk if you can.
Tips for the Best Gluten-Free Biscuits Ever:
Unsurprisingly, the steps and tricks that make a great traditional biscuit are important when making gluten-free biscuits, too—perhaps even more so!
- Treat the biscuit dough like pie crust. Make sure the butter is very cold, and your hands as well. I like to cut the butter up into tablespoons, and then halve them and put them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes if my kitchen is warm.
- Fold the dough: Turn and fold the dough over and over to create flaky layers. (The fancy term is laminating and it’s also how you make croissants!)
- Press straight down and up with the biscuit cutter. This assures that the biscuits will rise as much as possible.
- Bake the gluten-free biscuits in a 9-inch cast iron skillet or 8x8 glass baking dish. Nestled next to each other, they will puff up rather than expand sideways.
- Hands vs. rolling pin: I typically use both for these biscuits. I like to be able to feel the dough before I roll it out. I often use my hands to tidy up the dough into the right shape, and then roll it out to get it to the right thickness.
- Let them cool! If you don't wait about 10 minutes for these biscuits to cool after they come out of the oven, they may taste a little gummy.
How to Serve These Biscuits
Okay, that’s a funny idea, isn’t it? You just eat them!
Wait until they cool, so you don’t burn your mouth! Then, split them open and top them with butter, jam, as is, whatever. I also like them drizzled with honey.
You could also really easily remove the sugar and put them to use in a savory application, such as biscuits and gravy, or add a half teaspoon each of dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme, chives, or parsley.
To Freeze or Not to Freeze?
Sadly, these biscuits don’t take kindly to being baked from the frozen state. However, you can certainly bake them, freeze any extras, and thaw at room temperature or pop them right into a low oven (my preference; try 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes).
They won’t be as tender as they were when they first came out of the oven, but for something you pop out of the freezer and into the oven, they’re pretty darned good.
In Love With Biscuits? Here Are 5 More!
- Classic Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- Cheese Biscuits
- Biscuits and Gravy Casserole
- Dairy-Free Vegan Biscuits
- Cheddar and Jalapeño Biscuits
How to Make Gluten-Free Biscuits
You can also bring this dough together in the food processor (with gentle pulses) and by hand (soak your hands in cold water; the butter should be even colder), but we have found that using the stand mixer works quickly and requires the least amount of manual interference with cold butter. And this is what you want for flaky biscuits!
- 2 cups (about 300 g) gluten-free flour mix, preferably Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Blend or another flour blend with xanthan gum
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) very cold butter, cut into tablespoons and then cut in half, plus more to grease the pan
- 3/4 to 1 cup cup cold buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
Combine dry ingredients:
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Add the butter:
On the low speed, let the mixer break up the butter into smaller pieces; this should take about a minute. Stop the mixer and check; you still want visible pieces of butter about the size of marbles or even a little bigger. They will look like they are starting to flatten.
This dough is not a situation where we say the flour and butter should look like “the consistency of small peas.” If some of the pieces haven't flattened, just press them between your fingertips to break them up a little bit—dime-sized pieces are fine.
Add the buttermilk:
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Using a fork, quickly mix the buttermilk into the flour to hydrate it.
Then, slowly mix in a scant 3/4 cup of buttermilk and combine with a fork until no streaks of flour remain. If the dough seems dry, add additional buttermilk a tablespoon at a time and incorporate before adding more. You don't want a wet dough.
Gather the dough into a ball:
On a floured surface, turn out the dough, which will look like a crumbly mess. It will come together when you begin to shape it into a ball. If for some reason (ambient humidity, variations in buttermilk thickness) the dough feels dry, add a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk to hydrate those dry bits.
Fold the dough like a letter:
Lightly press the dough (or roll it with a floured rolling pin) into a thick rectangular shape, about 4 inches by 6 inches. Fold one of the short ends of the dough toward the middle, and then the other, like a letter.
Rotate the dough 1/4 turn and roll it out, and fold it again into thirds. Repeat this process one more time, then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour to an hour. (This process creates flaky layers; if you skip it, your biscuits will bake flat, like hockey pucks.)
Prep the oven and pan:
Preheat the oven to 425°F and prep a 9- or 10-inch cast iron pan or an 8x8 glass baking dish with either spray oil or grease with butter.
Roll and cut out the biscuits:
Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a rolling pin, gently roll it out to a rectangle about 6 inches by 9 inches and one inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter that’s been lightly floured (this dough can be sticky), cut out about 6 biscuits by pressing the cutter straight down into the dough; if you twist them when you remove them, you’ll stunt their rise!
Reroll the scraps, reflouring the biscuit cutter if needed, and make more biscuits until all the dough is used up.
Transfer to the pan. You will have to nestle them close to each other, and that’s okay. You want them touching in order for them to rise better. Brush the tops with the melted butter.
Bake the biscuits for 20 to 25 minutes until the tops look lightly brown around the edges. Check frequently to avoid burning.
Cool and serve:
Remove from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter. Let the biscuits cool in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Try to wait the seemingly impossible 10 minutes before you eat one. They will continue to cook a little, firm up a little while cooling, and not burn your mouth. It’s all worth the wait.
These biscuits are best eaten warm out of the oven, but they do okay reheated in a toaster or low oven (300°F) for up to 2 days. They get dried out pretty fast.