27 Substitutes for Gluten-Free Eating

This article (slightly retitled here), written by Kate Morin and on the The Greatist web site, caught my eye.  While some of the tips were old hat to me, others were new and welcome.  I decided to share it with you and have added my own edits, comments, and links in italics.

1. Corn tortillas for sandwich bread
Cold cuts and deli cheese just aren’t the same unless they’re sandwiched between something starchy. When gluten-free bread isn’t an option (or if trying to watch the carbs and calories), corn tortillas are a great stand-in. Corn tortilla sandwiches are great. My fave is turkey/chicken with lettuce, a dill pickle slice, a thin slice of Manchego (sheep cheese), lettuce, and a little bit of mustard.  Caveat: the tortillas are best when fresh; otherwise they have a tendency to rip and crumble.

2. Brown rice tortillas for crackers
Feeling crafty? When cut into squares and toasted, gluten-free brown rice tortillas make a great substitute for crackers.  Or cut tortillas into strips, bake, and add for crunch on a salad.  You could also do this corn tortillas. 

3. Gluten-free oats for breadcrumbs
A quick whirl in a food processor or blender makes rolled oats the perfect substitute for traditional breadcrumbs. Add a sprinkle of herbs and some Parmesan cheese for Italian-flavored seasoning!  I love this idea!

4. Crushed flax or fiber cereal for breadcrumbs
Crush up that gluten-free cereal and mix in some herbs for a lower-sodium substitution for traditional breadcrumbs. Plus, it’s an easy way to get an extra dose of fiber or omega-3s!  If you’re not dieting, this is another great breadcrumb idea.  However, if you are, a boxed cereal may be too “calorie-expensive” because of additives. Check the ingredients!

5. Mashed potatoes for pizza crust
Believe it or not, leftover mashed potatoes make a great alternative to pizza crust. Mix ½ cup with about ¼ cup of any gluten-free flour. Smooth the mixture into a thin layer onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for a few minutes until crisp. Add favorite traditional pizza toppings, return to the oven until warmed through, and enjoy!  Now this is something I will have to try!

6. Lettuce leaves for tortilla wraps
It’s not a perfect swap, but forgoing the carbs for fresh lettuce is a fun (and easy) switch that can lighten up any wrap or taco dish. Plus, replacing the bread with an extra veggie will give the dish a nutritional boost with added vitamins and folate.  This works although, sadly, not one of my favourite substitutions.

7. Corn tortillas for flour tortillas
Half the calories and fat. ‘Nuff said. Just make sure to pick a certified gluten-free brand.

8. Grits for oatmeal
Craving carbs for breakfast? If gluten-free oats aren’t available, try substituting corn grits. They’re often higher in calories and carbs, but they’re typically lower in fat and contain more folate.  I like grits, but they’re not on my diet except for the occasional splurge.

9. Cornmeal pancakes for regular pancakes
Sometimes it’s just a pancake kind of morning. Replacing the wheat flour with cornmeal or corn flour (as in this New York Times recipe) can be a perfect substitute.  Another great idea, and I’m going to try this recipe.  However, it includes 2 tbsp. of oil and that doesn’t include the oil for frying.  That’s calorie-rich so I’m going to use 1 tbsp. of oil and 1 tbsp. of unsweetened applesauce and use cooking spray for frying.  I’ll probably also ditch the nuts (see #10).

10. Chopped nuts for granola in yogurt
The oats in most commercially-sold granolas are usually grown and processed with wheat or other gluten-containing grains, making them unsafe for people who have to avoid gluten. Instead of grabbing the granola bag, opt for some fresh toasted nuts to go with yogurt or fruit.  Nuts are a great addition to yogurt, but weight watchers have to take care with quantity.  Nuts are high in fats so moderation is in order.

11. Meringue for pre-made frosting
Store-bought frosting can sometimes have gluten-based thickeners in it (bummer, right?). Made from just egg whites and sugar, meringue can be a tasty fat-free substitution for traditional frosting. Feel like going a step further? Take a torch to it. Lightly charring the edges of the meringue can add a nice caramelized flavour.  I’m not sure I understand how this would work. There are certain pies, such as lemon meringue pie, in which the filling is essentially cooked separately, then the pie is assembled with the uncooked meringue on top and then baked to finish off the meringue.  How would you use meringue as a cake frosting? By adding it to a cooked cake, cookie, muffin and then putting the item back in the oven? In which case, it’s not really pre-made, is it?

12. Nuts for croutons
Every salad needs that extra crunch. To avoid gluten-filled croutons, try some lightly toasted slivered almonds, pecans, or walnuts. For a savory salad (think Cesar) try a spice or herb roasted variety!  Nuts are great on salads but come with the same warning as #10.

13. Sorghum flour, almond meal, rice flour, chickpea flour, brown rice flour, or buckwheat flour PLUS cornstarch, tapioca starch, or potato starch PLUS xanthan gum for flour
Aside from the classic wheat, there are dozens of other unique types of flours safe for the gluten-free population. One problem: There isn’t really an exact 1:1 swap for wheat— a blend of several flours and starches is needed to get the same texture. When in doubt, check out these recipes from Gluten-Free Goddess and Living Without for some flour combinations that work perfectly in place of wheat flour!  Many gluten-free cookbooks also provide flour/starch mixes. You may also find Baking Gluten-Free “Quick Breads”: FAQs on this blog helpful in understanding why mixtures are necessary and how to experiment with different flours and starches. 

14. Black beans for flour
Substituting a can of back beans (drained and rinsed) for flour in brownies is a simple way to avoid gluten and also add an extra dose of protein! And don’t be fooled— they taste great.  Dieters: Check out Weight Watchers “Black Bean Brownies.

15. Almond flour for wheat flour
This gluten-free switch lends baked goods a dose of protein, omega-3s, and a delicious nutty flavor. Start with something like a simple butter cookie to get a hang for the switch. Feeling creative? Try other nut flours like walnut or hazelnut for another fun switch!  As with nuts, nut flours are high in fats and, if you’re a Weight Watcher, they can send a food’s point value into the stratosphere.  Check out the values at To Chia or Not to Chia: This is the Seed/Nut Question.

16. Coconut flour for flour
High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, coconut flour is a great partial substitute for wheat flour in baking recipes. Be careful, though—more than ¼ to ½ cup, and the flour’s bitterness can take over.  This flour is also on the low side in terms of calories as compared to other gluten-free flours.  If you’re on the Weight Watcher program, you can click to Point Values of Gluten-Free Flours  for more information.

17. Zucchini or eggplant for lasagna noodles or pasta
Thin strips (cut with a knife) or ribbons (easily made with a vegetable peeler) are a great substitute for wheat-filled pastas. The wider ribbons work perfectly in lasagna, and strips are a great replacement for spaghetti!  Right on! Another vegetable is carrot strips as in my Faux Lasagna.

18. Spaghetti squash for pasta
Roasted and pulled apart with a fork, spaghetti squash is a great low-carb and lower-calorie substitute for wheat-based pasta.  Another practically no-cal and all-fiber substitute for pasta is Shirataki noodles.  I throw these noodles, which are pre-cooked, in soups, Asian dishes, and anywhere else I feel they’d fit.

19. Rice noodles for pasta
When veggie substitutes just won’t cut it, go for one of the many gluten-free, rice-based noodles on the market. Chances are, they’ll be stocked in at the grocer’s international aisle.  But be wary of the calories; these noodles can be as “rich” as wheat pasta.

20. Polenta for pasta or couscous
Polenta is another great option to take the place of traditional pastas. Plus, it goes perfectly with all the classic pasta toppings, from marinara sauce to breaded chicken or sautéed veggies.  Good one, but same caveat as #19.

21. Grated steamed cauliflower for couscous
Cut calories, carbs, and gluten with this simple switch. Plus, cauliflower offers a handful of other health benefits including vitamins and minerals, and even some cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates.  Terrific idea!

22. Quinoa for couscous
While couscous is made from processed wheat flour, quinoa is a whole grain superfood packed with protein and nutrients. Bonus points for having almost the exact same texture.  I also use quinoa plus vegetables or fruit to make filling puddings.  And quinoa can also be bought as a flour and is lower in calories than many other gluten-free flours.

23. Tamari for soy sauce
Many plain soy sauces contain wheat. Avoid getting accidently gluten-ated by going with tamari, a type of soy sauce that’s wheat-free.  And just as tasty!

24. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for soy sauce
When wheat-filled soy sauce is a problem, go for liquid amines for the same “umami” flavor without the risk of gluten contamination!  This one’s new to me!

25. Cornstarch and water for roux
Cut gluten— and fat! To thicken soups, stews, and stir-fries, replace the traditional fat-and-flour roux mixture with a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch and water (start with a tablespoon of each).  Works for me!

26. Potatoes for roux
Another great option for thickening soups and stews is to add a few chunks of starchy potato (like Idaho). As the potatoes cook and soften, they break apart and slowly thicken.  Potatoes add flavour but, unfortunately, they also add calories. Sigh. 

27. Rice cakes for… just about anything
Rice cakes work perfectly as a stand-in for crackers, pizza crust, and even bagels (we swear, they’re really good with cream cheese— just stick to one serving!).  A “stand-in,” yes, but “perfectly?” I wish.  

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