For most gluten-y ingredients, there is a gluten-free substitute you can use instead. It really helped me to learn some basics when I first started cooking gluten-free for Michael. If you know some of these ingredients and have them to hand, you can tackle any recipe that calls for an ingredient containing gluten, and substitute a safer alternative.
Tamari – Soy sauce is Chinese, whilst tamari is Japanese. It does not contain wheat, making it gluten-free. There is practically no difference in taste when compared to soy sauce. Do check that the brand you use is 100% gluten-free.
Coconut Aminos – If you are allergic to soy and gluten, then you are still in luck. Coconut aminos comes from coconut sap and salt is added to it so it resembles soy sauce.
Spirit/Apple Cider Vinegar – Malt vinegar is within the gluten-free limit according to Coeliac UK but some still react to it because of the barley. Easy to swap though! Use clear spirit vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead. Make sure you check items that are pickled before consuming to ensure they are not made with malt vinegar. Chip shops use spirit vinegar with caramel colouring generally, so this is safe but please make sure you check with the server that this is the case before eating it!
Polenta – growing up, my mum would occasionally make semolina pudding for me and my sisters. You can substitute this for tapioca pudding or rice pudding, but if you are craving something the same consistency as semolina, then try using cornmeal polenta instead. Even in savoury dishes, you can substitute semolina for polenta.
Quinoa – Quinoa is fairly similar to cous cous but requires a bit more time to make. It needs properly cooked through, whilst cous cous just needs to absorb hot water. Quinoa is a good alternative because it’s separate grains, unlike amaranth and polenta which are more stodgy.
Maize Cous Cous – some supermarkets sell gluten-free cous cous derived from maize, a member of the corn family. You need to cook this on the hob too but it is the closest alternative in my opinion.
Buckwheat flakes – although you can get gluten-free oats, some coeliac disease suffers are allergic to a protein called avenin which is found in all oats, gluten-free or not. Michael cannot eat oats, so my recipes will pretty much never use them. Buckwheat flakes are my favourite and cheapest alternative to oats. I use Big Oz buckwheat flakes which can be found in Holland and Barrett, Whole Foods, ASDA, and Amazon.
Quinoa flakes – quinoa flakes are pricier but if you want to try something different then go for these. You can buy them in Holland and Barrett. They are different from oats because they are almost instantly cooked, by soaking in 3 parts water to 1 part quinoa flakes. Since they are the whole quinoa seed flattened into a flake, they can be bitter.
Millet flakes – “Millet? Isn’t that bird feed?” Yes, millet is used in bird feed. But who decided it was just for birds? We can eat it too! It’s a good alternative to quinoa, polenta, buckwheat, and rice. Millet is a seed, and when turned into flakes, you can substitute it in recipes requiring oats. They are much finer than buckwheat flakes.
Coarse Cornmeal – depending on what you need the breadcrumbs for, there are numerous alternatives. For coating chicken and fish for a crispy exterior, you can use coarse cornmeal. This is often recommended for making crispy roast potatoes.
Flour e.g. chickpea – using breadcrumbs as a binder in burgers, for example, can easily be substituted for flours like chickpea or plain all-purpose gluten-free flour. Easy peasey.
Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs – yep, just use a normal slice of gluten-free bread, toast it, blitz it in a food processor (or crush with a rolling pin, but not for producing very fine breadcrumbs), and voila, homemade breadcrumbs!
Flour for thickening
Cornflour, potato starch, tapioca starch, gluten-free flour – Restaurants and packet-mixes often use plain gluten-y flour as a thickener because it’s quick and cheap. Cornflour is the best alternative, imparting no flavour. Just mix 1 tablespoon with some water in a separate bowl or mug, removing the lumps, and then pour it into your liquid mixture – it should gradually thicken. If you are in a pinch and have the other alternatives listed there, they are good too.
Any more suggestions? Let me know if you have any good gluten-free alternatives to add to this list!