Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten-Free Thickeners/Flour Coatings:
Sweet Rice Flour, Rice Flour
Sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour, but don’t worry, there’s no gluten in it) can be used one for one as a substitute for wheat flour in gravies and sauces based on a roux. You can find sweet rice flour at Asian markets. To make a roux you melt some butter or margarine, add the flour and cook a while, then to make the sauce, slowly add liquid, while whisking so you don’t get lumps. With sweet rice flour, you don’t need to cook it as long, just a minute or two, as it’s not going to brown like wheat flour would anyway, and it doesn’t have the same nasty taste when raw that wheat flour does. And because it doesn’t have that raw taste, you can also thicken with it by mixing with a little cold water and stirring it into a simmering liquid. Sweet rice flour makes a good coating if you’re doing something like browning cutlets, especially if they’re going to then cook in a sauce that needs to thicken. It also works if you have a recipe where you dip in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Regular rice flour also works as a coating, but doesn’t thicken.
Cornstarch, Potato Starch and Arrowroot:
These are all good thickeners for gravies and sauces. They’ll produce a clearer, more shimmery gravy or sauce than one made with sweet rice flour. It takes about 1 Tbsp of cornstarch, 1 ½ tsp of potato starch, or 1-2 tsp arrowroot for each cup of liquid you want to thicken. Mix the starch with a little cold water and then stir it into your hot liquid to avoid lumps. You generally add these thickeners toward the end of the cooking, because they don’t hold their thickening power well, especially the arrowroot, which should thicken in about a minute and then be taken off the heat. Arrowroot can be used to thicken cool sauces, too and is especially good for acidic sauces. I have not used arrowroot myself, but I understand it does not work well with milk-based sauces. Cornstarch also can be used as a coating on meat for browning.
Most gluten-free (GF) flours don’t brown as well as wheat flour. Amaranth is an exception. It can be added to other flours in proportions of 10 – 25% to improve browning – not more because it has a fairly strong taste and also tends to soak up water. Its addition in baked goods may require adding extra liquid. It adds something nutritionally, too, being higher in both amount and quality of protein, and in fiber and several important minerals, than many GF flours.
There are all kinds of gluten-free breadcrumbs you can buy: panko style crumbs, dry rice breadcrumbs. I find grinding rice crackers in a mini-chopper makes a reasonable approximation to panko breadcrumbs. You can also grind up tortilla chips for a nice crunchy coating. For soft breadcrumbs, I just toast gluten-free bread and then grind it a bit in a mini-chopper.
Gluten-Free Deep-Fry/Tempura Batter:
My standard tempura batter, which I quite like, is 2 egg whites, 2 cups regular white rice flour (the really fine kind in Asian groceries works well for this), 10 oz seltzer water or gluten-free beer, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp garlic powder. For an egg-free version substitute 2 Tbsp tapioca starch for the egg whites and add 1 – 2 oz more seltzer or beer. I coat whatever I’m frying in rice flour, shake off excess, dip in batter and fry.
A recipe here that uses this batter is Buffalo Cauliflower.
Sorry, I don’t have a lot to offer here. I’m not much of a baker. I hardly ever eat dessert and what little bread I eat, I just buy – call me lazy. My sweet tooth seems to have just gone away, which is just as well – don’t need those extra calories. However, in what little baking I’ve done, I’ve found Bette Hagman’s books to be a good resource. In “The Gluten Free Gourmet”, she published a four-flour bean mix: 2/3 part Garfava bean flour, 1/3 part sorghum flour, 1 part cornstarch, and 1 part tapioca flour that substitutes 1 for 1 for wheat flour in baked goods. She also has a lighter mix that’s good in things where you want a lighter flavor: 2 parts white rice flour, 2/3 part potato starch, 1/3 part tapioca starch. She suggests adding some extra protein (like egg) with this one. She also recommended about ½ tsp xanthan gum per cup flour for cakes and cookies and ¾ tsp per cup for breads.
There are also lots of great recipes out there using all sorts of nutritious grains and seeds like quinoa, amaranth, teff, etc. A couple blogs I have discovered with lots of healthy whole grain GF sweets (and dairy free, too!) are Petite Allergy Treats and My Whole Food Life.
Dairy Sensitivity, Dairy Allergy, Lactose Intolerance
This one’s pretty easy, since so many alternative milks are available and you can pretty much substitute them one for one in recipes that call for milk. If thickening is required, I usually thicken with sweet rice flour as described in the Thickeners section. Often times if a recipe is thickened with cream, I’ll just use an alternative milk and thicken it with sweet rice flour. My family uses mostly almond milk as a substitute. There’s also rice milk, soymilk and coconut milk. The coconut milk that comes in the cartons – in the same store section as almond milk is the least coconut-y. Canned light coconut milk has a little more fat and still just a mild coconut flavor. If you’re doing something like a curry, where you really want the coconut flavor, use the full fat canned version.
There are some good products out there in this realm, too. My daughter especially likes Daiya mozzarella and Daiya cream cheese – both soy-free. A word of warning – you can’t bake with Daiya cream cheese, as in cheesecake. Tofutti cream cheese will work for that though, if you can tolerate soy. In our pre-soy allergy days, I used to make a good lasagna, using Tofutti cream cheese mixed in the processor with some egg and seasonings as a ricotta substitute, and also put in some Daiya mozzarella. Another product my daughter likes is Amy’s brand Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Rice Mac and Cheese.
As far as make your own cheese substitutes goes, I’ve only done a little bit of this. I’ve found that 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp dill makes a really good bleu cheese dip substitute and I think diluted with a little oil/water it would make a good dressing. We’ve also tried J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s vegan cheese sauce substitute from Serious Eats and liked it. It’s based on potatoes and cashews. I’m currently fooling around with a nightshade-free sweet potato and tapioca starch version – seems to work – will add specifics when it’s finalized. He made a couple different versions, nacho and regular, during his annual vegan month. It’s different from a lot of the other cheese substitutes out there in that it doesn’t use nutritional yeast, not that I have anything against that. Google searching will turn up recipes for lots of cashew and nutritional yeast based cheeses.
And if you suffer from serious cheese withdrawal, you may want to get a copy of “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner. It includes real fermented cheese. Check out this review at Judith Kingsbury’s Savvy Vegetarian.
Dairy-Free Whipped Cream:
I learned how to make this from Angela Liddon at the vegan blog, Oh She Glows and it’s delicious. Basically you just whip coconut cream and add a little sugar and vanilla – very simple. Here’s a link to my instructions. One caveat – you need to find full fat coconut milk without a lot of emulsifiers, which is tough to do because most of the manufacturers have recently added guar gum or xanthan gum to stop it from separating. This recipe depends on the cream separating from the water in the refrigerator and then you whip the cream. Angela Buchanan at Seasonal and Savory tells me that Asian Forest brand, even though it does have a little guar gum, seems to separate well and that some brands carried by Asian groceries do not have the guar gum.
Soy-Free Soy Sauce and Miso Substitutes
The main problem here is good Asian food. In my house we love it – gotta have it! Fortunately, there are some really good ways to substitute.
Fish sauce sometimes is all you need to replace that umami you’d get in recipes that call for just a little bit of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
Another product that makes a great substitute for soy sauce is chickpea miso, made by Miso Master and by South River Miso Company. South River also makes an Azuki bean miso, a dark reddish color as opposed to the chickpea’s gold. Miso Master is available at Whole Foods Market in the refrigerated area of the produce section. Both companies ship, although not during the warm weather for South River.
Sometimes you can substitute either fish sauce or chickpea miso directly for the soy sauce, especially if there’s a lot of other liquid in the recipe. More often, I’ll use a combination of chickpea miso, fish sauce and a little water or dry sherry or rice vinegar to substitute for soy sauce. This combo works especially well for stir-fries and I often add a little sesame oil to amp up the Asian flavor.
Peanut, Tree Nut Allergy
If you’re allergic to peanuts but not tree nuts, cashews make a great substitute in Asian food. Often if a recipe calls for peanut butter, I’ll grind some roasted cashews into a paste and substitute that. It’s adds a similar richness and nutty flavor. There are also several different nut butters available commercially as well as sunflower seed butter for those with tree nut allergies. Roasted sunflower seeds make for a nice crunchy component in recipes calling for nuts, too. It can be difficult to find sunflower seeds that are not processed on equipment that also processes peanuts and tree nuts. Check out mygerbs.com for their assortment of allergen-free seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp and flax.
Tomato Allergy, Nightshade Sensitivity
Tomato allergy and nightshade sensitivity are fairly rare. Tomatoes are in the nightshade family, as well as white potatoes (not sweet potatoes), sweet and hot peppers (not black pepper), eggplant, tomatillos, goji berry and a few other more exotic foods you’ve probably never heard of. These vegetables contain alkaloids that are thought to be responsible for the chronic pain and/or gastrointestinal problems some people experience when they include them in their diets. My daughter has a tomato allergy and possibly nightshade sensitivity, so I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with substitutions.
My go-to substitute for tomato in recipes is my Notmato paste, made from beet, carrot, onion and garlic. I have used the Notmato paste as a base to make marinara sauce and barbecue sauce and a ketchup should be coming soon. There is also a company, Nomato that sells a marinara sauce, ketchup and barbecue sauce, although the barbecue sauce is not totally nightshade free as it has hot peppers in it. You have to mail order their products, although they say they’re in the mid-Atlantic region Whole Foods Markets. I have also used carrot juice and beets to make a very good chili.
Nightshade-Free Heat/Hot Pepper Substitutes:
This is a tough one. It’s hard to reproduce that same exact flavor/heat you get from hot peppers, but you can come close. I have found ground white pepper to be the purest source of heat without a lot of other flavors. White pepper is just black pepper with the outer black coating removed. It substitutes about one for one for ground cayenne pepper. There’s also dry mustard, horseradish and wasabi, all of which have distinct flavors in addition to the heat, and their heat also mellows with cooking much more than white pepper’s does.
Most store-bought mustard contains paprika derived from peppers. I have noticed in Whole Foods that Annie’s Naturals Dijon mustard does not contain paprika – the spices are all listed and no nightshades.