Alright, I've spent the last year tasting, experimenting, and making different gluten free grain breads. Before we started out on this journey to me "grains" were wheat in the form of bread and pasta, rice and occasionally quinoa. Not a bad list, but wow I was missing out on some amazing grains! This is not to say that organic whole wheat isn't a good grain. It is! Just not if you have Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, or a gluten intolerance.
Just like getting a variety of different colored vegetables and fruit on a daily basis provides our bodies with all the varied and necessary nutrients, it's important to eat a diversity of grains as well.
So here are some of my favorite, healthy, and delicious gluten free grains!
*There are so many wonderful grains and I may fail to mention them all here, so feel free to comment and share your favs and why you love them! I won't mention starches and bean flours, even though they are a wonderful and essential part of gluten free baking. We're just talking about grains today. If you're wondering more about how to make your own gluten free flour blends go here.
Quinoa: Had to start with one of my all-time favorites! But actually, it's not even a grain. It's a tiny seed that's coated in bitter saponins. This protects the plant from being devoured by hungry birds and probably made it a little harder for ancient cultures in South America to discover their nutrient potential. You don't have to worry about bitterness nowadays, as most manufacturers of quinoa thoroughly remove this coating. You're left with earthy, quick preparing, protein packed, nutrient dense goodness. It's free of gluten and easy to digest making it safe for celiac patients and perfect if you're following the paleo diet. Grinding these little guys up into quinoa flour is another great way to add flavor, nutrients, and diversity to things like breads and tortillas.
Brown Rice: This one's kind of a no brainer, but I'm adding it in here because it's important to stick to the most natural, least processed version of this beneficial grain. White rice has been stripped of the necessary nutrients like B vitamins and consequently has to be "enriched" with all that was lost in this process. That's a lot of processing and messing around with something that was just fine to begin with. Stick with organic brown rice . It can also be ground into brown rice flour and made into gluten free breads and desserts.
Amaranth: This is one of my latest favorites! Like quinoa, this tiny grain hails from South America and is so packed full of protein and fiber it's one of the world's super grains. Also, like quinoa you can cook amaranth as is and eat it like porridge or finely grind it up and use as a gluten free flour in baked goods like gluten free amaranth bread.
Buckwheat: Unlike the name implies, buckwheat isn't wheat at all. There is absolutely no gluten contained in buckwheat, there is however plenty of amino acids. You hear about these amino acids in association with those who lift weights and need a high protein diet (a.k.a my Crossfit junkie hubby). This grain is dense and hearty and gives baked goods like Gluten Free Applesauce Muffins an amazingly rich flavor and an extra kick of protein.
Gluten Free Oats: Oats provide tons of beneficial fiber and are naturally gluten free. Wait! Then why is there a bag of "gluten free" oatmeal that costs way more than the box of Quaker's? The problem is cross-contamination. Many oat growers plant their oats next to their wheat or barley crop. If they're not planted side by side, they're usually manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat. The dilemma then becomes a matter of how sensitive someone with a gluten intolerance is to cross-contamination. Since each box of regular commercial oats could contain different amounts of gluten particles it's safer to only buy oats that guarantee a consistently safe batch of oats free from gluten. But it's okay because there are so many ways to use oats other than for oatmeal. Grind the oats into flour and you can use it in things like Oatmeal Pancakes or as a replacement for bread crumbs in meatballs.
Millet: Isn't that bird feed? Yes...and no. This poor misunderstood grain has been used as bird and animal feed in the U.S. for years, however, people in India and parts of Africa eat it as a staple part of their diet. Don't go out and buy a bag of bird seed though! For human's to enjoy this grain full of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and iron the tough outer hull needs to be removed. After that it can be prepared like rice, quinoa, or amaranth by boiling it until the water is absorbed. It can also be ground into a flour.
There are so many ways to enjoy and benefit from what the earth provides. These are just a few gluten free grains I love and here's how they break down when substituting them for wheat flour. That's why you have to blend flours when making gluten free baked goods since there is not one wheat substitute that can be swapped straight across.
1 cup wheat flour equals...
7/8 cup amaranth flour
7/8 cup buckwheat flour
7/8 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup oat flour
3/4 cup millet flour