Today, I am sharing a list of “Top 10 Staples in a Gluten-Free Pantry”. These are foods that I use on a regular basis and have found to be essential in my home after being GF for about two years. This list is for people who are interested in going gluten-free, or who need to watch their gluten intake, but may be overwhelmed with where to start.
First, I must say that the readily available gluten-free foods in stores has grown to easily accommodate GF diets. Even in two years of eating GF, I have seen the market swell with an abundance of GF products. Folks are not forced to make as many baked goods and pasta from scratch. The key is knowing where to look, and then simply replacing what you usually buy with GF versions.
Even low-priced supermarkets, such as Aldi’s, carry many GF foods. Thanks to new laws recently passed, manufacturers have new gluten-free labeling guidelines that will help. Another tip is that you don’t need to be confined to shopping in the specialty foods aisle. For example, rice pasta and rice crackers can be found in the Asian foods section of the store. Likewise, corn tortillas and taco shells from the Mexican section can be used.
My list mainly focuses on switching over the obvious places to find gluten. Switching out these items that are commonly made with wheat will go a long way to get you started. However, there are many “hidden” sources of gluten in things like pre-spiced foods, or sauces, gravies, soups, soy sauce, etc. Depending on your level of wanting or needing to steer clear of gluten, you will need to read labels carefully and learn where gluten is hiding.
1. Cornstarch – This is an inexpensive item that is essential in my pantry. I use it to thicken sauces, gravies, and to make my own mayonnaise. (Don’t worry, most mayo is GF…I am simply avoiding onions and garlic right now, which are in some mayo jars.) Many recipes in baking GF items include cornstarch as well. If you get into GF baking much, I recommend making up your own flour mix, (it tastes better than the prepackaged GF flour), which will likely include cornstarch.
2. Xanthan gum or guar gum – Gluten is the part of the wheat grain that makes it “sticky” so that baked goods don’t fall apart. So when you use flour without gluten, you need to add something back in to make the finished product stick together. That is where the gums come in. Xanthan and guar can be interchangeable, so you can use either one that you find. It is expensive, but lasts for a long time.
3. Spice mixes, bouillon, stock, or broth – These are places hidden gluten can exist. Therefore, a good start is to check labels to see if the allergy warning at the bottom of the ingredient list says: Contains Wheat. If so, don’t use it. But because gluten is also found in barley and rye, and things that are derived from those grains (like sometimes caramel color or malt is), you will need to read the ingredients carefully. Some manufacturers have it clearly labeled gluten-free. Another tip here is to avoid these items that have MSG.
4. Tamari sauce – This is the gluten-free replacement for soy sauce. Regular soy sauce contains wheat. Tamari sauce is made from soy beans. I use tamari quite a bit in ethnic dishes, in marinades for meat, in soups, and in making my own broth or gravy from scratch. (It is found in the Asian section.)
5. Potatoes, Rice, Corn, and Quinoa – Switch your grains to these. These are the four biggest grains used in replacing wheat. Potatoes: bagged, canned, instant flakes, french fries, hash browns, chips, etc. Just not the boxed seasoned potatoes. Rice: white, brown, black, jasmine, abarrio, or any kind except boxed seasoned rice. Also, rice cakes. Corn: chips, tortillas, taco shells, grits, polenta, and corn meal. Quinoa is a “super” grain that contains the highest protein level and all amino acids. It can be used like rice. (I am also a fan of amaranth.)
6. Crackers – Rice or nut crackers are the most inexpensive option, like Nut Thins or Rice Thins, which can be found in the regular cracker aisle. Or rice crackers from the Asian aisle.
7. Cereal – Many mainstream manufacturers are making GF cereal. Many Chex flavors, GF Rice Krispies (make sure they’re labeled GF, because the regular ones contain a malt that is not GF), Fruity Pebbles and Chocolate Pebbles, grits, oats (if you have Celiac disease or are very sensitive, make sure to use GF oats – Oats don’t naturally contain gluten, but its risk of being cross-contaminated in the growing, harvesting, or manufacturing process is high), and corn flakes (again, read the label). There are lots of other GF varieties in the specialty foods aisles, but they will be more expensive. Also, Chex or corn flakes can be crushed to use as inexpensive GF bread crumbs or coating on meat. Grits and corn meal can also be used in the same way.
8. Pasta – Switch from wheat pasta to corn, rice, quinoa, or bean pasta. These are found in the specialty section, in spaghetti, linguini, elbows, penne, and other varieties. Rice and bean noodles can be found in the Asian aisle.
9. Flour – This is obvious. If you don’t do much GF baking, then you can grab a box or bag of all-purpose GF flour off the shelf. They usually even have some in the regular baking aisle. But if you want to get more involved and make great breads, cookies, and treats, you will need to invest in different varieties of flours and using a mix of these. Also, you may want a box of GF Bisquick on hand to whip up quick pancakes or biscuits. This is in the regular baking aisle.
10. Nuts and seeds – These are great snacks, or to grind up to use as flours in recipes, or in homemade trail mix and granola bars.
I didn’t say anything about bread, as there are lots of gluten-free varieties ready-made, or you can make your own.
Other pantry items like baking soda, baking powder, sugars, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, peanut butter and other nut butters, etc. are usually gluten-free. (Check the manufacturer’s web site to be sure.) Single spices are safe. As are plain meats, fruits, veggies, and dairy products.
Here’s to your health,
© 2013 – 2014, Kristen Hamilton. All rights reserved. Love it? Please share, pin, tweet or email but do not use my work without permission.