A Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Baking
Baking. Baking can be a challenging task, and if I’m being 100% honest, I was not born an established baker. It’s not something that comes easily to me, I’ve had to work really hard at trying to perfect my baking skills. You’d think because I’m a very detail-oriented person that baking would be my forte, but I’m more of a throw in some of this, add a dash of that and see what happens kinda cook- not at all the precise method to baking.
Then you throw in the vegan component into baking and that’s a whole new mountain to climb. Dare I take it a step further and cut gluten out of the mix too? Quite literally speaking. You can imagine my intimidation for a very long time when it came to making sweet treats for the Healthy Little Vittles blog. I’ve certainly had my fair share (maybe more than fair) of failed recipes, but I keep practicing and experimenting with different ingredients until I finally feel like the desserts I create are deemed worthy of publication to all of you.
Over the last three years, I have come a long way from sticking with the no-bake treats only to finally branching out and including more baked goods, because who doesn’t crave some cakes and cookies and everything else in between, amiright?! So I’m here today, thankful to Best of Vegan for inviting me to share some tips and tricks to vegan AND gluten-free baking that I’ve learned along the way! So let’s just dive right in, shall we?
1. Use quality gluten-free flour
The all-purpose gluten-free flour you choose does make a big difference. I like to use a 1:1 baking flour that is a mixture of white rice, brown rice, sorghum, potato, and tapioca flours. It’s pretty common to find in stores now, or you can purchase online. A great example of a recipe I used gluten-free all-purpose flour is in this Strawberry Sprinkle Skillet Cake.
2. Try a grain-free flour!
Currently my all time favorite flours for baking also happen to be grain-free! Cassava flour, almond flour, coconut flour and banana flour are my favorites!
Made from the root of a cassava plant (also known as yuca), cassava flour has a texture that’s a bit starchy, similar to a yam or potato. I find the light and fine texture to be wonderful in my baked goods. And actually, cassava flour, out of all the gluten-free flour options, is considered to be the most comparable to regular all-purpose/wheat flour! Check out these Meyer Lemon “Ricotta” Waffles for an example of how I used cassava flour.
Banana flour is definitely becoming more popular as well. It doesn’t get nearly the attention it should, but I love using banana flour. Banana flour is made by peeling, chopping, and grinding green bananas into a fine flour, and contrary to what you might think, banana flour has fairly mild banana flavor, so it’s not overpowering in recipes.
If you’re unable to find banana flour locally, you may be able to do this at home by dehydrating or baking the bananas (sliced) and then grinding them into flour, but I buy mine online and am sure to keep it on hand at all times for when my sweet tooth hits. I especially like using banana flour in my Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe.
Coconut flour is great in bakery too, although is a bit more difficult to bake with, as it absorbs a lot of moisture and can sometimes make baked goods dry and crumbly. I find that I like to combine the coconut flour with other flours, such as cassava, oat, or banana flour. However, it is safe to eat raw, which makes it a great candidate for raw recipes.
With a mild taste- as in not having an intense coconut flavor (for all the non-coconut lovers out there), it blends well with the other ingredients in the recipe while offering a similar traditional flour texture. I love to use coconut flour in crumb bar recipes, like I did in these Triple Berry Tahini Crumb Bars!
If you don’t have a nut sensitivity/allergy, almond flour is an amazing option. My favorite way to enjoy almond flour is in raw, edible cookie dough, like I used in the crust of these No-Bake Peanut Butter Cups but you can also use it in your favorite baked goodies as a lower-carb option like in my “Cookie Crisp” Cereal recipe!
3. Make sure your batter isn’t too runny
I’ve been gluten-free for 7 years now, so it’s getting a little bit fuzzy at this point, but traditionally when you bake, you like your batter very moist and to almost be a runnier consistency. With gluten-free baking, you definitely want your batter to be more of a bread dough-like texture.
If it’s not, the center won’t bake and you’ll end up with a sink hole in the center of the bread only to realize it after it has cooled and it’s too late to stick it back in the oven. Why yes, this has happened to me more than a few times if you can’t tell by the annoyed tone in my type.
And sometimes if your batter isn’t quite right, it turns into a whole other dessert than you sought out to make entirely! In some cases that’s not all bad, for example, my intention with this Salted Caramel Brownie Cake was to make brownies but instead I ended up with a delicious chocolate brownie-esque cake that just happens to be one of my favorite “failed” baking excursions to date.
4. Use multiple kinds of egg replacements
I have found that because gluten-free flours absorb more moisture, you need to combine a couple different vegan egg replacements. I like to use some kind of nut/seed butter in combination with either a banana, flax eggs, chia eggs, applesauce, coconut/vegan butter, neutral oils such as grapeseed or coconut oil, or my new favorite- aquafaba!
These ingredients not only act as a binder, but also offer a way to get the dessert more tender and moist as opposed to dry, crumbly, and hard as a rock. This Blueberry Bundt Bread is a perfect example of the combination of these egg replacement items.
5. Try adding psyllium husk powder, but only a little bit!
I didn’t even know what psyllium husk was until about 6 months ago and I really think it has upped my baking game to the next level! Psyllium is a form of fiber harvested from the husks of the Plantago Ovata plant. It has many health benefits in the body, but when used in baking it almost acts as gluten would- as a binder.
But too much of it can make your bakery gummy, and well, not very good- again, I have experience with that too, haha. Generally I like to stick with just a teaspoon of psyllium husk powder in my batter, but in larger recipes you may want to experiment with more. I used 3 teaspoons in my “Snickers” Cinnamon Rolls and they were perfectly fluffy.
6. Use baking powder and/or baking soda and know when you should use them
Like myself, if you’re not a well seasoned baker, than you might not know the difference between baking powder and baking soda. Admittedly, I had to look this up too. I knew that both acted as a leavening agent, but I really wasn’t all too familiar with how they were used differently in baking. So I’d love to explain.
Baking soda is great to use when you’re making a more acidic dessert because the acid and the liquid activates the baking soda allowing it to help make the bakery more fluffy. Baking powder is a complete leavening agent, so it already contains the acidic component needed to help with rising.
I definitely use baking powder more in my recipes, but if I do use baking soda, like I do in my Funfetti Birthday Cake, I make sure that I use an acidic ingredient like apple cider vinegar to help activate it. Most often, if you’re unsure, I would lean toward baking powder. And you also might need more of it than you would in non gluten-free baking. I would say it’s not uncommon for me to use 2 teaspoons of baking powder in my recipes, like in these Blueberry Donut Holes.
7. Plan on enjoying your bakery within 2-3 days max
Unlike other bakery, gluten-free desserts get very dried out and hard after a day or two- three at max. So when I bake, I plan to share because there is no way my family and I eat that much dessert in a couple of days. And if the recipe freezes well, definitely freeze half for later! Kind of a bake once, enjoy twice kind of situation- those are my favorite! This “Twix Tart” is a great example of a freezer-friendly dessert recipe.
8. Keep an open mind
Gluten-free, vegan baking is not only challenging at times, but honestly, sometimes it might not compare to the way we used to enjoy our desserts. Going gluten-free and vegan wasn’t a choice for me actually- I needed to change my lifestyle and diet for health reasons. At first I was devastated, but then I decided to look at the positive and am grateful that there are even other options out there to indulge in my favorite sweet treats. I just had to find a way to do it differently than what I was used to… and it sure does take some getting used to. But if we keep an open mind, we keep experimenting, and we express gratitude for new ways of enjoying our favs, then I believe that anything baked with that kind of outlook will turn out great, even if it does take a few tries. Where there’s a will, there’s a way- and my carb-craving, sugar loving sweet tooth wasn’t ready to ditch desserts altogether, so here I am! I’m extremely grateful for my health and for this journey it has led me on, and I hope that you will love these recipes too! If you make any of them, please don’t forget to leave a comment on my blog or tag me on Instagram or Facebook, because I truly do want to help other people find ways of enjoying all kinds of culinary creations, whether you have food allergies or just simply seek healthier alternatives. Today and always, I’m wishing you
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gina Fontana is the food blogger, photographer, certified health coach behind the gluten-free, vegan, plant-based blog Healthy Little Vittles. Gina enjoys the creativity behind developing and photographing the recipes that suit her lifestyle. Having been diagnosed with thyroid and gastrointestinal disease back in 2013, she now follows a gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based diet.
By sharing her story and her recipes, she hopes to help others like her, as well as those who simply seek healthy alternatives, through her blog. Her drive to help people has fueled her to work hard at perfecting her recipe development, food photography, and writing. As a mother of two young children, she wants to show her followers that creating delicious, flavorful, health-forward meals is possible, while still being an advocate for simplicity.
Her hope is to inspire people to pursue a healthier lifestyle, to become the best versions of themselves, and enjoy all of life’s moments without sacrificing indulgent foods, but rather finding a different way of making them. Gina’s became a published author in 2019 with her first published book, Moon Milk, being sold worldwide! She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, 3 year old son, 1 year old daughter, and two fur babies.
Aside from being a busy mom running a small business, she enjoys playing softball, going to parks, singing, going to church, and snuggling up on the couch to watch her favorite evening shows. You can connect with her via her blog www.healthylittlevittles.com or on Instagram: @HealthyLittleVittles