If you are unsure what gluten intolerance is, we recommend that you first read our blog 6 Common Signs of Gluten Intolerance: An Ultimate Guide
There are two common misconceptions about gluten free diets.
The first is that gluten free diets are restrictive because you can’t enjoy your household staples.
The second is that gluten free diets are expensive.
The truth is, with some simple ingredient substitutions, you can still enjoy your favourite meals and snacks from before giving up gluten, without paying for costly gluten free imitations.
Read on for 10 gluten free substitutes for your household staples.
(Stick around till the end for an easy cheat sheet that you could add to your shopping list!)
Why Have a Gluten Free Diet?
Anyone can have a gluten free diet. It naturally removes a lot of carbohydrates and processed foods which can help with weight loss. For many people, however, a gluten free diet isn’t just a choice, it is a necessity.
There are several conditions that can affect peoples’ health and comfort that are caused or worsened by eating gluten. The following are the most common:
- Celiac disease - gluten causes an immune system response that damages the small intestine lining
- Gluten ataxia - an autoimmune disorder that impairs muscle control
- Dermatitis herpetiformis - bumps and lesions break out on the skins when gluten is ingested
Wheat allergy - an allergic reaction to gluten in wheat that leads to a spectrum of typical allergic reaction symptoms
If you suffer from one or more of these conditions, it’s important that you realise your diet can be just as fun, adventurous and delicious as it was before your diagnosis.
Get excited about food again with the following 10 gluten free substitutes!
1. Couscous - Cauliflower
While couscous may look like rice, it unfortunately isn’t gluten free. This is because it is made with semolina, an ingredient derived from wheat.
Cauliflower, when steamed and finely grated, is a fantastic low calorie, gluten free option that closely mirrors the texture and colour of couscous. Once it’s combined with the flavour of the mix-ins you’ll barely notice the difference!
2. Cornstarch - Arrowroot
Cornstarch is the ideal thickening agent. If you love a thick pudding or a hearty soup, this is probably in your pantry. The problem is cornstarch, while being naturally gluten free, is manufactured in processing plants that also manufacture ingredients that contain gluten.
The cross-contamination risk is high, and so is the price of gluten free cornstarch that has been specially processed in a factory that doesn’t have other gluten ingredients.
Instead, try arrowroot. Arrowroot is not commonly made in factories that also produce gluten products, and it is a much more subtle ingredient than cornstarch. Where cornstarch has a slight taste and colour, arrowroot is clear and tasteless when mixed into a baking mixture or a soup.
3. Oats - Gluten Free Oats
Just like cornstarch, oats are infamous among the gluten-free community for being cross-contaminated with gluten products during processing. However, unlike cornstarch, this is a well recognised issue and the oats industry has acknowledged it. Gluten free oats are abundant in supermarkets across all oat varieties, and are very reasonably priced.
4. Bread Crumbs - Almond Meal
Bread crumbs are great for coating chicken to make a schnitzel or for binding mince together to make meatballs. Unfortunately, they are also made from wheat and contain gluten.
Almond meal is completely gluten free and has quite a neutral taste. This means it won’t overpower the flavour of the meat. When pan fried, it will also become crispy just like bread crumbs will. Give it a try for your next homemade spaghetti & meatballs!
5. Pasta/Spaghetti - Zucchini/Squash
Speaking of spaghetti, having gluten free breadcrumbs is great, but what’s the point when spaghetti also contains gluten?
The answer is zucchini or squash - or both! Both vegetables can be peeled or strained to replicate the shapes and textures of spaghetti. Many people actually prefer them to spaghetti or pasta because they can make a meal taste lighter and fresher. Not to mention, a mix of green zucchini and yellow squash can make a meal look visually stunning.
6. Wheat Crackers - Plain Rice Crackers
Gluten free diets don’t just affect meals. They also affect how people snack. One of the most popular snacks is wheat-based crackers and dip, especially for entertaining.
Rice is gluten free, and plain rice crackers are made purely from rice so they don’t contain gluten either. When paired with a flavoursome dip they make the perfect quick snack. Just make sure the dip is gluten free as well!
7. Lollies - Nuts
While you’re thinking about snacks, what about the best snack of all? Lollies! If your children are on a gluten free diet, this may just be the most important entry on this list.
Whether you’re craving something sweet or salty, there is one gluten-free option that can deliver it all… nuts. Nuts are rich in fats and can certainly sate your lolly cravings.
For sweet options, try natural macadamias and pecans, or for saltier options, try some cashews or peanuts. Either way, nuts provide a variety of flavours and are easy to snack on.
8. Soy Sauce - Tamari Sauce
This one is really simple. If you can’t imagine your favourite Asian dish without a generous splash of soy sauce, tamari sauce is a substitute that is freely available at supermarkets and tastes great.
The best thing about tamari is that it isn’t a substitute, it really is soy sauce. The difference is that it is purely made from fermented soybeans in a Japanese style, while regular soy sauce is fermented soybeans mixed with wheat, according to the Chinese style.
You could say temari sauce is more authentically ‘soy sauce’ than soy sauce itself. Try saying that quickly…
9. Malt vinegar - Balsamic Vinegar
Gluten free, and most healthy diets, will feature a lot of salad. If you love whipping up salad dressings from scratch, you might not be thinking about the kind of vinegar you are using - but you should be.
Malt vinegar is commonly used, but is unfortunately not gluten free. It’s made from barley malt, which contains gluten. Luckily, just like the tamari sauce, this is another quick and easy substitute. You don’t have to figure out a new way of cooking, simply buy balsamic vinegar from the supermarket and use it instead.
10. Flour - Alternative Flours
Anyone trying to go gluten free will tell you that flour is one of the most difficult ingredients to avoid or replace. This is partially true. Here, the problem isn’t a lack of choice - it’s too much choice. There are a variety of flours that can replace wheat flour, the problem is finding a mixture that suits you.
For example, rice flour is commonly used and is great as a thickening agent, but coconut flour is better as a binding agent. For best results, experiment with different mixtures until you find a texture that you enjoy.
Gluten Free Substitute Cheat Sheet
Without further ado - here is the cheat sheet! Happy shopping.
3 Incredible Gluten Free Meals to Try
If you feel that finding gluten free substitutes is still an inconvenience, why not try ready made meals? Providers like Activate Foods make proudly gluten free meals and will deliver them straight to your door.
Here are just three examples of delicious gluten free meals that you could order today.
With a rich cashew satay sauce and a hint of chilli, this meal is tasty, healthy and completely gluten free! Enjoy the healthy spin on a classic dish.
This beautiful meal, made from tofu, noodles and vegetables, really comes to life with its fragrant, house made curry powder.
For a blend of chicken and seafood, in the form of calamari, you can’t go past this flavour extravaganza. Packed with fresh vegetables and the smoky flavour of chorizo, this meal is healthy and delicious.
Everything in the Activate Foods range is gluten free. If you want to feel excited about exploring different foods without having to worry about the ingredients list, Activate Foods is the service for you!
Register today to start enjoying the delicious meals on offer.