If you're following a gluten-free diet, you might find it hard to give up your favorite baked goods - and you shouldn't have to! Eating in a way that feels good is all about balance. And leaving room for the occasional treat is part of that balance.
Home baking is a great way to enjoy your favorite treats; as a bonus, you know exactly what's in them! Not to mention, it's a fun way to spend some time. A vast range of gluten-free flour is available in home baking instead of wheat flour. Oat flour is one option - but there are a couple of things to know before you get the mixing bowl out.
Oat flour is a whole grain flour made from one ingredient: finely-ground oats. It has a huge range of health benefits - it's packed with protein, fiber, and several micronutrients, including selenium, molybdenum, and calcium. Oat flour has a slightly more crumbly texture than regular wheat or whole wheat flour and a sweeter, nutty flavor. It can be used to make various baked goods, including pancakes, waffles, and crumbles.
Is oat flour gluten-free?
Oats in their pure form are naturally gluten-free, and refined oat flour is also gluten-free. Consumption should be safe for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, a word of warning - always read the package before buying oats or oat flour. Due to how oats are grown and processed, there is a high risk of cross-contamination with most oats on the shelf. Some may contain wheat, rye, or barley, which are a no-go for folks with celiac disease. Always look for oats and oat flour marked gluten-free.
Oats are at high risk of cross-contamination for several reasons. Oats appear similar to the gluten-containing grains of wheat, rye, and barley, and they are frequently grown in the same areas as these grains too. After harvest, equipment and facilities for processing, transporting, and storing oats may be shared with other grains, introducing another potential cross-contamination source.
Always check labels in stores to ensure you're purchasing certified gluten-free oats. The best method of producing gluten-free oats follows the aptly-named 'purity protocol.' This involves steps taken at every production stage to ensure oats remain gluten-free. You can learn more about the production of gluten-free oats and the purity protocol here.
Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they contain a protein called avenin, similar to gluten. Most celiacs can consume avenin without problems, but a few people have an adverse reaction. Because oats have such an excellent nutritional profile, it's recommended that celiacs include oats and oat products in their diet. However, if you suspect you are reacting badly to oats, it may be worth considering removing them from your diet - with the support of a dietitian or nutritionist. You can read more about avenin sensitivity in some celiac people here.
Where to find gluten-free oat flour
You can find oat flour to buy at many specialist stores, health food stores, and large grocery stores such as Trader Joe's. You can also buy oat flour online through specialist websites or websites such as Amazon. Anthony's and Bob's Red Mill are great brands to look out for and are widely available. Whichever brand you choose, remember to read the pack to confirm that your oat flour is certified gluten-free.
How to make gluten-free oat flour
If you're having trouble getting gluten-free oat flour at the store, there's no need to worry. Oat flour is very easy to make at home, and if you start with gluten-free oats, then, of course the final product will be gluten-free too!
To make oat flour, use a food processor to grind oats to a fine, powdery texture. You can use steel cut, rolled, or quick oats, and you are aiming for the consistency of flour rather than sand. Blitz in your food processor in short intervals until you get the desired texture. You can use steel-cut, rolled, or even quick-cook oats. If you're using steel-cut oats, be aware that they'll take longer to grind to a powder, thanks to their denser texture. The upside is that you'll get more oat flour from a cup of steel-cut oats.
Once you've made your oat flour, it will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
How to use gluten-free oat flour
Oat flour can be used in all sorts of delicious baked goods - from waffles to cookies. Oat flour gives your baked goods a lovely tender crumb and a deliciously subtle nutty flavor. If you're attempting to substitute oat flour for another type of flour in your recipe, the most important thing is to replace with weight rather than volume, and it can be used as a 1:1 substitute for regular all-purpose flour. Because oat flour is so fluffy and light, substituting by volume won't add enough flour to your recipe, and the final product will be flat and disappointing.
If you're making batter using oat flour - for example, to make pancakes or waffles - be sure to let it rest. This gives the oat flour time to hydrate and your batter time to thicken.
If you're anxious to start baking with oat flour, why not try my deliciously warming gluten-free blueberry coffee cake? Or, for a sophisticated dessert that will leave you feeling fabulous, try this sumptuous gluten-free chocolate tart.
Are oats gluten-free?
Oats are naturally gluten-free; however, cross-contamination can be a significant issue with many oats on grocery store shelves due to how oats are grown and processed. To ensure oats are safe for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, look for oats labeled as gluten-free while shopping.
What is avenin?
Avenin is a protein found in oats similar in structure to gluten.
Is avenin safe for people with celiac disease?
Research has shown that most people with celiac disease have no reaction to avenin and can consume gluten-free oats safely. However, a small minority of people with celiac disease have an adverse reaction to avenin, and oats can cause gastrointestinal issues in these people. If you suspect you have a negative reaction to oats, listen to your body and talk to your doctor or another appropriate medical professional.
Can Celiacs have oat flour?
Only if it is certified gluten-free or you make your own at home with certified gluten free oats.
Can I use oat flour in place of regular flour?
Oat flour can be used instead of regular flour in many recipes. Because it is less dense than many other flours, remember to substitute by weight rather than volume. Oat flour is more likely to work successfully in recipes that contain eggs, as this will assist with binding the mixture together. The ratio to use is 1:1 to replace all-purpose flour.
Is oat milk gluten-free?
As with other oat products, oat milk carries a high risk of cross-contamination. This means that while some brands are gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease to consume, others should be avoided. Always check the package to confirm that your oat milk is certified gluten-free. Here are some of my favorite gluten-free oat milk brands:
- Califia Farms (also my favorite almond milk brand!)
- Chobani Oat
- Planet Oat