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Rice Flour is a delicate neutral tasting gluten-free flour which can be used to great effect in gluten-free baking. It is also excellent when used as a crisp coating to pan-fried dishes or in pancakes. Here's all the information you need to use rice flour in your kitchen.
Table of contents
Is rice flour gluten-free?
Yes it is and often one of the main flours included in gluten-free flour blends.
What is rice flour?
Rice Flour is the easiest alternative flour to get hold of (in the UK at least) besides the catch-all gluten-free plain flour blends. You can find it at most large supermarkets in their gluten-free section.
It is also the flour that, if you are a keen cook, you might already have stashed away in your larder, irrespective of its gluten-free properties. Rice flour is used in traditional shortbread recipes alongside plain wheat flour to give a bit of crunch to the proceedings, which tells you a little bit about the texture profile of this flour.
What are the types of rice flour?
There are three different types of rice flour:
- White rice flour is milled from grinding raw long or medium rice grains where the bran is removed before grinding. The courseness of the rice flour depends on which brand you buy.
- Brown rice flour is often considered the health food option. The bran is not removed before grinding and it is not milled as finely as white rice flour meaning it is slightly heavier with a nuttier taste. Due to its courser nature baked goods using brown rice flour have a more noticeable texture and taste. For certain recipes though I find this an endearing quality. Brown flour can be interchangeable with white rice flour in recipes if you want a bolder earthier flavour.
- Sweet Rice Flour is a different beast entirely as it is a starchy flour milled from short grain glutinous rice. It has a unique texture and flavour and is not a suitable substitute for regular rice flour.
READ MORE >>> The Ultimate Guide to Sweet Rice Flour
Can I substitute rice flour for regular flour?
You cannot use rice flour as a 1:1 substitution for regular flour. Rice flour contains no gluten and as it is a much harder grain than wheat it does not absorb liquid as well.
If you swap rice flour 1:1 in your cooking or baking then the results will be gritty, perhaps a little greasy and often with a gummy mouthfeel. However rice flour is a wonderful flour with many versatile uses, you just have to know how and when to use it.
Advantages of rice flour
- It is a very economical flour since it is made from one of the world’s greatest staple grains. No-one said that gluten-free baking was cheap but since rice flour is easily available and plentiful then if you choose this flour for your main ingredient in your flour blend then you certainly won’t be breaking the bank.
Which leads me to one of the best qualities about rice flour and the reason it is so often used.
- It has an incredibly subtle taste. So if you want the butter or spices or other flavourings to shine in your bakes then rice flour is an excellent choice.
However, like most gluten-free flours it does a much better job if paired with other gluten-free flours to give a more rounded bake.
Disadvantages of rice flour
- Overuse - Not only is rice flour the most widely available alternative flour but it is also the flour which most commercial brands use as their main ingredient in their gluten-free flour blends. In fact our tendency to rely on rice flour for gluten-free baking is one of the reasons why Alanna Taylor-Tobin in her excellent gluten-free baking book called Alternative Baker chooses not to include any recipes with rice flour as she feels that its tendency to dominate the gluten-free field can lead to a mono diet.
- Difficult to absorb liquid - as discussed above rice flour is also a bit of a tricky beast as it can turn bakes dry and crumbly due to this issue.
For this reason rice flour should always be used judiciously as this flour is probably the reason why most people judge gluten-free baking as gritty but with a gummy mouthfeel. It works very well blended with other flours in baked goods to round out the texture and result in bakes that taste authentically good not just ‘good for gluten-free’.
Rice flour uses
The best qualities of white rice flour can be exploited if blended with softer wholegrain flours and starchy flours with better binding properties.
Try using rice flour blends like these in bakes like:
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso Cake - rice flour, oat flour and tapioca starch
- Golden Beetroot Carrot Cake - rice flour and oat flour
- Courgette Oatmeal Cake - rice flour and oat flour
- Vegan Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread - rice flour, oat flour and tapioca flour
- Gluten-Free Carrot Cake - brown rice flour and sorghum flour
Read here to learn more about blending flours >>> The Ultimate Guide to Alternative & Gluten-Free Flours
However, it is possible to use rice flour as the sole flour in a recipe if paired with ground nuts as the added protein will give your bake stability and moisture to counteract any dry or grittiness.
READ MORE >>> Rice Flour Madeira Cake
Rice Flour Baking Tip
Allow your cake batter to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before placing in the oven. The finely ground rice will soften slightly leading to better absorption of liquids which will help with any potential grittiness.
The granular texture of rice flour which can be a hindrance in your baking can be a real boon in your everyday cooking. Using rice flour as a coating for frying adds more crunch than regular wheat flour and is a lot lighter.
As rice flour is so delicate and light it creates the most beautifully lacy crisp pancakes.
Try using it in these recipes:
Rice flour gives an excellent crunch, so as you can imagine it is a great flour when you are making a batter. Since it is also neutral in flavour it doesn't overpower the main ingredients of a recipe. Try using it in the gluten-free versions of these classic recipes and the crust of your batter will be light and crisp:
Where to buy rice flour
There are various brands of rice flour and the texture can be quite different across the board. Make sure you are using a very finely ground rice flour which won’t impede your recipe and will allow for better incorporation with the other ingredients. Courser rice flours will mean the liquid in your recipe is not absorbed as well which can lead to flatter and greasy bakes. I recommend Doves Farm Gluten Free Rice Flour which is ground beautifully. For US based readers then Bob’s Red Mill is also brilliant but more difficult to get hold of for us UK based bakers.
How to store it
Rice flour keeps very well if stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place like a larder or pantry. Once opened, if tightly sealed, it can keep for up to a year.