Gluten-Free Substitutions: Substituting Ingredients for Great Flavor and Good Health

Nothing beats the smell — or taste — of bread just out of the oven. But if you can't have gluten, how do you use gluten-free substitutions without sacrificing flavor or texture? Swapping ingredients is easier than you think, with no advanced cooking techniques required.

Whether you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating gluten or simply prefer to skip it for personal reasons, the gluten-free trend has taken the food world by storm. Substituting ingredients is an easy way to still enjoy the foods you like while keeping to your restricted diet. Here are some flavorful (and easy!) swaps to make in your next meal.

Gluten-Free Substitutions for Flour

The easiest way of substituting ingredients is to just buy a pre-made, gluten-free flour mix. The idea behind them is that by blending a variety of ingredients, you can get as close as possible to the characteristics of wheat. Bob's Red Mill makes one version, and so does King Arthur Flour. If you want to try making your own blend, use a ratio of 40 percent whole-grain flour (brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, sorghum or teff), 30 percent white flour (arrowroot, potato, sweet rice, tapioca or white rice) and 30 percent starch (cornstarch or potato starch). Gluten-Free Girl provides a full tutorial. Just have fun experimenting and make sure your combinations equal the recommended totals. Store your concoction in an airtight container and use as needed.

Black Beans

Black beans are loaded with fiber and protein, as well as a host of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Substitute a cup of black bean purée for a cup of flour in brownies, like All You suggests, for a healthy, tasty alternative. Black bean spaghetti is also gaining in popularity — Explore Asian has an option that will look super cool on your plate.

Spaghetti Squash

Speaking of spaghetti, have you tried spaghetti squash instead of traditional pasta? Cut in half, remove the seeds, bake the squash and use a fork to separate the spaghetti-like strands, which hold up under your favorite red sauce.

Veggie "Buns"

Go green with your sandwich, and you'll stay gluten-free and save a lot of calories. Wrap up Thai shredded chicken salad in butter lettuce leaves, put your sloppy Joe in radicchio or wedge your burger between grilled portobello mushrooms for a healthy take on sandwiches. Making your sandwiches gluten-free increases your vegetable intake and adds multiple layers of flavor.

Polenta

Make some quick-cooking polenta and add dollops to stews or soup for better-than-flour dumplings. You can also spread it in a jelly roll pan, chill and cut into thin slices. Roll them in Parmesan cheese, spray with olive oil and bake for gluten-free "bread" sticks. You could also cut it into bite-size pieces and bake or saute to use as croutons for salad or soup.

Potato Flakes

Traditionally, dried potato flakes are used to make mashed potatoes, but they'll taste much better when you use them as a gluten-free substitution for breadcrumbs. They add a golden color and crunch when you use them to top casseroles and gratins, or to coat fish and chicken. Just dip in an egg wash or buttermilk and roll in seasoned potato flakes. Bake in the oven and you have healthy, gluten-free comfort food.

Photo credit: Flickr