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Xanthan Gum Properties and Gluten-Free Flour Mixes

by Renee Shelton

Gluten-free flour mixes contain different flours, and some combinations are best used for certain recipes. Xanthan gum is used as a binding agent in doughs.

But what is gluten-free flour? It is a mixture of wheat-free flours to produce a mixture with properties that are similar to standard wheat flour. Finding and using a wheat-free flour is important to those with gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. Since there is no gluten, the addition of xanthan gum helps with binding. Since each grain flour has many different properties, using a mixture of different gluten-free flours will benefit different recipes.

Combinations of Different Flours

Generally, a gluten-free flour is a combination of different milled grain and non-grain flours that have no wheat products. Popular combinations include rice flour, potato starch, white sorghum flour, garbanzo bean flour (or chickpea flour), soybean flour, brown rice flour, and buckwheat flour. Garfava bean flour, or garbanzo and fava bean flour, can be found in natural food stores and is a combination of garbanzo beans and fava beans in one package.


Gluten-free flour recipes use a combination of flours, as using only one type may create a crumbly or off-tasting product. Rice flour or corn flour by itself can create a very light but crumbly product, and chickpea or fava bean flour used alone is strongly flavored. However, when mixed together with other flours, they each contribute to creating a mix just right for baking.

The Purpose of Xanthan Gum

Since there is no gluten, these flours or powders do not have the same binding properties as all-purpose flour. Xanthan gum powder is required to help bind the ingredients making them behave like standard wheat flour mixes. Xanthan gum acts as both a stabilizer and a binder creating a thicker and stickier dough, very similar to a dough made with flour containing gluten.

Xanthan gum can be added to the gluten-free flour master mixture, or simply added to each recipe. If the xanthan gum is not already added to the gluten-free flour mix, add it along with the other dry ingredients when called for in the recipe. Generally, about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum is added to every cup of gluten-free flour for quick breads and pizza doughs, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum is added to every cup of gluten-free flour for cookies and cakes.

Gluten-Free Flour Mix Recipes

There are many different combinations of flours to make different gluten-free flour blends. The best way to choose a recipe is to locate one with ingredients you already have, or choose one that uses ingredients that will complement what is being baked. Bean flour based flour mixes are stronger in flavor, but will also hold up better for making quick breads, and when used for breadings when frying. The strong flavors can often be masked with other ingredients and spices. Pancakes and plain vanilla cakes do well with recipes using rice flour as the primary ingredient as the flavors will be more subtle.

Below are some gluten-free flour recipes to experiment with. Add or substitute a different type of flour to suit your tastes, or your baking needs. Add in xanthan gum with the dry ingredients in the above amounts, or as directed by the recipe. Substitute any gluten-free flour blend for all-purpose flour in recipes, cup for cup.

Basic Rice Flour Based Recipe
Makes about 3 to 4 cups of gluten-free flour.

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 to 1 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  1. Stir together until combined.

Basic Bean Flour Based Recipe
Makes about 3 to 4 cups of gluten-free flour.

  • 1 to 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour, or a garbanzo and fava bean mixture
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup tapioca starch
  1. Stir together until combined.

Celiac Help Groups and Members Recipes

Great sources for gluten free recipes are the gluten-free organizations themselves. The recipes will be tested, and the bakers will have experience with different flours. The groups will also have a support system for those who have yet to be diagnosed, and tips with living with celiac disease.

  • The Celiac Sprue Association is a non-profit celiac group supporting their members worldwide.
  • The Celiac Disease Foundation is a national non-profit helping members with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis.
  • The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is another non-profit organization helping members with gluten free information.


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