Gluten intolerant? Have rice flour

by Sanjeev Kapoor

A flour is a flour, so what’s special about rice flour? Well I was told that rice flour was used to strengthen some of the bricks used to build the Great Wall of China. Well I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this information, but if it were true, then you can well understand why we should wax eloquent about this flour.

What is rice flour?
Rice flour or rice powder is made by finely milling rice. It is different from rice starch, which is usually produced by soaking rice in lye.

Rice flour is a good substitute for wheat flour especially for people who are allergic to gluten. In other words rice flour is completely gluten free. It can also be used as a thickening agent especially in recipes that are refrigerated or frozen since it inhibits liquid separation.

Types of rice flour
There are two types of rice flour: rice flour and sweet rice flour. The former is made by grinding long or medium grain rice, much the same kind that we use to make rice based dishes. It has thickening properties but is better used in gluten free flour mixes for baked goods.

Sweet rice flour on the other hand is made by grinding short-grained glutinous rice or what is commonly called sticky rice. Don’t get misled by the word glutinous for this flour does not contain any gluten and can be used to feed gluten intolerant people. It has much higher starch content than other types of rice and therefore is excellent to thicken sauces. It can also be used as a binder for things like noodles or mocha which is a Japanese rice cake. Further more though it is called ‘sweet rice flour’, it is not sweet. Rather it has a milk flavour and is almost milky. It also works perfectly in béchamel which is also known as white sauce.

A cup of rice flour contains only 255 calories with 60 grams of carbohydrates and 4.5 grams of protein. Rice flour has no fat. Brown rice flour is considerably more nutrient-rich, providing 560 calories, 124 grams of carbohydrates and 12 grams of protein in a cup.

Besides being gluten free, rice flour is high in other proteins. It is considerably rich in B vitamins. Brown rice flour is rich in minerals such as calcium and zinc.

Rice flour also contains insoluble fiber which will help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar levels and promote bowel movement. Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice due to the presence of husk. Substituting brown rice flour for wheat flour may help weight loss. You also have a lower risk of developing some medical conditions, such as diverticular disease, colon diseases, type-2 diabetes and hypertension.

Since rice flour tends to make baked goods more crumbly, you can add more eggs that mentioned in the original recipe. Adjust the quantity till you reach the desired consistency. You may have to try this out a couple of times before you reach the right proportion. You can also add a thickener, such as arrowroot powder in the ratio of one part of thickener for every four parts of rice flour. Also remember to add more liquid to allow for the increased absorption.

How different will be the finished product
Apart from becoming more flaky, the finished product will be lighter than when you use all- purpose flour or wheat flour. While white rice flour will not change colour or flavour noticeably, brown rice flour may change the flavour and also the colour slightly.

However brown rice flour is better for baking but it is entirely your choice whether you want to use white rice flour or brown rice flour. White rice flour has a slightly gummy mouth feel since it dissolves in the mouth and has an odd cooked-rice taste.

Culinary uses
Add a little rice flour to gram flour batter for making bhajias and the result will be crispier bhajias. Rice flour is used to make the popular ukdiche modaks made especially during Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra.

In Maharashtra and Karnataka rice flour is used to puris or vades as they call it which go ever so well with spicy non vegetarian dishes. Chaklis, the popular and delicious snack, can also be made with rice flour in combination with urad dal flour.

Chawal ke bhakri can be made especially for those who are gluten tolerant and cannot enjoy rotis or paranthas made with wheat flour.

In the South, rice flour is also used as a thickener for soups and other gravies. 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.