Rice Flour: What You Should Know About this Versatile Gluten Free Flour
Even people who don’t follow a gluten free diet are familiar with some of the most commonly used gluten free flours. After all, low-carb options like almond flour and coconut flour are staples in other popular diets like the Paleo Diet and Keto Diet. If you’ve gone gluten free, however, you may find yourself wondering what else is out there and rice flour is definitely an option to explore.
In this article, we’ll explore the subject of rice flour in greater detail. We’ll talk about how rice flour is made and review the different varieties. You’ll also receive some simple tips for cooking and baking with rice flour as well as some tasty recipes to try at home.
How is Rice Flour Made?
As you can imagine, rice flour is simply made from rice. The flour is produced by milling the rice until it achieves a very fine texture, so it is different from rice starch which is made by steeping rice in lye. Rice flour can be made using either white or brown rice and, in processing, the husk of the rice (also known as the paddy) is first removed and then the raw rice is ground into flour.
Rice flour is often used as a thickening agent, particularly in recipes that require refrigeration or freezing because it helps prevent liquid separation. Depending how refined the rice itself is prior to milling, rice flour may not be particularly rich in nutrients.
The Different Types of Rice Flour
Rice flour is a staple in Japanese and Indian cuisine because it is inexpensive and readily available. If you know how to use it, it is also a very versatile flour that can be used to create a variety of dishes. Before you start experimenting with rice flour, however, you need to understand the different types.
Here is a quick overview of the different types of rice flour:
- White Rice Flour – Made from polished white rice, white rice flour is the finest and lightest of the varieties. Unlike other types of rice flour, you can easily bake with white rice flour as the only flour and it works well as a direct replacement for wheat flour.
- Brown Rice Flour – This type of rice flour is made from brown rice – rice that has not had the outer bran removed. Brown rice flour is heavier than white rice flour and has a slight nutty flavor. It is rich in fiber and protein and works well as a thickener or for dredging meats and fried foods. It behaves differently than wheat so is best used with other flours for baking.
- Glutinous Rice Flour – Though the name might lead you to think otherwise, glutinous rice flour does not contain gluten. The term “glutinous” is simply used to describe the stickiness of the rice when it is cooked. The Japanese term for glutinous rice flour is “mochigomeko” and it is used to make mochi. This flour is also known as “mochiko” or sweet rice flour.
Each bag of rice flour is going to be unique because the milling process affects the texture and not all brands use the same exact process. When it comes to baking, the finer the texture the better.
Tips for Cooking and Baking with Rice Flour
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of rice flour, you may be wondering how to use them. Like many gluten free flours, rice flour works better for some types of baking than for others and you may need to combine it with other flours to yield the best result.
Here are some tips for cooking and baking with rice flour at home:
- Remember that rice flour does not rise as well as gluten-containing flours, so you may need to add extra leavening agents or use a smaller pan size.
- When baking yeast breads using rice flour, add a little vinegar or ascorbic acid to help it rise – use 1 teaspoon vinegar per 4 cups flour or ¼ teaspoon ascorbic acid.
- Store your rice flour in air-tight containers to extend the freshness – you can also put it in the fridge or freezer if you don’t use it very often.
- Making dough with rice flour yields a very sticky product, so consider using a stand mixer or bread machine to make things easier on yourself.
- The first few times you use rice flour, use a recipe designed for it – once you get used to using rice flour you can start making substitutions.
If you find yourself craving your favorite rice flour recipe but don’t have enough, don’t worry! You can easily make your own rice flour at home if you have white rice and a grain mill or coffee grinder. Simply grind the rice until it is as fine as you like for your recipe. It’s that simple!
Gluten-Free Recipes Featuring Rice Flour
Rice flour is a very versatile gluten free flour because it has a light texture and a neutral flavor. It works well in everything from breading to baked goods and even some ethnic specialties like mochi and rice noodles. Here are 4 recipes to help you learn how to use rice flour yourself:
1. Brown and White Rice Bread
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 large eggs
- ½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup white rice flour
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet instant dry yeast
- Combine the water, milk, olive oil, honey, eggs, and cider vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Mix with a dough hook until well combined.
- Slowly add the white rice flour, brown rice flour, xanthan gum, salt, and instant yeast, in that order, blending between each addition.
- Mix until it forms a sticky dough then transfer to a bread pan.
- Cover and let rise until doubled in size while you preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Uncover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool completely then turn out onto a cutting board and slice to serve.
2. Brown Rice Pasta
- 1 ½ cups brown rice flour
- ½ cup potato starch
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- Sift the brown rice flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs.
- Add the eggs and mix until it becomes a dough – do not use a dough hook.
- Shape the dough into small balls – you may need to add oil if it is sticky.
- Roll out the dough using a pasta machine and cut into thin strips.
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta – cook until just tender then drain.
3. Blueberry Rice Flour Muffins
- 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons white rice flour, divided
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt°
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- ½ cup blueberries
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and grease a regular muffin pan.
- Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 ½ teaspoons white rice flour with 1 teaspoon oil.
- Mix until it forms a sandy mixture then set aside.
- Whisk together the remaining rice flour and sugar with the baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
- Mix in the blueberries very carefully.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk with the remaining canola oil then mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.
- Spoon the batter into the pan and sprinkle with the crumbled topping.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are browned.
- Cool for 5 minutes then remove from the pan to cool completely.
4. Coconut Snack Cakes
- 3 cups sweet rice flour
- 2 ½ cups white sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
- 5 large eggs
- ¼ cup softened coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Whisk together the sweet rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla.
- Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until well combined.
- Pour the batter into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking pan and spread evenly.
- Bake for 1 ½ hours until the top is browned and starts to pull away from the edges.
- Cool completely on a wire rack then cut into 24 squares to serve.
Given what you’ve learned here, you should have no doubt that rice flour deserves to be a staple in every gluten free pantry. Whether you need a thickener for soups and sauces or something to whip together a batch of muffins, rice flour is an inexpensive and versatile option.