Gluten-Free, Vegan Baking 101: 10 Tips for Beginner Bakers

If traditional baking is a science, does that make gluten-free vegan baking rocket science? The answer is no; it doesn’t have to be! To put it lightly, I have a sweet tooth, and a hard time turning down baked goods. However, as a vegan who is gluten-free, I have learned that buying those incredibly overpriced, dense, heavy treats is a waste of time and money. So, over the years, I have challenged myself by dabbling in gluten-free, vegan baking, and have learned a few valuable tricks along the way. Once you’ve mastered these simple techniques, you’ll never be tempted to buy those sweetened hockey pucks again. If you’re looking to bring joy by creating wonderful holiday goodies soon, I hope these 10 tips and tricks will inspire you, and make the world of gluten-free, vegan baking a lot less intimidating.

  1. Baking Powder/Soda: Gluten-free baking is notorious for being anything other than light. So, to ensure that your baked goods are as light as possible, increase the amount of leavening agents used by about one-fourth. I happen to think light and fluffy trumps dense and heavy.
  2. Buttermilk Substitute: In my high school cooking class, we baked a lot. We were taught how to make a buttermilk substitute because the funds weren’t there for actual buttermilk. It’s as easy as introducing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to some non-dairy milk that’s just shy of 1 cup, and letting it sit for about five minutes. Make this “buttermilk” anytime a recipe calls for the real stuff. Plus, the acid helps to activate leavening agents. Win-win.
  3. Coconut Oil: Aside from vegan butter substitutes, there’s coconut oil! Like regular butter, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and liquid when heated. This healthier fat with a slight fruity note makes it perfect for transforming traditional recipes into gluten-free, vegan ones.
  4. Corn Starch: Sometimes, when recipes call for eggs,  cornstarch can be used instead. For example, I make a fabulous, eggless pumpkin pie that utilizes cornstarch. This thickening agent helps to set pie fillings wonderfully.
  5. Ener-G Egg Replacer: If I were you, I would invest in this (like yesterday). A box of this stuff is relatively inexpensive, and it lasts for quite some time. Just add water to get an egg-free egg that works in most recipes!
  6. Flax Seed: Ground up flax seeds is a great egg substitute and source of fiber. Once again, just add water, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes. I like to use half Ener-G egg replacer and half flax seed meal when I want to make gluten-free, vegan delights with a hint of nutty flavor.
  7. Garbanzo Bean Liquid: This may sound strange, but you should stop pouring that briny liquid from canned garbanzo beans down the sink (aka aquafaba). I’ve always wondered why little bubbles sit atop the liquid, and now I know why—when whipped, that frothy liquid turns into beautiful, stiff white peaks. Sound familiar? Yeah, garbanzo bean liquid can be used in lieu of egg whites. I made a loaf of gluten-free, vegan bread using this amazing method, and the result was light, airy, and super tasty.
  8. Research and Reviews: Do your research and read reviews! I’d advise you to take the time to research good recipes with a lot of stars and pay attention to reviews, if you want to avoid wasting time and ingredients on poorly developed recipes. Fellow bakers are your friends, and they’re there to help!
  9. Time and Temperature: Similar to barbecue, the phrase “low and slow” comes to mind when I think of gluten-free, vegan baking. You’ll often have to bake things on lower temperatures for a longer amount of time, to ensure doneness without overbrowning, because gluten-free baking can reach that golden brown state long before it is completely baked through. Patience is a virtue, right?
  10. Xanthan Gum: Without gluten, those premade gluten-free flour blends (I’m a fan of Bob’s Red Mill) lack structure. So, adding a tiny bit of xanthan gum does the trick! I buy it from bulk bins because it can be somewhat pricey, but a little goes a long way!

Disclaimer: There is no financial affiliation between the author and the products mentioned in this article.