Guide to Gluten-Free Flatbread
Try out these gluten-free, allergy-friendly unleavened bread recipes from around the world.
For centuries, cultures around the globe have enjoyed flatbreads distinctive to their particular region. Lentil-based dosa in India. Teff-based injera in Ethiopia. Piadina in Italy. The French have their crepes. People in Spain and Latin America have their tortillas.
In the United States, the historic flatbread was a johnny cake, also called a griddle cake or flapjack. It was made by mixing ground wheat or corn with water and then cooking it on a hot stone. It bears a passing resemblance to its modern-day cousin, the pancake.
Flatbreads are unleavened breads, meaning they contain no added yeast. Any leavening comes when the dough is fermented over time, creating a type of sourdough, which traces its roots back 5,000 years to Egypt.
Sourdough was once considered off-limits to those on a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, that’s no longer true. Sourdough can be made with gluten-free starter, creating light, fluffy gluten-free sourdough pancakes without xanthan gum, guar gum or yeast.
So grab your fork and take a culinary journey around the world with these gluten-free, allergy-friendly flatbreads, fabulous for all occasions.
Piadina: Smoky Italian Flatbread, Gluten-Free
MAKES TWO 6-INCH GLUTEN-FREE FLATBREADS
Hailing from Italy’s northern region of Emilia-Romagna, piadina was traditionally cooked on a terracotta dish. Today, it’s prepared in a cast iron or nonstick skillet. For a delightful smoky flavor, cook it on a grill. Serve it warm or at room temperature, topped with your favorite savory ingredients. Gluten-Free Piadina can also be cut into squares and eaten as crackers.
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, more for pan
¼ cup hot water
¼ cup teff flour or millet flour
¼ cup garbanzo flour or garbanzo & fava flour, more for dusting
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 clove finely chopped garlic or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1. In a small bowl, whisk ground flax seeds, coconut oil and hot water. Let rest 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together teff flour, garbanzo flour, sweet rice flour, salt, baking powder, rosemary and garlic until thoroughly combined.
3. Gradually incorporate flaxseed mixture into dry ingredients, adding enough wet mixture until the dough holds together but is dry enough to knead. Dough should be tacky but easy to handle.
4. Turn dough onto a flat surface sprinkled with gluten-free flour (teff, garbanzo or garfava). Knead dough with the palm of your hand until smooth.
5. Cut dough in half and form each piece into a disk. Cover with an inverted bowl or plastic wrap. Let rest 15 minutes.
6. Place each dough disk between 2 pieces of parchment paper and roll out into two 6-inch circles.
7. Heat a large cast iron pan or skillet over high heat (400°F in an electric skillet) and brush with coconut oil. Place flatbread in the pan and immediately prick it with a fork. Cook about 2 minutes until lightly browned in spots. Flip and cook briefly on the second side. If cooking on a gas grill, preheat grill to medium-high. Brush flatbread with oil and prick with a fork on one side. Place on grill with pricked side up. Turn heat down to low and cook 2 minutes with grill top down. Flip and cook on second side until lightly browned in spots.
Each piadina contains 234 calories, 11g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 682mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 1g sugars, 6g protein, 14 Est GL.
Injera: Easy-to-Eat Ethiopian Flatbread
MAKES SIX 10-INCH GLUTEN-FREE FLATBREADS
This lightly sour, spongy gluten-free flatbread is made with teff, a grass native to Ethiopia. It’s the world’s smallest grain, about the size of a poppy seed, delivering an impressive amount of fiber, calcium, protein and iron. For injera, the teff batter is slightly fermented, making it easier to digest. (For mild flavor, soak it overnight. For more traditional sour taste, soak it up to 2 days.) Prepared injera can be frozen for future use. In traditional Ethiopian cuisine, injera is used as a utensil to scoop food and absorb its juices. It can accompany soup and stew or can be served with your favorite dip.
2 cups teff flour
2⅔ cups unchlorinated, unfluoridated water
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
-Coconut oil, palm oil or grapeseed oil, for greasing pan
1. In a glass bowl or pitcher (8-cup capacity), combine teff flour and water, stirring until there are no lumps. Cover the container with a clean cloth, coffee filter or paper towel and secure it with a large rubber band or string. (Do not cover with plastic, as the batter needs air.) Place on the counter and let rest overnight to ferment. Do not stir or refrigerate while fermenting. The batter may puff slightly and develop small bubbles or have a watery liquid that rises to the top as it ferments. This is normal.
2. When ready to make injera, add baking powder and sea salt to the batter. If water has risen to the top, mix it back into the batter. Batter should be the consistency of thin pancake batter.
3. Prepare a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron or nonstick skillet (with a lid) by lightly rubbing it with oil and preheating it over medium heat to 375°F.
4. Pour enough batter into the skillet to fill the entire surface, about ½ to ⅔ cup of batter. Injera is thicker than a crepe, more like a thick pancake. The batter will develop bubbles like a traditional pancake. Cover the pan with a lid to hold in moisture. Cook 5 to 6 minutes. (Injera is cooked on one side only.) When top is dry and edges begin to curl and slightly brown, remove injera from the pan with a spatula.
5. Place injera on a plate and repeat until all batter is used. Stacked injera will soften as they cool. Serve warm with a hearty stew.
Each injera contains 151 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 0g sugars, 5g protein, 16 Est GL.
Dosa: Savory Gluten-Free Indian Crepe
MAKES 20 8-INCH DOSA
This savory Indian crepe is typically stuffed with a potato-and-onion filling and served with chutney, like Cilantro Chutney (below). Made with lentils and rice, dosa are a great source of protein and fiber. Traditional dosa are usually large (at least 12 inches) and cooked until crispy, requiring special pans and a fair amount of skill. This version is smaller and softer, yet sturdy enough to be stuffed with stir fry or scrambled eggs or used as a sandwich wrap. Easily reheated, it can accompany a meal as bread. Dosa can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days or frozen up to 6 weeks. The batter can be refrigerated up to 4 days before used.
2 cups yellow lentils, split Moong dal or split lentil combination (red, green, yellow)
½ cup white or brown long-grain rice, like basmati or jasmine
5 cups unchlorinated, unfluoridated water, more as needed
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
-Coconut oil or ghee for cooking
1. Rinse lentils and rice in water and drain. Place lentils and rice in a glass bowl or pitcher and cover with water. Stir in turmeric and salt.
2. Cover container with a cloth, coffee filter or paper towel and secure with a large rubber band or string. (Do not cover with plastic as batter needs air.) Place mixture on the counter and let rest 8 hours or overnight to ferment. Do not refrigerate. Lentils will absorb much of the water and double in size.
3. In a blender, puree the soaked mixture with some of the soaking liquid in batches to obtain a smooth batter the consistency of thin pancake batter. Thin with additional water, if necessary.
4. Place a small amount of oil or ghee (¼ teaspoon or less) in a well-seasoned 8- to 10-inch cast iron or nonstick skillet. Place skillet over medium-high heat to preheat.
5. Quickly spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter in preheated skillet, using the back of a spoon to spread batter as thin as possible (like a crepe). Cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip dosa and cook briefly on the second side until the bottom turns a light golden-brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Each dosa contains 95 calories, 1g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 118mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 0g sugars, 5g protein, 6 Est GL.
TIP Split lentils are available in the Asian section of most grocery stores or in Asian specialty markets.
MAKES ½ CUP
Serve this savory chutney with dosa. It’s also delicious on scrambled eggs (if tolerated) or cooked chicken. It can be served as a dip, spread or condiment. Packed with fresh herbs to aid in digestion, it’s rich in antioxidants. Store unused chutney in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
1 cup fresh cilantro
½ cup fresh mint
2 tablespoons dry, unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons pepitas (shelled, unsalted pumpkin seeds)
½ jalapeño, seeds removed, optional
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
-Sea salt, to taste
1-2 teaspoons water, as needed
1. Combine cilantro, mint, coconut flakes, pepitas, jalapeño (if using) and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a knife blade and puree 10 seconds. Scrape sides and puree again.
2. Add lemon juice and olive oil and puree 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Each tablespoon contains 42 calories, 4g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 1g protein, 0 Est GL.
Corn Tortillas: Gluten-Free Latin Classic
MAKES EIGHT 5-INCH GLUTEN-FREE TORTILLAS
The foundation for gluten-free tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and other Latin dishes, corn tortillas are simple to make at home. Once you’ve tried homemade, you won’t go back to store-bought. They require a tortilla press, available at Latino markets and online for under $25.
1½ cups gluten-free masa harina
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon chili powder, optional
¾-1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
-Coconut oil, palm oil or grapeseed oil, for greasing skillet
1. In a medium bowl, mix together masa harina, salt, chili powder (if using), water and lime juice by hand until thoroughly combined. If dough is too crumbly, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough holds together but is not sticky. If dough becomes too sticky, add more masa harina.
2. Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead until pliable and smooth, about 2 minutes. Roll into a log. Cover dough and let rest 15 minutes.
3. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high, about 400°F.
4. Cut the logs into 8 equal slices. Roll each into a ball. Using a tortilla press lined with plastic wrap, press each ball of dough flat.
5. Oil skillet or griddle and place tortilla on preheated surface. Cook about 1 minute or until browned. Turn tortilla over to brown on second side about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate to keep warm. Repeat with remaining dough. Keep cooked tortillas covered with a clean towel and serve immediately.
Each tortilla contains 125 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 234mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 3g protein, 18 Est GL.
Gluten-Free French Crepes with Lemon Curd
MAKES EIGHT 8-INCH GLUTEN-FREE CREPES
Versatile crepes can be used with a variety of sweet or savory fillings. You can layer them with filling and stack them to create a crepe “cake.” Fill these gluten-free crepes with dairy-free Lemon Curd for a special Valentine’s Day dessert. The crepes can be made egg-free; see instructions below.
½ cup All-Purpose Light Flour Blend (below) or gluten-free all-purpose blend of choice
½ cup milk of choice
¼ cup warm water
1 ½ tablespoons honey or sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sunflower oil or melted coconut oil, more for pan
-Pinch of sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour batter into a pitcher, cover and refrigerate 15 minutes to 3 hours. Batter will be thin.
2. Using a paper towel, wipe the inside of an 8-inch cast iron pan, nonstick skillet or crepe pan with a small amount of oil. Place pan over medium heat.
3. Stir the batter. Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons into preheated pan, tilting to coat the bottom of the pan. Batter should form a very thin layer. Cook just until the top is set and edges are slightly browned. Turn the crepe over and cook the other side until lightly browned. Continue cooking remaining crepes, stirring the batter occasionally. If batter becomes too thick, add additional water.
4. Stack finished crepes until ready to serve or refrigerate or freeze for later use. Reheat crepes wrapped in parchment paper in a preheated 325°F oven for 10 minutes.
Each crepe contains 101 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 54mg cholesterol, 36mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 4g sugars, 2g protein, 8 Est GL.
For Egg-Free French Crepes, omit 2 eggs. Add ½ teaspoon baking powder to dry ingredients. Combine 1 tablespoon flax meal with 3 tablespoons hot water. Let cool. Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water. Combine flax mixture with cornstarch mixture to replace 2 eggs.
MAKES 2 CUPS
This dairy-free curd is sweetened without refined sugar. Fill French Crepes for dessert, spread it on your favorite gluten-free toast or use it as a cake or pie filling. Store in the refrigerator 1 week until used. This recipe can be made without eggs; see instructions below.
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kudzu starch, arrowroot powder or cornstarch
3 large eggs
⅓ cup honey, more to taste
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil, ghee or butter
-Grated zest of 1 lemon
1. In a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan, combine lemon juice and kudzu starch until kudzu dissolves and lemon juice is milky. Whisk in eggs and honey.
2. Cook mixture over medium-low heat, whisking continually until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
3. Add coconut oil, whisking to combine.
4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest.
5. Refrigerate several hours to thicken.
Each tablespoon contains 32 calories, 2g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 20mg cholesterol, 7mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 3g sugars, 1g protein, 2 Est GL.
For Egg-Free Lemon Curd, omit 3 eggs. Combine 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water. Use this mixture to replace 3 eggs in step 1. Reduce oil to 1 tablespoon in step 3.
Gluten-Free Sourdough Pancakes
MAKES 16 4-INCH GLUTEN-FREE PANCAKES
Gluten-free sourdough is possible. Cultured foods like this recipe are appealing due to their nutritional and digestive benefits. Plus, they can be made without yeast, xanthan gum or guar gum, a bonus for those who are intolerant to these items. Cooking with sourdough is rewarding. After the dried culture is activated, it continues to grow, providing plenty of sourdough for pancakes, bread and more—all gluten-free! Start this recipe at least 4 hours before cooking (or the night before). It can be made with egg replacement..
1½ cups Whole-Grain Flour Blend or all-purpose flour blend of choice
1 cup active brown rice sourdough starter
1 cup milk of choice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1. Begin mixing batter at least 4 hours before cooking or overnight. In a large glass or plastic bowl, combine flour blend, sourdough starter and milk in a medium bowl, stirring with a plastic or wooden spoon (not metal). Batter should be fairly thick. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and place on the counter at least 4 hours.
2. When ready to cook, whisk eggs in a small bowl. Add oil and honey to combine.
3. Pour egg mixture into sourdough batter. Add baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and sea salt and mix until just combined. Batter should be thick and lumpy.
4. Heat a cast iron, nonstick griddle or skillet (wiped with a small amount of oil) over medium heat. If using an electric griddle, heat to 325°F to 350°F.
5. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto the hot griddle and cook until the surface is covered with small bubbles and edges are dry, about 1½ to 2 minutes. Flip and cook pancakes for another minute or until golden brown. Transfer cooked pancakes to a warming oven while you cook remaining pancakes. Serve with pure maple syrup or your favorite fruit topping.
Each pancake contains 128 calories, 3g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 26mg cholesterol, 102mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 2g protein, 10 Est GL.
For Egg-Free Sourdough Pancakes, omit 2 eggs. Combine 2 tablespoons ground flax seed with 6 tablespoons hot water. Let sit 5 minutes to thicken. Add to recipe in step 2 to replace 2 eggs.
MAKES 3¼ CUPS
This gluten-free blend is ideal for crepes but most all-purpose blends will work, too.
1 cup potato starch (not flour)
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
1 cup rice flour
¼ cup sweet rice flour
1. Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate blend in a tightly covered container until used.
MAKES 5 CUPS
2 cups sorghum flour or teff flour
2 cups millet flour, buckwheat flour or quinoa flour
1 cup garbanzo & fava flour or chestnut flour
1. Combine ingredients. Refrigerate blend in a tightly covered container until used.
*Editor’s Note: Cultures for Health’s Brown Rice Sourdough Starter is cultured on GF-dedicated equipment and prepared to avoid cross-contamination. However, according to owner Julie Feickert, it is processed in a mixed-use facility and is not certified gluten-free. For instructions to make your own starter, go to GlutenFreeAnd More.com/sourdough.
Sueson Vess (specialeats.com) is a professional chef and food coach. She is author of Special Eats.