Learn some of the most commonly used gluten free ingredients for baking, and where to buy them in New Zealand. Gluten free baking can be daunting, but with these ingredients on hand, you’ll have a head-start on baking some delicious treats.
When you first start baking gluten free, it can be a little intimidating, thinking you might have to throw out everything in your pantry. Or, if you’ve never baked before, not even knowing where to start stocking up on pantry staples.
In this post, I’m going to talk about the main gluten free pantry staples I keep on hand for baking (and some for cooking), plus what to look out for when reading labels for these products.
Where Do I Start?!
If you’re brand new to baking gluten free, I recommend having a look through your pantry first. See what you’ve got, read labels to check a) whether they’re gluten free and b) if they’ve passed their best before date.
Check out my Start Here guide for some tips on reading ingredient lists and checking whether products are ok.
If you have a newly diagnosed Coeliac in the house, I would generally suggest throwing out, or giving away, anything that isn’t in its original packaging (if you’ve taken the product out of the packet to put it in an airtight container), unless you’re absolutely sure you know what brand it is and that it’s definitely gluten free. It’s safest to start over with new products, or keep those products separate and use them only for the non-Coeliacs in the house (if you’re not planning to be a 100% gluten free household.)
Having said that, switching to gluten free eating can be expensive and overwhelming, so don’t feel like you have to rush out and buy everything on this list!
I recommend starting by replacing the products you use frequently with gluten free alternatives, and after that, buying things as you need them for a recipe, or just add one or two new things to each shop.
As always, if you’re in need of more information, Coeliac NZ is an absolute treasure trove of knowledge, so definitely head over there for a look around, and consider joining their membership if you can.
Ok, so let’s talk about my favourite gluten free ingredients for baking…
Gluten Free Pantry Ingredients
Gluten Free Flour
I mean this one is pretty obvious, right? If you want to bake gluten free stuff, you’ll need gluten free flour.
You’ll need to choose whether you want to buy a gluten free flour blend or make a homemade blend instead. You can read more about gluten free flour blends in the GFKF Start Guide and also in my homemade gluten free flour blend post so I won’t go into all of those details here.
In New Zealand, you can buy both ready-made gluten free flour blends and the component flours/starches to make homemade gf flour blends from most major supermarkets (Countdown, New World, Pak n Save etc.) or from specialty shops such as organics/health food shops.
On a related note, if you have a plastic container that you’ve used to store wheat flour in the past, it’s generally not recommended to re-use it for any gluten free products.
Gluten can be quite hard to wash off the plastic or from nooks and crannies around the lid, so it’s safest to grab a new container for gluten free flour and give the old one to a friend (or recycle it if it’s recyclable plastic ♻️)
Xanthan gum is an ingredient used to help make up for the lack of gluten in gluten free baking. It is an effective stabiliser, emulsifier, and thickener, so it helps to bind the ingredients together, stopping your baking from crumbling or collapsing into a puddle in the oven.
There are other, similar gums available, but xanthan is my preference and is the gum you’ll see most often in my recipes.
Store-bought gluten free flour blends usually contain a gum ingredient or other binder in their ingredients. If you’re using one of those blends and you can see a gum in the ingredients list, then you shouldn’t need to add any extra xanthan gum.
In New Zealand, you can buy xanthan gum from many supermarkets (usually in the gluten free section), from health food shops and online.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Most baking recipes will call for a raising (leavening) agent such as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or baking powder (which is usually sodium bicarbonate + a food acid).
Despite sounding similar, they aren’t directly interchangeable in recipes. In the most basic terms, baking soda requires an acidic ingredient in the recipe (think sour cream, yoghurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, etc.) in order to create the reaction it needs to make the baking rise. Baking powder has a food acid added to it, so it already has the acid needed to create the reaction.
Because you can’t necessarily swap them out in recipes without making adjustments, the easiest thing to do is keep some of each on hand.
Check the ingredients in the baking powder before you buy. Some baking powders (such as Pams) contain wheat flour in the ingredients, which obviously isn’t Coeliac-safe.
Edmonds baking powder is gluten free, and is the one I usually buy. But, as with anything when shopping for gluten free ingredients, it always pays to check the packet even if you’ve bought it before, as sometimes ingredients change without warning.
If you’re doing sweet baking, you’ll need some sugar. I don’t do low-sugar/low carb/keto type recipes on this site – that’s not my speciality – so it’s safe to say that for most baking on GFKF you will need some sugar.
I won’t go into all the types of sugar available on the market, as there are many different kinds, but the most commonly used sugars (and the main kinds called for in the recipes on my websites) are – regular white sugar, brown sugar, caster sugar and icing sugar. All of these can be purchased at the supermarket.
When buying icing sugar, it’s important to check that it is gluten free, as some brands of icing sugar mixture add wheaten cornflour to the sugar to stop it from clumping.
Also known as cornstarch, it is literally just the starch from corn. It can be great when added to biscuit recipes to give them that shortbread-style crumbly crunch, and it’s also a great thickener for sauces. It’s what we use in our house for thickening gravy and cheese sauce.
Make sure you check the cornflour packet to make sure it’s gluten free, as there is a product called wheaten cornflour which is actually made from wheat and contains gluten.
Edmonds cornflour is a great choice, as it is labelled gluten free in big print on the front of the box.
A good quality cocoa powder should definitely be in any baker’s pantry, gluten free or not.
There are two main types of cocoa powder – natural and Dutch-processed (also known as “Dutched” cocoa or simply Dutch cocoa). Dutch processed cocoa is treated with an alkalising agent, which makes it less bitter and gives it a delightful dark colour.
There are many great cocoa powders available in NZ, so I recommend trying a few and seeing what you like best.
Because natural cocoa powder is acidic and Dutch processed cocoa has a neutral pH, there are some recipes that specifically require natural cocoa in order to work properly. As a general rule of thumb, if the recipe contains baking soda and no acidic ingredients (as we talked about above, sour cream, yoghurt etc.) then the natural cocoa is providing the baking soda with the necessary acid in order to work. If you used Dutch cocoa in that recipe, there would be no acid, which means no rise (and likely a nasty baking soda taste!)
Make sure you check your recipe to see which cocoa is called for, or what raising agent is used so you know which kind of cocoa to use.
If you think you might like to try making some gluten free bread, you’ll need to grab some yeast. There are different kinds of yeast available, such as active dried yeast, instant yeast and a specific breadmaker yeast, so make sure you check the recipe you’re making to make sure you have the right kind.
Ground almonds (also known as almond meal) are a handy ingredient to keep on hand, as it’s the basis for a lot of naturally gluten free or flourless cakes. While not a direct substitute for flour in most recipes, ground almonds do make a great addition to things like brownies and biscuits.
You can use them to make macarons and they’re also one of the main ingredients in the ubiquitous cafe cabinet gluten-free offering – orange and almond cake. (Although I know that many long-time gluten free folk won’t touch that cake with a ten-foot pole, since for many years it was one of the only gluten free options available in cafes 😂)
Desiccated coconut is fine flakes of dried, unsweetened coconut.
I feel like it doesn’t always have the best reputation, but I’m not sure why, because I’m a huge fan. It’s great in slices and biscuits, giving great flavour and texture. There are a lot of Kiwi recipes that include it as an ingredient, including good old Anzac biscuits, so it’s useful to have some in the pantry.
Shredded coconut (also sometimes called thread coconut) is similar but is longer threads of coconut and is used in recipes like Louise Cake.
If you need desiccated coconut for a recipe but you can only find shredded, you can blitz the shredded coconut in a food processor or blender until it’s finer.
Chocolate & Chocolate Chips
Now, I’m not going to tell you that you need to have a drawer full of chocolate like someone I know (spoiler alert, it’s me 🙋♀️) but it’s always handy to have some chocolate and/or chocolate chips on hand.
There are two different kinds of chocolate chips – “real” chocolate chips, that are simply small pieces of chocolate, and baking chips, which usually have a coating that stops them from melting into a puddle when baked.
Baking chips are great for cookies if you want to make sure you still have whole pieces of chocolate in the cookies. However, if you want to melt chocolate to drizzle over something, then baking chips won’t work well for that, as the coating stops them from melting smoothly.
I also like to keep blocks of chocolate on hand, they’re great if you like big chunks of chocolate in your baking, and also to melt and drizzle or to make into chocolate ganache.
Then of course you get to choose between dark, milk and white chocolate. In chip form, they’re generally interchangeable in recipes, but in recipes for things like ganache, you will need to use the kind called for, as they have different setting qualities.
Gluten Free Cornflakes
Ok so I’m not talking about eating these for breakfast (although that’s what they’re made for, of course) but I love keeping some gf cornflakes in the pantry for baking. They add crunch to biscuits like afghan biscuits and I also use them to make gluten free + oat free Anzac biscuits.
And if you’re a few grams short of crushed biscuits for a cheesecake base, you can add in some crushed cornflakes to make up the difference.
Despite being made from corn, regular cornflakes are not gluten free – most of them contain malt/barley extract as a flavouring ingredient.
You’ll need to buy gluten free cornflakes – Hubbards and Kelloggs both make these, and you’ll usually find them in the gluten free section/aisle at the supermarket.
Vanilla is one of my all-time favourite baking ingredients and one that I always have on hand for adding to… well almost any baking. I like to have both vanilla extract and vanilla paste on hand, but they are generally interchangeable unless a recipe tells you otherwise, so one or the other is fine.
I know some people are still very attached to imitation vanilla essence, and I won’t force them to change (not that I can), but I do recommend extract over essence for the best flavour.
Heilala Vanilla is my favourite brand of vanilla, their vanilla paste is *chef’s kiss* and their head office isn’t far from where I live. Their products are available in supermarkets, or on their website (you can buy in bulk if you do a lot of baking).
There are quite a few vanilla brands and different options in supermarkets now, so try a few over time and see what you like best (or buy what’s on special at the time).
Spices can be a little more of a polarising subject, as there are people who aren’t fans. But if you are, then it’s great to have things like ground ginger, ground cinnamon and mixed spice on hand. You’ll need spices to make things like ginger crunch and brandy snaps.
If you don’t think you’ll use them often, it’s better to wait until you need them to buy them, or buy the smallest jar you can, as spices lose their flavour intensity over time. Make sure you store them somewhere cool and dark, to keep the flavours at their best.
I tend to go through a lot of ground ginger (I’m a redhead, I think it’s genetically wired in me to like ginger). When I make ginger crunch, I tend to add extra ginger, because I like it to really burn when I eat it. (If you hadn’t worked out by now that I’m weird, you must be new here 😂👋🏻)
I also like to have nutmeg and cardamom in the pantry for when I make gluten free fruit cakes at Christmas.
I almost always keep a tin of sweetened condensed milk in the back of the pantry. It’s the main ingredient in a lot of no-bake recipes like chocolate slice, citrus slice and good old lolly cake. I also like to eat it with a spoon, but that’s probably not the vital information you came here for.
You can also now buy non-dairy condensed milk such as condensed coconut milk, which is great for those with dairy allergies or intolerances. I’ve found it to be slightly runnier/thinner than regular condensed milk though, so you may need to use slightly less or adjust the dry ingredients in a recipe if you use this one.
Chelsea is the main brand of golden syrup in New Zealand. They have both the original golden syrup in a tin (hello nostalgia) and an easy-pour golden syrup in a squeeze bottle. They recommend that you use the one in the tin for baking and that the easy pour one is best as a topping for pancakes etc. but I often use the easy pour one in baking with great results.
Nuts + Dried Fruit
This is more of a great-to-have than a you-gotta-have-these, but it’s handy to have some nuts and/or dried fruit on hand for baking.
Nuts are obviously out if anyone in the house has a nut allergy, but if you can, then some raw nuts are great to add some crunch to biscuits or slices. You’ll need peanuts if you want to make peanut brownies (of course) and walnuts if you want the traditional adornment for some afghan biscuits.
If dried fruit is your cup of tea, then it’s nice to have some sultanas or raisins, or dried apricots in the pantry. Any dried fruit can make a delicious addition to a no-bake chocolate slice.
I wasn’t going to get into fridge/perishable ingredients in this list, but I will mention that I always have butter, eggs and milk in the fridge. Buy butter when it’s on special (you’d think that sh*t was gold-plated 💸), and remember you can freeze it for longer storage.
If you can’t have dairy, then look out for dairy-free/vegan butter alternatives and non-dairy milk. This isn’t something I’m overly familiar with, so if you have favourites that work well for baking, please let me know!
So those are some of my favourite ingredients to keep on hand for gluten free baking. Have I missed one of your favourites? Tell us in the comments below! ⬇️