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Store-Bought Gluten-Free Flour Blends

How we tested

In traditional baking recipes, which all-purpose flour you use isn’t terribly important. That’s because all of them contain the same single ingredient—wheat flour. Yes, protein levels in the wheat will vary slightly among different flours, but this typically has a minimal effect on the finished product. But in gluten-free baking recipes that call for a gluten-free flour blend, the blend used has significantly more impact on the final baked good. That’s because each flour blend relies on a mix of different ingredients, yielding cookies, cakes, breads, and muffins with varying textures, colors, and flavors.

To find the best, we tested 10 store-bought all-purpose gluten-free flour blends in three well-vetted gluten-free test kitchen recipes for chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, and sandwich bread. Twenty tasters from our test kitchen participated in these blind taste tests, which also included samples of each recipe made with the ATK homemade flour blend (the control). Tasters were asked to rate how close each sample came to the control.

While all of the blends produced edible cookies, muffins, and loaves of bread, there were significant textural and flavor differences. Our two favorite blends are made with neutral-tasting white rice flour as their main ingredient, and they produced relatively light, tasty baked goods. While some of the lower scoring options also included white rice flour, they either contained additional distinctly flavored ingredients (like sorghum or bean flours) whose flavors were detectable in the baked goods, or they made breads, cookies, and muffins with heavy, dense textures.

For the best results with our gluten-free recipes, we recommend that you use our custom-designed homemade ATK flour blend, which has the added advantage of being cheaper than store-bought blends. If you choose to use a store-bought blend, King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour is our winner. Our second choice is Betty Crocker All-Purpose Gluten Free Rice Flour Blend.

A WEIGHTY ISSUE

When using a store-bought all-purpose flour blend, we strongly recommend that you weigh it (as opposed to measuring by volume). Because each blend is made with different ingredients, it packs into dry cup measures differently. A scale ensures that you have the right amount of flour, no matter the blend.

Methodology

We tested these 10 store-bought blends in three of our own gluten-free recipes—for blueberry muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and sandwich bread—and compared them to baked goods made using the ATK All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*