How to Make Gluten Free Porridge… With or without oats. A guide with EVERYTHING you need to know from flake to bowl. For Perfect Porridge… EVERY time.
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Why we need a post on how to Make Gluten Free Porridge
Porridge is a joy. A bowl of creamy loveliness that fills and warms the heart and soul. But whether eating for breakfast, brunch, lunch or comfort, if you are Coeliac, then you need to know how to make gluten free porridge.
As a blogger and a fellow gluten-avoider, I often spend time browsing conversations in Facebook support groups. Recently, I’ve noticed a number of people asking for alternatives to oat porridge… Or, how to cook X, Y or Z ‘grains’ so that they don’t turn to mush. Which got me thinking about how best to cook porridge and whether I do anything different to usual methods.
It turns out that I may well do… So, in this post I share my wisdom, in the hope that it might help some of you enjoy a better bowl.
The trouble with oats
Any Coeliac knows that to make gluten free porridge is not always straight forward. Although oats (which are usually considered the primary ingredient) technically don’t contain gluten, most porridge oats are out of bounds.
First, there is the critical question of cross-contamination. Growing and milling processes mean the ‘average’ oat is not safe for those with either Coeliac diagnosis or gluten allergy. And that means buying expensive ‘gluten free’ oats which have been produced in a safe environment. Then there is the added complication that a small number of Coeliacs react to Avenin (a protein in oats that is similar to gluten). And that means oats are completely off the menu.
But spare a thought for the gluten free community ‘down under’. Neither Australia or New Zealand accept the safety of oats in a gluten free diet at all. And that means they don’t even get the option to test their tolerance.
So… Aside from oats, can you make porridge gluten free? The answer is yes! And what follows will give you the low-down not only on alternative bowls of loveliness, but plenty of inspiration for toppings, flavourings and how to add extra protein for the healthiest breakfasts.
What is Porridge?
Porridge has a long history and to UK purists will usually be defined as a bowl of oats or oatmeal cooked in boiled milk or water.
If you explore world food history a little deeper however, it is easy to find countless references to porridge made from any number of grains and seeds. From wheat and barley to corn, rice, buckwheat and beyond… It seems every culture and every era of history has its own variation based on available crops. What seems to connect each recipe however, is the absorption of hot liquid into the ‘meal’ to make a thickened mix or paste. This forms the base to which any number of extra ingredients (sweet or savoury) are added.
So… what are the options and how can else can we make the best gluten free porridge?
Options for gluten free porridge and how to cook them
For quick reference, here’s a list of the most accessible or ‘common’ options for making a gluten free porridge base:
- Gluten Free Oats
- Quinoa Flakes or Seeds
- Rice Flakes
- Buckwheat Flakes or Groats
- Millet Flakes
- Amaranth Flakes
- Polenta (Cornmeal)
As always… If gluten free for health reasons, be sure to check that products you buy are certified gluten free or are free from possible cross-contamination and ‘may contain’ warnings.
The texture of the porridge according to how it is cooked
It sounds fairly obvious, but the texture of porridge is entirely dependent on how it is cooked. For many of the flakes, meal and seeds listed however, the amount of liquid used and the process for cooking will make the difference between a delicious bowl of loveliness or gloopy yuck! For this reason, there isn’t a single ‘recipe’ that works for every porridge. And also for this reason, I have detailed each of the options to make gluten free porridge individually.
When I started my gluten free porridge journey, I followed the instructions of many websites around the web. But the results were endlessly disappointing. Nearly all suggest boiling the porridge on the stove for periods of time that result in mush. So, I started asking myself why this was necessary.
The answer is that it’s not! Research into the various gluten free porridge ingredients reveals that many of them (particularly the flakes) can be eaten raw. Which had me thinking of better ways to mix and cook them that would give optimum flavour as well as texture. Turns out most of them don’t need to touch a saucepan or microwave to hit perfection! This information has been taken into account both in my experiments to make the best gluten free porridge and in the final wisdom offered below. And ‘raw’ flakes that aren’t boiled to destruction are fine unless otherwise stated.
What milk can be used to make gluten free porridge?
This will totally depend on your dietary needs. If you can eat and enjoy dairy milk, then that’s fine. For everyone else, any milk will work. Whether you have a favourite nut or coconut milk or prefer rice, soy or hemp, the instructions are exactly the same.
Don’t like milk? Then sub with water (or part milk/part water). The result will be less creamy, but providing you add other flavours and toppings, all the bowls will still be good.
And for luxury porridge, why not add a dash of cream or yoghurt into the mix – dairy or non-dairy.
How to Make Gluten Free Porridge
Ratios of porridge flakes to liquid
In the hope that it’s easier to read, I’ve put together a quick table of ratios and methods for basic ingredients to make gluten free porridge and for each type of porridge meal.
Where the amount of liquid stated is between two volumes, the lower limit should offer a good porridge texture with a good chew. However, if you prefer a ‘looser’ or mushier porridge, then add additional milk/water.
None of the instructions include the addition of flavours or seasoning. These are personal choice. But if choosing to add salt or stock powder (for savoury porridge) or spices such as cinnamon and ginger, add these at the point of cooking for best infusion.
To download and print off your own FREE handy copy of my ‘How to Make Porridge’ chart… Simply fill out and click on the box below.
Other helpful information on the different types of porridge
‘Traditional’ Gluten Free Oat Porridge
For those who can eat oats, ‘traditional’ porridge remains up there with the best. There is something about the texture and creaminess of oat porridge (with rolled oats) which is unique and nostalgic. And (unlike some of the other ‘flakes’) the amount of milk added and the process of actively boiling will not generally result in breakdown of the flakes. Which means porridge can be enjoyed either thick or runny without loss of texture.
Whether cooked in a saucepan on the hob or in the microwave is up to you. Some say that a slow hob cook gives a creamier result. Personally, I go for convenience and speed. I cook in the microwave and use milk every time to get (what I think is) an equally rich and creamy texture.
But there are other variations for oat porridge too… There are big oats and small oats, rolled oats, steel-cut oats and pinhead oats. To that may be mixed some oat-meal or oat flour to further vary the texture. And what you choose for porridge comes down to personal preference. I’m a rolled oat girl…
make gluten free porridge with quinoa flakes
Quinoa is a bit of a super-grain for nutrition. And being a superb source of protein, quinoa flakes make gluten free porridge that is both sustaining and delicious. This however, is one porridge that you do NOT want to be cooking on the stove. Over-cooked and you will have a bowl of unpleasant mush.
An alternative to quinoa flakes is to use quinoa seeds. Actually, they make a favourite breakfast bowl of mine and something I’ve written about before –
Gluten Free rice flake porridge
Rice flake porridge is bit like eating flaked rice pudding… Which I guess is what it is. But, it’s way quicker to make that cooking up ‘pudding’ in the oven. I use Delicious Alchemy Rice Flakes. They are super-creamy and make a delicious bowl paired with fruit.
make gluten free porridge with buckwheat flakes
Gluten free porridge made with buckwheat flakes may be my favourite alternative to oats. And like quinoa, they have a fabulous nutritional profile with a high protein content. But… also like quinoa flakes, they really don’t want to be boiled… Unless that is, you like mush.
An alternative to buckwheat flakes is to make gluten free porridge with buckwheat groats. It’s something I’ve yet to try (although I regularly eat buckwheat and have written in detail about how to cook it). But I do really like the look of this buckwheat groat porridge from Lazy Cat Kitchen.
gluten free porridge with millet flakes
Millet is often associated (outside of Africa and Asia) with bird seed, but don’t let that put you off. Millet flake porridge is quite a revelation. It’s mild in flavour and (providing it’s not over-cooked) has a slight (optional) crunch.
Nutritionally, it’s a starchy grain that is rich in carbs. But it also offers great fibre and contains plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals. At GFHQ, Millet is increasingly becoming a more regular feature at breakfast. And is a delight when paired with nuts, fruit and drizzled with a little Maple syrup.
make gluten free porridge with amaranth flakes
Amaranth flakes aren’t that easy to get hold of, but are another fabulous source of nutrition and are packed with protein.
You’ll notice in the table that the Amaranth ratios are stated by volume rather than weight. That’s because having decided to write this post, I discovered I’d run out of Amaranth flakes and for some reason, everywhere I tried was out of stock. Consequently, I was unable to do the weight conversion for the chart, so have had to go with my usual volumes. (I often measure in cups for porridge).
Polenta (cornmeal) porridge
Polenta is a common staple particularly in Italy. For that reason, I feel that I should enjoy it more than I do. Made with cornmeal, it is often served as a side or base to meals. But it will also be found as a base and topping to pies or cubed and fried for more interest.
As porridge, Polenta needs to be carefully cooked to ensure it is fully hydrated, soft and fluffy. It also takes a long time to make from scratch… So, if making polenta porridge, I absolutely recommend using Instant Polenta meal which has been pre-cooked before packaging.
Because it’s not really something I regularly eat, here’s an option to show how to make gluten free porridge with polenta.
How to ‘pimp’ your gluten free porridge
Protein Porridge – What to add for a nutritional boost
When thinking of porridge as more of a meal or needing a breakfast that will seriously sustain, ‘protein porridge’ is a great option. What’s protein porridge? Well… It’s basically your usual porridge with extra ingredients added to the mix to offer a boosted protein profile.
Adding protein shake mixes and powders
Adding protein shake powders and mixes is probably the easiest and most straight forward way to pimp your porridge for extra nutrition. Whether choosing a plain addition such as whey protein isolate, or a more interesting flavoured shake mix, both will add a protein boost. The flavoured shake mixes usually also contain all sorts of other nutrition-boosters (nuts, flax, chia, psyllium, seeds, nutritional yeast, etc)
Quick and convenient, just add the mix to about half the amount of a usual serving of porridge before cooking. And adjust the quantity of milk (don’t skimp… it usually needs a little more) to get the desired consistency.
I recently discovered Purition nutrition shakes which come in a huge range of flavours and can be bought as big bags or ‘discovery’ sachets. Carefully balanced for nutrition, they also come as standard or vegan mixes. I’ve tried adding them across the spectrum of flakes when making gluten free porridge for lunches and have really enjoyed them. Not only do they add instant variation to the bowl, but it’s been super-fun pairing toppings to the Purition flavours. Plus… I know a bowl of protein porridge made with an added Purition sachet will sustain me for hours…
Make gluten free porridge with extra protein from the larder
If you’re after more of a ‘do it yourself’ protein porridge, then have a rummage round the larder for additions. Depending on what you find, extra protein and nutrients can be added either into the base porridge or sprinkled/spooned on the top once cooked. Why not make gluten free (pimped) porridge with extra:
- Nut butters
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin and sesame seeds
- Icelandic Skyr (Isey is a genuine make)
- Egg white
- Or.. even go savoury with cheese
How to add sweetness to gluten free porridge – Natural sugars and fruit
When it comes to sweetness, you will know your tastes buds. But however sweet you like your porridge hold off the refined white stuff! When it comes to getting the best out of gluten free porridge, lean on the natural. Your best option is to top or mix in fruit for a delicious ‘no added sugar’ sweetness… Chopped dates, bananas and berries are ideal. But if you do feel you need a little extra sweetness, go light and choose unrefined options:
- Light sprinkle of coconut sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Date syrup
- Coconut honey
- Agave nectar
How to make gluten free porridge extra special – Additions for a tasty, Instagrammable bowl
To make gluten free porridge that is truly Instagram-worthy, it needs to be ‘pretty’. So, unleash your inner porridge creativity with favourite toppings that are not only healthy, but offer the most colourful display. If you are using a Purition (or other) nutrition shake mix, try pairing toppings to enhance or complement the base flavours. Mix it up and arrange to get the best contrast. Think…
- Fresh Fruit –sliced, whole or chopped (berries and banana are my faves).
- Dried Fruit – standard or freeze-dried. Chopped as needed and sprinkled on top. Mixing freeze-dried fruit into hot porridge will also offer colour to the base porridge for extra prettiness.
- Rhubarb and other fruit compote (great with rice porridge)
- Nuts – chopped, whole or slivered.
- Seeds – sesame and pumpkin are divine.
- Coconut – flaked or desiccated, toasted or not.
- Cacao nibs – I love the healthy, earthy crunch these give
- Cacao Powder
- Vanilla powder
- Instant coffee (espresso powder gives a great ‘hit’)
- Spices (cinnamon; ginger; cardamom, turmeric, matcha etc)
- Top with a spoon of fruity Citrus Curd or Apple-Blackberry Curd
- Top with a spoon of homemade healthier ‘Nutella’ or some simple Hazelnut Butter
- Granola or muesli sprinkles – I thoroughly recommend home-made Healthy Chocolate Granola
Ready to Make Gluten Free Porridge?
So, there we go. My complete guide on how to make gluten free porridge… From how to cook flakes, meals and seeds, to pimping with protein and nutrients and topping for deliciousness and colour.
I hope it’s been a helpful read. And I truly hope it opens up some new ideas and excitement to get you enjoying porridge beyond the humble oat.
If you found this post helpful and have tried any of the ideas offered, please let me know. Leave a comment or tag me on social media with your yummy bowls. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter…
AND… Don’t forget, to download and print off your own FREE handy copy of my ‘How to Make Porridge – Flake to Liquid Ratios’ chart… Simply click on the box below and follow the instructions.
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