By 2020, the global market for gluten-free foods will be worth more than $7.5 billion, according to data compiled by Statista.
Though only a small percentage of consumers are diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, millions of health enthusiasts forgo gluten every year, proclaiming the physical and mental benefits reason enough to do so. For culinary students who are personally in the gluten-free camp or want to experiment with new wheat-less cooking options, now could be a great time to expand those horizons.
Let’s take a look at three simple ways to incorporate gluten-free concepts into your culinary endeavors:
1. Avoid cross-contamination, but go big on variety
More than anything, it’s important to understand that some individuals cannot consume gluten in any form, and even the slightest trace of wheat can cause severe allergic reactions. Alternately, as the body grows use to the absence of gluten, it naturally loses its ability to tolerate reintroducing gluten into diets – even for people without a significant intolerance.
That makes it important to keep your prep area and all utensils free of gluten or gluten byproducts. This is especially true when experimenting with other varieties of flours, starches, sauces, rubs and oils that are gluten-free: They may be OK to use based on the label, but if your frying pan or cutting boards still contain residual gluten from previous cooking efforts, cross-contamination can easily occur.
That said, mimicking or fully replacing gluten-based ingredients isn’t all that difficult, and you can even concoct your own type of flour from scratch.
2. Use wraps to your advantage
One convenient way to avoid relying too heavily on processed gluten-free alternatives is to remake common foods and dishes into wraps.
For instance, skip the eggs and breakfast toast, and use a corn tortilla breakfast wrap instead. To appeal to the sandwich crowd, hold together familiar ingredients with a lettuce or Swiss chard wrap.
Other creative options that work wonderfully as wraps are corn husks, collard greens and cabbage. Whichever delicacy you choose, just ensure no wheat flour is present.
3. Lean on fruits and vegetables
Along with using green-based wraps, take advantage of other innovative ways fruits and vegetables can play larger roles in your dishes. This could take the form of the popular “boat” craze, which uses common veggies like zucchini, avocado, sweet potatoes and squash as foundations to be filled with other great ingredients like eggs, cheese, sauces, leafy greens and much more. Really anything can be made in this fashion.
Additionally, fruits and vegetables can serve as culinary complements to main courses like meat or stews. Conventional diets may use bread for dipping or as a trusted side dish, but scrapping wheat in favor of double the veggies or fruits can help fill out plates (and stomachs!) with color and variety while falling into the gluten-free category.
Going this route likewise allows you to include more nutritional and natural ingredients as opposed to rounding out dishes with additional servings of overly processed wheat or meat substitutes.
With these tips in mind, what new meals can you whip up this week?