Gluten free choux pastry is a classic French pastry made by cooking butter, milk, and flour into a paste, then adding eggs. Bake or fry the dough into classic cream puffs, éclairs, profiteroles, or even crullers.
What makes this recipe for GF choux pastry special?
Called pâte à choux in French (like I speak French (I don’t 🤣)), this recipe is for one of the basic types of pastry. It’s light and airy, kind of like popovers, but without a heaviness, even at the bottom.
Choux pastry has its own category, like pie crust and biscuits have theirs. They aren’t prepared cold, like most other kinds of pastry which rely on cold butter that puffs up in the oven for their rise. It’s raised entirely with eggs.
Choux can be made savory or sweet by adding sugar or cheese to the dough, or as fillings after. In the photos here, you see puffs split in half and filled with the most basic lightly sweetened whipped cream.
What else can you make with this basic dough?
This recipe is for the basic dough. We have plenty of other, more specific recipes on the blog that use this recipe as a base, but this is the deep dive to help you make and troubleshoot potential hiccups with any of the others.
With minor modifications, it can be made into gluten free crullers (deep fried donuts) cream puffs (like you see here), profiteroles (with ice cream instead of whipped cream), gluten free éclairs (filled with pastry cream) or even gluten free gougères (with cheese in the pastry dough).
There isn’t any sugar in this dough recipe, but you could add a bit if you like. Add a few tablespoons of granulated sugar to the choux paste that you cook in a pan.
How to make gluten free choux pastry
Recipes like this that call for only a few basic pantry ingredients are wonderful—but they often tend to be particular. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make them, no matter your experience level.
The relative fussiness means that an understanding of how each step works, and what it’s intended to do, is essential to success. Managed expectations also help, so keep in mind that even if your cream puffs or éclairs aren’t perfectly light and airy doesn’t mean they won’t taste great anyway.
Choux pastry begins with the paste
There are four main ingredients in this recipe, and two main elements. The ingredients are butter, milk, salt, the proper gluten free flour blend, and eggs.
The elements are the pastry paste, and the eggs. The paste should be thick and soft, but never runny.
The paste is made by bringing the butter and milk to a simmer, then adding the flour blend off the heat so you have a chance to mix it before the flour clumps too much. Return the pot to the stove and, while stirring constantly, cook the paste until enough moisture evaporates.
If you use a lower fat milk, your paste will have more moisture and will likely require a longer cooking time. Just be sure your heat is low, so you don’t brown the paste.
Blend in eggs next
The paste must cool until it’s no longer hot to the touch. Remember, we’re adding eggs to it and we don’t want to cook them at all before they go in the oven.
Those eggs are going to be responsible for any rise, and hopefully the light airiness, of your choux pastry. Adding the eggs to the food processor or blender should be done relatively slowly.
The recipe calls for adding 5 eggs at first, but if you’re concerned that your pastry paste might be at all unbalanced, begin with 4 eggs. You can always add more, but you can’t remove them once they’re blended in.
Troubleshooting gluten free choux pastry
The first time you make choux pastry, you might suspect you have a problem right away, or you might only know when you’re less than satisfied with your results. Here’s some troubleshooting help, in case you get into a spot:
If your dough or pastries are too dense
You may know you have a bit of a problem before you’ve even piped the dough at all because your dough is too thick to pipe easily. Or maybe once baked, the pastries dough don’t have holes inside.
Those two issues usually go hand in glove. And you need more eggs. But go slowly, though.
Instead of adding whole eggs, beat another egg and drizzle it in a bit at a time, and then blend. Remember that your dough should have a sheen/shine, and you need to be able to pipe and have it hold its shape without flattening too much.
If your dough is too soft/your pastries won’t rise or hold their rise
If you place your dough in a piping bag, and it nearly runs right through without any pressure, it’s too soft. If you bake your pastries and they either don’t hold a rise or don’t rise much at all, the issue is likely the same.
Too-soft dough is harder to remedy than too-stiff dough, but not at all impossible. You’ll need to make more paste.
Begin to make the recipe again, but stop short of adding any eggs. Don’t make a full paste recipe, unless you really went overboard with eggs and/or milk.
A halved paste recipe (3 tablespoons butter + 3/4 cup milk + a dash of salt + 3/4 cup GF pastry flour) should be plenty. Or perhaps 1/3 recipe seems more reasonable.
Then, let the paste cool, and blend it into the too-soft choux pastry you’ve made. Stop when the texture is shiny and will hold its shape.
Ingredients and substitutions
You should be able to make this recipe dairy-free by replacing the butter and milk with dairy-free alternatives. I would try using Miyoko’s Kitchen brand or Melt brand vegan butter, and unsweetened almond milk for the milk.
Keep in mind that the higher water content of these ingredients will make your pastry paste (the dough before the eggs) softer. Try to cook the paste at a very low temperature for long enough to evaporate the extra water.
There are so many eggs in this recipe, and they alone are responsible for the lift that is characteristic of baked choux pastry. They cannot be replaced in this recipe.
For a deep dive on the components of gluten free pastry flour, and possible substitutions, please see our post on how to make gluten free pastry flour. If you use an all purpose gluten free flour instead, the pastries are more likely to be more dense and not puff up as much.