Since most cooking is naturally gluten free, on this blog I try to stick to what you're probably missing most: gluten free baking. If you ask me, that's all the good stuff: cookies, bars, cakes, pastries, breads.
If you're brand new to gluten free baking, click through for our beginner's guide. But if you're ready for a deep dive in how to make all your favorite classic gluten free desserts, well then what are we waiting for? Let's get started!
What's special about this guide to 30 of my best gluten free desserts
This guide has everything you need to know about baking (and no-baking) all of your favorite gluten free desserts. We talk all about common gluten free desserts ingredients, helpful tips to keep in mind as you read through a recipe, then answers to all the questions that get asked again and again.
Then, there's everything from creamy, delicious no bake desserts like creamy cheesecake with a touch of gelatin, every flavor of gf bar (classic brownies, blondies, lemon brownies!), and of course all the classic cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, sugar) to all the best bakery-quality cakes (vanilla, lemon, chocolate, carrot), pies, crisps, and pastries, and all the best sweet quick breads like everyone's favorite, gf banana bread.
Helpful tips for making the best gluten free desserts
It's easy for me to say that you should just follow my gluten free desserts recipes carefully, and you'll never go wrong. But we all have our own, unconscious habits in the kitchen, and many of them just don't work when you're baking gluten free.
This list of tips will help set you up for early success, so you're inspired to keep baking along!
Choosing the right gluten free flour blend
There are two main differences between gluten free baking recipes and conventional baking recipes: the type of flour you use, and the way the other recipe ingredients are balanced. The remaining ingredients are usually just what you'd expect (often the usual butter, sugar, eggs, milk), but in different proportions.
I take care of balancing the recipe properly, but you have to select your all purpose gluten free flour blend carefully. I have a few favorite store-bought blends, plus DIY recipes for building your own blends that are just as good.
Click through to our comprehensive guide to all purpose gluten free flour blends, read it carefully, and you'll be set up for success! That post is so important that it's linked in every recipe that calls for a gluten free flour blend, and it's right there at the top of the homepage!
Always double-check product labels
Once you've picked a great gf flour blend, the other ingredients should all be pretty familiar. You'll still need to read those product labels carefully to ensure that there's no hidden gluten in even those most familiar ingredients, like cookie mix-ins or food colorings.
Keep the kitchen scale handy
Every gluten free desserts recipe on this blog works best when you measure as many ingredients as possible by weight, not volume. Volume measurements are inherently unreliable, since the cup sizes aren't standardized and human error is unavoidable.
If you're worried about making a big investment, rest assured that you can get a really durable, reliable digital kitchen scale for about $20. Escali is a great brand (that's an affiliate link; shop around!).
Follow those gluten free dessert recipes carefully
We're all tempted to jump right in and start following the first instruction (baking is super exciting!), but slow down and read the whole recipe all the way through before you begin. Then, gather your ingredients and begin.
Be mindful of ingredient temperatures
In almost all baking, your ingredients should be at room temperature (pastry is the exception). If even one ingredient that is meant to be at room temperature is cold, when you mix it in with the others, it will cause other ingredients to clump.
When ingredients clump, they won't combine properly. For example, if the recipe calls for eggs and butter at room temperature, and your butter is softened, but your eggs are cold, take a few minutes to float those eggs in warm water, so your ingredients blend as intended.
Always use an oven thermometer
Most ovens drift out of proper calibration all the time, so what reads on the dial as, say, 350°F might actually be 375°F or even higher. (In rare cases, ovens run cold.) The quickest, easiest solution to this simple, but important, problem is to use a simple analog oven thermometer to gauge oven temperature, and replace it often.
Check doneness in the manner directed in the recipe
Baking times in gluten free desserts recipes are always approximate. Pay more attention to how the recipe describes doneness than to the baking time the recipe specifies.
There are so many factors that influence how quickly something bakes, from ingredient substitutions to whether your oven has hot spots and/or holds a consistent, reliable temperature.
Always read the recipe instructions carefully, all the way to the end, and take special note of the particular test for doneness that the recipe says is most reliable. Here are some basic guidelines, though by gf dessert type.
When are gf cookies done?
Some gf desserts recipes, like gf cookies especially, are done when they look set in the center (they won't glisten like they're wet) and have browned, especially on the edges.
When are gf cakes, gf brownies and bars, and other gf quickbreads done?
Something that bakes in a square or rectangular pan, and is then portioned by cutting, is usually done when a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, but no loose or wet batter.
Some cakes are so moist that that test just isn't reliable, so doneness is best judged by waiting for the cake to pull away from the sides of the pan and the gf dessert springs back when pressed gently in the center with your fingertip.
When is gf pastry done?
When making gluten free pie crusts, we will often parbake, or half-bake, the bare crust before we fill it. That ensures that the bottom of the crust is never soggy, and will hold the filling. Some fillings are different, and the crust bakes right along with the filling from start to finish. Just follow the recipe instructions.
Sweet, individual pastries, like crullers, sweet drop biscuits, and cream puffs, are usually done when they are lightly golden brown all over and firm to the (gentle) touch.
Common gluten free dessert ingredients
Other than the all purpose gluten free flour blend, gluten free desserts call for most of the same ingredients as conventional baking. Here are a few examples, and what to keep in mind as you shop.
Gluten free oats
In the United States, we can purchase what are called “purity protocol” certified gluten free oats. They're great for gluten free baking, both savory and sweet, and my family eats them often.
If you're not comfortable using them for any reason, I have a whole guide on how to substitute oats in gluten free recipes that call for them, so you don't have to miss anything.
Chocolate is just as big in baking gluten free desserts as it is in conventional desserts. Just be careful to source chocolate that is safely gluten free, without additives or contamination that might make it unsafe.
For example, stay away from Wilton brand candy melts, which the company says may be contaminated with gluten-containing ingredients. Always check the product's label, and contact the company directly if you're at all unsure.
Some recipes call for Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which is treated to be less acidic. Others call for natural cocoa powder which is more acidic and usually has a less rich flavor. Both should be gluten free, unless there's the potential for cross-contamination in manufacturing, so check labels.
If a recipe specifies one type of cocoa powder over the other, that means the recipe needs more or less acid. Stick to the recipe, which also may say either type is fine.
All of my gluten free desserts recipes call for unsalted butter, except for our gluten free sablé cookies, which are made with salted French butter. Unsalted butter is common in all sorts of baking as it allows us to control the amount of salt in the recipe, as a separate ingredient.
If a recipe calls for milk as a liquid, I always suggest staying away from anything nonfat. Nonfat cow's milk has no richness, and won't add anything to your recipe. Whole milk is usually best, unless lowfat is specified.
Most of my baking recipes call for two main types of refined sugars: granulated sugar, which is also called “white” sugar, and light brown sugar, to which some molasses has been added.
My Paleo recipes, by definition, avoid all refined sugars, so they use unrefined sugars like honey, maple syrup, and granulated coconut palm sugar.
Nut butters like almond butter and peanut butter make great bases for baking sweets. I always bake with smooth (not crunchy) nut butters that are “no-stir,” meaning that the oil doesn't separate in the jar. They combine smoothly with other ingredients in your baked goods.
Most cooking oils with a neutral flavor, like grapeseed, canola, vegetable, and peanut oils, are interchangeable in baking. Oils with a strong aroma, like olive oil or avocado oil, will compete with the other flavors in your baked goods, so I suggest avoiding them.
Substituting gluten free dessert ingredients
Many of my gluten free desserts recipes contain other allergens like dairy and eggs. If you have to avoid these other allergens, don't forget to seek out the “Ingredients and substitutions” section of each post, where I provide suggestions on how to substitute those allergens in that particular recipe.
If an allergen-friendly substitution is really not possible, I'll tell you that, too. Here are some of the most common additional allergens and how I usually suggest trying to replace them—but for the most reliable recipe-specific advice, please see that particular post!
Dairy free, gluten free desserts
Dairy is in most conventional desserts, so it's also in most gluten free desserts. Some dairy ingredients are easier to replace than others. Here's a general overview.
In place of milk in baking, you can almost always use an unsweetened nondairy milk, particularly one with some fat. My favorite nondairy milk for baking is unsweetened almond milk. Canned coconut milk is only appropriate as a substitution for heavy whipped cream, not milk, as it's very, very thick.
In place of butter, if you're avoiding dairy, you can usually use vegan butter in my recipes. My favorite brands are Melt and Miyoko's Kitchen.
If vegan butter isn't available, you can often use virgin coconut oil (the kind that's solid at cool room temperature, which you can tell because it's white, not clear). Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening is also often a good butter replacement, but it has very little moisture, unlike butter, so cookies spread less.
Vegan, gluten free desserts
To make your gluten free desserts more vegan friendly, you can often follow the suggestions for replacing the dairy in the recipe, and replace each egg with one “chia egg.” Each chia egg is made by combining 1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, and allowing it to gel.
Some people really like to use “flax eggs,” which are made by boiling flax seeds and then straining out the seed particles after they create a gel. They have a relatively strong flavor, and the process isn't easy, so I prefer “chia eggs.”
Egg whites can often be replaced with aquafaba, which is the brine from a can of chickpeas. You can also purchase aquafaba powder on Amazon, but it's pretty expensive.
Many refined sugars, like granulated sugar and brown sugar, are not appropriate on a strict vegan diet, as they're often processed with bone char. For full information, please see My Darling Vegan's vegan sugar discussion.
My All-Time Best Gluten Free Dessert Recipes
There are hundreds of gluten free desserts recipes here on the blog, and I love them all, or I would never share them with you!
But here we're highlighting 30 of my favorite gf desserts. There are 5 recipes from each of 6 different gf dessert categories
- No bake gluten free desserts
- Gluten free cookies
- Gluten free brownies and bars
- Gluten free cakes
- Gluten free pies/pastries/crumbles
- Gluten free sweet quick bread loaves
5 of my best no bake gluten free desserts
This recipe collection doesn't include even most of my no bake recipes here on the blog, which is actually over 40 recipes strong. But these are the 5 no bake recipes that are easy wins for hot days, or when you just can't be bothered!
When you want a little something sweet without turning on the oven, these bars are the perfect treat—any month of the year. Plus, these naturally gluten free bars keep for ages in the freezer!
Serve it chilled until cold, or at cool room temperature for the type of fudge you can really sink your teeth into!
5 classic gluten free cookies recipes
We have many, many gluten free cookies recipes here on the blog, but these are the 5 types of cookies that I return to again and again. They're classic desserts for a reason!
They’ll hold any shape you like, and they’re absolutely scrumptious with that thick layer of buttercream frosting.
Make them with chocolate chips, or more traditional raisins. Just make them!
Use a sugar substitute, and they’re an amazing low-carb cookie!
5 of the best gluten free brownies and bars recipes
I'm partial to cookies, but these gluten free bar desserts are a win for the baker and the eaters alike. One pan, no real shaping, and every texture imaginable!
Ditch that box and make it better from scratch!
They even have that crinkly top of the best brownies!
All the lemon flavor you can imagine, with all the texture of the best chewy brownies!
Imagine what it’s like if you add maple butter sauce on top of a scoop of vanilla…
The 5 gluten free cake recipes you absolutely need
According to my children, it's not a celebration without cake. We each have our favorite flavor (mine's vanilla, my husband's is chocolate, the kids all differ), but all the classics await you right here.
You’ll have dreams of everyone’s favorite Olive Garden cake!
5 amazing gluten free pies, pastries, and crumbles
Start with the very best, extra flaky gluten free pie crust, and the sky's the limit for gf pie fillings. If fruity crumbles and crisps are your thing, we've got that, too. Plus all sorts of sweet pastries like crullers and cream puffs from one simple but special French gf pastry dough.
Stash some slices in the freezer and defrost at room temperature for a little treat any time!
Classic recipes for 5 sweet gluten free quick breads
Quick breads are the most versatile of sweet baked goods, since you can serve them for breakfast without a second thought. You're not going to make a sandwich on any of these breads (savory gf breads are a different story entirely), but you won't mind…
The yogurt keeps it extra tender, and no one can say no to mini chocolate chips.
A classic Irish-American bread, now made gluten free!
FAQs about gluten free desserts
What are naturally gluten free desserts?
Naturally gluten free desserts are desserts that, in their most basic form, are regularly made without any gluten-containing ingredients. An example is our recipe for classic flourless peanut butter cookies, which are made with granulated sugar, peanut butter, egg, baking powder, and salt.
Do gluten free desserts taste different?
No! Gluten free desserts should taste like you'd expect the best version of that dessert to taste—no exceptions. Gluten free baked goods that are made with gritty rice flour blends and are just “good, for gluten free” are just not good enough.
What is xanthan gum, and do I need it?
Xanthan gum is a common food additive. It's a carbohydrate made up of a number of sugar molecules bound together, and is used to bind foods together.
Yes, you need xanthan gum for most gluten free baked goods, as it helps them hold together as you'd expect, and helps keep gluten free baked goods from going stale more quickly than they should.
What are some healthy gluten free desserts?
I don't usually concentrate on “healthy” gluten free desserts, but if you'd like to avoid high calorie baked goods, you can check out our WW-friendly gluten free recipes. I also love our healthy Paleo chocolate mousse, and our chocolate chia pudding.
What are some quick and easy gluten free dessert recipes?
If you're looking for easy gf desserts, there are many simple gluten free desserts recipes on the blog that only call for 3 and 4 ingredients. Here are some examples:
- Homemade 3 ingredient no churn vanilla ice cream (naturally GF, no special ingredients)
- Super simple 4 ingredient gf pudding mix (chocolate or vanilla)
- Simple chocolate chip gf cookie breakup (made with butter, sugar, gf flour, and chocolate chips in a sheet pan)
- Gf vanilla mug cake (or gf chocolate mug cake (made in the microwave. enough said?)
What are some gluten free treats that kids love?
Kids love anything they can eat with their fingers. The classic gluten free cookies that we talked about above are the most fun treat, and the first thing to go at a party (even if there are fancy desserts being served!).
Aside from gf cookies, you can't go wrong with gluten free vanilla cupcakes. Add some funfetti to make it extra special, with no added effort.
What are some unique gluten free desserts ideas?
If you're looking for something a little unexpected that's still a surefire crowd pleaser, go with gluten free strawberry cupcakes. For that ‘wow' factor, gluten free marble bundt cake is a winner.
The easiest way to get to wow? Gluten free chocolate lava cakes. No question!
What are the best gluten free chocolate chips?
My favorite gluten free chocolate chips are made by Enjoy Life brand, since they're very high quality, come in a mini chocolate chips variety, and are appropriate for almost any dietary restrictions (they're top 8 free).
For melted chocolate, I don't like using chips since they contain wax to help them keep their shape even when heated. The best all-around chocolate to use for melting or for breaking into rough chocolate pieces as a mix-in is Ghirardelli dark chocolate wafers.
What's the best way to store gluten free desserts?
Crispy gluten free desserts should always be stored in a sealed glass container at room temperature. That's the only way they'll maintain their texture (plastic will make them absorb moisture).
I rarely, if ever, store cake in the refrigerator, or really any baked goods, since it tends to dry out baked goods. If I make a cake even one day before I plan to frost and serve it, I wrap it tightly in freezer-safe wrap (Glad Press ‘n' Seal is great) and freeze it. Defrost at room temperature, still covered.
This post was originally published in 2013, modified in 2017, and made even better in 2022. Most everything has been changed because the blog has grown a lot since then!
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