These gluten free vegan biscuits are made with just the right balance of vegan butter and shortening. They're light and flaky, and even taste buttery. You just have to try them!
Vegan Butter and Shortening
Honest to goodness butter, made from cow's milk, is one of my most favorite things in this world. I love to cook and bake with it, and I love to eat a piece of buttered bread. But for when butter isn't an option, thankfully there are lots of substitutes available on the market that are also solid at room temperature without hydrogenation.
I've long preferred Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated shortening as a butter replacement (the butter flavored shortening is the best!), but there's also virgin coconut oil and Earth Balance buttery sticks and tubs. Plus, “I Can't Believe It's Not Butter” has even come out with a vegan butter alternative.
Earth Balance has lots more moisture than shortening or coconut oil, so it behaves differently in the oven. That, and it's quite salty. But I've recently started experimenting with Melt brand VeganButter sticks, and I'm completely smitten.
I'm not sure if Melt has less moisture than Earth Balance, or if the fats in Melt are just better emulsified, but Earth Balance tends to melt (haha) during baking before the fat has done its job in creating flaky layers of pastry. The combination of about half Melt and half nonhydrogenated shortening creates a delightfully buttery taste and impossibly flaky biscuits that can be split right in the middle—and still brown beautifully.
Necessity is the mother of invention
The funny thing about restrictions in baking is that, although they may be painful to endure, they really force you to be creative. When my son first went gluten free, before I started writing a food blog or cookbooks, friends and acquaintances alike would tell me, oh I could never do that. If my child had to eat gluten free, I'd just give up.
Well of course you wouldn't give up. You play the hand that you're dealt, and you play it as well as you can, especially if you're doing it for someone else you love. ♡
When I first started this blog, I used to get all worked up whenever anyone asked if they could change ingredients in the recipe and still have it turn out. I had worked so hard to balance everything just right, just as the recipe was written. In baking, when you change one thing, you change everything. I always tried to answer as best I could, but I didn't have all the answers. I still don't!
As time has gone on, my family's needs have evolved a bit. My son still thankfully is only gluten free, but my oldest child (a daughter) is now dairy free and soy free.
Most of the recipes that I develop are still only gluten free as written, and we don't eat gluten in my house at all for the sake of simplicity and peace of mind. But I don't want my oldest to have to go without, say, a light and flaky gluten free biscuit if that's what everyone else is having. And I didn't want to stop making biscuits.
My youngest can eat anything under the sun without any allergies, but she's leaning toward being a vegan when she gets older for the sake of the animals. So there's that, too! And rather than feeling like an albatross, the limitations have led to a new purpose and more creative ways to make amazing recipes that still really, really work.
Ingredients and substitutions
These vegan biscuits are already dairy free, egg free, gluten free and even soy free. Woohoo! They're not, however, low carb or Weight Watchers-friendly. There are only a few substitutions that I think you might ask about, so here goes:
Shortening: I use and recommend Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. It's not Crisco! I promise. If you can't find Spectrum brand, I'll be honest: I've had some trouble finding a true substitute for it.
I've tried Nutiva brand shortening, and I'm afraid I really didn't care for it at all. It didn't behave the same in baking. You might have better luck with virgin coconut oil or even coconut cream. Just be sure to keep the fats very cold (but not frozen) before adding them to the dry ingredients.
Vegan butter: I have fallen hopelessly in love with Melt brand VeganButter. Earth Balance buttery sticks are generally a good substitute, though, if you can't find Melt. I've also made this recipe entirely with shortening, but the biscuits don't tend to have a lot of flavor and they don't brown nearly as well.
Nut-free: My favorite nondairy milk is unsweetened almond milk, but really any unsweetened nondairy milk that isn't fat-free will work just fine. Just be sure to use an actual liquid that comes in a carton, not a can like canned coconut milk.
Sugar-free: That's so easy. Just eliminate the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (or replace with 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated erythritol, which should work fine).
Corn-free: If you can't have corn, replace the cornstarch with arrowroot.
Watch this short video about how-to make vegan biscuits
Just plush play ▶ below to watch me make these biscuits. Then make your own!
Light and Flaky Vegan Biscuits
1 3/4 cups (245 g) all purpose gluten free flour, plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons (24 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (56 g) vegan butter, chopped and chilled*
5 tablespoons (60 g) nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening, in chunks, chilled*
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) unsweetened almond milk, chilled
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
*I really prefer Melt brand VeganButter sticks and Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening, but see the “Ingredients and Substitutions” section for more information if you can’t use those products for any reason.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the cold chunks of vegan butter and shortening and toss to coat. Place each piece of fat between your floured thumb and forefinger to flatten, working quickly so nothing melts. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in the almost all of the milk (leaving behind about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and the vinegar, and mix until the dough begins to come together. If necessary to moisten all of the dough, add the remaining milk.
Press the dough together with your hands, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and dust it with a bit more flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thick rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise, dust again lightly with flour, and roll the dough out again into a thick rectangle. Repeat the process once more or until the dough seems smoother, finally rolling out the dough into a rectangle that’s about 1-inch thick. With a floured, round 2 1/2-inch (or smaller) biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough and place them about 2-inches apart from one another on the prepared baking sheet. Gather and reroll the scraps, and cut out as many more rounds as possible, placing them on the baking sheet as well. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 5 minutes (or the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes) to chill until mostly firm. The raw rounds of dough can be frozen completely and then stored in an airtight zip-top bag in the freezer until ready to bake. Bake from frozen, adding about another 2 to 3 minutes to the baking time.
Place the baking sheet with the chilled rounds of dough on it in the preheated oven and bake until the biscuits are puffed, pale golden and a bit flaky-looking on top (about 18 minutes). Remove the biscuits from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before serving. The biscuits will be a bit fragile until they’ve cooled completely.
Adapted from the Buttermilk Biscuits on page 104 of the book Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap Second Edition, by Nicole Hunn (Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Copyright © 2017).