Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, Quick and Easy

100 Recipes for the Food You Love -- Fast!


By Nicole Hunn

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People who follow a gluten-free diet — avoiding all foods with even a trace of wheat, barley, and rye in their ingredients — don’t always have the quick and cheap food options that their friends do . . . until now.

Gluten-free guru Nicole Hunn is back with 100 new quick-prep and make-ahead recipes for dinners, yeast-free breads, baked goods, snacks, breakfasts, and more. These unique timesaving recipes take advantage of readily available gluten-free ingredients and kitchen shortcuts. Created with the busy family in mind, Hunn shares her secrets to getting a complete meal, including bread, on the table in no time flat — all without breaking the bank.

Recipes include Super-Quick Cinnamon Rolls, Yeast-Free English Muffins, Easy Veggie Burgers, Weeknight Chicken Soup, Cheesecake Cookies, Make-Your-Own Yellow Cake Mix, and more.


Gluten-Free on a Shoestring
Quick and Easy


Gluten-Free on a Shoestring:
125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap

Chapter 1

Low-Down, Dirty, Quick, and Easy Basics

Whenever I cook at home, I aim for a gluten-free meal that every member of the family can get behind in a big way, all on a shoestring budget. The food has to be unfussy, because I’m a home cook and I don’t like to fuss. I’ll leave the fuss to restaurant chefs. I’ve always sought hearty dishes that satisfy both body and soul, as food is one of life’s great pleasures. If you know me at all, that should come as no surprise.

Now, it’s time for a new chapter. In Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, Quick and Easy, as with my first cookbook, you’ll still find good, solid family food that is reliably gluten-free and won’t break the bank. But this time, we pick up the pace.

I recognize that not everyone has a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Nor should you be expected to. Maybe your yoga instructor spends her free time trying to learn to spin like a top on the crown of her head. That doesn’t mean that even the most advanced students should strive for the same in their off hours. So this time I have that idea top of mind as we get moving.

I’ve bought us some time with the mad multitasking skills that I’ll teach you to put to use in the kitchen. You’ll learn to master recipes that make use of both fast-acting ingredients in place of slower-acting ones and the most worthwhile store-bought gluten-free ingredients to augment a meal. And there are even a few new pieces of fast-paced kitchen equipment that might earn a place on your counter.


There’s no shortage of clichés about time, but one thing’s for certain. Time is the one resource we can never renew. On a busy weekday evening when everyone’s hungry, we don’t usually find ourselves with time to kill. We want fast prep, quick cooking times, and minimal cleanup. And we don’t want to compromise on taste or nutrition to get it.

In these recipes, part of the time is reclaimed through good, old-fashioned shortcut methods such as substituting slower ingredients like yeast with faster ones like baking powder (or by taking advantage of a slow second rise for yeast in the refrigerator during the week). As I began recipe development, I realized that I was gravitating toward speedier versions of many of the recipes that I had been making for years. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I could make good gluten-free and yeast-free English muffins (page XXX) without sacrificing taste. And they’re ready quickly enough to have for a weeknight meal—made from scratch that very night! After some trial and error, I found that I could make a yeast-free sandwich bread as well. That meant it could be ready as fast as any other quick bread, with such leaveners as baking powder and baking soda, and a few other stabilizing ingredients.

Most of the recipes in this cookbook take less than forty minutes to prepare, and the few that take a bit longer either have portions that can and should be made in advance or the remaining time is inactive. Every recipe you’ll find here, from the yeast-free doughnuts (pages 42 and 44) to the Quick Puff Pastry (page 82), is quicker and easier than its original version. The doughnuts come together more like muffins, without yeast, and are ready quickly, especially in the four-minute cycle of a Babycakes Mini Donut Maker. The Quick Puff Pastry is, indeed, speedy, but keep in mind that there’s no way to make any sort of puff pastry without doing some “turns.” Making black beans from scratch is always going to be slower than opening a can of cooked black beans. But the Pressure Cooker Scratch Black Beans (page 96) take about forty minutes from start to finish, and that’s if you haven’t presoaked the beans. If you have, it takes even less time. Either way, the quality and cost is far superior to canned beans, making the beans more versatile and more useful.

Throughout the book, I also provide time-saving tips such as using unbleached parchment paper for rolling out dough with a French rolling pin (the kind without handles that is tapered on both ends). Those two tweaks alone can shave ten to fifteen minutes off your active cooking time, not to mention increasing your success rate. But you have to absorb the tips, and collect the supplies. Then try it yourself, in your own kitchen.

Working quickly in the kitchen requires multitasking, even if it’s for a one-pot dinner. While water is boiling, onions are being chopped. While onions are cooking, vegetables are being chopped. The recipe instructions are written to make the most of the time you do spend in the kitchen, so you can sit down to eat faster. It’s like learning a dance. The more you practice, the more muscle memory you have for the steps.

Some of the weeknight meals take advantage of store-bought gluten-free convenience foods. They can be a tremendous help on a night when you just don’t feel like making bread from scratch, even if you now know how to bake some fresh in twenty minutes flat. My general rule of thumb is that if the bread is central to the meal, such as a veggie burger on an English muffin (see Yeast-Free English Muffins, page 55), I’ll make the muffin from scratch. If not, I won’t.

Sometimes, instead of quicker “from scratch” food, the solution is the smart use of make-ahead recipes. For example, I found that the very same dough from the White Sandwich Bread recipe in my first cookbook would keep in the refrigerator for days, its flavor only becoming more complex and savory day after day. That meant that a fresh batch of even yeasted rolls could be made on a weeknight. I’ve included that recipe here as a bonus, along with the recipe from my first book for Flour Tortillas (page 80). Their versatility can’t be beat.

Kitchen Confidence

A word about recipe cooking times and what I call “kitchen confidence”: the time estimate that is indicated in the recipes is just that, an estimate. It assumes some basic cooking fluency. The truth is that practice makes perfect. If you’ve never rolled out pizza dough before, it’s not going to take you less than ten minutes to roll out two pies. No matter how well written a recipe is, there is no substitute for actually trying your own hand at it.

If you’re not as confident cooking gluten-free as you’d like to be (like I once was—I cried the first time I tried to bake gluten-free bread), know that you can, indeed, feed yourself and your family well, on time, and on budget. Gluten-free cooking and baking should not be precious or out of reach. Today, they’re safely within your reach. In fact, it’s easier than ever to get the job done. But you have to practice. If you’d like to become proficient at rolling out pizza dough, set aside a stress-free thirty minutes on a weekend to learn about it. Read through the recipe for Refrigerator Pizza Dough White Pizza (page 106) a few times. Take out all of your ingredients, just as the recipe describes. Do it methodically, without deviating from the recipe if possible.

The more you practice, the faster you’ll get. You may even find yourself beating the time estimate, putting me to shame! Master a few signature dishes or desserts. Then place those in your weekday rotation, and don’t be afraid to repeat the same dish a couple of times in one week. Once you begin to feel more confident and have some time to spare, try something new. Maybe you’ve got a random day off scheduled from work, just to use up some vacation time. Why not schedule a solitary cooking and baking session for yourself? First, page through this book chapter by chapter, a cup of coffee in hand. Select one or two dishes that you’d like to eat if someone else prepared them for you. Make a shopping list, and go shop it. Come back, lay out, and prep all the ingredients. Reread the ingredients and instructions one last time, and then get to work. There’s plenty of time to customize the recipe later once you’ve mastered it as written. You’ll get there, step by step.

Convenience Pantry Items to Buy

All of the recipes in this book are meant to be as user-friendly as possible. Every ingredient, with a few notable exceptions such as good all-purpose gluten-free flour (see page 9), is either available in a large local supermarket or can be replaced by one that is. You won’t find any hard-to-find or hard-to-pronounce ingredients here.

These recipes evolved as my thinking did. For years, there had been ready-made gluten-free products available for purchase. But most of them had to be mail-ordered, the prices were outrageously high, and the quality was often lacking. That led many to judge gluten-free packaged goods by the “it’s good—for gluten-free” standard. In my last cookbook, I railed against the low standards many in the gluten-free community had been conditioned to have. Demand more and the market will bear it!

Well, we did. And it has. There’s still some ways to go (will some large food manufacturer please put out ready-made gluten-free wonton skins?) but convenience foods are getting there. Now we can make use of the growing number of high-quality packaged gluten-free products—and open a package of cookies or bread just as our gluten-eating friends and neighbors can.

Here are a few of my favorite gluten-free convenience food items, many of which you’ll see scattered through the recipes in this book. Don’t worry—the cost still won’t even compare to complete ready-made meals, either from the frozen foods section or from a gluten-free restaurant. Or to those “it’s good—for gluten-free” packaged cookies and muffins:

Idaho Spuds Brand Signature Potato Bits: Try them and you’ll know why these really are that much better than other brands. I’m all for real potatoes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to appreciate a good bud or bit when I see one.

Gluten-free packaged corn tortillas: Because a flexible and tasty gluten-free flour tortilla is not widely available just yet, I am grateful to have packaged corn tortillas available. Just be sure to read labels to make sure that your brand is, in fact, gluten-free (Del Campo brand soft corn tortillas are gluten-free, as of the writing of this book). When you warm them up either in the microwave wrapped in a wet paper towel or in a skillet right before you sit down to eat, they taste nearly fresh.

Shredded cheeses: I buy blocks of cheese, but I also buy bags of already shredded cheeses. They tend to be a bit dry as compared to freshly grated cheese, so I use them in places where that doesn’t matter—such as on pizza. I always grate Parmigiano-Reggiano fresh with a Microplane, but I don’t always grate mozzarella cheese fresh. Now you know. Judge me accordingly. Oh, and do buy blocks of real Parmigiano-Reggiano. It has so much flavor, it could power a jet, if flavor powered jets. A little really does go a long way, and save the rinds for flavoring soups and sauces.

Gluten-free rotisserie chicken: These days, warehouse stores such as Costco and even many major supermarkets sell cooked rotisserie chickens that are reliably gluten-free. It’s so nice to buy one and just build an easy meal around it. I don’t do it every week, but I absolutely don’t hesitate to buy one when I know it’s going to be a hectic week.

Sliced sandwich bread, such as Udi’s or Rudi’s: Gluten-free packaged sliced sandwich breads are growing in number, and my local Trader Joe’s even sells Udi’s bread unfrozen. Glory be! It’s not even frozen! And they sell out of it nearly every day. But I’ve come to realize that it’s nice to have a loaf of Udi’s or Rudi’s in my freezer for my kids’ school lunches. Sometimes, there are big air pockets in a loaf and I get on my high horse and promise never to buy it again. And then I buy it again. I hope it gets better and less expensive, but I’m still glad to have a stash.

Schär Parbaked Ciabatta and French Breads: These parbaked breads are vacuum-sealed, so they tend to have a nice, luxuriously long shelf life. Oh how I love it when foods are vacuum-sealed! My general rule of thumb is that, when the meal is built around the bread you are serving, make it from scratch whenever possible. Otherwise, and if you’re pressed for time, all you do is peel open the bag of Schär parbaked bread, pop it in the toaster oven or conventional oven for about ten minutes, and voilà! Fresh-tasting bread. It’s rather expensive, but I like having it around. It’s like a dinnertime security blanket. Hold me?

Gluten-free chicken and vegetable stock: In Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, I was the queen of make-your-own-stock. And I still do make my own. Long live the queen! But more often than not these days, I find myself willing to renounce the throne. Pacific Natural Foods chicken and vegetable stocks are reliably gluten-free, often on sale or special, and just plain taste good. I never really buy beef stock. If I am making beef, it makes its own stock and I’d rather cook with something a bit lighter that doesn’t overpower the other flavors in the dish.

No-stir nut butters: I really like Barney Butter smooth almond butter and Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator peanut butter. Barney Butter is mondo expensive, though, and never really seems to go on sale. Peanut Butter & Co. is relatively affordable, and it’s just so good. No-stir nut butters relieve me of the burden (yes, I did just say burden, and I don’t consider it melodramatic) of having to bend multiple spoons trying to stir down a traditional natural nut butter. And I find that, no matter how much elbow grease I put into it, there is still a completely oil-free nut butter rock at the bottom of the jar. I also learned that when you buy a thick nut butter, it is easy to spread a satisfying layer of the stuff on bread without globbing the whole jar onto a sandwich. And these consistently smooth nut butters are great for cooking and baking. Okay, I’ll stop now. I’ve gone on long enough about nut butters. Unless you want to know more . . .

Triple-washed, bagged fresh baby spinach: I’ve moved past frozen spinach. I have. I buy the triple-washed stuff. I put it in everything these days. I don’t have to defrost it, I don’t have to squeeze it (I hate squeezing water out of vegetables; see potato bits missive earlier), and it’s so easy to wilt. And you know what? They wash it for you three whole times, but they don’t charge that much for it. Gosh, I hope they have good labor practices.

Good tomato sauce: Add tomato sauce to anything and you give it an instant hit of flavor, and usually some extra body and texture, too. When I’m making the One-Pot Albondigas Dinner (page 117), I’m not going to be bothered making my own tomato sauce to thicken that broth. How would that be quick and easy? Get something pretty good, too—nothing that tastes like it’s a few paces away from passing as ketchup, please. It doesn’t have to be the best for eight dollars a jar, but if you look for it, you can find a 25-ounce jar of Muir Glen tomato sauce for not much more than three dollars. It’s worth it.

Breakfast cereal for use as “bread” crumbs: I buy a few boxes of gluten-free breakfast cereals such as gluten-free Chex and gluten-free Erewhon crisp rice–style cereals when they’re on sale, and I get to work. I process them in my food processor, store them in a resealable container in my pantry, and I never want for bread crumbs. I really don’t enjoy washing and drying my food processor, so I make a bunch at a time. If you enjoy such things, I’ll give you 5 bucks to wash and dry mine.

Schär shortbread-style and other cookies, for a great cheesecake crust when ground: Here I go, Schär-ing again. But I really do like them. Their products are a bit spendy sometimes, but I don’t buy these things all the time. When I do, I want them to be top-notch. These cookies taste really good, and believe it or not there are times when I don’t have any homemade gluten-free cookies lying around. Okay, it doesn’t happen much since I bake pathologically at this point, but it does happen. And when it does, I like to have Schär shortbread cookies in my pantry. They make an excellent No-Bake Cheesecake (page 166) crust, and sign up for the Schär Club ( to find coupons to make them more shoestring-friendly.

Last but not least, the most important convenience item I have in my pantry is my all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.


Better Batter All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

The recipes in this cookbook that incorporate flour call for an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. My favorite, based on basic quality and price criteria, is made by Better Batter Gluten Free Flour. It’s a high-quality premade flour blend containing rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum, and pectin (a lemon derivative). It’s a proprietary formula, and I know nothing of the proportions. So when Better Batter runs out of flour, so do I. And this whole operation is in shambles! That’s why I buy it in bulk.

Better Batter is as true a replacement for conventional, gluten-containing all-purpose flour as I have found. It has a very fine grain, and to me tastes “normal.” I have used it successfully for years, in everything from yeast breads and doughnuts to muffins and cakes. It does behave a bit differently than its conventional, gluten-containing counterpart, but that is to be expected. Gluten is such an essential component of conventional flour that it’s difficult for me to imagine anyone creating a gluten-free blend that truly mimics gluten in every conceivable way without alteration, including in yeast breads. I’ve found that this one is close enough.

That said, many companies these days make all-purpose gluten-free flours. Perhaps your personal experience has been different and you have found another commercially available gluten-free flour blend that suits all of your needs. Or maybe you have perfected your own blend of gluten-free component flours in proportions that make it all-purpose. I strongly encourage you to use your preferred high-quality blend in any of my recipes that call for all-purpose gluten-free flour. My only suggestion is that you measure your blend by weight, and not by volume, to ensure an accurate measurement. Different gluten-free flours, and therefore different gluten-free flour blends, have different weights by volume.

Other Premade All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flours

In addition to Better Batter, I have tested extensively three other commercially available gluten-free flour blends—Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour, Tom Sawyer Gluten Free Flour, and Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour—in various categories of recipes, and scored for those blends along with Better Batter in ten separate ratings categories. I recorded the results on my blog. If you are trying to decide which premade blend is best for you, those results are worth a look here:

Please note that bean flour blends that are marketed as “all-purpose gluten-free flour” are not even close to being appropriate for all purposes. They behave very differently from the high-quality blends discussed here, and will not work in my recipes. The same is true for multi-ingredient baking mixes, such as Pamela’s Baking Mix and Bisquick Gluten Free, which are not intended to be used as all-purpose gluten-free flours, as they contain ingredients such as baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Do-It-Yourself All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

If you would like to blend your own all-purpose gluten-free flour, I have tested a DIY blend that I can now recommend, and which follows. I have not tried it in every single one of my recipes, either on the blog or in my cookbooks, but I have tried it in every recipe category and found its performance to be comparable to that of Better Batter.

A few words of caution: To consider this blend a high-quality gluten-free flour blend that is good for all baking purposes, you must use superfine rice flours and all of your components must be high quality and certified gluten-free. The only source in the United States for these flours I am aware of is Authentic Foods ( And Authentic Foods superfine flours do not come particularly cheap. You may be able to find component flours at your local ethnic market, but there are myriad possibilities of cross-contamination with gluten both in manufacturing, in transit, and even in the store itself. Please also note that, when done right, this blend is nearly twice as expensive per cup as Better Batter (please see my blog for detailed cost analyses of all these blends). And the ingredients are not sold in packages that correspond to the proportions in which you need them in the blend. You will alternate between too much rice flour and too much starch, creating a round robin of ingredient purchases.

Here is my DIY all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. The recipe can be quartered, halved, doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc., at will:

160 grams superfine brown rice flour from Authentic Foods

160 grams superfine white rice flour from Authentic Foods

80 grams tapioca starch/flour from Authentic Foods

80 grams potato starch from Authentic Foods

20 grams potato flour from Authentic Foods

18 grams high-quality xanthan gum from Bob’s Red Mill

8 grams pure powdered fruit pectin from Pomona Pectin


Simply place all of these ingredients in a large, airtight container, and whisk well. Secure the container closed until ready to use. The blend will be as shelf stable as its component flours. To extend the shelf life, store the container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Individual Gluten-Free Flours

There are probably as many ways to assemble various gluten-free flours—such as rice flour, sorghum flour, and almond flour—into various blends as there are stars in the sky. Some may work extremely well in cakes, others in yeast breads. Some may make the flakiest pastries you think you’ve ever tasted, and others the best roux for your grandmother’s gumbo. I bought many component gluten-free flours in 2004 when I started baking gluten-free. I panicked. A lot. I cried, probably as often. There was little guidance available at the time, and I craved simplicity at least as much as I craved a good doughnut. As soon as I found a good all-purpose blend, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. I could leave the food science largely to the flour-making people, and do the rest myself. I now have the DIY flour blend I spoke about earlier, but I don’t use it regularly. I use Better Batter day in and day out. I’ve also found finely ground almond flour to be useful as a dairy-free protein substitute for whey powder (see Dairy-Free Make-Your-Own Vanilla Cake Mix, page 195).

In the name of progress, I have also begun to experiment with adding whole-grain gluten-free flours to some of my gluten-free recipes. It’s like in your pre-gluten-free days, using conventional all-purpose white flour, and then moving on to adding some whole wheat flour, followed by a bit of rye flour if you were feeling adventurous. I find that I enjoy working with whole-grain teff, a gluten-free supergrain. Stabilized rice bran also adds quite a lot of nutrients and fiber, and a heartiness that I like. But those recipes are not the subject of this book. Some of those recipes have found their way onto my blog. More will follow. I promise not to deprive you of any of them.

Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, Quick and Easy means just that. Always affordable, and now quick and easy, too. I find that mixing component gluten-free flours into different blends is neither quick, nor easy. Plus, as discussed earlier, it’s not usually very cost effective, either. For this book, I stick with straight up, high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour—however you define that. If you have a history with your own blend of flours, or another commercially prepared blend that suits all of your needs, by all means, feel free to use it gram for gram wherever a recipe calls for a high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour.

In the next chapter, we’ll talk about the equipment and tools that help you make good food fast. They really are worth rearranging your kitchen cabinets to find a bit of space to store them.

Chapter 2

Make-It-Snappy Kitchen Tools and Equipment

We’ve talked about time, that jealous mistress, and how we can bend it to meet our needs. Now let’s run down the tools and equipment that can really help make quick work of food prep, cooking, and storage. You can get by without many of these products, but each of them has become indispensable in my kitchen for helping me move fast when it matters most. Every one is affordable on most budgets, and you don’t need to acquire them all at once. I’ll tell you about why I love each of them. Then, you decide.

8-quart pressure cooker: If you’re afraid of pressure cookers because you think they have a tendency to explode in one’s face, fear no more. Today’s pressure cookers are smart. If too much pressure builds up in one of the modern-day pressure cookers, they simply let off just enough steam to equalize it. (I can totally relate.) To use these smart pressure cookers, all you do is add your ingredients, secure the lid, and bring the pot to pressure over medium-high heat. You’ll know that it’s reached pressure when the little button on the handle pops. And no, you don’t have to stare at the button (a watched button never pops anyway, right?). It pops audibly. Usually, I’m reading the newspaper and I jump when it pops (using a pressure cooker means I get to read the paper). Then, start your timer. When the specified time has elapsed, either let the pressure reduce naturally once you remove the pot from the heat, or run cold water over the top of the pot, which will reduce the pressure quickly. Then, you can safely remove the lid and enjoy.


On Sale
Nov 6, 2012
Page Count
264 pages

Nicole Hunn

About the Author

Nicole Hunn is the author of the Gluten-Free on a Shoestring series and blog, which has been featured in the New York Times and MSN Money. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Parents magazine, Parade magazine, and She lives in Westchester County, New York.

Learn more about this author