With an array of gluten-free flours lining the shelves of grocery stores, learning the differences between these different types of flour is new for many of us when cooking and baking nutritious gluten-free foods.
In this post, we’ll dive into the differences between two common types of rice flour used in gluten-free foods as well as Asian cuisine, rice flour vs sweet rice flour.
Key Differences in Rice Flour vs Sweet Rice Flour
The key difference between rice flour and sweet rice flour is that they are made from two different types of rice.
Rice flour is ground white long-grain rice or white medium-grain rice. It becomes soft and elastic but tends to harden quickly. Sweet Rice Flour is ground from short-grain white rice. Sweet rice flour becomes very sticky when heated and has a uniquely chewy texture. Sweet rice is also known as “mochiko flour.”
What is Rice Flour?
Rice flour is made rice that is milled into a fine powder. Regular rice flour is ground from white long-grain rice or medium-grain white rice. It becomes soft and elastic but tends to harden quickly. It is opaque or transparent in color.
There is also brown rice flour, which is made from brown rice. White rice and brown rice come from the same type of medium-long grain rice, but white rice has been milled to remove the husk, leaving it lighter in color. White rice flour is made from refined white rice, so it is lighter in color and contains less nutrients than brown rice flour.
Rice flour can also be referred to as “rice powder.” It is a common ingredient in many Asian countries and Asian cuisines.
Rice flour has become a popular ingredient in the western diet over the years for people seeking gluten-free alternatives, as rice is naturally gluten-free. When using rice flour as a substitute for wheat flour, often tapioca starch or potato starch are needed to help the dough become softer and more consistent in texture.
In addition to making an excellent flour choice for people who cannot eat gluten, rice flour is also a popular thickening agent which prevents liquid separation. Because of this, rice flour works great in soups, sauces, and gravies. It is also commonly used to make crackers, cakes, and dumplings.
What is Sweet Rice Flour?
Sweet rice flour is also made from finely milled rice using the same process but using short-grain white rice. Short-grain sweet white rice has a much higher starch content than either white rice or brown rice.
Short grain rice is often referred to as sticky rice as it clumps together. It can also be referred to as glutinous rice or short-grain glutinous rice, not because of gluten; rice is naturally gluten-free, but because the rice has that sticky texture and is glue-like.
Those same properties are found when sticky rice is ground into flour. Sweet rice flour or sticky rice flour has a sticky, starchy texture. Sweet white rice flour is the most effective type of rice flour when used as a thickening agent due to its thickening properties.
Sweet rice flour is also known as glutinous flour, glutinous rice flour, sticky rice flour, and mochiko sweet rice flour.
Sweet rice flour is often used as an ingredient in dumplings and many Asian desserts. Sweet rice flour can also be used as a thickener for sauces and gravies.
Rice Flours Substitutes
Flour can be made from many different grains and foods. Some recommended gluten-free flours that can substitute depending on the recipe include sorghum flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, amaranth flour, arrowroot flour, buckwheat flour, and einkorn flour and a variety of nut flours such as almond flour or macadamia flour.
Nearly any dry ingredient can be ground into flour, although not all flours have a suitable texture and consistency for gluten-free baking. You can also find gluten-free flour mixes that use a few different gluten-free flours in a specific ratio to use as a wheat flour alternative in baking.
Rice flour and sweet rice flour are great alternatives to traditional wheat flour when gluten intolerant or having Celiac disease. However, each of these flours has unique textures and can not be used interchangeably as you’ll get different results from each type of flour.
White rice flour is a neutral and silky flour that makes a simple substitute easily used in many recipes. Sweet rice flour is the sweeter and starchier option, making it the most successful in baking and binding.
Flour can be made by grinding nearly any dry grain, nut, or seed, and many other flour substitutes can also be used. It is common to use a mixture containing a smaller amount of another flour with rice flour to improve the nutritional value while maintaining the silky-smooth texture of rice flour.
Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.