Rice flour is a versatile ingredient that has been used in Asian cultures for centuries. It’s often used in desserts, rice noodles, or soups, and is a popular substitute for regular wheat flour among those with gluten-related disorders.
But did you know that rice flour can also act as a thickener in recipes? Whether you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to cornstarch or simply want to try something new, rice flour might just be the ingredient you need to thicken your sauces and gravies.
In this article, we’ll explore the many ways you can use rice flour as a thickening agent and discover some of its other culinary uses. So let’s dive in and find out: does rice flour thicken?
Does Rice Flour Thicken?
Yes, rice flour does thicken! In fact, it can be a great substitute for cornstarch or wheat flour in recipes that require a thickening agent. Rice flour is naturally gluten-free and colorless when mixed with water, making it an ideal choice for thickening clear liquids.
To use rice flour as a thickener, you can create a slurry by blending equal amounts of rice flour and water. Use a whisk to combine thoroughly and eliminate any lumps. Once made, stir the slurry slowly into the sauce or gravy to thicken. Another way to create the slurry is to add hot liquid (from the sauce) to the rice flour and stir until combined and smooth, then slowly pour the hot slurry into the sauce and stir until thickened.
You can also create a roux using equal amounts of butter, oil or lard and rice flour. Melt the fat completely over low heat, then add rice flour, stirring constantly until it forms a paste that is light to golden brown in color. Pour sauce liquid into the roux, stirring gently to combine. Raise heat to medium-high and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened.
Rice flour begins to thicken noticeably at a temperature of about 125 degrees Fahrenheit, reaching its maximum thickening effect at 150 to 160 F. If you continue cooking and stirring past that point, the molecular bonds break and the rice flour begins to lose its thickening power.
What Is Rice Flour?
Rice flour is a type of flour made from ground rice. It is naturally gluten-free, making it a popular choice for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Rice flour is known for its delicate, neutral taste and can be used in a variety of recipes, including baked goods, sauces, and gravies.
While rice flour may not have the same baking properties as wheat flour, it works well as a thickener and binder. In fact, rice flour has roughly the same thickening ability as wheat flour and can be substituted directly in recipes to make them gluten-free.
Rice flour can come in different varieties, including white rice flour, brown rice flour, and sweet glutinous rice flour. Despite its name, sweet glutinous rice flour is gluten-free and can be used in a variety of recipes.
Using Rice Flour As A Gluten-free Thickener
Rice flour is an excellent option for those who need to avoid gluten in their diet. It can be used as a substitute for wheat flour or cornstarch in recipes that require a thickening agent. Rice flour is colorless when mixed with water, making it an ideal choice for thickening clear liquids.
To use rice flour as a thickener, you can create a slurry by blending equal amounts of rice flour and water. This slurry can then be added to the sauce or gravy to thicken it. Alternatively, you can add hot liquid from the sauce to the rice flour and stir until combined and smooth. Then, slowly pour the hot slurry into the sauce while stirring until it thickens.
Another option is to create a roux using equal parts of butter, oil, or lard and rice flour. Melt the fat over low heat, then add the rice flour and stir constantly until it forms a paste that is light to golden brown in color. Pour sauce liquid into the roux, stirring gently to combine. Raise the heat to medium-high and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened.
It’s important to note that rice flour begins to thicken noticeably at a temperature of about 125 degrees Fahrenheit and reaches its maximum thickening effect at 150 to 160 F. If you continue cooking and stirring past that point, the molecular bonds break, and the rice flour begins to lose its thickening power.
Tips For Using Rice Flour As A Thickening Agent
1. Use twice as much rice flour as cornstarch to get the same result. Rice flour is roughly comparable to wheat flour in its thickening ability, so it can be substituted directly to make a wheat-free or gluten-free sauce.
2. Sprinkle rice flour into the liquid you wish to thicken and then stir. Use about 2 tablespoons per cup of liquid that needs to be thickened. Rice flour will thicken sauces almost immediately, so if your sauce doesn’t feel thick enough after adding this amount, you can simply add a little more.
3. Be sure to sprinkle rice flour rather than pour it into your sauce to avoid clumps. This will ensure that the rice flour is evenly distributed throughout the liquid.
4. To avoid losing its thickening power, do not continue cooking and stirring past the point where rice flour reaches its maximum thickening effect (150 to 160 F).
5. When creating a slurry using rice flour and water, whisk the mixture thoroughly to eliminate any lumps before adding it to your sauce or gravy.
6. When creating a roux using rice flour, stir constantly until it forms a paste that is light to golden brown in color before pouring sauce liquid into the roux and stirring gently to combine.
By following these tips, you can effectively use rice flour as a thickening agent in your recipes, whether you are looking for a gluten-free alternative or simply want to try something new.
Other Culinary Uses For Rice Flour
In addition to being a great thickening agent, rice flour can be used in a variety of culinary applications. Here are some other ways to use rice flour in your cooking:
1. Baking: Rice flour is a popular ingredient in gluten-free baking. It can be used to make cakes, muffins, and other sweet baked goods. However, it is most frequently used to make sweet breads. It is frequently mixed with other non-wheat flours to get the desired consistency and works well in lighter muffins and cakes. Use a recipe designed expressly for rice flour for the greatest results when using it in baking because, in most circumstances, it cannot be substituted for conventional flour.
2. Frying: Those with gluten sensitivities can enjoy fried food thanks to rice flour. It gives fried meals a pleasantly browned coating. After seasoning, wrap smaller pieces of food in dry flour, or just make a batter using rice flour and water. Fry the snack or food until it is thoroughly cooked and the flour is crisp.
3. Dumplings: In Asia, dumplings with both sweet and savoury fillings are frequently made using rice flour. Create a dough by combining rice flour, water, and occasionally baking powder and sugar. Roll out the dough into a long piece when it has rested, then cut it into the required number of pieces. Flatten the balls and fill them with sweet bean paste, marinated pork, or a combination of veggies. By gathering the sides and squeezing the edges together, the dumplings are sealed. The dumplings should be turned over and steamed for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through, in a steamer lined with paper.
4. Thickening Agent: Rice flour can also be used as a thickening agent for soups and stews as well as tempura batters for frying vegetables, chicken and more! If you’re not up for much baking, try it out in your next soup like this Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, instead of using traditional wheat flour, swap in your newly ground rice flour.