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Gluten-Free Flour

By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator

Q. Are there any kashrus differences between gluten-free flour and regular flour? 

A. For the kosher consumer, there are basically two types of gluten-free flour that are differentiated by whether they contain any of the five primary grains – wheat, rye, spelt, oats, and barley.  The first type contains none of those grains and is just made of corn, rice, tapioca, etc.  Since the five primary grains are not present, (a) the bracha for food made with these flours is shehakol (unless more than 50% of the recipe is rice flour, in which case mezonos is recited), (b) there is no need for hafrashas challah, (c) they are not chametz (but might be kitnios), and (d) there is no concern of chodosh/yoshon.  In most cases, these flour blends require hashgachah, as they tend to have minor ingredients that are kosher sensitive.

The second type of gluten-free flours are those that contain gluten-free oats or gluten-free wheat flour, and we will discuss each of those separately.  Oats are inherently gluten-free, and if the manufacturer makes sure that none of the other primary grains are mixed in, they will remain gluten-free.  The bracha on foods baked with oat flour is mezonos or hamotzi (depending on what was baked), but in some cases the percentage of oats in a recipe or blend is so low that a person cannot eat a kezayis quickly enough to require birchas hamazon or al hamichyah.  Breads and other items baked with gluten-free oat flour require hafrashas challah, but there are some nuances to how this applies to gluten-free oats.  If there are other grains mixed in to help with the dough’s consistency, they typically do not count towards the shiur challah, and one must, therefore, calculate whether there is a shiur challah of the oats alone.  Furthermore, the shiur challah is essentially a volumetric amount, and the amount required in pounds differs from grain to grain; the amounts required for oats are 1.8 pounds (hafrashah without a bracha) and 3.5 pounds (with a bracha).

Gluten-free oat flour (a) should be assumed to be possible chametz, as water/steam is sometimes used in the processing, and (b) in the United States, oats are planted in the spring, which means that they may be chodosh from late summer until Pesach.

Gluten-free wheat flour (a.k.a. Molino flour) is a relatively new item, and it is made by separating wheat flour into starch and gluten/protein.  If done properly, this yields a wheat starch that is free of gluten and may be eaten by celiacs and others who are gluten-sensitive.  In order for it to function similar to “regular” wheat flour, manufacturers will typically add xanthan gum and other ingredients to compensate for the lack of gluten.  As a result of these added ingredients, gluten-free wheat flour requires hashgachah.  The bracha on foods made from it are mezonos or hamotzi (depending on what was made).  Hafrashas challah is required for breads and other items baked with it, subject to the recipe containing 2.5 pounds of wheat flour (i.e., without the other components) for hafrashah without a bracha, or 4.7 pounds for hafrashah with a bracha.

The process of separating gluten from wheat starch involves water and, therefore, gluten-free wheat flour is surely chametz and must be disposed of or sold before Pesach.  This flour is also subject to the halachos of chodosh/yoshon, but at the time of this writing (early 2023) the only certified brand carries a reputable Israeli hechsher who ensures that it is always yoshon.

This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, June 30, 2023.