Sweet rice flour is best known as the signature ingredient in the Japanese dessert, mochi.
It has been a popular type of flour in Asian countries for many generations but it is starting to make a name for itself around the world as a glutinous yet gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.
What are the best substitutes for sweet rice flour? Sweet rice flour is best substituted with equally fine starches, such as tapioca or potato starch, though gluten-free alternatives like almond flour or sorghum flour can also work well. In certain cases, you can also use coconut flour, cornstarch, or even dry glutinous white rice.
In this article, we’ll explain what sweet rice flour is and how it is used, and then offer helpful substitutes for common purposes of sweet rice flour.
What Is Sweet Rice Flour?
Sweet rice flour, also called glutinous rice flour, is a type of gluten-free flour made from short-grain white rice that has soft, sticky properties. This creates glutinous texture and consistency without any actual gluten.
It is made from the same type of rice that sushi is made from, which may give you a better idea of how sticky it can be and how easily it will act as a binding agent.
Sweet rice flour is starchy and most commonly used in Asian cooking. It’s the signature ingredient in mochi, a favorite dessert that can be incredibly versatile in its presentation.
Sweet Rice Flour Vs Rice Flour
Sweet rice flour is made from white rice, but it isn’t the same as white rice flour. White rice flour is made from medium to long grain rice, which isn’t as sticky or glutenous as sweet rice flour.
White rice flour is light and often used in gluten-free baking. It can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in most recipes, but because of the lack of gluten, it should be paired with some type of starch to achieve the same doughy texture.
Both types of rice flour are prone to separating when water is added so you’ll need to stir well and consistently, especially if you’re making a thin batter.
They’re also both raw, gluten-free types of flour.
What Is Sweet Rice Flour Used For?
Sweet rice flour is generally used specifically for its sticky, glutenous, starch properties. It creates a chewy yet soft and moist texture that we are so used to in gluten-based baked goods.
These fantastic features need to be used carefully because if you’re not familiar with sweet rice flour, it’s easy to end up with wet, spongy baked goods.
Sweet rice flour is one of the more popular ingredients in gluten-free baking because of how it can mimic the properties of gluten. However, it’s often used in combination with other types of flour, generally also gluten-free.
Most recipes will call for approximately 40% sweet glutenous rice flour to provide binding.
Though sweet rice flour is most prevalent in Asian cuisine, particularly desserts, it can also be used for savory dishes.
It is a useful thickening agent and makes light, stable quick breads, though it cannot be used for yeasted bread. It’s even the primary ingredient for rice noodles.
Now that you understand the many ways sweet rice flour can be used, we’ll explain the different substitutions and how they perform under different circumstances.
The Best Substitutes for Sweet Rice Flour
The type of recipe you’re creating should determine the substitute you choose for your sweet rice flour.
In most cases, replacing sweet rice flour with a starch like tapioca or potato starch is your best solution, however, those options may not be ideal for certain desserts, like mochi.
In those cases, you might have better results using almond flour or sorghum flour.
If you’re in a pinch, cornstarch and coconut flour can also be used in most recipes, but we’ll take a closer look at how each of these substitutions should be used.
|Substitute||Conversion||Best Used For|
|Tapioca flour||Equal quantities||Chewy baked goods|
|Potato starch||Equal quantities||Batters and coatings|
|Almond flour||1.5 cups almond flour: 1 cup sweet rice flour||Heavy, gluten-free baked goods|
|Sorghum flour||Equal quantities + more flour or water as necessary||Cookies|
|Coconut flour||1.5 cups almond flour: 1 cup sweet rice flour||Sweet, light gluten-free baked goods|
|Cornstarch||Equal quantities||Thickening agent|
Gluten-Free Substitutes for Sweet Rice Flour
Sweet rice flour is a popular choice for gluten-free baking because of how naturally sticky it is, making it an easier swap for gluten-containing flours.
Even still, it is usually paired with another type of flour because sweet rice flour is very light and powdery, without the bulk of conventional flour.
Because of the light texture, certain starches and alternative gluten-free flours can make good substitutes for glutinous rice flour.
1. Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour is made from drying and grinding yuca, or cassava plants, and it’s naturally sticky and starchy, just like sweet rice flour. It will also absorb water in a very similar capacity and offer the same slightly chewy texture.
Sweet rice flour isn’t actually very sweet, but it does have a sweeter flavor than tapioca starch, which is essentially flavorless.
You may choose to add a small amount of sugar to compensate, but otherwise, you can substitute tapioca flour interchangeably.
2. Potato Starch
Potato starch is, as you may expect, made from potatoes. The starch from potatoes is removed as a fine powder with next to no flavor.
The main use for potato starch is for creating texture in a recipe. It is often used as a thickening agent or as a way to hold moisture in baked goods, very similar to how white rice flour is used.
Similar to tapioca starch, it can be used in equal quantities as the white rice flour your original recipe calls for, but because of the lack of flavor, you may want to add a touch of extra sugar or another sweetener.
3. Almond Flour
Almond flour is different from sweet rice flour in many ways, but it is gluten-free and low in carbs and works well as a substitute in most sweet rice flour recipes.
Almond flour is much higher in protein and a wider variety of vitamins and minerals, making it an arguably healthier choice than sweet rice flour.
It is also not nearly as sticky as glutinous rice flour, so if you’re using almond flour as a substitute, you may need to add additional ingredients to adjust for binding power.
On the flip side, almond flour has more flavor than rice flour, so you will have a noticeable flavor impact as well but, if you like the nutty flavor of almonds, this will undoubtedly be a positive factor.
You can also adjust with a bit of added sugar. When substituting almond flour for sweet rice flour in any recipe, you will need to use 1.5 cups of almond flour for every 1 cup of sweet rice flour.
4. Sorghum Flour
Sorghum flour is another gluten-free alternative that can be used as a substitute for sweet rice flour. It is highly nutritious and, as such, is gaining popularity in the health food space.
Sorghum flour has a lightly sweet flavor, though it’s very mild, very comparable to sweet rice flour. It’s not as sticky, however, so you will have to use some form of additional binding agent in the recipe.
In most recipes, you can substitute sorghum flour for sweet rice flour in equal quantities. Depending on the recipe, you may need to add a small amount of extra sorghum flour to get the right consistency.
Start with 1 tablespoon at a time and adapt slowly as necessary.
In other recipes, you may find that adding a bit more liquid will achieve the stickiness you need, rather than having to add additional binding agents, but this may vary depending on the recipe.
5. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is gluten-free and a very light, fine powder similar to sweet white rice flour, so it can be used as a substitute in most recipes.
Coconut flour is sweeter than sweet rice flour and has a very mild but noticeable coconut flavor.
It also isn’t as sticky as sweet rice flour, so you may need to add a binding agent or adjust the liquid content to get the proper sticky texture your recipe requires.
You can substitute 1.5 cups of coconut flour for every 1 cup of sweet rice flour called for.
If you are used to using sweet rice flour to thicken a sauce, you can use cornstarch as a reliable substitute.
As a general rule, you’ll need about 2 tablespoons of sweet rice flour to thicken 1 cup of liquid. You can start with the same ratio of cornstarch and add more only as needed.
Sweet rice flour will thicken the liquid almost immediately, with or without heat. However, cornstarch thickens as it heats, so beware of adding more before you know it’s absolutely necessary.
Cornstarch will blend smoothly into most liquids but it is best to whisk it into cold liquid and then add it slowly to already hot liquid to thicken it without creating lumps.
Cornstarch will also develop a glossy shine, which does not happen when using sweet rice flour.
How to Make Sweet Rice Flour
If you don’t have sweet rice flour but you do have short-grain glutinous white rice, such as what you would buy to make sushi, you may want to make your own sweet rice flour.
For every cup of short-grain rice, you should be able to generate approximately 2 cups of sweet rice flour.
Here’ show to make sweet rice flour:
- Rinse and drain your rice multiple times, until the water runs clear.
- Soak your rice overnight or for at least 8 hours.
- After soaking, your rice should have expanded to nearly double its original size.
- Strain the rice well.
- Using a food processor, grind the rice until you have a fine powder.
- Sift the powder to remove any leftover large chunks.
- Process the larger chunks until they’re a fine grain and add them to your main batch.
You do not have to wait for your rice to dry, but it does help to remove as much moisture as possible, simply to prevent the rice from gumming up your food processor.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of making your own sweet rice flour, you may want to make a large batch so that you can store some for a later date.
It’s best to freeze your sweet rice flour to preserve the flavor and texture and keep it from going moldy.
How Do You Make Mochi Without Rice Flour?
Mochi is a very popular Japanese dessert made using sweet rice flour, which is also called mochigome. The chewy, smooth texture is perfect for making small dough balls, used in a variety of ways.
Mochi can be stuffed, often with sweet red bean paste or ice cream, or made into bite-sized balls and grilled or boiled for immediate consumption.
The key to mochi is glutinous rice. There is no great substitute in this recipe, but if you don’t have sweet rice flour, you can make your own using short grain glutinous white rice.
Is Glutinous Rice Flour Gluten-Free?
While it may be surprising based on the name, glutinous rice flour is naturally gluten-free. “Glutinous” simply refers to how sticky the flour is when moist, giving it a similar elasticity to gluten.
If you have a severe gluten allergy, you always want to look for certification on the package that the manufacturing and packaging process is also done in a gluten-free facility to make sure you are avoiding all cross-contamination.
Does Sweet Rice Flour Expire?
Yes, all flour expires eventually, and sweet rice flour will begin to decline in quality even more quickly than wheat flour.
If you’ve bought a package of sweet rice flour, it should have a “best by” or “use before” date stamped on the package.
Gluten-free flours, including sweet rice flours, should generally be used within 3 months of their best-by date. If you’re able to store your glutinous rice flour in the fridge, you can safely keep it for 6 months to 1 year beyond the best-by date.
If you’ve made your own sweet rice flour, you should use it more quickly, within a few weeks if possible. Otherwise, you might want to consider freezing it for freshness.
What Does Sweet Rice Flour Taste Like?
Rice flour in general has a very neutral flavor, and though sweet rice flour is marginally sweeter, it is very mild and the sweetness is hardly noticeable after it has been cooked.
If you’ve ever had rice noodles, which are made from sweet rice flour, you will have a good idea of the lack of flavor in glutinous rice flour.