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Easy Gluten-Free Desserts

Updated on August 22, 2012
Even on a gluten-free diet you can enjoy terrific desserts!
Even on a gluten-free diet you can enjoy terrific desserts! | Source

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 2 million people suffer from celiac disease in the U.S. alone. This condition of the small intestines prevents proper absorption of nutrients from foods, and is triggered by eating or drinking things containing gluten.

Though there is no cure, removing gluten from the diet will bring about recovery and healing in most people. So becoming knowledgeable about which foods and beverages to avoid is critical. And nowhere is this more true than in the area of desserts, where wheat and other flours have traditionally played a big part.

But it's not all about deprivation or what you can't have. There are lots of delicious substitutions you can make in your diet that will satisfy your stomach and sweet tooth!

The gluten-sensitive, should avoid wheat and wheat flour.
The gluten-sensitive, should avoid wheat and wheat flour. | Source

Step One: Avoid Foods With Gluten

Here's a list of dessert-type foods that will lead to more damage from celiac disease:

  • Wheat
  • Bulgar
  • Durum Flour
  • Graham Flour
  • Semolina

Check labels when buying oats - they may be processed in the same place wheat products are.
Check labels when buying oats - they may be processed in the same place wheat products are. | Source

This list is foods to avoid unless they are labeled "Gluten-Free" (more on that later):

  • Packaged cookies
  • Packaged cereals & oats
  • Candy
  • Cakes & pies
  • Food additives such as malt flavoring and modified food starch)

For a more complete list of "trigger" foods go to the Mayo Clinic website.

Step Two: Find "Good" Gluten-Free Foods

Now comes the fun part - seeing the yummy options that you have to choose from for dessert. Buying some ready-made items is certainly convenient.

Many grocery stores make it easy for you by labeling pre-packaged foods as gluten free (20 or less parts per million of product). And companies themselves are announcing if specific products contain gluten - you just may need to check ingredient lists to find it.

Many name-brand frostings are processed without gluten.
Many name-brand frostings are processed without gluten. | Source

If cookies are your favorite treat, companies like Pamela's, Dr. Schar or Enjoy Life make them in a variety of favorite kinds. From Breyer's to Ben & Jerry's to Haagen- Dazs, you'll find gluten-free ice cream flavors to please any taste. Or try some gelato instead.

When you feel like making a cake, Hodgson Mill, Jules, and even Betty Crocker can provide a mix, and you can use many pre-made frostings knowing they are safe. The organic food aisle will probably reveal muffin and cookie mix choices as well.

Both fresh and canned peaches are gluten free.
Both fresh and canned peaches are gluten free. | Source
Dried fruit works in granola, or as a sweet part of cookies and bars.
Dried fruit works in granola, or as a sweet part of cookies and bars. | Source
Gluten-free flour is a pantry staple.
Gluten-free flour is a pantry staple. | Source

Step Three: Stock Your Kitchen With Gluten-Free Ingredients

It's always good to have some fresh ingredients on hand. You can use them to enhance something store-bought, or to mix and match and make your own creation.

Start with some basics (some or all of the following):

  • Nuts or seeds, unprocessed (check the label to make sure they are raw)
  • Fruits (fresh, frozen or canned) - peaches, apples, berries, etc
  • Dried fruits - raisins, apricots, cranberries, etc
  • Organic corn tortilla strips - Fresh Gourmet or Green Mountain brands for example
  • Greek yogurt
  • Organic Peanut Butter
  • Honey
  • Chocolate sauce - including Hershey's or Walden Farms brands
  • Cereals - Chex (except the Wheat or Multigrain variety), Cocoa or Fruity Pebbles
  • Candy - Hershey bars (plain), M&Ms, Dots, Gummi Bears

Also buy some gluten-free flour, such as King Arthur, and baking powder, like Rumford for any baking you do.

My first batch of homemade graham crackers
My first batch of homemade graham crackers | Source

Recipe: Gluten-Free Graham Crackers

When I thought about desserts, graham crackers came to mind right away. They are such a favorite treat and so versatile. But graham flour is a "don't". So I wondered if I could find a way to make them that used substitutions but yielded a similar result.

After a search, I came across a gluten-free graham cracker recipe that worked well. I couldn't find xanthan gum, which is used as a thickener. So my crackers ended up a little more like shortbread because of that. And I decided not to add cinnamon to the first batch - I wanted to taste them in their 'original' form.

I was delighted. Then I did a taste test: a cracker from the latest store-bought box vs one just made. They were amazingly alike, both in taste and texture. But homemade won the contest - fresher and without not only the graham flour, but the preservatives.

Great "Graham" Ideas

If you make a batch of graham crackers, you'll have enough to enjoy them in lots of combinations. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.


The traditional summer treat can now be gluten free! Slip a square of Hershey bar (plain milk chocolate is the best) onto a cracker, then add a roasted marshmallow (for example, Jet Puff brand). If rain hits, melt them in your microwave for about 15 seconds. Then, top with another cracker.

Peach Dream

One of my father-in-law's favorite desserts starts with a graham cracker in the bottom of a bowl. On top of that goes a scoop of vanilla ice cream, some canned peaches, and about 2 tbsp of reserved juice from the can. For an extra kick, pour a little rum over the top too!


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    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I'm a celiac myself so hubs like these are awesome! I'll have to try out that cracker recipe! :)

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey garage-remotes. I've found an answer for you. I found an article (How To Replace Xanthan Gum on ehow food) that mentioned using either milled (must be milled) flax seed or coconut flour as an equal substitute. In other words, you add the same amount of either of those as what amount of xanthan gum is called for in the recipe. Flaxseed is easy to find, and I believe I've seen coconut flour in the organic section of my regular grocery store. Good luck!

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I will look into that and let you know - I think any future batches if cookies I make without gluten will need it so they won't crumble so much!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Good plan and I can tell you from my own experience (with 3 kids now in their 30's) that it 'sticks'....I made everything from scratch as much as possible when my kids were growing up and they are all fabulous cooks and make everything from scratch themselves...2 boys no less of the lot~~~ Kinda cool and makes me very happy as I feel that I/we did give them a great gift there in knowing how to eat better and to appreciate good-for-you food!

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey akirchner! I totally agree with your thoughts, and think that people have become more oversensitive or even "allergic" to many foods we don't even think twice about buying. That's one reason I have been really trying to cook from scratch as much as I can. I want my kids to form a habit of gravitating toward fresh foods when they can.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Claudia - thanks for reading. Your recipe sounds terrific - I want to try it!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Hi Helen - I like the way you did your steps....clever idea. I know a lot of people have trouble with gluten and I think part of the problem is that everything we have today is so over-processed it has changed people's body processes forever. I only wish we could somehow get back to a more natural diet and learn how to get the crappola out of everything we eat...and the environment...but that would be a perfect world, eh? Great job!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      6 years ago from Mexico

      I have a flourless chocolate cake recipe that is made with sweet potato mash instead of flour, tastes delicious and is absolutely gluten-free; in fact, it s my personal favorite dessert of all times and one of the healthiest as well.

      I have also seen the gluten-free signs increase everywhere and I hope all those who want to avoid eating gluten but are craving a chocolate dessert can benefit from this recipe and of course, all of your suggestions.

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey Sherilee! Thanks for the vote and the sharing - I'm honored!

      I kept seeing all the gluten-free signs in grocery stores and then hearing the phrase mentioned so much, I got curious. Luckily it's not an issue for me, but I'm always hoping to find ways to make someone's diet more healthy.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Heather, that first dessert looks delicious! I am not allergic to gtuten myself, but I know quite a few people that are. This is great information for those people. I know I do see gluten free products in my grocery store aisle and there is a great selection. Voted up and more, plus sharing!


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