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Wheat Free Baking from WWI

Updated on November 30, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

We all fix food and have our favorite meals to prepare. I'm sharing some of mine. Have fun cooking!


Gluten Free Recipes from the First World War

During World War One, the United States asked the "patriotic women of America" to cut back on the use of wheat flour. Wheat was urgently needed to ship overseas for the troops and for starving civilians in war-torn areas.

Recipes in magazines and in booklets like the one shown here offered alternatives to wheat flour for baking. Everything from cottonseed flour to dried pea flour was used by American housewives as part of their war effort. Wheat was the only grain that could withstand the long shipment time to Europe, according to the booklet.

(picture from a vintage booklet owned by Virginia Allain)

My Grandmother with Her Cow - Around 1918

The cornmeal and potato muffins in the recipe below call for milk. Many families had their own cow at that time so the milk would have been their own.
The cornmeal and potato muffins in the recipe below call for milk. Many families had their own cow at that time so the milk would have been their own. | Source

Muffin Recipe Using Cornmeal and Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 Tablespoons Fat
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • well beaten
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Mashed Potatoes
  • 1 Cup Cornmeal
  • 4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt


  1. Mix the ingredients in the order given. Put in a greased muffin tin. Bake forty minutes in a hot oven.
  2. Makes 12 muffins.
5 stars from 1 rating of Potato Cornmeal Muffins

Keep in Mind...

that muffins in this era were more bread-like and not the cake muffins made today.

The WWI Housewife Probably Used a Cast Iron Muffin Pan

These are still available today.

Take Good Care of Your Cast Iron Cookware

  • How to Refinish Old Cast Iron Cookware - Learn how to restore vintage cast iron pots and pans to their former non-stick glory. Follow along with step-by-step instructions and pictures.
  • How To Take Care of Your Cast Iron and the History of Cast Iron -This page is about the care and cleaning of cast iron. It was the first non-stick cookware. How you care for it will affect how non-stick it is.
  • Seasoning Cast Iron - Cast iron cookware is the old-fashioned way to achieve a meal that is lower in fat. If conditioned and properly cared for, cast iron cookware will obtain a slick, non-stick, consistency that is perfect for cooking without adding any oil or butter.

Wheat Substitutes Used during the First World War

  • Bran
  • Barley flour
  • Corn flour, Corn-meal, Eatable corn-starch, Corn grits, Hominy,
  • Dried pea flour, Chickpea flour, White bean flour, Soy-bean flour,
  • Rolled oats, Oatmeal
  • Rice, Rice flour
  • Potato flour
  • Sweet potato flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Cottonseed flour
  • Milo flour and meal
  • Kafir flour and meal
  • Cassava flour comes from a root and is widely used in Africa.
  • Carara flour
  • Chestnut flour
  • Kaoling comes from the sorghum plant.
  • Peanut flour
  • Banana flour
  • Millet
  • Dasheen comes from the taro plant and is used in the tropics.
  • Feterita flour and meal was introduced in 1906 and 1908. It's listed in this booklet as a substitute for wheat flour. It is derived from grain sorghum which grows well on the great plains.
  • Middlings - I had to look this up on Wikipedia which says, "Wheat middlings (also known as millfeed, wheat mill run, or wheat midds) are the product of the wheat milling process that is not flour." Apparently, it is a good source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
  • Shorts - This is similar to Middlings. As part of the milling process for flour, shorts and middlings are produced. The historic Old Stone Mill in Canada explained it this way, "Middlings & Shorts: this is the flour from our coarser screens (50 and 30 mesh) which contains the germ, coarsely ground endosperm, and some finely ground bran." This would probably make a very high fiber bread.

More about Wheat Free Flours

Here's a look at eight types of flour and what they work best with- Non-wheat flours: by Ellen Jackson

Food will win the war.
Food will win the war. | Source

Food Will Win the War

Back cover of the Wartime Recipes booklet

What patriotic housewife could refuse the appeal to aid the war effort. Her mission was to substitute other flours for wheat flour. Along with this message, she was asked to minimize wasted foods.

A Recipe From a 1918 Newspaper

Housekeepers hare been serving wheatless bread for months In the form of quick breads. Many housewives, as well as many hotel-keepers, pledged themselves to serve no wheat until next harvest. The need for a wheatless bread that could be kept in hand and be used for toast or for sandwiches was felt by all who took the pledge. This 100-per-cent bread will help meet this need:

100-Per-Cent Bread.

1 3/4 cupfuls liquid

1 tablespoonful corn syrup

1/4 cake yeast

2 teaspoonfuls salt

1 egg

3 3/8 cupfuls barley or 2 3/4 cupfuls ground rolled oats and either 2 1/8 cupfuls rice flour or 2 1/2 cupfuls corn flour

Make a sponge of first four Ingredients and one-half of mixture of substitutes. Let stand In a warm place until light, at least two hours, When the sponge Is light, work in the rest of the substitute flours and the egg slightly beaten. Shape the dough at once and place in loaf pan. Brush top of loaf with melted fat. Let rise to double the bulk and bake In a hot oven for 1 1/4 hours.

Housekeepers hare been serving wheatless bread for months In the form of quick breads. Many housewives pledged themselves to serve no wheat until next harvest. The need for a wheatless bread that could be kept in hand and be used for toast or for sandwiches was felt by all who took the pledge.

These breads are real victory breads. Use them for the cause of liberty.

A 1918 Recipe for 75% Wheat-Free Bread

Depew Herald  (Depew, New York) 19 Sep 1918, Thu  • Page 7
Depew Herald (Depew, New York) 19 Sep 1918, Thu • Page 7 | Source
Continuation of the recipe
Continuation of the recipe | Source

Flours Made from Brown Rice, Coconut, Tapioca, Almonds or Millet

Your local grocery store might not stock a wide range of these. You can order them online from Amazon.

What Gluten Free Baking Do You Want?

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WWI Poster about Food for the War Effort - with a quote by General Pershing

Zazzle poster from WWI: Keep it Coming by Go_USA
Zazzle poster from WWI: Keep it Coming by Go_USA | Source

My Grandfather, Clarence McGhee, in WWI


My Great Uncle, Albert Vining, in WWI


More Alternative Flours - if you don't want wheat flour

Flours made from mesquite, arrowroot, peanut, chick pea and potato.

Have You Tried Garbanzo Flour?

Vote in the Poll

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A Glimpse of World War One - Vintage Documentary

Will You Try an Alternative Flour for Baking?

Vote in the Poll

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© 2012 Virginia Allain

Do You Like Vintage Recipes?

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    • Ladymermaid profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      15 months ago from Canada

      I did not know this. What a wonderful little tidbit of history and so very personal a story as well. Woman have been called upon many times for country but we don't often hear their tales. This one combines women, the kitchen, and the war effort. I love it.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 

      2 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is really interesting and shows our ancestors got it before ever we did. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love old cookbooks and also have a thin soft bound book from World War I encouraging women to go meatless when they can and make substitutions for wheat and sugar.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      I am starting a wheat free diet for health reasons and it is nice to have the support of Squids through these informative lenses.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Yes, these recipes fed so many people. It's fun to see how different (and usually how similar) they are to how we still cook and bake.


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