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Wheat Free Baking from WWI

Updated on March 31, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

Food can be basic but over the years we've developed favorite ways to prepare them. 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.

Cast Iron Muffin Pan

Lodge L5P3 Cast Iron Cookware Muffin/Cornbread Pan, Pre-Seasoned
Lodge L5P3 Cast Iron Cookware Muffin/Cornbread Pan, Pre-Seasoned

You'll love the way cast iron cooks in your oven. You'll have the best muffins you ever tasted.


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
  • ??? I don't know what these are: Shorts, Middlings, Kaoling, Carara flour, Dasheen, Cassava. I'll have to research them.
  • Chestnut flour, Peanut flour
  • Banana flour
  • Millet
  • 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.

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.

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

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.

More recipes will be added.

It's late, so I'm off to bed. I'll put some more recipes on tomorrow.

Have You Tried Garbanzo Flour?

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  • 0% Yes, but I didn't like it
  • 0% I've never even heard of it before
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A Glimpse of World War One - Vintage Documentary

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Do You Like Vintage Recipes?

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    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 5 months ago from United Kingdom

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

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 3 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 4 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 5 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.