Gluten Free Sauces

Naturally Gluten-Free Strategy:

Get comfortable making your own gluten free sauces and not only will you worry less about gluten, you'll remove harmful food additives from your diet and bottles from your refridgerator.

The Great Expanding Refrigerator

Have you noticed the size of our refrigerators in North America?  They’re massive!  My daughter recently returned from a three month exchange to France and one of the things she commented on was, well the awesome food, no surprise there, but also their tiny fridges.  If you’ve visited anyone in Europe you may have noticed this.  They buy fresh ingredients often and where dressings and sauces are used, they are simple and homemade.  No need for huge refrigerators to store dozens of bottles and jars.   Well those classic homemade recipes can easily be converted to gluten free sauces.  It’s true we’re set up a little differently here, especially those of us in the suburbs.  We can’t just walk across the street to the bakery, next door to the cheese maker and then up the street to the produce stand.  Things are more spread out and we need to use our cars to get to where the food is, usually the supermarket.  And that’s become massive too!  But still, we could take a lesson and simplify a just a bit.

Gluten-Free Yourself

I used to be intimidated by the idea of making my own sauces.  Sure, gluten free gravy from a roast is pretty easy, but like me, you may be surprised to find that with a few simple techniques and a fresh herb or two you can easily make lots of gluten free sauces that will be far more flavourful and healthier than anything from a bottle.  You can throw together killer gluten free pan jus to top those chops or simmer a beautiful deeply flavourful velouté while the rest of the meal cooks.  Once that happens, it will be like the heavens have opened up and you’ll banish those bottles from your refrigerator never to return.

Favourites You'll Use Over and Over

Killer Gluten Free Pan Gravy:

This gluten free sauce is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to top off any meat dish.  Simply stir up a gluten free gravy from the bits in the bottom of the pan that you cook the meat in.  Whether it’s a roast like beef, chicken or turkey, or a simple pan fried pork chop or meat balls, it’s basically the same technique.  Simply remove the meat from the pan and set it aside.  Add half a diced onion to the pan and stir it around.  This will “deglaze” the pan, picking up all those wonderful meaty flavours.  Next you can add a half cup of red or white wine and let it simmer for a minute or two if you like but this is optional.  Then add chicken or beef stock.  One to two cups is fine for a small family meal, more if you’re cooking for a bigger crowd.  Here is where you can play with herbs a bit.  I like a little fresh thyme.  Rosemary is nice too, or toss in a bay leaf but this is optional. Let it simmer for a bit to bring out the flavour.  If you like the consistency, serve as is, or you can thicken it up with a bit of cornstarch.  Just add a heaping teaspoon to a bit of water and stir to dissolve, then add to your gravy.  Taste it and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Strain your perfect gluten free sauce and serve. 

Simple Aioli for Fish

This naturally gluten free sauce is the perfect tart and tangy topper to almost any type of fish from haddock or tilapia to salmon or trout.  Think of it like tartar sauce only way better. 

Ingredients:

1 c mayonnaise

6 cloves garlic minced

1 ½ tbsp lemon juice

1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard

¾ tsp dried tarragon (substitute dill if you like)

Mix all the ingredients together and serve with your fish.  You can keep any leftover sauce in the fridge.  I've used it for veggie dip too!

Honey Garlic Sauce

This naturally gluten free sauce is great for honey garlic wings or ribs.  It's sweet and sticky and naturally gluten-free.  You may want to dish out your portion before you call the family for dinner :)

Ingredients:

¾ cup brown sugar

5 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp fresh ginger minced

2 c water

5 tbsp honey (1/4 c plus one tbsp)

¼ gluten free soy sauce (tamari)

3 tbsp cornstarch and enough water to dissolve

Method:

Mix the brown sugar, garlic, ginger, water, honey and tamari together in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over med – high heat.  Watch closely you don’t want it to boil over.  Burnt sugar on your stove is hard to clean.  Let it simmer for a few minutes then add the cornstarch and water.  Stir and let it come back to a boil.  Simmer for a couple more minutes until its thick.  Pour it over your pre-cooked wings or ribs and bake at 375 for 20 min.  If you don’t need it all, store the extra in a glass jar in the fridge.

Classic Gluten Free Sauces

These are gluten free versions of the French classics.  They are often used in the finer restaurants that still make their own sauces.  These take a little more time, but they are really not difficult.  You can easily simmer a nice gluten free sauce while the rest of the meal is cooking.  Try some of these out on the family first, then impress your guests.  They'll want to go gluten free too!

Basic white sauce w chicken and vegetables

The Basic Elements

A gluten free sauce, like any sauce is basically 2 elements:

1. A liquid base

2. A thickener

The liquid base for your gluten free sauce could be stock, like chicken, beef, veal, fish or vegetable stock.  It could be milk or cream, or even water.  In the case of salad dressings which are actually cold sauces, it could be oil and vinegar.  In tomato sauces the liquid is pureed or diced tomato.

The most common thickener is a roux which is equal parts flour and fat.  It’s cooked to get rid of the starchy flavour and achieve the desired colour, and then the liquid is slowly added.  Other ways to thicken a gluten free sauce is to add a bit of cornstarch and water just before serving.  This is how pan gravies are often made.  Your sauce is more clear and shiny, but on the down side it won’t hold together if refrigerated and re-heated.  Pureed fruits or vegetables work nicely, especially if you’re avoiding grains and starches.

Tips and Tricks

1.  A little trick for thickening up your gluten free sauce just before serving that came out a little too thin is to make a “beurre manier”.  Just make a paste that’s half and half flour and butter, a couple of teaspoons of each is usually plenty.  Then add pea sized pieces to your sauce.  Give each a minute to cook before adding more, until your sauce is the right thickness. 

2.  To check the thickness of your gluten free sauce, dip your spoon in.  This works best with a wooden spoon.  The sauce should coat the back of the spoon but you should still be able to see the wood grain.  Now run your finger through the sauce on the back of the spoon.  The track should stay but slowly start to run back together.

3.  Don't add salt and pepper until the end.  As your gluten free sauce reduces the flavours will concentrate and it could end up to salty or peppery.


So let’s walk through a basic white sauce or veloute.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp gluten free all purpose flour

2 tbsp butter

1/4 c white wine (optional)

1 L chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Spice bag

Method:

  1. Heat your stock in a saucepan on the stove. (This is cheating, but sometimes I heat it in a measuring cup in the microwave…shhh)

  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan that’s big enough to hold your sauce when you’ve added all the liquid.

  3. Add the flour and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.  You just want to get the starchiness out but you don’t want it to take on any colour.  Remove from the heat and let it cool a bit.  It's important that the roux and the stock are at different temperatures.

    Important: If you’ve done this before with wheat flour you’ll notice the consistency is quite different.  Don’t be tempted to add more flour, keep your ratio 1:1 with the butter.

  4. Now add a little bit of the liquid, and keep stirring.  If you’re using wine add it first (it doesn’t need to be heated)  A whisk works nicely to keep the lumps out, just make sure you get into the bottom edges of the pot.  Add a little stock at a time a keep stirring until all the stock is added.  Add the spice bag and let your gluten free sauce gently simmer and reduce a bit while you finish up dinner and get the table set. 

  5. Now remove the spice bag.  Season your sauce with a little salt and some white pepper.  (Always season at the end because as the sauce simmers and reduces the flavours will concentrate.) Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Check the thickness.  Does it look okay?  If not either thin it out with some more stock or a bit of water or thicken it up with some beurre manier.

There, not so hard right?  And you can use this gluten free sauce as a base for so many things.  Spoon it over a baked chicken breast.  Add the drippings from a roast turkey and there’s your gravy.  Add left over cubed chicken and pour it over rice or mashed potatoes.  Add the chicken and some cooked diced veggies, pour it in a baking dish, top with pastry or mashed potatoes for chicken pot pie…the possibilities are endless and no bottles required! Except maybe the wine ;)

Variations

Dark sauce or Espagnole

Same as above but with beef stock.  Cook the roux until it takes on some colour. * Use red wine instead of white.

*If you've done this with wheat flour in the past you'll notice your gluten free flour won't brown quite as much.

Cream sauce:

Make the veloute above, add ½ cup of 35% cream right before serving and heat through.  Don’t boil.

Cheese sauce:

Make the cream sauce above and add a cup of your favourite cheese.  Strong cheeses work best like sharp cheddar.  Swiss and gruyere are nice too.  Pour it over steamed cauliflower or broccoli.  This also makes a nice mac and cheese.  Pour it over a casserole with cooked macaroni, grate a little cheese on top and bake until it thickens up and the cheese browns.

Mushroom sauce:

Brown ¾ cup of sliced mushrooms before making your roux.  Set aside and make the veloute.  Add the mushrooms back in at the end.  Awesome with chicken or pork.

Aromatic Roux:

To add a little more flavour and texture to your sauce you can finely dice some onion and celery.  Add it to the melted butter and cook until tender but don’t let it brown.  Then add your gluten free flour and continue as above.

Chicken or Beef Jus

This makes a nice clear flavourful sauce like the one at the top of the page.  You need to have some extra bones, so if you're deboning some chicken breasts or legs this is a perfect sauce to top off your recipe. 

Tip: If you're deboning chicken but don't want to make sauce for that meal, freeze the bones for later.

Ingredients:

Chicken or beef bones

Chicken or beef stock

mirepoix (diced onion, celery, carrot - ratio 2:1:1)

spice bag (thyme, bay leaf, peppercorn, parsley)

1 clove garlic, crushed


Method:

Brown your beef bones in the oven



Remove to a sauce pan

Add the stock and spice bag

Simmer for about an hour


Strain and skim fat*





Put back in the sauce pan

Reduce to about 1/2 the volume




If you like you can thicken a little with cornstarch at the end.

(tip: if you put your sauce into a tall narrow container it's easier to degrease)

Convenience Flavourings and Boullion:

There are some products out there that essentially replace the stock, like bouillon in cubes or powder form or other flavouring agents.  Be careful.  As a rule of thumb, the cubes tend not to be gluten free.  In some cases the powders are.  For example, Oxo cubes contain gluten, the powder does not.  Check label and check with the manufacturer to be sure.

Some recipes call for Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce to be added as colouring and flavouring agents.  Avoid both of these as they contain gluten.  You can use Tamari which is a gluten free soy sauce but it’s quite salty so go easy.

I just saw an ad the other day that Club House now has a gluten free gravy mix.  If you have pan drippings I can’t see the purpose of a gravy mix, and if you look at the label there are a lot of chemical additives. 

Store Bought Sauces

You may want to keep a few specialty gluten free sauces in the fridge for convenience and variety.  My son and I like to try different hot sauces and salsas.  He has waaay more heat tolerance than I do, but it can be fun.  A splash of Jungle Heat or Piri Piri on eggs gives them a nice zing.  As always, check labels but I’ve found most of these are gluten free.

I always keep a few jars of spaghetti sauce on hand.  PC Organics is good.  I also like Classico, though it’s not organic.  Just found a new one at bulk barn called Mediterranean Garden.  It’s really good, organic, and has a refreshingly short ingredient list.  The label says it’s certified gluten free with no preservatives, no sugar or corn syrup, no starches or thickeners no added colours or artificial flavours.  This is now my new favourite.

Barbecue sauce is another one you may want to keep on hand.  I’ve had good luck with Kraft products.  They declare everything on the label and all the ones I’ve checked are gluten free.  Avoid Diana sauce, it has gluten.  Look for soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce on the ingredient list.  They are common in barbecue sauces and are no no’s for your gluten free diet.

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