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Jenny Rees, MS, and Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension Educators
Celiac disease (CD) is triggered by ingesting certain proteins, commonly referred to as "gluten," which are naturally present in some cereal grains. While CD can't be cured, its symptoms can be controlled through diet. One of the grains people with celiac disease can eat is flour processed from food sorghum varieties. Whole grain sorghum flour is a wholesome, hearty grain that provides important fiber and has a mild flavor that won't compete with the delicate flavors of other food ingredients.
CD is a genetic disorder and may occur in children as well as adults. Approximately one in 133 people may have CD; the majority of these individuals have not been diagnosed.
When someone with CD eats gluten, an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine is set off. In turn, the small intestine loses its ability to absorb the nutrients in food, leading to malnutrition and other complications. The symptoms vary widely among people.
Though gluten is commonly associated with wheat, foods made with barley and rye must also be avoided. The use of oats is questionable at this time. For a comprehensive list of all the grains and flours currently considered consistent, questionable or not consistent with a gluten-free diet, check on the Celiac Disease Foundation website.
In substituting sorghum flour for wheat flour in recipes, a combination of flours often is used. It is possible to purchase already-mixed all-purpose gluten-free baking flours. Or you can mix your own — following are three substitution possibilities which include sorghum flour. Because sorghum does not contain gluten, a "binder" such as xanthan gum, must be added when gluten is needed to create a successful product. Add one-half teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of sorghum flour for cookies and cakes or one teaspoon per cup of flour for breads. Other ingredients used as binders in some recipes include egg whites, unflavored gelatin, cornstarch and guar gum.
NOTE: If a recipe wasn't specifically developed to be gluten-free, additional adjustments beyond changing the types of flours may be needed. Learn more about gluten-free diets at the National Celiac Association.
Storing sorghum flour
Store sorghum flour in moisture-vapor-proof, air-tight glass or metal containers or plastic freezer bags. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place if it will be used within a few months; store in a refrigerator or freezer for longer storage.
This publication is made available through a grant from the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board. For more information about sorghum -- tips for cooking, where to purchase, etc.-- call the Sorghum Board at (402) 471-4276 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a peer-reviewed publication. Thank you to the following people for reviewing these materials: Barbara Kliment, Executive Director, Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board; Beckee Moreland, Co-chair of Star City CSA Support Group and gluten-free education and menu consultant; Jean Guest, PhD, RD, LMNT, dietitian advisor for the Celiac Sprue Association and Jamie Kabourek, MS, RD, University of Nebraska Food Allergy Research & Resource Program.