There’s a magic element that makes wheat so ubiquitous in baked goods: gluten, a chewy protein that adds structure and stability to desserts and breads. When I first started baking without gluten, I thought it would be as simple as replacing wheat flour with a gluten-free option. But with every dense, crumbly, and pasty-flavored item that got tossed in the can, I learned that I needed a little magic of my own to mimic gluten’s binding and lightening properties. Once I hit upon a winning formula (see “Alison’s GF Baking Mix”), I again experienced the joy of delicious, perfect-texture desserts.

Although a bowl of fresh fruit with a nut crumble or a splash of maple syrup makes an excellent gluten-free sweet, the holiday season begs for something a bit more enticing. With these tried-and-true recipes, you can look forward to the smells and sensations of seasonal, homemade baked goods—minus the gluten.

Alison’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix

Serves 12. View Recipe.

Almond Apple Pie

Serves 12. Even newbies have an easy time working this crust; as long as it stays cool, it will behave. View Recipe.

Super Fudge Brownies

Serves 16. Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, these gluten-free goodies hold their own against the real thing. View Recipe.

Carrot Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 16. Rich and moist, this decadent treat is a hit for birthday parties and autumn potlucks. View Recipe.

Flourless Hazelnut and Pear Torte

Serves 16. So scrumptiously rich, a thin slice satisfies. In summer months, substitute peaches or nectarines. View Recipe.

Oatmeal Pecan Praline Cookies

Makes about 30. The nutty praline adds a touch of sophistication but can be omitted if you want a more traditional cookie. View Recipe.

Alison Anton is chef-instructor at Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado. Her seasonal enewsletter, Natural Cooking, is available at

Gluten-free flours

Amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, soy. Not technically grains, these plants’ seeds are ground into flours for baking. These contain all eight essential amino acids—making each a complete protein—plus offer high amounts of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals.

Brown rice, chickpea, cornmeal, nutmeal, sorghum, teff. Although incomplete as proteins, most have a high protein content compared to wheat and contain ample fiber and nutrients.

Gluten-free baking helpers

Arrowroot powder, potato starch (not flour), tapioca flour. These starchy flours mimic gluten’s binding properties. They also lighten the heaviness and distinct flavors of whole-grain GF flours. I use Bob’s Red Mill products, located in the baking section.

Guar gum or xanthan gum. Gums, used in small quantities (generally 1 teaspoon per cup of flour), help hold shape and eliminate crumbliness. Also sold in the baking section.