Rice Flour: What to Know About the Different Types and How to Use Them

Rice flour vs. glutinous rice flour: What's the difference? We'll tell you.

Growing up, my Lola ("grandma" in Tagalog) often made a dessert called Mochiko, a deliciously sweet, sticky cake made with sweet rice flour, coconut milk, and coconut meat. Little did I know, Mochiko is actually the sweet glutinous rice flour brand, not just the name of one of my favorite Filipino desserts. A quick glance in your local international supermarket, and you'll find a variety of brands of rice flour, brown rice flour, and glutinous rice flour. The selection can be confusing, to say the least. Read on to learn about the different types of rice flour so you'll know exactly what to buy to make homemade mochi and other rice flour recipes.

gluten-free flour mix in green measuring cups
Andy Lyons

What Is Rice Flour?

Rice flour is made from milled (finely ground) rice. It can be made from either brown rice or white rice. The flavor of rice flour is neutral and is considered hypoallergenic and easily digestible. Rice flour has natural thickening properties and is commonly used in Asian cuisines and as part of gluten-free recipes as an alternative to wheat flour.

Types of Rice Flour

For any first-timers dealing with rice flour, it's essential to learn about the different types, as they're not interchangeable in recipes. Here are the two most common types of rice flour.

Rice Flour

Rice flour is made from ground medium- or long-grain rice. It can be made with brown or white rice. Brown rice flour is made from whole grain rice and will have a slightly nutty flavor. White rice flour is made from white rice without the bran and will be tasteless. Some of the popular ways rice flour is used are to make noodles, pastries, cakes, and as a thickening agent for soups and stews. Brown rice flour and white rice flour can be used interchangeably, but white rice flour is more common.

Homemade Mochi Donuts
Dera Burreson

Glutinous Rice Flour

Glutinous rice flour is made from long- or short-grain rice that is cooked, dehydrated, and milled into flour. Glutinous rice flour is also known as sticky rice and sweet rice, which nods to the consistency, texture, and taste. There are several varieties available, but Mochiko is one of the most common. When cooked, this type of rice flour creates a chewy texture and is a popular ingredient in desserts such as mochi and the sticky rice dessert I mentioned above.

Is Rice Flour Gluten-Free?

An ingredient with the term glutinous in the title might be misleading, but rest assured, both rice flour and glutinous rice flour are entirely gluten-free. If you're starting to incorporate more gluten-free products into your meals, don't be surprised if you notice rice flour as a common ingredient.

Rice Flour Substitutes

If you're trying a new recipe that calls for rice flour, you can try cornstarch or potato starch for thickening or potato starch for frying. If you don't have allergy restrictions, all-purpose flour can be substituted in some cases when baking.

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