Is Cornmeal Gluten-Free?
Is cornmeal gluten-free? Cornmeal is 100% gluten-free and hence suitable for those who have Celiac Disease. The product is made from dry corn seeds and contains no traces of barley, rye or wheat. Moreover, it can be bought in either fine, medium or rough form and used in various ways, such as preparing a pudding-like dessert known as polenta or creating muffins and bread.
When dried corn seed is pounded into fine particles, it’s known as cornmeal. The substance can then be added to recipes such as those mentioned above, or cooked to make grits. It can also make a great alternative to flour for individuals who have are sensitive to gluten. This ingredient has been used for ages in cooking and baking different types of foods.
Even though it’s gluten-free, still take time to check the labels of any products that you buy to ensure the item is processed in a facility that’s safe from traces of gluten.
Traditionally, cornmeal is made by crushing whole grain corn seeds between millstones. When prepared this way, it retains a coarse texture thanks in part to its nutrient-dense germ. Today, the product is usually processed through steel rollers that remove a good portion of the crust and germ. This processed cornmeal tends to be less nutritious, but has a longer shelf life. If your intention is getting the more nutritious version, then look for the term “stone-ground” on the package.
Assortment and Cross-Contamination
Cornmeal is available in various shades such as blue, yellow and white which all depends on the type of corn that has been used to prepare them. You can also purchase self-rising cornmeal that has added salt and leavened agents. When buying it, always remember to check the label for gluten-free and organic corn certification.
To maintain freshness, store your cornmeal in a tight jar for up to 6 months, or even up to 2 years in the freezer if possible. Naturally, this product has sufficient amounts of oil, meaning it can stay in the refrigerator for long periods of time without going bad.
If your cornmeal is produced by a manufacturer who also processes wheat in their factory, then chances are high that cross-contamination can occur during packaging. Sometimes even the slightest amount of gluten can mess with your diet, so you should always purchase cornmeal that’s labeled as gluten-free.
Similarly, some mixes for cornbread or corn muffins may not be absolutely free from the substance. They might combine traces of wheat flour inside to make bread with a much finer texture. Unless the cornbread is exclusively labeled as gluten-free, you can’t really be sure that it will fit into your specific dietary needs.
If possible, experiment by combining gluten-free cornmeal with other types of safe baking ingredients such as almond, coconut or rice flour. These can be helpful in creating healthy wheat-free versions of the foods that you love.
Gluten-Free Cornmeal Recipes
Polenta is a traditional Northern Italian dish that’s typically made from yellow cornmeal. While there are polenta bags currently available in the market, any medium or coarse grounded cornmeal will work just fine. This meal is prepared over the stove. The first step in cooking is mixing your water, broth or milk with your cornmeal, then heat over moderate heat until the grains swell and churn out their internal starches. This way it will become dense and creamy.
Some individuals prefer to add cheese to their polenta and to let it melt over veggies, as is the case with Lemon Seitan and Smooth Polenta dishes. For those buying course ground cornmeal that’s been certified to be gluten-free, polenta can be prepared as an alternative dish. Simply boil your cornmeal in hot water or soup until a thick soft palate is formed. Then add cheese, spices, and herbs to taste alongside other treats such as sauteed mushrooms, marinara sauce or roasted meats.
Once it cools down, polenta will take a solid form. To make the dish crunchy, pour your hot broth into a cooking pan, then cover with some plastic wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for a few hours until solid. Then slice into sizable chunks, sticks or blocks before frying them to form a brown and crispy end product. Other unique polenta recipes you can try include Cheezy Polenta Bruschetta, Fiesta Polenta, Zucchini Polenta Fries and Asian Broccolette Polenta among others.
You can also get the “quick cook” polenta dish which is pre-cooked, so instead of the conventional 40 minutes of preparation, it can be made in only 5 minutes. This version of polenta is sold in large tubes but can be sliced into smaller portions for even faster cooking, or melted on top of the stove into a thick, creamy paste.
Masa and Hominy
Hominy and Masa Harina are signature types of cornmeal whereby the kernels are soaked in lime water or lye before being sun-dried and grounded. Dipping them in lye helps remove the bran and also makes niacin more digestible. Some common recipes that use this form of cornmeal are Corn Tortillas and Hominy Posole.
Grits are a Southern dish made from coarse white cornmeal. This dish is prepared in a similar manner as polenta, but you can also purchase instant grits from stores which takes a much shorter time to prepare. Some of the most popular grits recipes include Southwestern Style Grits and Smoky Pumpkin Grits.
Generally, there are many uses for cornmeal and unless a recipe particularly specifies which type of cornmeal to include in your meal, you are free to apply the medium grind version as an all-purpose ingredient. Cornmeal has been used by southerners for ages in preparing cornbread and its history dates back to the age of Native Americans.
Cornmeal for Breakfast
Mix cornmeal with water and cook as an easy way of preparing a nutritious breakfast. You can also drizzle the cooked cornmeal with honey and spread chopped nuts over it to add some fiber, vitamin E and protein to the dish. To make it even more savory, stir in some sun-dried tomatoes and grilled red bell peppers. You are also free to replace the typical breadcrumbs for eggplant parmesan with cornmeal which is a great option for those who want to live gluten-free.
So is cornmeal gluten-free? Yes, it is. However, people with digestive problems can sometimes have issues digesting corn, so be aware of that before consuming it.