How to Substitute Sweet Rice Flour for Wheat Flour to Thicken Sauces

by A.J. Andrews
Sweet rice flour can be used in cooking as a thickener.

Sweet rice flour can be used in cooking as a thickener.

The word "flour" conventionally means bleached, all-purpose wheat flour, which is the go-to flour for thickening sauces. “Flour,” however, actually refers to any root, seed or grain milled into a powder. All flours, from wheat to almond to rice, can thicken a sauce, but some do it better than others. Some, such as sweet rice flour, which is milled from short-grain "sticky" rice, are only used for thickening, and make capable substitutions for wheat flour when used in equal amounts. Besides serving as a gluten-free alternative, sweet rice flour has another advantage over wheat flour: it thickens sauces with or without the addition of a fat.

Items you will need

  • Sweet rice flour
  • Whole butter
  • Measuring spoons or cups
  • Gram scale (optional)
  • Whisk

Roux

Step 1

Measure equal parts of whole butter and sweet rice flour or 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour for every cup of sauce you want to thicken, using a gram scale or measuring cups or spoons.

Roux

Step 2

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle the sweet rice flour over the butter while whisking.

Roux

Step 3

Cook the roux until it turns white, blond or brown, depending on the color of sauce you want to thicken, whisking occasionally. White sauces and cream-colored sauces, such as béchamel and veloute, match up best with a white or blonde roux. Dark sauces, such as meat gravies, do best with a brown or dark-brown roux.

Roux

Step 4

Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool if you want to reserve the roux for later. Store roux in a sealed food storage container in the fridge for up to three days.

Roux

Step 5

Add the roux to the sauce you want to thicken, using about 2 tablespoons per cup of sauce. You can add warm roux to a cold sauce or cold roux to a warm sauce, but never mix a roux and sauce of the same temperature, as the roux separates and the rice flour congeals to form lumps.

Roux

Step 6

Bring the sauce to a simmer and whisk it vigorously. Simmer the sauce until it reaches the desired thickness and you can’t detect a granular coating on the back of your tongue when you taste it.

Beurre Manie

Step 1

Place equal parts whole butter and sweet rice flour in the palm of your hand. Like a roux, it takes about 1 tablespoon each of butter and sweet rice flour to thicken 1 cup of sauce. However, unlike a roux, a beurre manie is intended to thicken and fine-tune the consistency of a sauce at the end of cooking, so you shouldn’t need much.

Beurre Manie

Step 2

Work the sweet rice flour and butter into a ball, called a beurre manie, and roll it between your palms until fully incorporated into each other.

Beurre Manie

Step 3

Pinch off a small piece of the beurre manie, maybe 1/3 of its total size, and drop it in the sauce while simmering in the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking. Whisk to incorporate, wait two or three minutes, and check the thickness. Add more beurre manie if needed, a pinch at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Slurry

Step 1

Measure 1 tablespoon of sweet rice flour and place it in a bowl with around 1 cup of cold stock, broth or water, while the sauce simmers.

Slurry

Step 2

Whisk to combine the liquid and sweet rice flour. Pour the slurry slowly into the simmering slowly while whisking the sauce vigorously.

Slurry

Step 3

Stir or whisk the sauce, while simmering, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Tips

  • Although it's best to measure starch and butter by weight when making a roux, it isn't necessary. Thickening sauces with a roux is a classic, but not exacting, technique that doesn't rely on a gram scale for effectiveness. Simply use a measuring spoon or cup and portion equal parts butter and sweet rice flour by volume, instead of weight, if you don't have a gram scale.
  • Although roux traditionally uses whole, clarified butter, you can substitute any fat -- including oil, margarine or shortening -- if you're in a pinch.
  • Use sweet rice flour as the thickening agent in any sauce you want to freeze. Sauces thickened with sweet rice flour don't separate like those thickened with wheat flour.

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in "Food and Wine," "Fricote" and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images