A Gluten Free Pantry – From the Beginning

by Jenn on February 10, 2010

in Gluten Free

Starting over.

In effect, because of our move across an ocean, that is exactly what we are doing.  We are starting over, and it’s an incredibly intimidating concept.  It’s amazing how used to routine one can get with life.  Now we have literally no expectations, and must build a home for ourselves from the beginning again.  All over again.  It seems like every day we are figuring out something that we are missing or need, and the kitchen is no exception.  I had totally forgotten how much work goes into building a pantry of staples, and while I knew all along that we would have to do this, it never really sunk in until we found a place of our own, finally unpacked our bags for good, and I opened up our fresh bright white cupboards to find them completely empty and clean, as if brand new.  And then it hit me – hmm, they are empty.  Like not just “I don’t feel like making anything that we have so I’m going to complain about how there is no food in the house” empty, I mean really empty.  We actually have to make it a point to go out and buy all of those things that I am used to seeing in there in our old home.  Rice, quinoa, nuts, beans, pasta, all of it!

So, like all neurotically methodical scientists such as myself, I made a list, planning and thinking about everything that I would need.  I love lists.  I drive my husband crazy with them.  Whenever he forgets something, I invariably ask him (sometimes much to his irritation), “Well, did you make a list first?”  This often elicits an eye-roll response haha.  But I stand by my lists.  It is the single easiest and quickest way to stay organized to let yourself feel like you have a handle on things.  Just a little bit of control when presented with a huge task such as seeking out, translating (mon français est très mauvais), and purchasing ALL of the ingredients for a proper gluten free pantry.

So exactly what does a gluten free pantry look like when you are starting from scratch?  Here is our pantry after our first go at navigating the ins and outs of a few stores –


And yes, that is a pile of SIX bars of chocolate at the top left.  We are in Switzerland after all :)

So other than the fact that it’s painfully obvious that I need to purchase some more containers to hold everything, I think it’s really a pretty good start.  The complete description, going left to right –

Top Shelf – Chocolate.  This is a daily necessity to life.  Must have chocolate. Then – quinoa, rice, gluten free corn pasta, thai rice noodles, polenta in front, tapioca pearls and whole millet on the right.

Bottom Shelf – These are the baking ingredients, which were surprisingly lower in price than their equivalents in the States – I took the sucre (sugar) and sucre glace (powdered sugar) and gelatin out of the picture because they aren’t really specific to being gluten free.  In case you can’t see so clearly, here’s a closer view –


So we have:

  • Amidon de maïs – cornstarch
  • Maiz blanc – white corn flour
  • Farine de chuño – potato starch
  • Sarrasin – buckwheat flour
  • Gram flour in the back – chickpea flour
  • Farine d’amaranth – amaranth flour
  • Levadura sans gluten – this is a packet of yeast
  • Thai rice flour – white rice flour
  • Noix de coco – coconut meal
  • Pois de chiche – this is also chickpea flour
  • Noixettes – hazelnut meal
  • Amandes – almond meal

So this was fun – 4 different stores were used to purchase all of these ingredients, but our best find was this little specialty shop downtown that has a lot of Latin American ingredients – hence why potato starch is not called “pomme de terre” here, but chuño.  When asking about it (because I asked about every ingredient I did not recognize), the store clerk specifically mentioned it being potato and a starch product.  The amaranth flour is a new one to me.  I have used amaranth powder before and love to use it in the starch portion of my gluten free baking recipes.  But this is flour, not starch –  I was told has properties very much like quinoa flour.  So that should be interesting to try out.

So what’s missing?  I can’t find millet, tapioca, or sorghum flour, I forgot to pick up the brown rice flour or any beans, I purposely did not get soy flour (I hate the taste), and I could not find baking soda, baking powder, nor the most universally used ingredient by nearly every gluten free cook I know, xanthan gum.  When I have asked people about it I just get blank stares, as if people haven’t heard of it.  Nor guar gum.  Maybe I am just not translating correctly (gomme de xanthane, gomme de guar?).  But maybe I can live without them and find other gluten substitutes instead.  Maybe I will try using more eggs or play with adding gelatin or agar agar.  It will be interesting re-adapting some recipes and trying new ones for sure.  I can’t wait to see how these ingredients work together, and wondering if I can get away with not having some of the other ingredients, though I do love millet flour so much.  If I can’t find any, I am seriously thinking about purchasing a grain mill and making my own from the whole millet.  And I bet if I find an Asian food store (which I am sure there are a few around here) I can easily get tapioca starch.  So I will keep looking for things, keep exploring, and seeing what I can find.

But, for now, this is a start.  And having a somewhat full pantry makes my kitchen feel more complete.  I am more relaxed now since I have a pantry with staples that I can turn to for inspiration or science…er cooking experiments – it just makes everything seem a bit more settled.  For pretty much picking up all of our stuff and just hopping across the ocean, we are still very much homebodies at heart – and we still have a bit of “nesting” to do :)


lo February 10, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Great list here — even if you’re not gluten free, so many of these are handy items to keep around (and to diversify your baking!). I agree, having a good basic pantry is one of the keys to contentment in the kitchen. And comfort in a new place!

Happy Nesting!!

gillian February 11, 2010 at 8:50 am

I’ll be following your baking trials a little more closely now – we can’t get many GF items that are common in N. America. Sorghum flour and xanthan gum being two of the main ones. Have you checked Coop supermarket for the specialty flours?

Jenn February 11, 2010 at 8:57 am

I have checked out Coop, but the one by us is very small – so besides the little specialty shop I mentioned above, I have been to Coop, Migros, Manor, and Globus – I think we just found an Asian foods market that we can go to for tapioca starch now too. Oh I should mention that we also found gluten free tamari to substitute for soy sauce, but I forget from which store haha. Some things are in some places and not others, so we need to start keeping track of which ingredients are where – I should make a list :) I may check out one of the Coops more towards the city center this weekend though, they will probably have a bigger selection than the one by me.

Barbara February 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Hi Jenn
you can order xanthan gum here:
I hope you get settled soon in Switzerland

Jenn February 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Oh awesome! Thanks so much!!

verO February 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Hi Jenn
Visit this link, please. I sure it could interest you a lot.


and here is the link of the main page of this site.


and also in english, please … 😉

You can find baking soda at Migros, Coop, Manor. In french we call it “bicarbonate de soude”.

Baking powder is also available in those stores, in french = poudre à lever.

Don’t mix up baking powder and dry yeast.Because in french, the name sound the same.

Baking powder = poudre à lever

Yeast dry or fresh = levure sèche ou fraiche

Oulalala, I hope you understand my english !!! 😉


Jenn February 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm

@ verO Great link! And thanks for the tips – I knew they had to be somewhere easily accessible, I just couldn’t find them!

Kyle February 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Love your work! I’ve never had any guar in my pantry, but have been using a 1/3 to 2/3 combo of sticky rice flour to ordinary rice flour (brown or white) and it makes perfect cakes and dumplings every time…Check out the recipe for zuccuni muffins for the proportions of ingredients I generally use – everything on my blog is gluten free:

Lauren February 13, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Well, you do have lots of flours even if they aren’t what you’re used to ;D. You are going to do (and have already been doing) absolutely fantastically.

(I’ll send xanthan, if you send chocolate!)

Neeta February 13, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Hi Jenn,
I’ve never commented before, but I’ve been following your blog for a while….
Love your photos, recipes, writing….you’ve been a huge help and inspiration.
Leaving you a dual award Happy & Sunshine on my blog, would love to see you there….
Happy Valentines,

Jenn February 13, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Oh wow thank you! I’m so glad that my blog has helped and so touched that you find me inspiring! I feel blogging is all about connecting and helping each other, so thank you!

Cindy Sguazzin April 19, 2010 at 4:10 am

Jenn, you’re an amazing cook and your recipes boggle my mind with their complexity! Finding the ingredients you need can’t be easy. I know, I’ve lived in Italy. But the photo of your pantry surprised me a bit when I saw the roll of ready-made Polenta. Cornmeal must be easy to find, and nothing beats a serving of hot, just-made polenta (ie with your osso bucco stew!). The recipe is simple, and if you like you can read about polenta on my blog. Ciao, Cindy

Jenn April 19, 2010 at 7:34 am

Hi Cindy! I admit I need to learn more about making proper polenta. When cooking this I broke it all up in the pot, added about 3 times volume of stock to it, some sundried tomatoes and herbs, and simmered it for about 40-45 minutes until all the water was absorbed and the polenta was no longer gritty, but melt in the mouth soft. Then I stirred in some grated cheese just before serving. I admit I don’t recall seeing cornmeal in the grocery store, though I def. am not opposed to making it from scratch. All you need to do differently is just need to add a lot more stock and lengthen the cooking time, correct?

Mathias June 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

I never tried Buckweat flour.
Does it have a strong taste or does it go with every dish?
Thanks for your advice.

Best regards

Jenn June 14, 2010 at 10:05 am

Buckwheat has a distinctive flavor that is very easy to recognize – but it is not as strong as the flavor of bean flours. I really like the taste of buckwheat so tend to include it in some form in many of my gluten free flour mixes (especially for breads, pizza dough, and pancakes), usually about 25% of my total “flour” content.

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats July 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm

HI there – somehow I missed this post back in Feb. I actually live in the U.S., but am from Switzerland, and eat gluten-free, so when I visit my parents, I have some experience getting specialty ingredients. I *think* you live in the French part of Switzerland so if you can get to Morges, the Andre Dumas store has a lot of specialty gf items, including arrowroot starch, brown rice flour and quinoa flakes. I have found tapioca starch at Casino stores (both in the Asian aisle and the baking aisle). And while I cannot confirm that myself, I understand that guar gum is easier to find than xantham gum. For the later, I recommend iherb – they deliver to Switzerland for a mere $4 or $5 in shipping, as long as you don’t have more than 3lbs of products.

Jenn July 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Thanks Valerie! Actually yes since this post was put up I have found that store in Morges, it’s currently my favorite to go to and they do have guar gum! And I have found a great Asian market nearby that sells things like tapioca. I will check out iherb though, that sounds like a useful site!

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats July 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Andre Dumas is pretty awesome! I always go when I am in Switzerland :) I was 99% sure they had guar, but since I had not bought it there myself, I was not 100% sure. Iherb has many GF items and such reasonable intl. shipping.

Sheila June 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

Thanks for this blog! I am newly diagnosed at 60 and spending some weeks in Geneva soon, I have spent lots of time there before, but was daunted at the prospect of finding gluten free food. Your site has encouraged me. I love being there and I’m going to love being there gluten free!

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