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I would like to make a gluten-free eggplant parmigiana, and there are a couple of ingredients that I realize I will need to substitute.

The basic idea is eggplant sliced, dredged in flour, dipped in egg, coated with breadcrumbs, and fried, then layered with sauce and cheese and baked. It's the flour and breadcrumbs that I'm going to need to cope with here. I recognize that there's not necessarily one universal GF substitute for flour, but it doesn't strike me that this is so highly featured in this case that it will make a huge difference. I could probably omit it altogether, or use an on-hand substitute, like cornstarch.

The breadcrumbs, on the other hand, are quite a vital part of this dish. I use panko breadcrumbs to give my eggplant an extra-crispy crunch. I've seen "breadcrumbs" make from corn tortillas used as a GF substitute, but the corn strikes me as stylistically opposed to my intent here. I've also heard of "thinner" coatings, like cornstarch or rice flour, but this again fails to capture the nature of a breadcrumb.

Gluten does not strike me as a particularly vital element of a breadcrumb. It is quite unlike, say, a bagel, which is founded on the properties of gluten. But theoretically, I suppose you could make a breadcrumb out of gluten-free ingredients. So what are my options?

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If you just want crunchy, have you considered nut flours? Maybe mixed with cornstarch, to soak up some of the egg. Oh, and you can't omit the first layer, else the moisture of the egg plant will prevent the egg from sticking. Cornstarch should be good enough there. Also, why would tortilla crumbs be "stylistically opposed"? –  rumtscho Aug 9 '12 at 14:55
    
Regarding tortilla crumbs, I find the corny taste to be very out of place in an eggplant parm, as with most of Italian cuisine. I could conceive of a nut flour working. –  Ray Aug 9 '12 at 15:15
    
Corn taste is used in Italian cuisine. It is usually present as polenta, but this wouldn't stop me from experimenting. –  rumtscho Aug 9 '12 at 15:35
    
Ah, but polenta is not nixtamalized –  Ray Aug 9 '12 at 15:40
    
Related: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/17074/… (you could perhaps make your own quick bread with a different flour?) –  Jefromi Aug 10 '12 at 0:33

11 Answers 11

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are a number of rice-based bread crumb replacements, but my experience with them is that they are more like rice sand than bread crumbs. You can try making you own from other gluten free products like waffles or maybe puffed rice cereal.

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I like that the "making your own" idea is in the spirit of a bread crumb. At its heart, a breadcrumb is just pulverized and toasted bread –  Ray Aug 9 '12 at 17:07
    
I've used other crushed up puffed cereals before, either rice or corn. (and crushed up corn flakes or corn chex isn't going to be as heavy as crushed up tortillas) –  Joe Aug 10 '12 at 3:30

You can use polenta, but there is a lot of confusion over what polenta actually is, or means in a given context. In this case I am not referring to the solid block of ready cooked stuff that you slice up and fry, but loose grains that you would use to make a thick porridge to cool into a solid block. Sometimes it is sold as cornmeal, I think polenta is the Italian name more commonly used in Europe. You will need more seasoning than breadcrumbs as polenta does not have any added salt.

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It is simple to use polenta as a substitute for breadcrumbs, it makes a lovely parmigiana or schnitzel.

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Can you explain how to get polenta into a nice light, crumbly form like breadcrumbs? –  Jefromi Jun 19 '13 at 2:07

I use a pre-cooked white corn meal product by PAN but other brands will work too. This must be pre-cooked cornmeal which comes in yellow or while and has a fine texture unlike regular cornmeal. Being pre-cooked is has almost no corn taste unlike regular corn meal and is more tender when cooked with as well. This product is also know as "Harina De Maiz Blanco Precocida" in mexican stores and is commonly used to make Arepas that are a light, moist biscuit type of mexican bread when mixed with water and cooked. The P.A.N. product does give a statement that there may be "traces" of wheat and/or oat in their product most likely from processing wheat before switching to corn but a trace should not hurt anyone that is gluten intolerant. So far I have had no complaints from anyone that I have used this for as a flour replacement. The quantity as a replacement for a coating would be the same as a flour getting as much to stick as possible. I use a 2nd coat in place of bread crumbs before frying and it is crispy and golden.

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In the future try crushing cornflakes; they make a fab substitute, even better if mixed with Parmesan.

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Be careful here--most brands of corn flakes are not gluten-free unless they specifically say so. This includes Kellog's –  JoeFish Dec 18 '12 at 18:29

Gram flour (Chickpea/Garbanzo/Besan) contains no gluten, and can easily be cooked into light, fluffy pancakes/tortillas.

Let the cakes dry, crumble them, and you have perfectly serviceable, gluten free, crumbs.

Indian markets usually carry bags of besan for a reasonable price.

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I'm not the best cook to be answering these type of questions, but I have come up with a "breadcrumb" substitute that my family is quite happy with. I take the frozen udi"s sandwich bread and toast it, then crumble. I guess any prepared bread with brown rice flour would give the same result!

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Finely crushed pork rinds (yes, the bag from the snack aisle) make an excellent coating for pan-fried fish and chicken, and a decent substitute for bread crumbs in meatloaf. I haven't specifically tried them on eggplant, though.

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I don't actually know, but my gluten sensitive relatives baked cookies made from white beans. They really tasted like "real" cookies.

I guess you could use those cookie crumbs.

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It is not easy to find, but chestnut flour can be used for most gluten free purposes without messing around with mixtures of several flours.

Chestnuts are a very traditional crop in Sardinia, and they are used to make bread there, so using chestnut flour is in keeping with the Italian spirit of the dish.

Sorry, another answer where you have to start from scratch to make everything.

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Is the idea that you would coat the eggplant with chestnut flour, or make breadcrumbs from a bread made from chestnut flour? Your last sentence makes me suspect the latter... –  Ray Aug 11 '12 at 1:59
    
You could do either or both - it is a truly versatile substitute, but you need care with bread recipes or the bread comes out dense. –  klypos Aug 12 '12 at 7:05

This perhaps depends on where you live, but normally, you can buy gluten-free breadcrumbs in some stores.

You can also bake or buy gluten-free bread and make real bread crumbs from that.

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