Secrets of making wheat-free bread rise

When we divorce ourselves from wheat, we lose the gluten that, when combined with yeast, generate the “rise” that gives wheat bread that light and airy texture. It means that we often struggle to create non-wheat breads that are big enough to make sandwich breads.

The rise generated by yeast just means that carbon dioxide (CO2) was generated by the metabolism of carbohydrates (amylopectin and amylose) by yeast. We can also generate CO2 by other means, called “chemical leavening.” (Frankly, I don’t like that term because it sounds like we are doing nasty, chemical things but, as you will see, the reactions to generate CO2 are quite natural and safe.) Most forms of chemical leavening involve the generation of CO2 by reacting an acid with a base. There’s also the process of “mechanical leavening,” using some physical or mechanical means of incorporating air into the mix; whipping with a power or hand mixer is one example.

Here are the methods that I have found helpful in helping to generate rise in wheat-free baking:

Use acid-base reactions–An easy way to remember this if, for instance, you are experimenting with a new recipe, is to mix your base–baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate–into your dry mix (e.g., almond meal/flour, coconut flour, ground golden flaxseed); mix your acid–citric acid, lemon or lime juice, or vinegar–into your liquid mix (e.g., egg yolks, coconut milk, water). When you combine dry and liquid mixes, you will see a foaming reaction, representing the reaction of acid with base that generates CO2. Typical proportions to use are:

1 teaspoon baking soda: 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon baking soda: juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon baking soda: 2 teaspoons vinegar

You can even do this more than once. For instance, let’s say you are using lemon juice. Start with a little extra (e.g., 1/2 more teaspoon) baking soda in your dry mix. Proceed with making your wet mix using lemon juice, reserving a bit. Mix wet into dry, then proceed with adding your egg whites (see below). Then add the remaining lemon juice, again causing the foaming CO2-generating reaction to occur.

Whip egg whites–Whipping egg whites with cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate, used in winemaking) helps stabilize the whipped whites. Use 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar per 2 egg whites; whip at high-speed until peaks form. This represents a modification of mechanical leavening. It is usually best to add the egg whites after the acid-base step (above) is completed over 1-2 minutes; this avoids the peculiar ammonia-like smell of “Baker’s ammonia,” the product of a reaction between baking soda and the proteins in egg whites.

Microwaving–If you are using a microwave-safe baking dish, you can increase risk considerably (typically 30% increased volume) by microwaving for 1-2 minutes. The amount of time will vary, depending on the size of dish, the depth of the dough, and the ingredients, so a bit of experimentation may be necessary to generate maximum rise. I usually microwave in 30-second increments. (Yeah, yeah, yeah: I know all about the objections some people raise to the use of a microwave!)

I will often use all three methods, including the two-stage acid-base step, to generate plenty of rise when I want it, e.g., for greater rise for a sandwich bread or a fluffier cake. It’s not perfect, but you still can obtain some very nice results using these techniques.

And I’d love to hear whether any of you clever wheat-free bakers have come up with any of your own methods!

Like This Post? Sign Up For Updates — It’s FREE!

Plus receive my latest collection of recipes, Wheatbelly Hearty Entrees!

Comments & Feedback...

  1. Toni

    I have the Wheat Belly Cookbook, and I love it. I’ve made the “Basic Bread” twice now … with an odd result. Both times the bottom edges of the loaf turned a subtle shade of green – the rest of the bread is tasty, but the green part has a distinct metallic taste. I know it sounds like aluminum leaching from the loaf pan, but it can’t be. This a professional-grade anodized aluminum pan that I have used many other times to bake other quick breads that have a soda/acid leavener, and some of those have other acidic ingredients.

    I’m curious to know if others have experienced this, and would welcome suggestions to solve the problem.

      • Toni

        Tried the glass loaf pan – doesn’t work – still get green funky-tasting bread. Personally, I think there’s too much baking soda in the recipe, so cutting back will be my next attempt.

        • Agnes

          I use silicone bakeware on top of baking sheets (for stability) to bake loaves of bread. I grease them with coconut oil so they will just ‘pop’ out to cool but I’m sure it’s not necessary. Try those if you’re still having problems; I have baked many, many loaves with a variety of recipes and have been problem-free to date. I hope this works for you.

  2. Ann Wiese

    I made the basic bread last night. I used powdered egg whites for baking. I did not get the ammonia smell. I do agree that the bread needs a little sweetener, it was bitter as it got cooler. Does anyone think Stevia would work? I have it in powdered and liquid form. I was also thinking carrots or applesauce to add some moisture and take away the bitterness.

  3. Roland Couture

    Hello Dr. Davis

    I have a question about barley yeast extract. In an attempt to reduce our salt consumption, about 2 years ago we started to purchase products that were low or no salt added. One product in particular, Chicken Broth contains barley yeast extract. Should we be avoiding this product?

    Thank you
    Roland Couture

  4. Marina

    I have the Wheat Belly cookbook and made the basic bread recipe yesterday. The rise and texture are nothing like fluffy wheat bread but acceptable. However, I do not like the taste much and would tend to blame the chickpea flour (since I know I like flaxseed and almonds) — can you suggest a different flour to substitute?

  5. We tried making the Cheddar biscuits and they came out gray. They were also flat , they did not rise at all.
    The taste was very earthy. Any suggestions on our next attempt?

  6. Marilyn D'Alessio

    I agree with you Jason. It was the worse tasting bread I have ever made. The smell was obnoxious and I have tried to notify Dr. Davis that there was something wrong with it, but I cannot find a website in the cookbook to do this. The flapjack recipe is another one I had to throw out (and yes I followed it precisely) and had a very strong taste of baking soda. It looks like these recipes have too much baking soda in them and should be half salt and half baking soda. Whatever the problem, it is most discouraging to spend the money on these ingredients when these recipes should have been tested prior to printing. I liked your humor Jason because when I served it to my husband, he spit it out and he can eat many things, but not that bread. I too am now looking to other recipes because I am discouraged after making 2 of them.

  7. Evan

    wheat breads raise our insulin yes, will gluten free bread raise insulin?

    it seems contradictory to the purpose of the wheat free diet, if it does raise insulin. I am new to wheat free so bear with me…

    thank you

    • Boundless

      > wheat breads raise our insulin yes, will gluten free bread raise insulin?

      Commercial GF breads are high glycemic junk, and will spike blood sugar. Breads made from WB recipes will not.

      > it seems contradictory to the purpose of the wheat free diet, …

      It’s not just wheat-free. The message includes: don’t replace grains with other junk. WB recommends a low net carb diet. Most products on the GF aisle are incompatible with that.

  8. Nancy

    I know this is off subject, but I don’t know where to put it. I have been planning to order some cake mixes, and possibly cook books from Their products have no grains and no sugars. Use coconut flour (in the mixes) and you add the coconut oil, etc. They have mixes for both chocolate and carrot cakes, and, I think maybe some others, as well as books. They are not cheap, but then, neither is making from scratch with “good for you” ingredients!!!!! I wonder if maybe Dr Davis could look into them and see if they meet his standards (I think they will–they are very careful what they use).
    I’m excited about what I see in your blog and plan to get the book this week. Am already recommending it to others–especially a friend who has very swollen lower legs that the doctors don’t know how to treat….

  9. Jeri-Jo

    ok, so I messed a bit with the basic bread recipe and this is what works best for me to get the bread consistancy and taste.
    First: seperate your 5 egg whites into a large bowl, put yolks in a small bowl
    to the egg whites add 1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar. With electric mixer on high speed bead the whites till hard peaks form. (You have “hard” peaks when the mixer is off and you lift the blades out, turn the mixer upside down and the whites don’t fall) Set aside>
    Second: pulse your dry ingredients in your food procesor. 1 1/4 c almond flour, 1/4 c + 2 Tbs. garbanzo flour,
    1/4 c flaxseed meal, 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda…..AND I added 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp sea salt.
    Third: add to the egg yolks…1/4 c olive oil (instead of butter), 1 Tbs canned coconut milk, 4 drops liquid stevia, wip up with a fork…then add 2 tsp. white vinegar. Wip again with a fork.
    Fourth: slowly add the yolk mix into the dry mix while pulsing. once that is incorperated, add in the egg whites. Pulse till together. Pour into greased loaf pan…you may need to break up some of the batter chunks, but DO NOT STIR!! Fold them in gently. Bake for the 40 mins. cool on wire rack.
    Let me know how yours comes out!

    • linda

      Thank you the revision to the Wheat Belly Bread recipe. I had used the recipe in the book – and it was decent – but your version is GREAT!!!!! Truly a decent bread that you can toast!

    • Sonya

      We made the basic Wheat Belly bread and found that the taste was unbearable. Too much baking soda! Also, there was no rise whatsoever. The bread went into the trash. Now, we’ll have to try your recipe!

      • unterderlaterne

        For Sonya, Please try the sunflower seed bread(New Zealand ) It is really really good especially with cream cheese and smoked salmon-to die for!
        Type in the search bar and you will find it.
        I add ground and whole caraway seeds . also Chia seeds for extra fiber. It is important to use buttermilk! I use the whey from yogurt making. The bread needs the tang!

        • Angela

          I’m looking for that sunflower seed recipe you mentioned. Can you copy and paste the ingredients on here. I googled sunflower seed bread recipes but the one I found contained all purpose flour and I am unable to eat that. Did the recipe you saw contain all purpose flour?

      • Karen Scribner

        Please don’t waste food. When it goes into the trash it goes to the dump and turns into methane. It is better to cut up starches and put them into your garden soil to feed the soil bacteria. When it is spread around it will not attract pests. Or give it to your dog. The bread you didn’t like is better for your pet than 90% of commercial dog food.

        • blueszz

          Carbs are not good for dogs, a species specific diet comes very close to a prey model raw diet. No carbs involved :-)
          Commercial dog food mostly contains mainly carbs…and then we wonder why we so manny chronicly ill dogs and dogs with cancer.
          Do pets a favor and give them food like nature intended, that is the same principle that is good for our own health ;-)

      • Pam

        I dont like the taste of the golden ground flaxseed . What can you use in the recipe to replace that. My bread I’d going in the trash also.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Check the Julian Bakery web site for retail outlets in your area, usually health food stores. This company had some labeling problems in the past, but seem to have corrected them. You can order from the web site too if I am remembering correctly. The bread is expensive and doesn’t taste nearly as good as Dr. D’s recipe. In my area, the coconut loaf sells for $10.

  10. Brenda Jackson

    Hi, Thank you for sharing this recipe revision on the Wheat Belly Basic Bread. I am looking forward to trying your suggestions. Could you remind me of the oven temperature for this recipe? Thank you!

    • Dr. Davis

      No, as no “rise” or kneading is required, so a bread machine is superfluous.

      I fear it is an unnecessary device. Have you considered Craig’s list to unload it?

      • Cindy

        Bread machines do have a no rise setting. Usually used for banana bread. Newer machines have a gluten free cycle.

  11. Emilie Kope

    My family and. I use the brand Udi’s Bread though the slices are small it is very good . Also it is dairy,soy,nut free…Thank You Dr.Davis for all your support.

    • Glen

      Udi’s products contain all the “never” ingredients. Tapioca Flour, Brown Rice Flour…etc. Their products are typical “Gluten Free” for people that can’t consume gluten… not for wheatbelly lifestyle at all. The carb counts are extremely high. Udi’s, in no way, is appropriate for Wheatbelly lifestyle…

        • Barbara in New Jersey

          The food item doesn’t change from being a starch even if it is ground up into a flour. Starches have high glycemic values whether they are baked, boiled, fried,dried or raw. If they are cut into pieces, dried or shredded, they still have the same high glycemic value.

  12. Kate

    I know this is a stupid question, but I’ve never baked bread before (I’m kind of a mess in the kitchen!). When it says in the recipe, “It freezes well and keeps for over a week in the fridge,” does that mean before or after baking? If before, do you need to thaw before baking or do you just bake longer?

    Sorry for the dumb question!

    • Brenda McNeil

      It means after baking. You can toast it frozen or let it thaw if using for sandwich w/o toasting.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      AFTER baking! Batter of any kind does not last very long in the fridge.
      If you slice the bread after it has baked, cooled and been removed from the pan, you can then wrap the bread for freezing. You can take out a slice or whatever you need and place the rest of the bread back in the freezer. Depending on the use, you may not have to let the bread slices defrost….. lets say for microwaved grilled cheese or an open face sandwich that will be placed under the broiler.

  13. Check the Julian Bakery web site for retail outlets in your area, usually health food stores. This company had some labeling problems in the past, but seem to have corrected them. You can order from the web site too if I am remembering correctly.
    I have been searching the internet for this, and I am glad I found it here! Thanks

  14. Eileen Piekarski

    Can you just add some yeast to make the bread rise or can you double the recipe. The bread was delicious, but is not large enough for a sandwich.


    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Use a smaller loaf pan.
      Make sure you separate the eggs and then whip the whites to form stiff peaks before you add them to the batter.

  15. Isabel

    I found this on Facebook.
    Oopsie (It’s“bread” without carbs and can be eaten in a variety of ways.)
    Makes 6–8 Oopsies.
    3 eggs
    (3.5 ounces) of cream cheese
    pinch of salt
    ½ teaspoon baking powder (can be excluded)

    Separate the eggs, with the egg whites in one bowl and the egg yolks in another.
    Whip the egg whites together with the salt until very stiff. You should be able to turn the bowl over without the egg whites moving.
    Mix the egg yolks and the cream cheese well. If you choose, add the baking powder (this makes the Oopsie more bread-like).
    Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mix – try to keep the air in the egg whites.
    Put 6 large or 8 smaller Oopsies on a baking tray.
    Bake in the middle of the oven at 150° C (300° F) for about 25 minutes – until they turn golden.
    You can eat Oopsies as bread or use them as a bun for a hotdog or hamburger. You can also put different kinds of seeds on them before baking them, for instance poppy, sesame or sunflower seeds.

  16. Margie

    HELP!!! I have made the Basic Bread a few times but just cannot get past some sort of bitter taste. Searched and searched this site hoping someone has found the secret, something to add to the bread for better flavor. Orange zest? Lemon zest? Anything?! I have diverticulitis so I cannot eat the rye bread ie cannot eat seeds of any kind. I do love the Pancakes, delicious! but so miss a little bread with breakfast or a toasted tuna sandwich for lunch, with diverticulitis my diet is so very limited, I’m starving for bread! Thank you!!!

      • Barbara in New Jersey


        Grind the caraway or other seeds in a coffee grinder until they are powdery. This adds to the flavor and should not bother your intestines. Add those
        other zests for more flavor.

        Add more salt.

        Increase the sweetener.

        Tastes change dramatically on WB. You may want to revisit these recipes in 6 months or so. Tweak them to fit your preferences. I really like the pumpernickel recipe. There are many bread recipes on paleo or primal web sites. Someone sent in a sunflower seed bread recipe on this blog that is very good too. Chia and flax seed recipes can be adapted for your condition by grinding the seeds.

  17. Monica

    I tried the Basic Bread in Wheat Belly twice. The baking soda taste was over powering the first time and the second time it smelled and tasted too much like eggs.

  18. Michelle

    My question is in regards to the pizza crust. I made it last night but I don’t think it turned out like it was supposed to. Once you’ve mixed it all it says to cover it with plastic and leave it for an hour. I’m assuming its supposed to either rise, or at least dry out more in that time but mine did neither. I could not roll it between two pieces of parchment paper because it just stuck to the paper. Has anyone made this crust with any success?

    • Stephanie

      Hi Michelle,

      I’ve made the Pizza Crust II a couple of times (is that the one you’re talking about?). I didn’t find it rose either in the bowl and I decided to make it Sicilian style so just used my fingers to flatten it into the baking dish (Dr. D. mentions this in the recipe as an option). Make sure you wet your fingers regularly or they’ll stick to the dough. I could tell by the stickiness of the dough that using the parchment paper option would probably be very messy so I didn’t do it. The crust didn’t rise when it baked either but it sure tasted delicious and was just about as thick as wheat crust pizza. I used a 9×12 baking dish. Hope this helps!

  19. Theresa

    I too have tried the basic bread and the pumpernickel recipes and can’t get past the baking soda taste, it even smells bad when cooking. I really do not miss bread at all except when having eggs. I really enjoy having toast with my eggs so that is the only time I want any sort of bread.
    I have been able to make due with the recipes is the book but would really value some better, more tasty recipes for those infrequent times that I want to enjoy with the eggs. Hope I find something better following the blogs.
    P.S. Been wheat free for about 10 weeks, lost 16 lbs, feel amazing and never, never crave anything made with wheat or sweets. Thank you Dr Davis for leading me to a sensible solution with no “pills” to pop to help control my appetite or to suffer the feelings of being deprived of all things sweet and “wheaty”. Finally feel free of my food addiction.

    • Dr. Davis

      Great on your experience, Theresa, but too bad on the recipes! Why not just reduce the baking soda?

  20. dawn hames

    I made a bread with almond flour, coconut flour, flax, eggs, sodium bicarbonate, apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar. It smelled like ammonia. What has caused this?

    • unterderlaterne

      Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar to the batter when adding the eggs(last item to add!
      Have you tried the sunflower seed bread recipe(new Zealand girl)? that is what I bake, adding crushed caraway seeds. Recipe is on this site! Good luck, Barbara S.

  21. Karen

    I finally have all the ingredients to try making the basic WB bread. However, I do not have a food processor. Has anyone made the bread without a food processor (just a hand mixer) and had good success? Thanks!

    • Brigid Skelton

      No food processor is necessary. Mine is too small to hold all the ingredients. Just use a hand mixer, electric mixer or stand mixer to beat the egg whites (until very stiff). Do the rest of the mixing and folding by hand.

  22. Val Safai

    Hi everyone,
    I was really excited to make the basic bread. So I went and bought all the very expensive ingredients (I live in Switzerland…so just the chickpea and flaxseed flours along cost me around 20 dollars!!)

    I’m very disappointed to say that BOTH batches have come out with a terrible ammonia like smell and no one in my family will touch it. My entire house even smells strongly of ammonia.

    I used all the exact quantities in the recipe. I even reseached baking soda activation online prior to making the second batch. And now have also read all the above posts. I thought these recipes were tried and tested when purchasing the cookbook…but others seem to be having this same exact issue, which should be addressed in the next version of the cookbook if very particular methods need to be followed. The recipe says it takes 15 mintues and so far I’ve spent countless hours trying to adjust and am about to give up!

    After reading all these posts, I really still am not sure what’s the issue. I waited a good 1-2 minutes before adding the egg whites in at the end (and also haven’t been able to find any reading online about this so-called bakers ammonia reaction between egg whites and baking soda…I’d appreciate a linke). So, could it be:

    1. the baking soda is not completely reacting (perhaps the 1tbs of buttermilk isn’t enough or acidic enough to activate it)

    I’d really hate to try this bread for a third time now…and have to throw away costly ingredients, without being convinced that whatever modification I need to do will actually work. That’s why I got the cookbook in the first place – to help me try out cooking without wheat without too much stress in the kitchen.

    Thanks in advnace for the tips!

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Add 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar to the batter and mix it. This is just before you add the eggs which should be your last ingredient.

      This is a common chemical reaction. Three posts up from your blog, unterderlaterne answers the same question. She also recommends the sunflower seed bread which is delicious too. Apple Cider Vinegar is also needed in that recipe to prevent the baker’s ammonia reaction.

  23. Valerie Safai

    Hi there Barbara,

    Thanks for the feedback. I tried this step and the bread still came out smelling of ammonia. Third batch in the rubbish. I give up on this bread. I so wish this recipe worked – it’s published in a cookbook I purchased and am quite sad it doesn’t work. How many thousands of loaves have been thrown out by people trying this out? I get sick thinking about it.

    Hope someone can steer me in the right direction – but no matter what I do the ammonia smell is there. The dry mix – even after you add the liquid seems too dry for the reaction to occur.

    All the best and back to find a good bread I can enjoy – the taste and smell.
    Thanks all

  24. Nancy

    I just made a loaf of the Basic Bread Recipe, and I, too, had to throw it out. The texture and moistness were good but the smell and taste had a very “off” flavor and we could not eat it. I was disappointed and it was a very expensive “mistake”. I’m going to try changing the buttermilk to almond milk and try adding Apple Cider Vinegar to the mix and try again. The Wheat Belly regimen is working well and I’m impressed by how much better I feel. I’ve been on it for about 10 days and have already lost weight, but the overall feeling of better health is the real pay-off!!

  25. Angela

    I’m sorry to hear that the recipe did not work out for some. This is my first time making the bread. I did not use a food processor – only a hand held mixer. I mixed the dry ingredients as instructed (I only used 1/4 cup of garbanzo flour I did not add the extra 2 tblspns, almond meal flour, ground flaxseeds, sea salt, cinnamon and b/c I have a keen taste buds and I can typically taste various ingredients in foods I only added slightly under a teaspoon of baking soda). I did not read the directions past that point. Maybe I’ll follow it to a T next time. So I added my wet ingredients one by one right into the dry mix bowl and mixed. – I used whole milk only b/c my buttermilk had expired, I did separate the eggs putting the whites on one side of the bowl in the dry ingredients and the yolk on the other side of the bowl, I added the melted butter, and I substituted agave nectar b/c I didn’t have stevia or xylitol on hand). It rose and came out fine. It wasn’t bitter at all but I did not use vinegar like some of the other posts I see. I know that mixing those kinds of ingredients incorrectly makes a VERY bad mixture and ammonia smell. ONE KEY thing I did was I used the smallest loaf pan I had. Like a personal size. The batch made 3 small personal loaves. The bread was not sweet at all, but neither is regular bread. For a sweeter taste next time maybe I will add more sweetener or dried fruit or something. The look and smell of the bread reminds me a lot of banana nut bread without the banana sweetness. The bread does have a very different smell but I simply figured it was the almond meal. I tasted the almond meal before putting it into the bowl and the smell of the bread reminds me of the almond flour I tasted. But I smeared some wine fruit spread by Toasted found at my local Reasor’s and peanut butter and it was pretty good. I can’t see using this bread for a sandwich or anything and I did not like it when I toasted it. Due to its lack of sweetness I find eating things like spreads or something to sweeten it up makes it taste much better. For those that had to throw their bread out, don’t give up just yet- maybe try it again down the road at a later point and time.

  26. Ed Bryan

    Dr. Davis, you use yeast in your pretzel recipe,,so why can’t it be used in your basic bread recipe?