You’ll find that the rice flours are as common to gluten-free baking as wheat flour is to traditional baking. There are subtle differences between these three flours, primarily with respect to baking performance. From a dietary fiber and protein perspective they are similar to each other, except that brown rice flour has approximately forty fewer calories per serving than sweet white rice flour. All three rice flours are lower in protein than whole wheat flour and each have approximately three fewer grams of dietary fiber per serving.
After the hulls of rice kernels are removed through the milling process, you are left with the starchy content of the rice grain and much of the nutritional content of the hull is no longer there. Rice flour can have a faintly sandy feel, and less finely ground brown and white rice flours can be a tad gritty to the touch as well as the palate.
Brown Rice Flour versus White Rice Flour
Whereas white rice flour is stripped of nearly all its nutrients after milling, brown rice flour maintains a few more and is slightly more nutritious than white rice flour. Brown rice flour naturally has a light brownish hue, while white rice flour is just that: white. While both flours are often selected as the main flour in a flour blend, in terms of baking performance, brown rice flour is a tad higher in protein, which can subtly enhance the extendibility of gluten-free dough.
Sweet White Rice Flour
This flour is made from glutinous (gluten-free!), short grain white rice commonly referred to as “sticky rice” in Asian cuisine. Due to its stickiness, sweet white rice flour helps bind the other flours in a recipe together and brings extension and pliability to gluten-free batters. It’s often used as a portion of a flour blend in baked goods that require structure, like breads, muffins, and pie crusts. Sweet white rice flour shares a similar protein content to brown rice flour.