Gluten Free Funnel Cake

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Community festivals are BIG in Appalachia. In eastern Kentucky, we enjoy festivals honoring the arrival of poke sallet, woolly worms, and wild mushrooms. My hometown celebrates the lovable Hillbilly, attracting over 100,000 people to our small city in the mountains. Folks come in droves to listen to live bluegrass and country music, view old junk cars, and socialize.

Jed Clampett would be green with envy.

Jed Clampett would be green with envy.

The first ethanol-powered engine prototype.

Hillbilly ingenuity. a biofuel prototype.


Of course, many people show up just to EAT! Food vendors line the streets, offering gyros, kettle popcorn, strawberry shortcakes, flavored rootbeers, and barbecue.

It's shoulder-to-shoulder on every street.

It’s shoulder-to-shoulder on every street.


Most numerous among the offerings is food deep-fried in oil, and I’m not just talking about potatoes and onions!

If you can dream it, you can fry it.

If you can dream it, you can fry it.


The fried delicacy most sought-after by fair participants, however, has to be funnel cake. In the midst of shoulder-to-shoulder country folk, you’ll find friends gathered round an oil-soaked paper plate, tearing off pieces of slender fried dough, dusted with powdered sugar, or topped with fresh strawberries. Our home sits on a small hill just above Main Street, where for three solid days in April we hear the sounds of the festival and smell (you guessed it) funnel cake.

Which wouldn’t be all that bad, really…

except that my family can’t eat any of it.


Perhaps no other event can isolate gluten-intolerant folks more than fair and festival season. You can plan for safe holiday gatherings, you can bring your own gluten free buns to a summer cookout with friends, but I’ve yet to find a fair vendor that has a gluten free menu (not that I would trust it, anyway).

Fair food is social food, after all. Those large portions are meant to be shared. And really, what brings friends closer than a dinner-plate of fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar?

Which is why I really wanted to get this recipe right. There is so much nostalgia tied up with the smell, taste, and texture of funnel cakes. I don’t want to eat something that is “kind-of” like funnel cake; it has to be something that transports me back to the fair and fun times. My daydreams can’t be interrupted by a gritty texture, or off-flavors from gluten free flour substitutes.

And here it is… my gluten free funnel cake dream come true!


This gluten free funnel cake deserves fine china (not that I own any).

This gluten free funnel cake deserves fine china (not that I own any).


Gluten free funnel cake drizzled with mulberry preserves.

Gluten free funnel cake drizzled with mulberry preserves.

Before you run off to make this funnel cake on your own, I want to strongly encourage you to not substitute the gluten free flour blend called for in this recipe. Every gluten free flour contains differing ratios of flour and starch, which can influence how fluffy or tender a bread becomes. King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour gets it just right (attempts with other flours were subpar to this version, though the taste-testing was still fun). And no, KAF doesn’t sponsor me in any way to promote their flour (though I wish they would, darn it, because like all GF flours, it’s pricey). If you wish to use your own flour blend, you may have to play with substituting corn or potato starch for some of the flour called for in the recipe (start with about ¼ cup).

Now put on some carnival music and get frying!

Gluten Free Funnel Cake
Get back into festival-mode with this light and fluffy gluten free funnel cake.

  • 1 and ¼ cup King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-purpose Flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp almond milk, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract (not imitation, which can contain gluten)
  • Any vegetable-based oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
  • Fresh berries or preserves, and/or honey, for topping (optional)

  1. Begin preheating oil for frying in a heavy-bottomed and deep skillet (to prevent oil from boiling over when batter is added). Heat over medium-high heat, or set deep fryer to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil should be to a depth between 1-2 inches.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  3. Whisk together the egg, almond milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the dry ingredient mixture and whisk until smooth. (see note)
  4. Test oil for proper cooking temperature by dropping in a small spoonful of batter; the batter should begin to cook immediately, floating to the surface of the oil and browning (you’ll get oily funnel cakes if your cooking temperature is too low).
  5. Transfer ~1/3 cup of batter to a spouted measuring cup and slowly pour the batter into the hot oil, casting a series of overlapping circles and squiggles. Fry until golden brown, turning once with tongs (they fry very quickly, so be prepared). Remove funnel cake to a paper plate, or a dinner plate lined with paper towels.
  6. Dust funnel cakes with powdered sugar, and serve topped with your favorite berries, fruit preserves, or honey.

Funnel cake batter should pour easily, but not be runny. If you find that your funnel cake batter is too dense (which could happen if you scoop flour with a measuring cup, rather than using a spoon to add flour to the cup for measuring), simply add a little more milk.



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