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Gluten Free Gougères (French Cheese Puffs)

You’ll LOVE these gluten free gougères, also known as French cheese puffs. They’re perfectly crisp, light and airy, and puff up beautifully in the oven. Their flavour is simply incredible, thanks to an abundance of grated cheese that you both fold into the choux pastry and also sprinkle on top of the gougères before baking. They’re the perfect canapé or appetiser, and guaranteed to impress – while also being super easy to make.

Baked, golden brown gougères on a lined baking sheet.

I’m so ridiculously excited about today’s recipe – these gluten free gougères (also known as French cheese puffs) are seriously one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

They’re light and airy, with a crisp crust and a soft, eggy, cheesy interior. In fact, they’re overloaded with cheese. There’s cheese both folded into choux pastry batter AND also sprinkled on top of each gougère before baking. Basically: if you love cheese, you’ll adore these gougères.

And I am 100% speaking from personal experience here. I could easily eat a whole tray all by myself. So, if you plan on sharing… consider making a double batch.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s incredibly easy to make. Listen, I know that making choux pastry (let alone gluten free choux pastry) might sound scary but trust me when I say: it’s really not difficult at all.

There are a few handy tricks you need to know to get these just right, but I’m sharing them all with you in this blog post, so you don’t have to do all the experimenting yourself. And really, there’s just something so wonderful and magical about seeing your own, homemade, from-scratch, GLUTEN FREE gougères puff up in the oven and get all golden brown and gorgeous.

Of course, nothing beats biting into that first warm gougère and having all that cheesy goodness burst on your tongue and make your tastebuds so very happy.

Oh, and before you ask: no, you can’t possibly tell that these are gluten free.

A hand holding a gluten free gougère cut in half, showing its airy, hollow interior.

What are gougères?

Gougères, or French cheese puffs, are a savoury version of the French choux pastry (or pâte à choux) that you might be more familiar with from cream puffs (profiteroles) and éclairs. A very generous amount of grated cheese is folded into the choux batter, and they’re often finished with an extra sprinkling of grated cheese on top of each gougère before baking.

They’re often served as canapés or appetisers. They’re light, airy and crisp, and the cheese gives them a wonderful rich and slightly salty flavour. They’re usually served as they are, but you can also fill them with a variety of savoury fillings, either by piping them into the gougères (such as whipped goat cheese) or by cutting each gougère in half and filling them as you would a sandwich.

Baked, golden brown gougères on a white ceramic plate.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these amazing gougères – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

How to make the BEST gluten free gougères

Making these gluten free gougères is actually surprisingly easy. They might look incredibly impressive, but there’s honestly nothing difficult about preparing them at all. The only “special equipment” you’ll need is either a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer with the double beaters.

This recipe is actually based on my gluten free choux pastry recipe that you can find in my cookbook, Baked to Perfection, on page 336. In the book, you’ll also find recipes for Coffee Cream Puffs and Chocolate & Caramel Eclairs – both are simply divine.

Below, you’ll find all my top tips for making perfectly crisp and airy gluten free gougères. And while I usually include step-by-step photos in my blog posts, this time I’ve decided to put together a short video that shows you how these delicious cheesy, bite-sized treats are made. That should illustrate the texture of the choux pastry at each stage even better. Watch it below!

 

Ingredients for gluten free gougères

  • Eggs & egg white. The eggs provide lift to the gougères – they’re the reason why choux pastry inflates and puffs up in the oven. Specifically, it’s the water content of the eggs that transforms into steam as they enter the oven, which causes the choux pastry to puff up. At the same time, the protein in the eggs provides structure, which allows the choux pastry to keep its shape. Because gougères contain cheese, they’re more delicate and therefore more likely to deflate. The extra egg white prevents this, by giving the gougères a stronger structural framework. It also helps to give the gougères a more airy, open internal structure with larger holes.
  • Salt. In addition to enhancing the flavour, the salt also improves the structure, giving gougères that are airy and filled with large holes (as any proper choux pastry should be). I’ve adopted this trick from Cooks Illustrated – they state that “Mixing salt with the eggs changes the electrical charges on the egg proteins so they uncoil at a lower temperature, allowing them to set up into a strong network earlier in the baking time. This means they can buttress the dough as it inflates, ensuring that it doesn’t collapse under the added weight of the cheese.” You can read the full article on the topic here.
  • Whole milk.
  • Water.
  • Unsalted butter.
  • Plain gluten free flour blend. You can either use a shop-bought blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour) or you can mix your own – get the recipe for my go-to homemade gluten free flour blend here!
  • Xanthan gum. This acts as a binder (gluten replacement) and gives the choux pastry enough flexibility so that it can inflate and puff up in the oven without cracking. Compared to bakes like cake or cookies, you need slightly more xanthan gum to make gluten free choux pastry, as it requires a greater degree of elasticity and extensibility. Read more about the role of xanthan gum in gluten free baking here!
  • Coarsely grated cheese. I recommend using mature (aged) and fairly “dry” cheeses for this recipe – I used a mix of parmesan cheese and mature cheddar. Other options include Comté, Asiago or Manchego. I don’t recommend using “softer” cheeses, as they tend to weigh the gougères down, making it more likely that they will deflate during or after baking. For example, my gougères made with mild cheddar, that’s much softer, weren’t as successful; they deflated and had a denser internal structure.

Making the gluten free choux pastry

  1. Whisk the eggs, egg white and salt in a measuring jug or similar until fully combined. Set aside until needed. You’ll notice that due to the presence of salt, the egg mixture will become runnier and less viscous.
  2. Heat the milk, water and butter in a saucepan until the butter is fully melted and the mixture only just comes to a boil.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour blend and xanthan gum.
  4. Pour the hot milk mixture into the dry ingredients in 3-4 batches, mixing well after each addition (with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters). After each addition, you want to get the batter as smooth as possible, without too many clumps. The final batter should have the appearance of a smooth paste.
  5. Transfer the batter into the saucepan you used to heat the milk mixture (no need to clean it in between) and cook the batter over medium heat with constant stirring until it comes together in a ball, about 1-2 minutes. This is called a ‘panade’.
  6. For the following steps, I recommend using either a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters. You could do it by hand, but it will take longer and your choux pastry might not end up as smooth. Transfer the panade back into the bowl and mix for 30-60 seconds, allowing it to cool slightly (so it doesn’t cook the eggs).
  7. Add the whisked eggs to the panade in 4-5 batches, whisking well after each addition until the eggs have been fully incorporated.
  8. The final batter should be smooth and glossy, and of a thick but spoonable/pipeable consistency. In all of my tests, the amount of eggs listed in the recipe is sufficient to make the perfect gluten free choux pastry. If you’re using a gluten free flour blend with a higher water absorption capacity (that is, one that absorbs more liquid), you might need to add up to 1/2 egg extra. (Whisk it well before adding.)
  9. Add the grated cheese and mix well until combined.

Piping & assembling the gougères

Now that you have your cheesy choux pastry ready, it’s time to assemble the gougères. Use a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle (or just cut off the end of the piping bag and use it without a nozzle, that’s what I usually do as you’ll see in the video) and pipe dollops of the choux pastry onto a large lined baking sheet.

The dollops should be about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) wide and 1 1/2 inches (4cm) tall – about the size of a larger cherry tomato. Don’t worry if your dollops aren’t all exactly the same, so long as they’re roughly the same size, you’re good to go.

Then, dip your finger in a bit of water and use it to smooth down the tops of the piped gougères. You can also correct any super misshapen gougères at this point.

Finally, sprinkle each gougère with extra grated cheese. This actually serves two purposes:

  • Firstly, the obvious one: more cheese means more flavour. And, honestly, more cheese is ALWAYS an excellent idea.
  • Secondly, as the cheese melts in the oven, it will essentially form a “coating” on top of each gougère. That coating acts fairly similarly to a craquelin in choux pastry, in that it encourages the gougères to inflate and puff up into a roughly round shape, preventing any random cracking and expansion that would make the gougères weirdly misshaped. I’ve tested this recipe both with and without this extra sprinkling of cheese, and the gougères with the extra cheese always ended up more regular in size and shape.

Baking the gougères

I’ve tested several different ways of baking the gougères, and the one that gave best results (the most even browning, the greatest puff, the crispest texture and the most open, airy internal structure) is a slightly adapted version of the typical choux pastry baking procedure.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC) with the oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Place the gougères into the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 340ºF (170ºC).
  3. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until deep golden brown and crisp to the touch.
  4. When the gougères come out of the oven, use a toothpick or a thin, sharp knife to make a hole on the side of each gougère – this will allow any steam to escape from inside the gougères and prevent them from becoming soft and deflating.

Close up of baked, golden brown gougères on a lined baking sheet.

Top tips for perfectly crisp, beautifully puffed gluten free gougères

Some of the tips below come from my own experience with gluten free choux pastry (mainly what I’ve learned while developing recipes for my cookbook – check it out here!) and from my recent experiments with these gluten free gougères. I’ve tested a number of batches to really pin down the crucial factors that contribute to a perfectly crisp, airy structure.

And then, some tips also come from this brilliant article from Cooks Illustrated, where they thoroughly analysed how you can make gougères that are perfectly light and airy, with an open internal structure, and that inflate well in the oven. Whenever a tip is based on this article, I’ll make a note at that specific bullet point.

So, here’s what you need to keep in mind when making gluten free gougères:

  • The presence of cheese makes gougères more delicate and more prone to deflating than your standard choux pastry. Even with all the tweaking and optimisation that I’ve done, you might still find that the gougères don’t puff up (or stay puffed up) as well as your typical cheese-free choux buns. That’s perfectly okay: they will still be incredibly delicious. And, as with most bakes, practice makes perfect.
  • That said, the method outlined in the recipe below is the best way of ensuring golden brown, crisp gougères that are beautifully puffed up and have an open, airy internal structure. There are a few extra steps required – both because you’re adding cheese to choux pastry AND because these are gluten free (and gluten free flour absorbs more moisture, and does so quicker, than regular wheat flour).
  • Add an extra egg white. The extra egg white adds both more moisture (and therefore more steam that helps the gougères to really puff up in the oven) as well as more protein, that helps to maintain the crisp structure and prevents the gougères from deflating. (Based on Cooks Illustrated.)
  • Whisk eggs with salt. The salt, when mixed with the eggs, also improves the structure, giving gougères that are airy and filled with large holes, and less prone to collapsing and deflating. So, don’t add the salt to your water-milk mixture or to the dry ingredients: mix it in with the eggs. (Based on Cooks Illustrated.)
  • Add xanthan gum (and slightly more of it than usual). Xanthan gum is what gives the gluten free gougères enough flexibility and extensibility so that they can expand and puff up without cracking. Because choux pastry needs more elasticity than cakes or cookies, you need a larger amount of xanthan gum. Even if your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum, I still recommend adding 1 teaspoon – or, at most, you can reduce the amount to 3/4 teaspoon.
  • Don’t put the gluten free flour blend into the hot milk mixture – instead, slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Gluten free flour absorbs more moisture than wheat flour, and does so quicker. So, if you were to follow the standard choux making practice of putting all the gluten free flour blend into the hot milk mixture at once, you’d end up with an irregular batter with lots of clumps. This alternative method, where you pour the hot milk mixture into the dry ingredients with mixing, works far better.
  • Use a mix of DRY cheeses. Drier cheeses (such as parmesan, mature cheddar, Comté, Asiago or Manchego) give crisper gougères less likely to deflate. Softer, less mature cheeses (like mild cheddar) weigh down the gougères and can cause them to deflate.
  • Don’t stress when your choux pastry doesn’t pipe smoothly. Because there’s lots of coarsely grated cheese in the choux pastry, it definitely won’t pipe smoothly and regularly. Just use a finger dipped into water to smooth out any major imperfections.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC) and then reduce it to 340ºF (170ºC) as soon as you put in the gougères. This gives perfectly baked gougères that are beautifully puffed up, golden brown, crisp and have an open internal structure with large holes.

A gluten free gougère cut in half, showing its airy, hollow interior.

Baked, golden brown gougères on a white ceramic plate.

Okay, this blog post ended up much longer than anticipated… as per usual. But don’t let that scare you! I promise you that these gougères are really easy to make. It’s just that the science behind PERFECT gluten free gougères is so incredibly fascinating, I simply had to share it with you.

But honestly, the most important part is that they are just outrageously delicious. So much so that I recommend making a double batch if you intend to share them.

And with the holidays coming up, they will definitely make a great Christmas or New Year’s appetiser or canapé. Anyone you’ll serve them to is bound to be incredibly impressed… and guaranteed to come back for seconds.

And the secret of just how incredibly easy these are to make can stay between us. 😉

Happy baking!

Signature of the author, Kat.

Baked, golden brown gougères on a lined baking sheet.

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Gluten Free Gougères (French Cheese Puffs)

You’ll LOVE these gluten free gougères – they’re perfectly crisp, light and airy, and puff up beautifully in the oven. Their flavour is simply incredible, thanks to an abundance of grated cheese that you both fold into the choux pastry and also sprinkle on top of the gougères before baking. They’re the perfect canapé or appetiser, and guaranteed to impress – while also being super easy to make.
Print Rate
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook/Bake Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Servings 24 gougères

Ingredients

  • 2 US large/UK medium eggs, room temperature
  • 1 US large/UK medium egg white, room temperature
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 50 g (3 ½ tbsp) whole milk
  • 50 g (3 ½ tbsp) water
  • 45 g (⅓ stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 50 g (⅓ cup + 1 ½ tbsp) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour that doesn't have any xanthan gum added. You can also mix your own gluten free flour blend using this recipe. Note that for this homemade blend, 1 cup = 150g, so ideally use a digital food scale for best results.)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (If your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum, I still recommend adding 1 teaspoon – or, at most, you can reduce the amount to 3/4 teaspoon.)
  • 110 g (about 1 cup) grated cheese, divided (I used a mix of 40g parmesan cheese and 70g of mature cheddar. I recommend using a mix of drier cheeses, such as parmesan, mature cheddar, Comté, Asiago or Manchego.)

Instructions

  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC) and line two large baking sheets with parchment/baking paper.

Making the choux pastry:

  • In a measuring jug or similar, whisk the eggs, egg white and salt until fully combined. Set aside until needed.
    Tip 1: You’ll notice that due to the presence of salt, the egg mixture will become runnier and less viscous. That's perfectly okay and to be expected.
    Tip 2: Mixing the salt in with the eggs improves the structure of the gougères, ensuring that they bake up airy and filled with large holes. It also makes them less prone to collapsing and deflating. So, don’t add the salt to your water-milk mixture or to the dry ingredients: mix it in with the eggs.
  • In a saucepan, heat the milk, water and butter over medium heat until the butter is fully melted and the mixture only just comes to a boil.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour blend and xanthan gum until well combined.
  • Pour the hot milk mixture into the dry ingredients in 3-4 batches, mixing well after each addition (with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters).
    After each addition, you want to get the batter as smooth as possible, without too many clumps. The final batter should have the appearance of a smooth paste.
    Tip: Because gluten free flour absorbs more moisture than wheat flour, and does so quicker, the standard choux making method of putting all the flour into the hot milk mixture at once doesn't work very well here. It would result in an irregular batter with lots of clumps. This alternative method, where you slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the dry ingredients, works far better. It gives a smooth batter with few or no clumps at all.
  • Transfer the batter into the saucepan that you used to heat the milk mixture (no need to clean it in between) and cook the batter over medium heat with constant stirring until it comes together in a ball, about 1-2 minutes. This is called a ‘panade’.
  • For the following steps, I recommend using either a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters. You could do it by hand, but it will take longer and your choux pastry might not end up as smooth.
  • Transfer the panade back into the bowl and mix for 30-60 seconds, allowing it to cool slightly (so it doesn’t cook the eggs).
  • Add the whisked eggs to the panade in 4-5 batches, whisking well after each addition until the eggs have been fully incorporated. The final batter should be smooth and glossy, and of a thick but spoonable/pipeable consistency.
    Tip: If you want to have better, more precise control over the choux pastry consistency, you can finish the batter by hand after the final addition of the eggs (use a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon).
    Tip: In all of my tests, the amount of eggs listed in the recipe is sufficient to make the perfect gluten free choux pastry. If you’re using a gluten free flour blend with a higher water absorption capacity (that is, one that absorbs more liquid), you might need to add up to 1/2 egg extra. (Whisk it well before adding.)
  • Add 80g (about ¾ cup) of the grated cheese into the choux pastry and mix well until combined.

Assembling the gougères:

  • Transfer the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle.
    Tip: Alternatively, just cut off the end of the piping bag and use it without a nozzle.
  • Pipe dollops of the choux pastry onto one of the lined baking sheets. The dollops should be roughly 1 ½ inches (4cm) wide and 1 ½ inches (4cm) tall – about the size of a larger cherry tomato. Make sure to space them out by about 1 inch (2.5 cm), as they will expand and inflate during baking.
  • Dip your finger in a bit of water and use it to smooth down the tops of the piped gougères. You can also correct any misshapen gougères at this point.
  • Sprinkle each gougère with some of the leftover grated cheese.
    Tip: In addition to adding more flavour, this extra sprinkling of cheese also helps the gougères maintain a round shape in the oven – it essentially acts in a similar manner to craquelin.

Baking the gougères:

  • Place the baking sheet with the gougères into the oven (that's been pre-heated to 450ºF/230ºC) and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 340ºF (170ºC).
  • Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until deep golden brown and crisp to the touch. Don't open the oven door while the gougères are baking.
  • Once the first baking sheet is done, heat the oven again to 450ºF (230ºC) and repeat the process (piping, sprinkling with cheese, baking) with the second baking sheet of gougères.
  • When the gougères come out of the oven, use a toothpick or a thin, sharp knife to make a hole on the side of each gougère – this will allow any steam to escape from inside the gougères and prevent them from becoming soft and deflating.
  • Serve the gougères either warm or at room temperature. You can serve them as is, or filled with a filling of your choice.

Storage:

  • The gougères are best on the day of baking, preferably eaten within a few hours of being baked.
  • You can store the gougères in an airtight container. They will soften, but you can re-crisp them by placing them into a 350ºF (180ºC) oven for 6-8 minutes.
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