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    Gluten Free/Casien Free Nourishing Meat Loaf

    February 1, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    One of the difficulties of maintaining a gluten free/casein free {GFCF} diet in the home is attempting to make it truly nourishing. Take a meat loaf, for example. Before we were GFCF, I used whole grain bread crumbs, not white bread. This alone lowered the sugar content while raising the nutrition content.

    However, I have yet to find a truly whole-grain, nourishing bread substitute for the GFCF diet. In fact, many of the substitutes out there utilize cornstarch, arrowroot powder, and tapioca in the recipes. These are as processed {and as nourishing} as white sugar. Now, let me assure you that it doesn’t bother me to bake cookies from these ingredients every now and then. After all, very few cookies are actually intended to nourish. They are a treat.

    But dinner? Dinner has always been nourishing at our house.

    One of the keys to GFCF cooking is to really know your substitutes. Does the recipe call for milk? Which is a better substitute? Goat’s milk {which contains casein, but a different type of casein than cow’s milk–our children can drink it, but many dairy-allergic kids cannot}? Soy milk? Rice milk? Almond milk? Dari-Free?

    Suddenly, cooking is full of decisions again!

    All of this is to say that last night I perfected a truly nourishing meat loaf recipe. It wasn’t that hard, really, but that is only because it actually turned out on my first attempt. Providence blessed my efforts, is all I can say about that.

    So, before I give the recipe, let me explain a couple ingredients that might be unfamiliar. And, by the way, we gluten-eaters thought this meat loaf was just yummy, in case you are simply looking to diversify your food.

    • Whole Teff Grain: Also known as maskal, this brown grain originates from Ethiopia. It is a tiny little grain that packs a big nutritional punch. Thiamine, iron, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin–a lot of our little friends are right there, waiting for us. Teff, like many grains, is best ground fresh. Once ground, the oils quickly go rancid, which not only lowers the nutrition content, but can also result in a bad aftertaste. Like all of my grains, I grind these babies in a coffee grinder.
    • Whole Buckwheat: Unlike teff, buckwheat isn’t actually a grain, even though it performs somewhat like one when cooking. It’s a seed. And, it’s shaped like a pyramid! Many websites will tell you that a fancy steel grinder is required if you’re going to utilize the whole seed, but I have found that my $5 coffee grinder works like magic, especially for small amounts. Buckwheat is a true health support, sporting maganese, tryptophan, magnesium, lots of fiber, plus they’re packed with flavonoids, which protect against disease.

    One final note, before I hand out this recipe: the best way to prepare grains is to soak them overnight. This is the way to maximize nutrition as well as digestion. Since my kids obviously have digestive issues {hence the food allergies}, I consider soaking an indispensible part of the food preparation process.

    This recipe, by the way, is modified from a recipe that appeared in my favorite cookbook of all time, Nourishing Traditions. This book is very thorough, and a great place to begin if you are trying to start on the journey to the old paths–cooking from ingredients rather than cans.

    On to the recipe!

    GFCF Nourishing Meat Loaf
    1/2 cup whole teff
    1 cup whole buckwheat
    2 cups purified water
    2 Tb. white vinegar
    2 pounds ground beef {don’t get it too lean or it will be dry}
    1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
    1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
    1 stalk celery, finely chopped
    4 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes
    1 tsp. dried thyme
    1 tsp. pepper
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1 egg
    1/2 to 1 cup purified water
    cayenne pepper sauce

    1. The night before, grind teff and buckwheat in coffee grinder. This might take two or three batches, depending on grinder size. Place ground teff and buckwheat in a glass bowl. Add 2 cups purified water and the 2 Tb vinegar. Stir. Cover with a cloth to keep out dust. Leave on a counter at room temperature. This can soak all night and all day. Just let it do its thing!

    2. Two hours before dinner, cut up all those veggies and start sauteeing them in the olive oil over low heat. Stir them occasionally. Your goal is to get them soft without overcooking. Once it is soft enough, add in all the spices and get them hot before turning off the heat.

    3. While you are sauteeing, start adding remaining ingredients to a large stand mixer (if you have one). Take the soaked teff and buckwheat and carefully drain out any excess water without losing the flour. Press down a little to sort of wring out the mixture. Add teff and buckwheat to the mixer. Add veggies (including oil) to the mixer, and turn that baby on.

    4. Preheat oven to 375.

    5. In a large baking dish, form meat mixture into the shape of a loaf. Add around a cup a water to the pan. That’s right. Just pour it in around the loaf. Bake at 375 for about a hour. Most of the water will evaporate, but any that is left can be drained off before slicing the loaf.

    6. To make a spicy condiment, mix together catsup and cayenne pepper sauce to taste. This is catsup with a kick. You can even do this before cooking and “frost” the loaf with it, if you like that sort of thing. Remember, in GFCF cooking, every label on every condiment must be checked every time. If you are still unsure, call the company before buying.

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  • Reply Kimbrah February 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm


    I am finding so far that amaranth has a little bit of a dirt aftertaste. I think I will try mixing in the teff when I get a chance to get some.

    The guar gum was $4.69 for an 8 oz. bag. I am in major experimental mode right now so I splurged a little bit. I am sure I can find it cheaper somewhere else.

    We have really liked the quinoa and the millet, but you really need to rinse quinoa first because it tends to be bitter if you don’t rinse it.

    I am really excited about the flakes because they will be so versatile for cooking.


  • Reply Brandy February 2, 2008 at 4:48 am


    You will have to let me know what you think of quinoa and millet. Those are two that I still haven’t tried. Amaranth is good. E. likes it with a bit of teff mixed in–about 25%. Teff gives in a nutty taste, we think.

    How much was the guar gum? I rarely see it, and I never buy it, but I should. I hear it will prevent our current rash of very flat pancakes! 🙂

    Oh! And the flax would be a perfect substitute. I think the egg’s only purpose is to hold it together so it isn’t so crumbly.


  • Reply Kimbrah February 2, 2008 at 1:18 am

    I am going to try this one, minus the egg. I am sure flaxseed or even guar gum may be a good substitute.

    I am going to be experimenting with different grain flours this next week. I splurged and got some amaranth flour, quinoa flakes, puffed millet, and guar gum. We shall see how it goes. 🙂

    Thanks for the recipe!


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