What is Glutinous Rice Flour? [And How to Cook With It]


Any Asian cuisine restaurant typically offers desserts with a sticky, chewy texture. If you’ve ever had any of those dishes, you may have wondered at some point what kind of ingredient they used to get the dish to become nice and sticky. Mochi, fried sesame balls, sticky dumplings — all these dishes and more have a star ingredient in common: glutinous rice flour.

What is glutinous rice flour, you ask? Learn more about it and its many uses in this article.

What is Glutinous Rice Flour?

Glutinous rice flour is made from short-grain glutinous rice or sticky rice or sweet rice. It is also called sweet rice flour or sticky rice flour. Glutinous rice flour is made by first cooking sticky rice and then dehydrating it. Afterward, the glutinous rice grains are then milled and ground up into a fine powder.

Glutinous rice flour has a slightly sweet and nutty taste. While it is commonly used in desserts, it is also used in various savory dishes across Asian cuisines. 

Is There Gluten in Glutinous Rice Flour?

No, there is no gluten in glutinous rice flour. The name can be misleading but it is gluten-free. It gets its name from the fact that its texture is sticky when cooked, not because it has gluten. Sweet white rice flour is a great alternative for those allergic to gluten.

Rice Flour vs Glutinous Rice Flour, What is the Difference?

Glutinous rice flour and regular rice flour are not the same.

The standard white rice flour is ground from long-grain rice or medium-grain rice grains that we commonly cook in the rice cooker and eat alongside meats, vegetables, and the like. On the other hand, glutinous flour is ground from short-grain glutinous rice or sticky rice. It can also be made using long-grain or medium-grain rice and is sometimes referred to as sweet rice flour. 

Standard rice flour doesn’t share the same stickiness and chewiness as glutinous flour. Additionally, regular rice flour can also feel rough to the touch. It hardens faster as well, making it great to use in pastries, noodles, and baked goods.

On the contrary, sweet white rice flour is sticky, finely ground, and feels soft and smooth. It can also be easily shaped and has a slightly sweet flavor. Depending on the cooking method, it lends very well to both sweet and savory dishes.

While the two flours vary in a lot of ways, they can be similar in the fact that they are both gluten-free. This makes both flours a great option for gluten-free baking and wonderful alternatives to wheat flour.

Is Glutinous Rice Flour the Same as Cornstarch?

No, glutinous rice flour and cornstarch are not the same. Cornstarch is a powder made from ground corn kernels and has a bland flavor and light texture that makes it an ideal thickening agent for sauces, gravies, custards, and other dishes. 

Sweet Rice Flour Dishes

Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Sticky dumplings are popular in many parts of Asia. They are made by wrapping sweet, sticky flour dough around a filling such as red bean paste, black sesame paste, or ground peanuts. The dough is then steamed or boiled until cooked through and the flavors meld together.


Mochi is a type of Japanese rice cake made from sticky flour. It is traditionally made by pounding steamed sticky rice into a paste and then shaping it into small, round cakes. The finished mochi can be filled with sweetened red bean paste or other fillings, or it can be served plain.

Fried Sesame Balls

Fried sesame balls are a popular street food in many Asian countries. They are made by rolling sweet white flour dough into small, round balls and then deep-frying them until golden brown. The finished sesame balls can be sprinkled with sugar or filled with sweet red bean paste or other fillings.

Final Note

Glutinous rice flour is a versatile ingredient that can be used to make a variety of dishes. Made from glutinous rice, it has a chewy texture and mild flavor that makes it ideal for desserts like rice cakes and dumplings. Sometimes, it is also used in savory recipes. However, it cannot be used as a thickening agent like cornstarch.

Sticky flour is gluten-free. So, it’s a great alternative for those who are following a gluten-free diet or looking to add some extra texture to their dishes!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I substitute for glutinous rice flour?

If you don’t have sticky flour on hand, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour in sauces and stews. If you will be using it as a binding agent, you may use potato starch. For chewy and baked items, tapioca starch made from cassava root is your best alternative. For other gluten-free baked items, you may use almond flour.