This year, buying Christmas gifts for Boo and Lu was going to be so simple! They both wanted Play Doh. (The kind that comes in a kit to make princess dresses, hamburgers . . . stuff like that.) They picked out their favorite kits, and I breathed a sigh of relief that Santa would have it really easy this year . . . that is until my mom and sister pointed out that I would need gluten free play dough. Play Doh is not gluten free. What???? I totally forgot!
Since no mom wants to deny her child's reasonable gift requests, I set to work making my own Gluten-Free Play Dough. But which recipe to choose? I would need lots of dough, so why not try a few and share my results with you? That's exactly what I did.
1 Mom + 3 Recipes + a few hours kiddo free and lots of rice flour = Tons of play dough and very sore forearm muscles!!!
I tried three recipes:
- Gluten-Free Play Dough (originally from the Celiac Disease Foundation)
- Easiest Gluten Free Play Dough Recipe from Celiac Family
- Kool-Aid Gluten Free Play Dough from Celiac Family
Here's what I learned: They all result in nice play dough that matches the texture of real Play Doh. They also all require adding extra corn starch and kneading--a lot. They all work just as well as regular Play Doh. Which is best? It depends on what you are looking for.
My favorite: Easiest Gluten Free Play Dough Recipe from Celiac Family
Why? It makes the most dough (although the others are pretty close), and it turns out very white. I like white because it makes the prettiest colors, and it's the only recipe that can actually be used as white. (Gotta have white!)
This recipe originally came from The Celiac Family website, which is no longer in service. Luckily, I saved the recipe! Here you go:
Easiest Gluten-Free Play Dough Recipe
- 1 cup of white rice flour
- ½ cup of cornstarch
- ½ cup of salt
- 1 Tbsp cream of tartar
- 1 ½ tsp of vegetable oil
- 1 cup of water (hot, but not boiling)
- Food Coloring, as desired
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium pot.
- Add the vegetable oil, then the water, and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.
- Heat the mixture on the stove over low heat for about 3 minutes. I like to stir frequently with a silicone spatula.
- When the dough starts to pull away from the sides easily, dump the dough onto parchment paper. Let it cool briefly until you can work it with your hands.
- Knead food coloring into the dough until you get the color you desire.
- Don’t overcook the dough. It shouldn’t need more than five minutes.
- To add food coloring, I use the method I’ve used since I was a kid: Using your thumbs, make a well in the middle of the ball of dough and drop the food coloring into the well. Close up the well with the outside dough, keeping the food coloring in the middle of the ball. Then, carefully begin kneading it until the color is evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- You don’t have to use the parchment paper. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. I use the parchment paper to simply keep residue and food coloring off my countertop. Wax paper or a plate would work just as well.
- If needed, adjust the texture with small amounts of water (for dry, crumbly dough) or cornstarch (for sticky dough).
- Makes about 2 cups of play dough, or about 2 baseball-size balls of dough.
- Store in tightly sealed plastic bags or containers.
2nd favorite: (Recipe below)
Gluten-Free Play Dough from the Celiac Disease Foundation--It's all over the web and in magazines, so I feel okay about sharing it here:
- ½ cup white rice flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup salt
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- Food coloring, if desired
Mix ingredients. Cook and stir on low heat for 3 minutes or until it forms a ball. Cool completely before storing in a sealable plastic bag.
This one works nicely, but the color is more pale cream than white. If you don't need white play dough, this will work fine.
Least favorite: Kool-Aid Gluten Free Play Dough
This recipe would be perfect if you want to make a batch for lots of kids to use the same color. My goal was to make lots of colors, so this wasn't a smart choice for me. I made orange dough and successfully recolored it to an ugly red, a brown that matches a color you might find on your shoe after walking the dog, and a glittery orange. I hated the smell of orange Kool-Aid after about three minutes of kneading the dough.
This recipe is also from The Celiac Family website. Since the website is gone, I'll add the recipe here.
Kool-Aid Gluten-Free Play Dough Recipe
- ⅔ cup of rice flour
- ⅓ cup of potato starch or cornstarch
- ⅓ cup of salt
- 2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 Tbsp of cream of tartar
- 1 pkg of unsweetened Kool-Aid
- 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1 cup of warm water
- Food coloring, as desired
- Extra potato starch or cornstarch for kneading dough – We use a lot to get a preferred consistency.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the rice flour, potato starch or cornstarch, salt, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, and Kool-Aid powder.
- Add the oil and the warm water to the flour mixture and mix well. (If you want to add food coloring, mix it first with the warm water.)
- Heat the mixture on medium heat for about one minute or until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat.
- Pour the dough onto a cornstarch-floured surface or parchment paper.
- Knead in small amounts of potato starch until the dough is no longer sticky.
- Store in an airtight container or bag when not in use.
As usual, I made all of the mistakes so that you don't have to! Here are some final tips to make your dough mimic the dough that comes with the fancy kits.
- When adding food coloring, don't forget what you learned in elementary school! First add the lightest color, mix well, and then add the darker color a little bit at a time. I tried to make purple, but accidentally added blue food coloring first. I ended up with a nice gray instead! (I added fine glitter, and it now looks silver. I actually wanted silver, so it was a happy accident.)
- It is difficult to create dark colors. Plan on adding lots of food coloring!!!
- You can mimic the fancy glitter Play Doh! Just make a well in the dough, dump in some fine glitter, and knead it like crazy! It comes in lots of colors. My kids love the glitter dough.
Three batches of dough made enough for two gifts of ten colors each.
So, are you wondering what Santa did about the Play Doh kits my kids wanted? I let him know that I'd take care of the Play Dough, and assigned him something else. Yes. I did buy the kits. That means I payed for Play Doh that my kids won't be able to use. They kept the design tools, and the Play Doh will be given as birthday gifts to their friends. I'm very happy with the result. Happy kids who don't feel deprived because of Celiac!
*Update--November, 2014. I've had several people ask how long this play dough lasts. When I wrote this post, I had no idea. I'm pleased to report that I made the play dough in December of 2012, and it is still good almost two years later! I store it in individual ziplock bags inside another large ziplock bag, inside a plastic tub in the cupboard. The kids played with it a lot at first, but it has probably been untouched for a year. I thought it would be dried out, but it was perfect!
Want more kid-friendly gluten free recipes? You might like these. Images below are linked: