On the face of it, it may seem like baked goods are out of the question if you’re following a grain-free diet. But given the recent popularity of Paleo and grain-free lifestyles, the availability of grain-free flours has been slowly growing, resulting in baked goods that are often lower in carbs and higher in nutrients than their grain-full and gluten-free counterparts. However, some of these can be tough on digestion (especially the nut flours), so be mindful of how you feel after eating them and consider recipes that blend different flours together.
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If you bake a lot, you know that it’s a pretty precise process. Consistency and interaction with other ingredients is everything. So it’s important to be specific with the type of flour you use — substituting one for one with other flours, gluten/grain-free or not, likely won’t work. Follow tested recipes that call for that specific flour to be safe. And have fun with it — you might have some recipe fails, but you’ll keep learning and tasting to find your favorite!
Here are some of the most common grain-free flours out there now and some tips about each.
Coconut flour is dense. It’s almost 40 percent fiber and is high in fats and lower in carbohydrates than other gluten-free flours. Due to its fiber content, it absorbs a lot of liquid so is best used in recipes with eggs and other wet ingredients (I love this recipe for Paleo pound cakes). Make sure you mix your batter well to allow it to fully absorb the wet ingredients. Often recipes using coconut flour combine it with arrowroot or tapioca flour to counterbalance the fiber and lessen the amount of eggs required.
This is probably the most common grain replacement in Paleo and grain-free recipes right now. It’s a high-fiber, high-fat flour that adds moisture, flavor, texture and nutritional value. Almond flour can replace wheat flour at almost a 1:1 ratio in most recipes, with some reduction of the liquids/fats. Almond flour is very heavy, so you may want to use recipes that blend it with other flours, especially if you’re making something fluffy like cake. This recipe for Lavender Rosemary Butter Cookies packs a nutritional punch by combining coconut and almond flours. Note: Almond meal is not the same thing as almond flour; almond meal is courser and heavier.
This is another nut flour that is growing in popularity. It can be used pretty much the same way almond flour is used, and if you have an almond allergy (like I do), it's a good alternative.
Chickpea/Garbanzo Bean Flour
Chickpea, aka garbanzo bean, flour is a high-protein and high-fiber flour that adds moisture, texture and protein to gluten-free recipes. It’s often blended with fava bean flour and used in savory recipes due to its slightly bitter flavor. Check out this delicious recipe for savory chickpea crepes (aka farinata).
I recently discovered Anti-Grain flours, which makes a variety of single-ingredient grain-free flours, including squash, apple, pumpkin and sweet potato. Although many of their suggested recipes use squash flour in savory recipes, I wanted to go sweet, so I tried it with chocolate-chip zucchini bread and pancakes. The flavor on both was amazing! The flour itself is not very sweet, but it does have a distinct flavor that balances very well with chocolate and maple syrup. Check out our full product review here.
Arrowroot and Tapioca Flour
Arrowroot and tapioca are interchangeably referred to as flours and starches. Both having binding properties and are typically used with other flours to improve texture without impacting taste.
Jennifer Wang is the founder and CEO of The Tasteful Pantry. Having lived with multiple food intolerances and tried countless “free-from” snacks that tasted like cardboard, Jennifer’s mission now is to share her love of wholesome food and healthy living through The Tasteful Pantry. When she’s not scouring the country looking for yummy snacks, Jennifer enjoys teaching spinning and meditation.