Flour Substitutes

February 14, 2012 in Categories: by

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There is a great demand for recipes that mimic our gluten-filled old favorite foods but use only paleolithic ingredients.  My family is no exception.  We thrive on paleo muffins, paleo cookies and paleo snack bars.  As you peruse through my recipes and those on the many other wonderful paleo recipe blogs, you will notice a few common ingredients.  I thought you might like a little primer on why we choose which flour substitutes for which recipes.

Blanched Almond Flour:  Blanched almond flour is made from super finely ground blanched almonds (I recommend Honeyville Farms or JK Gourmet brands).  Almond flour is quite high protein, rich in vitamin E, many B-vitamins, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, while also being lower in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats per gram than many other nuts (but it does still contain about 12g omega-6 fatty acids per 100g whole almonds).  When baking with almond flour, you can use similar quantities to regular flour in your recipe, but know that because almond flour does not contain gluten (yay for our intestines!), it doesn’t yield the elasticity or hold together the way wheat flour does.  This doesn’t matter for some recipes (muffins or a crumbly cake recipe), but can really feel missed in other recipes.  Often recipes that use almond flour require a little more egg or other binder to be added.

Coconut Flour:  Coconut flour is made from grinding coconut pulp after it has been squeezed for coconut milk (I recommend Let’s Do Organic or Tropical Traditions brand).  It is predominantly the fiber from the coconut and so it absorbs huge quantities of liquid.  A good rule of thumb is to use one quarter of the amount of what you would have used if you were using wheat flour.  I find myself playing more and more with recipes that use just coconut flour because of nut allergies in my extended family and because of the omega-6 and phytate content in almonds.  The biggest challenge with coconut flour is texture: recipes can be very sensitive to the exact quantity of coconut flour.  One teaspoon too much, and the result is grainy and heavy.  One teaspoon too little, and it doesn’t hold together.  Generally, I find that recipes that use coconut flour require more iterations to get exactly right.

Arrowroot Powder and Tapioca Starch:  Arrowroot Starch/Powder is wonderful for giving a light, airy texture to paleo baking and works very well to thicken sauces without changing the taste (coconut flour can be used to thicken too, but it’s a bit of a strange flavor in a gravy for example).  Tapioca Starch/Flour — 20 oz is similar to arrowroot powder but also gives a little elasticity (something that is often missed when baking without gluten).  I find myself using arrowroot powder more frequently than tapioca starch, but that mainly reflects my comfort level with arrowroot as I get to know both of these flour substitutes better.  Both of these flour substitutes are from ground starchy tubers, so they add carbohydrates to whatever you’re making.  I consider these second-choice flours and generally use them only when almond flour or coconut flour are not working on their own.

You can also see The Science and Art of Paleofying—Part 1 Paleo Flours to read more about various flours used in Paleo Baking.

Grain-free baking typically requires a lot of experimentation.  But creating the perfect recipe definitely makes it worth while!

Comments

I just discovered your blog and I’m devouring it. Thank you so much for all the recipes and basic information posts. They’re perfect! My oldest son has been on and off a GF/CF diet for years, but I find it impossible to stick to if the whole family’s not on board. I think it’s about time we all went paleo!

Leslie

Thanks! Word in the Paleo world is that coconut allergies are rare but many members of my husband’s family are allergic. I guess it’s a genetic thing but I’m having a hard time getting them excited about Paleo when most of them are allergic to the Paleo staples for baking (eggs, nut & coconut flours). I am still trying to figure out how to bake without resorting to just buying a gluten free flour mix of potato and rice flours but I’m not there yet. I recently stocked up on arrowroot and tapioca flour, next I’ll try sweet potato flour. I personally love coconut-it’s really a bummer! I’m so excited about your new cracker recipe!

Thanks for this information! I’m going to experiment turning a vegan carrot cake paleo this weekend. Wish me luck! Do you know how many eggs I should use per 1/4 of coconut flour? Any advice would be gratefully received.

Thanks for this list! I’m trying to manage my 3 month old baby’s egg-and-dairy allergies with an attempt at Paleo-esque eating to help my autistic son. I’ve been going cross-eyed trying to find gluten-free egg-free recipes for pancakes that don’t also include magarine or other problem-child incredients

Depends on whether the whole pod including the beans is ground (not paleo because it is a legume), or just the pod without the beans (that would be okay). Most of the time, the whole pod is ground.

Hi, just came across some Banana flour at a health food store in Queensland Australia. I was interested to know if you’ve ever seen or used it in any recipes?

Sarah has not yet used banana flour in any recipes. It is very similar to plantain flour (high carbohydrate). — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

I was really wondering why so many recipes use almond flour (I hate using it because it is so much more expensive than all the others) so thanks for clarifying! I used coconut flour to thicken a cheese sauce recently and it was definitely off in flavor. I also used it to make some pancakes this morning and they just were not what I was hoping for (we only recently made the switch). I am missing my old buttery, floury, fluffy pancakes! But I will keep hunting for the perfect pancakes :)

Hi, I have been using gluten wheat free Trader Joe Oats so that is good or not? or if not should I switch to use almond flour? i’m using to make waffle, pancakes and other? Thanks.

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