So, you’ve decided to eat less sugar for 2 months. Or maybe you’re committing to that gluten-free life. Or you just want to try out cooking (and baking) with healthier, more nutrient-dense foods. Whatever the reason you’ve decided to ditch traditional white, refined flour — which isn’t nutrient-dense at all — a plethora of gluten-free flour alternatives are here to support you.
Many of these alternatives (made from nuts, whole grains, coconuts, etc.) can be found at your local grocery or health food store, and are fun to experiment with.
Because a little experimenting may need to happen when you first start baking with these gluten-free flours: Typically, there aren’t exact across-the-board measurements for swapping gluten-free flours for all-purpose white flour. Sometimes, flour alternatives have their own measurements on their packaging. Other times, recipes will do the calculations for you, but nothing beats your own experience.
Why use gluten-free flours?
- All-purpose refined flour is often stripped of nutrients (however, whole-wheat flour still has nutritional value!).
- Certain gluten-free flours also offer healthy fat, fiber, and protein.
- They make baked goods safe for people living with gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.
- They’re fun to experiment with!
Almond flour is considered the king of gluten-free flours. Besides giving your product a nutty, balanced flavor, this finely ground nut flour offers added moisture and tenderness to the recipes that use it. As with any flour made from nuts, almond flour has a higher fat content and contains fiber and protein. It’s a good choice for baked goods with a light crumb texture: pancakes, muffins, cakes, etc.
If you’re adventurous and want to make bread from almond flour, tread lightly and use a flour blend of about 25 percent almond flour and 75 percent all-purpose white flour.
You can also use almond flour as a replacement for bread crumbs or to thicken sauces and soups.
There’s a common belief floating around out there that almond flour can be used in a 1-to-1 ratio with other gluten-containing flours. But as a passionate baker myself, I’m telling you: Don’t do that. Although almond flour can definitely be the sole flour for some baked goods, do not use it as an exact replacement in your favorite recipe. Almond flour usually leaves a product a bit denser and sometimes calls for the necessary addition of an extra egg.
What can’t oats do? They make a breakfast overnight in the fridge, they make the creamiest dairy-free milk, and now we’re telling you they’re one of the supreme gluten-free flours! The best part? You can make oat flour at home by simply blending rolled oats until you’re staring at a fine flour.
Oat flour is my favorite choice when I’m looking to add a crumbly and chewy texture to baked goods.
Like almond flour, oat flour should primarily be used for lighter-textured baked goods such as muffins, cakes, cookies, crepes, pancakes, and other quick breads.
Oats flour is also the best flour to make a crumbly topping for your vegan, no-bake desserts.
Important to note: Oats in their purest form are gluten-free, but some are processed in facilities that also process wheat, so cross-contamination might be a concern. To play it safe, look for “gluten-free” on the packaging.
Don’t be fooled by the word “wheat” in this wheatless grain. Buckwheat, and therefore, buckwheat flour, is gluten-free by nature. Buckwheat flour adds a rich, nutty taste to products, and you’ll find it most commonly used in Japan to make soba noodles, galettes in France, blinis (pancakes) in Eastern Europe, and chapati in various regions of India.
Buckwheat flour also makes a great addition to yeast breads, but only when brown rice flour is thrown in the mix too.
The most versatile of the gluten-free flours, brown rice flour is definitely a great option to have on hand. Standing alone in a recipe, brown rice flour can make things gummy, chewy, and bland. But when added to other gluten-free flours (like buckwheat), brown rice flour adds elasticity and structure and lets the other flours’ flavor notes shine. How nice, right?
Brown rice flour is another baking alternative that helps give a crumbly texture to a final product.
Almost always necessary for yeast bread and a good fit in all baking recipes, brown rice flour is especially great in pie dough. It’s also perfect for gluten-free cooking tasks like thickening sauces, adding protein to vegan soups, crafting wholesome noodles, and “breading” meats and vegetables.
Coconut flour is a fine flour, but it can be ultra-absorbent when used alone, usually not leaving much of a crumb texture and rather a dense one at best.
Like brown rice flour, coconut flour does wonders when mixed with other gluten-free flours. Just check out these coconut flour recipes for proof.
Coconut flour is great for cookies, muffins, granolas, brownies, and quick breads. When using coconut flour, only use it for 25 to 40 percent of your flour mix, and add in an extra egg for additional binding properties.
Sorghum flour is a mild, sweet flour that adds a soft bite to baked goods. It should be used in recipes that do not require a lot of flour. Think: brownies, peanut butter cookies, and soufflés.
When standing alone as the only flour, sorghum flour should be mixed with starches, such as tapioca or potato, for better binding. When mixing sorghum with other flours, use it as one-third of your flour mix.
These days, there are a ton of better-for-you, gluten-free flours available. Some are more nutritious, some are even better tasting, and almost all of them are gluten-free.
Yes, it takes a little testing and getting used to, but isn’t experimenting in the kitchen half the fun?