The Best Grain-Free Flours

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The Best Grain Free Flours | Real Food RN

We went grain-free a few years ago and are feeling great! But, when we first made the transition, my baked goods suffered. Learning how to bake with flours made from nuts and coconut was a whole new experience for me, and because of this many recipes flopped! Many more that I would like to think of.

Learning to bake with grain-free flours is a learning curve. I wanted to put all of my tips and tricks into one place so maybe it won’t be such a difficult transition for you!

In this post, I chose to cover coconut, almond, and cassava flour because those are the top three that I use in my recipes. I have dabbled into tapioca, rice, cashew, and the standard all-purpose gluten-free flours. But, I keep coming back to these three. To make it easier, I am going to keep it simple.

semolina in bag on white background

Coconut Flour: (where to find)

What is it: Coconut flour is produced from dried coconut meat.  It is a natural byproduct of coconut milk production. It is very absorbent and recipes containing coconut flour have a different ratio of wet to dry ingredients, so you can not use it as a 1:1 replacement for regular flour in your favorite recipes.

Health benefits:

  • Low in carbohydrates & GI (glycemic index) – low impact on blood sugar. Safe for diabetics
  • High in beneficial fats: contains lauric acid – a fatty acid that is also the same fat found in breast milk and a potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial substance that strengthens the immune system. A 100 gram serving of coconut flour contains 8.7 grams of fat, of which 8 grams are saturated. Most of these fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) – essential protective fats with noted antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. MCTs have also been shown to boost the metabolism, making coconut flour suitable for weight loss diets
  • Good source of manganese – helps your body utilize several key nutrients such as biotin, thiamin, ascorbic acid, and choline. Also good for bone health, synthesizing fatty acids and cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, thyroid function and nervous system function
  • Rich in dietary fiber
  • Packed with protein: 1 cup of coconut flour contains 25 grams of protein!

How to use it:

  • In baked goods, you generally want to substitute 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup coconut flour for 1 cup grain-based flour
  • You will also need to increase the number of eggs.  For every one cup of coconut flour you use, you will need to use six beaten eggs in your recipe in addition to approximately one cup liquid such as coconut milk
  • It will be clumpy so mix it very well
  • To make your recipes as light as possible, beat the egg whites very well first and fold them in. This is especially helpful when making pancakes

What kinds of recipes is it best for: breads, muffins, pancakes, crackers, cakes

My recipes using coconut flour: 

almond flour

Almond Flour: (where to find)

What is it: The almond seed (or fruit) is not a true nut, but a drupe. The almond is actually the seed of the fruit that grows on almond trees, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. Wow, you learn something new every day!

Health Benefits:

  • High in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats as is found in olive oil. These fats are known to be anti-inflammatory, which can lead to a reduced risk of heart disease! However, when we bake with almond flour, we change the structure of these fats and they oxidize. You can learn more about that HERE
  • One quarter-cup of almonds contains almost 99 mg of magnesium (that’s 24.7% of the daily value for this important mineral), plus 257 mg of potassium. These minerals are essential to the proper functioning of our nervous system, amongst many other functions.
  • They decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar and also provide antioxidants to mop up the smaller amounts of free radicals that still result.
  • One of the best vitamin E foods. Just an ounce of almonds offers a whopping 7.4 milligrams of vitamin E! Vitamin E is a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes against damage caused by free radicals and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This means that they help keep your cholesterol in check too!

How to use it:

  • First, let’s distinguish between almond flour and almond meal: Almond Meal is different than Almond Flour. Almond Meal is ground almonds with the skin on, while Almond Flour is blanched almonds with the skin removed. Almond meal will produce a denser baked good
  • You can substitute almond flour for regular flour one to one, but experiment a bit. Use slightly more raising agent than the recipe suggests, allowing for the heavier weight of the almond flour
  • Almond flour works very well for practically all cake and muffin recipes, pancakes and some cookie recipes, too. It can also be used to make “pastry” tart shells for sweet or savory dishes. The only types of dessert that do not typically work well with almond flour are yeasted or bread-based recipes. Remember that the heat does denature the fats though
  • Be sure to butter and line your pans with baking paper, use a Silpat, or grease your pans to prevent sticking. After baking, recipes made with almond flour should be left to sit for a few minutes and loosened carefully with a knife before turning out because the texture is generally more fragile than regular recipes made with flour
  • Nut flours burn easily. You will want to bake them at a lower baking temperature and longer time than you would use with a normal wheat flour recipe. Watch them closely and experiment with temperatures, starting low

What kinds of recipes is it best for: cookies, pancakes, no-bake desserts, protein bars, pie shells, bars

My recipes using almond flour:

cassava flour

Cassava Flour: (where to find)

What is it: also known as yuca or manioc, it is a nutty flavored, starchy tuber in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) of plants from the South-American region. Its sweet crunchy underground tuber is a popular edible root since centuries for indigenous people of many parts of Africa, Asia and South American continents. As in other roots and tubers, cassava is gluten free. Cassava flour is made by cooking, drying and grinding cassava root to a fine powder.  It differs from Tapioca Flour in that Tapioca flour is made from the starch of the cassava plant where the Cassava flour is the ground root

Health Benefits:

  • Cassava is very low in fats and protein than in cereals and pulses. Nonetheless, it has more protein than that of other tropical food sources like yam, potato, plantains, etc.
  • Cassava is a moderate source of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.
  • The root is one of the chief sources of some important minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese for many inhabitants in tropical regions. It also contains potassium (271 mg per 100g or 6% of RDA)

How to use it:

  • Here’s the fun part about this one: you can use it one to one for traditional wheat flour in all of your favorite recipes. There is no adjusting for liquid, eggs, or leavening!

What kinds of recipes is it best for: every recipe that you use flour in

My recipes using cassava flour: (many more in the works!)

Now, on to the nutrient profile comparison

Here is a breakdown of macronutrient content per 1/4 cup of each flour

Grain Free Flour Nutrition Chart

The verdict? If I am going to use one flour only, I would use cassava. Simply because it has the same texture as regular wheat flour and is so easy to substitute! Your recipes will have a much better chance of turning out the same as they would with regular flour. Yes, it is much higher in carbohydrate content than the other two, but most of the recipes that I will use it in will not be intended to be low carb anyway

My second favorite would be coconut flour because the fats in coconut are much more heat stable when used in baking. Almond flour is not to be thrown under the bus, but I would reserve it for foods that do not require a lengthy baking period or high-heat temperatures to make

P.S. If you want to find the best gluten-free items online (best prices around, believe me, I have checked!) with free shipping, I highly recommend Thrive Market, they even have a special Gluten-Free section. CLICK HERE to check them out!

Well, after reading through all of this, which flour do you prefer to use in your recipes? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

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The Best Grain Free Flours | Real Food RN

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Hi! I'm Kate.

Registered Nurse. Mom. Real Foodie.

Welcome to Real Food RN! A blog with the mission to empower you to live your healthiest life possible, starting today.

 

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