various alternative flours

10 Alternative Flours You Should Know

White flour gained a bad rap over recent years, and for good reason. Standard flour or all-purpose flour consists of refined wheat that has been stripped of almost all nutrients like fiber, minerals, and vitamins present in the full grain. As a result, the body digests it quickly, leading to spikes in blood sugar and sugar crashes, which can leave a person feeling hungry soon after and prone to overeating. Unfortunately, white flour is present in most products from bread to cereals to pasta to baked goods. But fortunately, there are many alternative flours available with more health benefits. [1]

Many people avoid refined wheat flour due to allergies, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and digestive issues like IBS and IBD. Others opt for whole grains or alternative flours to complement a healthy diet. In any event, there are many healthier flours to use in baked goods, soups, breaded chicken, pasta, and other dishes. Some contain gluten alongside many health benefits and some are gluten-free and grain-free for those intolerant. Keep in mind that not all alternative flours work as a perfect replacement for all-purpose flour. Research the best way to swap these flours in recipes, and remember that some flours work better for certain foods than others. Here are ten alternatives, their benefits, and the best way to use them when cooking and baking.

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10 Alternative Flours to Use Instead of White Flour

Oat flour

Oat flour is simply ground-up oats. You can find them at a grocery store or make them yourself by grinding regular oats in a blender or food processor. They contain many nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Oats are naturally gluten-free but cross-contamination could make them unsafe for those with allergies or celiac disease. In these cases, look for certified gluten-free oat flour or oats. [2]

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Coconut flour

Coconut flour is made from dried coconut ground into a powder. It’s gluten-free and grain-free but it’s also calorie-dense, filled with nutrients like fiber, protein, and even minerals, like iron and potassium. It has a mildly sweet flavor, making it ideal for many kinds of baked goods. However, it can be tricky to bake with since it could have a gritty texture. Plus, it absorbs a lot of liquid, which could dry out a recipe. Therefore, it’s best used in recipes that use eggs and the like to maintain moisture. When substituting it for regular flour, it’s best to add another type of flour. For instance, you can use 1⁄4 of coconut flour and 3⁄4 of another type of flour. Additionally, add one egg per ¼ cup of coconut flour in a recipe.

Read: White Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies (Gluten-free & Vegan Options)

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Almond flour

Almond flour is a popular choice that is naturally gluten-free and grain-free. It’s commonly mistaken for almond meal, which is coarser and can be harder to incorporate into standard recipes. Almond flour, like its base ingredient, is calorically-dense, while being a good source of magnesium, protein, vitamin E, and omega-3 unsaturated fats. It has a mildly nutty flavor and it’s an easy substitute since you can swap it at an equal ratio for wheat flour in many recipes, from pancakes to cookies to homemade pasta. 

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Tapioca flour

Tapioca is a root also known as manioc or cassava, and it can be more starchy than other alternative flours. However, it’s perfect for thickening soups, stews, and sauces, in addition to making a crispy coating for breaded fish and chicken. It could also substitute for wheat flours in an equal ratio in some recipes. 

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Buckwheat flour

Despite its misleading name, buckwheat is a plant with grain-like seeds and has nothing to do with wheat. Therefore, it’s completely gluten-free; plus, it provides fiber, protein, and nutrients like iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper. This flour is the prime ingredient in traditional Japanese soba noodles. It can also be used in pancakes and quick bread, although it’s best used with a combination of other flours, with buckwheat filling about 25–50% of the total flour content. [3]

Read: Lemon Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread Recipe [Gluten Free]

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Chickpea flour

This is made up of ground-dried chickpeas, creating a flour rich in plant protein, potassium, and other nutrients. It’s not ideal in yeast bread, but its mildly nutty flavor can work well in cakes and muffins where the consistency is similar to regular flour.  

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Quinoa flour

Quinoa is considered a whole grain while also being gluten-free. In its flour form, it’s still a good source of protein, fiber, iron, antioxidants, and other benefits. In baked goods, it can create a moist, soft texture. So swap it for half the amount of wheat flour, although the ratio could shift depending on the recipe. Some people find quinoa flour has a bitter taste, but you can prevent that by toasting it on a dry skillet on medium heat for 5–10 minutes. You can use it in pie crusts, pizza crusts, muffins, and pancakes, as well as a thickener in sauces and soups. [4]

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Corn flour

As a cereal grain, corn flours is a gluten-free alternative flour but it’s not ideal for baked goods. However, it opens the doors for many delicious recipes like cornbread, homemade corn tortillas, hush puppies, and polenta, while also working well in muffins and pancakes. Corn is rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients that contribute to good eye health.

Read: The best banana bread recipe

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Whole wheat flour

Of course, this option isn’t gluten-free, but for those who can eat gluten, it’s a much healthier choice than refined white flour. Whole wheat flour includes the whole grain, while white flour omits the bran and germ — the most nutrient-dense parts. So whole wheat has plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. It could be substituted in equal amounts to recipes with white or all-purpose flour. However, keep in mind that the texture will be less fluffy compared to white flour. But this density could be a perk in recipes like muffins, pizza dough, and bread, while still being delicious in goods like cookies, waffles, and cake.

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Spelt flour

Spelt is also not gluten-free; however, it contains less gluten than grains like wheat, rye, and barley, so it may be acceptable to those who are sensitive to gluten (but not for those who have celiac disease or allergies) This ancient grain contains more protein than wheat and provides other nutrients like fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, and iron. It can replace wheat flour in many recipes, or be used combined with wheat flour for those who want to add more nutrition to baked goods while maintaining a closely identical texture. [5]

Keep Reading: 3-ingredient elixir that you should make this winter to deal with Sore throat, cough, colds, and other throat conditions

Sources

  1. “Why Refined Carbs Are Bad For You.Healthline
  2. “Flour Substitutes.Very Well Fit. Leoni Jesnet, ACE-CPT. December 6, 2021
  3. “Guide to Non-Wheat Flours.WebMD. Christine Mikstas, RD, LD. May 28, 2021
  4. “Healthiest Flour for Baking.” WebMD. Dan Brennan, MD. June 9, 2021
  5. “5 of the Healthiest Flours for Every Purpose.Healthline. Dan Brennan, MD. August 27, 2020
Sarah Biren
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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