If you’re interested in making gluten-free bread or other baked goods because you’re cooking for someone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or you’re just looking to cut back on the carbs, you’ve probably faced the baking aisle with confusion. There are so many grain-free flours to choose from—what’s a baker to do? Don’t fret: Here’s our guide to some of the most common grain-free flours and how to use them.
The first rule of thumb is that it's best to use a recipe that calls for these specific types of flour, rather than swapping for wheat-based flour in your recipe. (The notable exception is cassava flour, which can be used in a 1:1 swap. Read on for more details.)
Among the most common grain-free flours, it is sometimes called “almond meal.” Both almond flour and almond meal are simply the nuts, ground up. Almond meal is sometimes not ground as finely as almond flour, but the names are not regulated, so your best bet is to look inside the package and examine the texture. The finer the grind, the smoother, lighter and less crumbly the texture will be. If the label says, “blanched,” that means the almonds’ skins were removed before grinding. Using blanched almond flour will give you a softer, lighter end product, most similar to regular flour. But unblanched is perfectly fine if you don’t mind a heartier muffin, quick bread, or pancake. Almond flour is a good source of protein, fibre, and healthy fats.
Use it for: Hearty cakes (such as carrot), muffins, pancakes, quick breads, cookies, brownies/bars, breading, binder for meatballs/meatloaf
The light texture of this powdery flour is great for grain-free baking because it yields results similar to regular flour. One word of caution: Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid, far more than regular flour or almond flour, so it’s best to use a recipe that calls for it rather than trying to swap it in for another flour. Coconut flour is high in fiber and has some protein and healthy fats.
Use it for: Cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies, brownies/bars,
Many recipes call for a combination of almond and coconut flours, to neutralize the flavor and to balance the texture of grain-free baked goods. Bob’s Red Mill does the combining for you with this convenient, easy-to-use product, which also contains arrowroot and tapioca starch to lighten it.
Use it for: Any recipe that calls for an almond flour/coconut flour combo
This light powder is a starch made from a tropical root. It’s rich in potassium and iron, and it works well as a thickener as well as a baking ingredient. Arrowroot works as a binder in baking recipes, providing some structure to baked goods. It’s usually used in conjunction with another flour, though it can work well in recipes that call for little flour, such as crepes.
Use it for: As an ingredient in gluten-free or grain-free baking to provide structure, as a flour substitute in crepes, as a thickener for sauces in place of cornstarch. Arrowroot is also a common ingredient in natural and DIY beauty products such as blushes, deodorants, and dry shampoo.
Experienced grain-free bakers love cassava, because it’s most similar to white flour and is easy to swap into recipes that call for all-purpose. Made from the cassava root, it has a neutral flavour, and it’s easy to digest, so it’s good for people who are avoiding grains because of a particular diet. It’s also nut free, and lower in calories than almond or coconut flour (though it’s also lower in protein and healthy fats).
Use it for: Easy substitution for any baking recipe. Also makes great homemade tortillas and crepes
In spite of the name, this flour does not contain nuts. Tiger nuts are small root vegetables that are very nutrient dense, high in fiber, healthy fats, and iron. Since they’re nut free, they’re great for people with allergies. Tiger nut flour is fairly easy to swap into regular baking recipes, but it is coarser than flour, so your baked goods will come out with more texture.
Use it for: Quick breads, muffins, cookies, pancakes