Thanks to creative recipes in magazines and on food blogs—as well as a near-encyclopedic list of special products and ingredients—living a low-carb lifestyle has never been so accessible. But if you’ve ever wandered the aisles of your local supermarket confused by all the options, you know it takes some know-how to slice through the noise and competently whip-up your keto-friendly baked goods.
One tip that goes for low-carb flours—but especially ones with a higher fat content like nut flours—is that they must be stored with extra care. Once you’ve either opened the package or blended your own, store the remainder in an airtight container and place it in the freezer. Stored in this manner, low-carb flours can last for up to a year, though you should always give it a whiff before adding it to any recipes. If it’s gone rancid, it will noticeably smell off. All food safety 101 aside, here’s a comprehensive guide on the low-carb flours you’ve been seeing everywhere.
Almond flour is made by blanching (removing the skin) from the nuts before pulverizing them. It’s one of the most popular flour substitutes because it imparts depth and richness, while maintaining a subtle flavor and texture. In most cases, it can be substituted 1:1 for all-purpose flour in baking, but may require an additional egg or another binding agent. Almond flour is high in polyunsaturated fats and provides some unique health benefits, like high levels of magnesium and Vitamin E. That said, there is some concern about eating an excess of almonds due to their phytic acid, which is an antinutrient. The bright side? Blanching removes the skin, which contains most of the antinutrients found in almonds. Replace the flour in this recipe for sausage gravy with almond flour and then soak up any leftovers with these flaky paleo biscuits.
From savory curries, dreamy truffles, to silky smoothies, coconut is a real all-star ingredient. Unsurprisingly then, it can also be transformed into a low-carb flour by first dehydrating, then pulverizing it. It has more carbohydrates per serving than almond flour, but it’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, iron, and fiber. It’s renowned for its dense texture and ability to absorb liquid, so take care not to make any 1:1 substitutions with coconut flour. Instead, start by substituting every cup of all-purpose with coconut flour, while adding an egg for every serving of coconut flour. Get a taste for what coconut flour can do and make these fluffy pancakes. Top it off with a little berry compound butter and you’ve got yourself a delicious low-carb brunch.
Chickpea flour is higher in carbohydrates than many of the nut-based flours, but it is pleasantly versatile and nutritious, being rich in both protein and fiber. Because its flavor is a bit more, well, beany, it is best used in savory recipes. Use chickpea flour to make pita and stuff it with all sorts of delicious fixings, like falafel or juicy chicken shawarma.
Chia Seed Flour
Chia seeds are nutrient-dense, containing plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They’re also a unique culinary ingredient, known for their ability to soak up liquid and create a gel-like texture, making them great bases for dairy-free yogurts and puddings. Though if you fancy, you can either purchase chia flour or grind up the seeds yourself to try in a myriad of muffins, cookies, and other baked goods. To this end, substitute the flour in this recipe for strawberry ricotta muffins for chia flour, following a 1:1 rule of thumb. Want more tips on baking with this uber-healthy ingredient? Read all about it here.
Walnut flour is made by grinding what’s left from the walnuts after they’ve been pressed for oil. This creates a texture that is more similar to a meal than a fine, powdery flour. It also features a very prominent flavor which of course is delicious, but potentially overpowering, as well. As a result, it’s best to use a small amount of walnut flour and allow another variety, like almond flour, to do the rest. Although it takes a bit more tweaking, you may find walnut flour a worthy addition due to its high nutritional content, boasting high copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. So go ahead, use a thimble in this crusty cranberry walnut bread or these gluten-free chocolate truffle cookies.
Not unlike chia seed flour, flaxseed meal is created by simply grinding flaxseeds. It’s a tried-and-true superfood, featuring healthy fats and a family of antioxidants known as lignans, which help to balance hormones. Because of its distinctly nutty flavor and dense texture, it’s best in crackers, hearty breads, and homemade breakfast cereals. Try replacing some of the whole flax seeds called for in this Italian style raw vegan bread or see how you fancy flax seed meal in this gluten-free granola.
Soy is a familiar friend to health-conscious and foodie communities alike. It can be fermented, blended, and strained to create non-dairy milk, curdled and pressed into tofu, and also boiled, dried, and ground into flour. It’s high in protein and specifically lysine, an essential amino acid involved in muscle growth and repair, as well as transporting fats within the body. As an all-purpose flour substitute, use about 3/4 cup of soy flour for every 1 cup of all-purpose. It plays well with other flavors, so there’s no need to worry about it dominating any of your recipes. Swap-in soy flour in these mouth-watering turkey and mushroom crêpes, or incorporate it into these pillow-y steamed Chinese pork buns.
Green Banana Flour
Green bananas are rich in resistant starch, a carbohydrate that isn’t digested in the small intestine like most others, but is fermented by the bacteria in the large intestine, instead. This implies benefit to the health of both your gut flora and blood sugar. If you’re interested in incorporating green banana flour to your diet, start out slowly since it can cause some intestinal discomfort initially. Stir a tablespoon into your smoothie, or use 3/4 cup of banana flour for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour in both your all-time favorite recipes and your newly-minted ones, too.