The moment when a person realizes they are gluten sensitive, or have celiac disease, they think to themselves, I can never have bread or desserts again! This could be further from the truth because yes, you can still have them! There are many kinds of gluten free and grain free flours available at the grocery stores. You can choose from almond, cassava, arrowroot, coconut, tiger nut, tapioca, and green banana flour. Just learning how to incorporate them into your recipes is the key to replicating your favorite breads and desserts without the inflammatory effects of gluten and grain!
In choosing your gluten and grain free flour, make sure you do not have any allergies to a specific ingredient in the flour. If you try one and end up with a stomach ache or diarrhea, then you know it’s not the right flour for you to use. You don’t have to be an expert baker to recreate your favorite recipes, but it does take a little trial and error when working with these gluten free and grain free flours.
Let’s start with the most familiar flour, almond. If you are not allergic to almonds, and you like the nutty flavor, it can be a great substitute for regular all-purpose flour. It is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, and is a good source of fiber and vitamin E. For cakes, cookies, and muffins, a 1:1 substitution for all-purpose flour is appropriate for most recipes. Adding slightly more of your leavening agent is a good tip as well. Almond flour is a heavier flour, so leaving your baked product in the pan a little longer after removing it from the oven is best. You can find almond flour at most grocery stores or you can try and make it yourself at home.
Next up is coconut flour. This flour can be used as a great substitute in many recipes, but you have like to coco-nutty flavor it will impart in your final product. Coconut flour is made from the meat of fresh coconuts. It is a great source of fiber and is low in carbohydrates, which makes it very friendly for diabetics. Due to its high fiber content, coconut flour will soak up moisture in your recipes. For baked goods, it is best to add an extra egg, chia seed or flax seed slurry, unsweetened applesauce or water to keep your recipe moist. Coconut flour can also be used as a thickener for gravies, soups, stews and roux.
Cassava Root Flour
New on the market for paleo diet followers is cassava flour. This is made from the entire tuber root, yucca. It maintains its earthy and nutty flavor and is much lighter than all-purpose flour. Because of this lightness, it will soak up moisture easily in your recipes (similar to coconut flour). For those with a gut sensitivity, this flour is very easily digested. Although it is higher in carbohydrates than most grain free flours, it is lower in sodium, fat, sugar and overall calories than almond or coconut flour. It also has a good source of vitamin C. Cassava flour can be used to bake brownies, cookies, pita bread, tortillas, pizza crust and many other baked goods. Using cassava flour can give recipes a boost in fiber as well. It can also be used as a thickener to make gravies and roux, or a used as a binder for hamburgers and meatloaf. However, a little trial and error will be needed to master your recipes.
Similar to cassava flour is tapioca flour. The terms are not interchangeable due to the differences in their sources. Tapioca flour, which has a neutral taste, is extracted from wet pulp of the yucca root. The starchy liquid is bleached and dried into flour. Tapioca flour is high in carbohydrates and has a high glycemic index, so it should be used in moderation, especially in people with diabetes and blood sugar problems. Occasional uses can be replacements for cornstarch to thicken gravies and soups, but may require adding ½ TBSP more to your recipe. A popular Brazilian bread, Pao de Queijo, is made with tapioca flour and it produces a nice light fluffy texture. Other recipes include tapioca tortillas, chips, and cakes.
Arrowroot flour is another great substitute for wheat flours. It is extracted from pulp of the arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. Arrowroot flour is high in protein and it is loaded with nutrients. It is easily digested and can be used in recipes for those who have a sensitive gut. Arrowroot is known to also help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Like tapioca flour, arrowroot has a neutral taste. It can also be substituted for cornstarch as a thickening agent in soups, gravies, sauces, stew, puddings and custards. Arrowroot starch can be used in baked goods, substituting ¼ of the recipes’ flour. It can also be used to add a crispy texture to “oven-fried” foods. Experimentation is the key to working with arrowroot flour.
Tiger Nut Flour
Trending upward in gluten and grain free flours substitutes is Tiger Nut flour. It is not made from a nut, but from a root plant. Tiger nut is high in fiber and protein and helps maintain blood glucose levels. It is a resistant starch that can keep the gut healthy by feeding good bacteria. Taste wise, it is nutty and sweet. It can be used to bake cookies, brownies, pancakes, tarts, doughs, and even in hamburgers. Baking requires a 1:1 substitution ratio for wheat flours. Again, trial and error is needed to perfect your favorite recipes.
Green Banana Flour
Super brand new to the grain free flours list is green banana flour. It is made from unripe green bananas and processed before the natural fruit sugars are formed. Green banana flour is loaded with nutrients, specifically potassium, and is a highly resistant starch. This makes it a healthy choice for the gut. It has an earthy flavor and can be used in smoothies, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, breads, cakes, waffles, and as a thickener for sauces. For baking, use 1/3 cup less green banana flour than wheat flour to substitute in your recipes. Experimentation is the key to having success in your recipes.
Chestnut flour, which is derived from a tree nut, is one of the most underused gluten and grain free flours. Well, at least in the United States. Nutrient wise, it is very low in fat, but contains a high starchy content similar to grain flours. It is still considered a high glycemic index food, GI = 658. However, this is much lower compared to whole wheat flours, GI = 85.
For your gluten and grain free recipes, you can substitute 1:1 for whole wheat flours if you do not have an allergy to chestnuts. Chestnut flour is similar to Tiger Nut flour’s earthy and nutty flavor. It is best used in crepes, breads, madeleines, muffins, pastas and cakes (except angel food cakes). Chestnut flour can also impart a sweetness to your recipes, so it is suggested to mix almond flour or coconut flour along with it. The texture of chestnut flour is similar to whole wheat flour and does not require additional eggs or moisture like coconut flour.
All of these gluten and grain free flours can be used to recreate your favorite recipes, but they should be used in moderation in your diet. Make sure you always read the ingredients. Many companies add filler agents, gums, sugars, processed preservatives, etc to their flour mixes. Choose only quality organic flours made from natural sources, and set aside time to experiment with their many uses. And if you struggle to find any of these flours in your local natural food stores, check out Thrive Market where you can find a variety of gluten-free food options.