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When it comes to baking, all-purpose flour is the tried-and-true backbone of many beloved treats. But all-purpose flour can, in fact, be swapped in whole or in part if you don’t have any and can’t get your hands on some. You also don’t have to say goodbye to delicious baked goods just because you have an intolerance to gluten or are trying your hand at a new diet. In fact, there are a plethora of all-purpose flour substitutes that might actually provide a supercharged health edge to one of your favorite recipes.
“White refined flour is really limited when it comes to nutrition, as it contains practically no fiber or protein, says Good Housekeeping Institute Registered Dietitian Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian within the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Since it’s a concentrated source of refined carbohydrates, it can also spike blood sugar levels. Trying out alternative flours in your baking at home is a great way to create more well-balanced meals and add more nutrients to your diet.”
Because they’re all derived from different grains, cereals, dried beans, and nuts, alternative flours vary greatly in taste, texture and nutritional value. It’s important to understand their different flavors and textures to make the best possible substitutions in the midst of your next baking adventure. You’ll also need to keep in mind that alt flours aren’t always grain free — if you have a gluten allergy, make sure to double check the label before purchasing a new flour for your pantry.
There’s no denying that it’s hard to keep up with all the new options in the baking aisle these days. Here are the easiest ways to make use of alternative flours in your kitchen, including some of Sassos’ best picks to add to your shopping list.
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1 Whole Wheat Flour
Whereas all-purpose flour strips the wheat kernel of its bran (its exterior) and germ (its inner seed), whole wheat flour is processed with the entire kernel. This contributes to whole wheat flour’s higher protein content than all-purpose, in addition to more fiber and other nutrients. When it comes to flavor, it is much wheatier (as the name implies!) and has a slightly nutty aftertaste. You can usually substitute up to 50% of all-purpose flour in any given recipe with whole wheat. Because this flour is derived from the same product that all-purpose flour is derived from, it tastes and behaves most similarly out of all the alternative flours to all-purpose.
2 Quinoa Flour
“Quinoa flour is really versatile, especially high in fiber, and is also a source of complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids,” Sassos says. In a pinch, you can actually make quinoa flour at home from scratch: “Gently toast quinoa on a clean skillet, then add to a food processor or blender, and blend until it reaches a flour consistency. Sift it and allow it to cool before use.”
While quinoa flour won’t function well in yeasted breads, Sassos says she frequently swaps it in for regular flour in cookies, muffins, cakes, and loaves.
3 Oat Flour
As long as the oats are derived from supplies processed in a gluten-free facility, then oat flour will also be gluten-free. It’s mild, nutty flavor makes it a great options for pancakes, waffles, bars, and breads. You can also make it at home in a pinch: “Simply add oats to a food processor or blender and blend by itself until it reaches a flour-like consistency,” Sassos says. “Oat flour has a nutty flavor and adds texture to baked goods, so I like it best as a flour swap in pancakes, muffins, or banana bread.”
It’s also one of the healthiest additions on this list: Oats contain soluble fiber that can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, won’t impact blood sugar levels on its own, and aids digestive health. Swapping flour for this supercharged option can effortlessly make most any baked good that much better for you.
4 Almond Flour
Hello, low-carb baked goods! “If you’re looking to cut carbs in your baked goods, I like almond flour because it performs really well in baking,” Sassos says. “It’s also a good source of Vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and can even help fight off infection. Almond flour is also compliant with a lot of different diets, including low-carb, paleo, and gluten-free.”
5 Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is a great gluten-free and high-fiber flour substitution. It functions well in place of flour in tempura batters, pancakes, crepes, muffins and quick breads. Rice flours have a tendency to be a little gritty, so make sure that you’re buying flours that are finely ground, or make them at home. Because it’s derived from brown rice, it will have a toasty, slightly nutty flavor.
6 Coconut Flour
Want to impart that signature, tropical profile of coconut-y bliss into your baked goods? Try coconut flour. It’s derived from dried coconut meat, making it powder-like, naturally grain-free, and ultra fine. It’s an ideal 1:1 substitution for cookies, bars, muffins, and cakes. If you are following a Keto diet or thinking about Paleo, coconut flour is a superior, low-carb, gluten-free alternative flour. Make sure to add plenty of moisture to whatever you’re baking when using coconut flour because it’s so high in fiber, it needs extra moisture to hold a baked good together.
7 Chickpea Flour
8 Spelt Flour
Spelt is a distinct type of wheat which means that this is a glutinous product. It cannot be fully substituted for all-purpose flour in baking, but it’s addition makes for a robust flavor you’ll be hard-pressed to find in most supermarket buys. Stick to a ratio of 3:1 all-purpose to spelt for the best results. Not only is it higher in fiber and whole grains, but it possesses a deep, nutty flavor that’s delicious in cookies, cakes, breads, and muffins. Try it in your next batch of chocolate chip cookies — you’ll be impressed by its toasty, rich flavor.
9 Buckwheat Flour
Don’t let the name fool you! Buckwheat flour possesses zero wheat byproduct, making it naturally gluten free. Buckwheat kernels are a pseudocereal (something that is not a cereal grain, like wheat or oats) that are harvested and ground into a dark brown, ultra-rich flour. Buckwheat flour is ideal for muffins, breads, and cookies; if you turn them into noodles, you’ve made soba noodles! This flour is a one-to-one substitution with all purpose four.
10 Amaranth Flour
Amaranth is an ancient grain that can be ground finely for a light, gluten free flour. Similar to buckwheat, amaranth is also a pseudocereal. It has a super nutty, earthy flavor that’s tasty in cakes, scones, and breads. Because of it’s ultra fine texture, substitute it for about 25% of the wheat flour in your recipe.
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