One of the more confusing parts of getting started on the paleo diet is baking with gluten free flours.
Back in the day it used to be a choice between almond flour and coconut flour, now take a stroll down the baking flour aisle and you’ll likely get overwhelmed with all the choices.
Baking with Gluten Free Flour vs Regular Flour
Since many people like myself have an issue with gluten, alternative baking flours have become very popular to bake with. There’s a ton of alternatives, but which flour you use can depend on different things, like preference and what it is you’re actually making.
Almond flour is made by grounding up the almonds until they are fine enough to resemble regular baking flour. It can be one of the more confusing of the paleo baking flours, because there are two types:
- Almond Flour or Blanched Almond Flour is when the almonds are placed in scolding hot water and then the skins are removed. It is finely grounded and lighter in color, so it will resemble more baking flours that you are traditionally used to seeing.
- Ground Almond meal on the other hand will still contain the skin of the almonds and will be a little grittier than its blanched almond flour counterpart.
I typically like to use almond flour for baking replacements in recipes like cookies or cakes. Almond meal works great as a replacement for breadcrumbs since it has a coarse texture, but you can also use it as a replacement in paleo recipes as well if you prefer a gritter texture. Almond flour also has more of a neutral flavor, so if you’re looking for a more cake – like consistency without a strong almond taste then almond flour is the ideal choice. I use almond meal in my paleo pancake recipe because I like that gritty texture, but I also like using regular flour for pancakes as well. Just know that using almond meal will make pancakes slightly thicker.
Almond flour is typically a one – to – one replacement to conventional recipes that include wheat flour, but since it requires a stronger bonding agent you may need to alter the amount of eggs or binder used in the recipe. That’s why you’ll see a lot of paleo recipes that use almond flour also using like an entire carton of eggs.
Coconut flour is also another popular alternative in the paleo space for baking. Naturally grain and gluten free, coconut flour is produced from the dry coconut meat from coconuts. It is a fine, ground powder slightly off white in color.
This paleo baking flour contains a lot of rich nutrients, including soluble fiber and good healthy fats.
Coconut flour is one of the denser paleo baking flours, so you will have to modify the recipe slightly. It tends to absorb liquids very easily, so you’ll either need to reduce the amount of flour that you use or increase the amount of liquids. I use coconut flour in my paleo chocolate chip cookies recipe and opted to use less flour. If you are using coconut flour in your recipe, start out by substituting ¼ cup of coconut flour for every cup of regular flour you would use. If you notice your mix looking a little on the dry side, slowly add in ¼ cup additional liquids.
Coconut flour also doesn’t bind very well when used alone, so that’s why many recipes combine coconut flour with other paleo baking flours. It can be great for giving cakes and cookies a nice fluffy texture when combined with other baking flour alternatives.
Coconut flour is also very popular as a thickening agent for stews and soups.
The relatively new kid of the baking flour alternatives block, cassava flour is one of the very few flours out there not derived from nuts. It’s produced from the cassava root plant typically found in South America and parts of Asia and Africa. This starchy tuber is similar in nutrients to yams, taro, plantains and potatoes.
Cassava flour has gained traction in the Autoimmune Paleo community for being a nut free baking alternative. It’s also great for anyone who is allergic to nuts. It is a little higher in carbs, so it may not be ideal for those following the keto diet.
This paleo baking flour alternative is very mild in flavor and does not have a gritty or grainy texture like many other flours. It can be used as a one-to-one alternative to wheat flour, making it one of the more easier baking flour alternatives to bake with. There are tons of great cassava recipes out there, including my paleo bagel recipe using Otto’s cassava flour.
Tigernut flour has recently gained momentum in the paleo baking world because, like cassava, it is a nut-free alternative baking flour. Tigernuts are made from a root veggie commonly found in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. This makes Tigernut flour another great option for those following the autoimmune protocol diet.
What sets Tigernuts apart in baking with gluten free flours, is that they share a similar nutrition value to nuts. Funny thing is, they are not actually nuts. Besides containing a healthy number of prebiotics for balancing a good gut flora, Tigernuts also contain potassium, vitamin E and vitamin C. It is also high in fiber, protein and magnesium.
Tigernut flour has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. It can be used as a one – to – one replacement in any of your paleo baked goods. Since it is on the sweeter side, you can cut back on some of the sugar in the recipe. It works well when combined in recipes with other paleo baking flours, including coconut flour.
Green Banana Flour
One of the lesser known paleo baking flours, green banana flour is derived from green, under ripe bananas. Even though you might assume it would make your dishes taste like bananas, it does not. Green banana flour has more of a neutral taste.
It’s loaded with resistant starch, which is a fantastic source of prebiotics for helping balance the gut. Green banana flour provides tons of fiber. Since it is processed using low heat, it is one of the most effective ways to get a daily serving of resistant starch. Green banana flour is also loaded with other minerals including zinc, magnesium and manganese. It also contains a small amount of 5HTP, which is known to help increase serotonin production.
Green banana flour has a similar taste and texture to cassava flour and coconut flour with a mild, neutral taste. It typically has an off-white color and can be used both as a supplement and paleo baking flour.
You’ll want to use about 40% less green banana flour than you would use if using regular flour.
Arrowroot or Tapioca Starch
Arrowroot and tapioca starch are typically used as suitable alternatives to cornstarch in paleo baking. It can also be used in conjunction with other paleo baking flours to give them a little more rise.
Tapioca is derived from the same root as cassava flour, but it has a slightly different, finer texture. Both tapioca and arrowroot can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Both are great thickening agents for paleo gravies, stews and pie fillings. It took me a few tries to master the art of using arrowroot. Too much and it turns into a thick gooey sludge really quick. Your best bet is to start out more on the conservative side and increase gradually.
When adding in place of other baking flours, you can us a one – to – one ratio.