The Scoop on Alternative Flours

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The minute that bag of flour hits the countertop, you know you’re in for something delicious. Warm, homemade bread, cakes and pastries are the epitome of comfort food.

A great way to experiment with your old favorites is by trying out some of the new ingredients popping up on store shelves. All-purpose flour is no longer the only game in town. Predicted to be a big hit this year, alternative flours have been slowly sneaking into our kitchens, and it seems like there’s no end in sight. We looked into some to find out what they have to offer and the best ways to use them.  

Soy Flour

Soy flour is made from ground soybeans and is packed with protein. It adds moisture and a nutty flavor to baked goods. A low-fat version is also available. Soy flour causes food to brown more quickly, so make sure to lower your oven temperature or shorten cooking time. Store it in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. It’s best used for thickening liquids like soups, or substituting up to one-third for white flour in cakes, cookies and quick breads.

Per ¼ cup: 120 cal, 6 g fat (1 g sat fat), 0 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (2 g sugars), 3 g fiber, 10 g protein, 30% magnesium, 25% iron, 14% phosphorus, 10% calcium

Brown Rice Flour

Brown rice flour is made from whole rice kernels and can be used like you would whole-wheat flour. A white rice flour version is also available and can be used as a one-to-one substitute for all-purpose white flour. Brown rice flour can yield a grittier texture to baked goods but is a good alternative for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet. The dough can be sticky to handle. Because brown rice flour is gluten-free, baked goods will not rise like those made with all-purpose flour.

Per ¼ cup: 140 cal, 1 g fat, (1 g sat fat), 5 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (0 g sugars), 2 g fiber, 3 g protein, 4% iron

Chickpea Flour

Chickpea flour, also known as garbanzo or gram flour, is made by grinding dried chickpeas into a powder. It has a nutty flavor and can be used in place of whole-wheat flour, as an egg substitute in baked goods, or to add flavor to and thicken soups and sauces. To replace an egg, use ¼ cup chickpea flour, plus ¼ cup water or milk.

Per ¼ cup: 110 cal, 2 g fat (0 g sat fat), 5 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (3 g sugars), 6 g protein, 10% iron, 4% calcium

Coconut Flour

As coconut flour is made from the dried pulp of a coconut, it is high in fiber and has a light, mildly sweet coconut flavor. Coconut flour can be used to substitute 20-to-30 percent of all-purpose flour for most baked goods. It’s also a great way to add extra fiber and protein when breading meats, thickening sauces and gravies, and making smoothies, shakes and hot chocolate.

Per 2 Tbsps: 60 cal, 2 g fat (2 g sat fat), 30 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (1 g sugars), 5 g fiber, 2 g protein, 10% iron

Amaranth Flour

Amaranth flour is made from an ancient grain. The flour is too dense to be used on its own but can substitute for all-purpose flour in baked goods by up to 25 percent. Amaranth flour has an earthy, grassy taste. Therefore, it works better in savory dishes like breads and pizza dough as well as to thicken sauces, gravies and soups.

Per ¼ cup: 110 cal, 2 g fat (0.5 g sat fat), 6 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (0 g sugars), 3 g fiber, 4 g protein, 12% iron, 4% calcium

Quinoa Flour

Quinoa flour contains a complete protein that provides essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscles. It can be used to substitute for all-purpose flour one-to-one but will yield a grainier texture to baked goods. Because of its bitter flavor, it works best with strong-flavored savory baked goods like cheddar cheese biscuits and herb muffins. To cut the bitterness, you can also try toasting your flour at 215°F for 2.5 to 3 hours, until its strong, grassy smell is gone and the flour tastes mild.

Per ¼ cup: 110 cal, 1.5 g fat (0 g sat fat), 8 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g sugars), 2 g fiber, 4 g protein, 7% iron

Almond Flour

Almond flour or almond meal is made from blanched almond nuts. Because nuts are high in good fats, this flour needs to be refrigerated to prevent spoiling.  It adds moisture, a nutty flavor and can replace up to one-fourth of the white flour in pastries, cookies and cakes. Almond flour shouldn’t be used to replace flour in yeast or quick breads. It is great for using on recipes that call for breadcrumbs.

Per ¼ cup: 160 cal, 14 g fat (1 g sat fat), 0 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g sugars), 3 g fiber, 6 g protein, 35% vitamin E, 20% magnesium, 6% calcium, 6% iron

Spelt Flour

Spelt flour is made from an ancient grain and is very similar to wheat flour. It comes in refined and whole versions and has a nutty, light flavor. Spelt flour can be substituted one-to-one for all-purpose flour without compromising the consistency of baked goods.

Per ¼ cup: 120 cal, 1 g fat (0 g sat fat), 1 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (0 g sugars), 4 g fiber, 4 g protein, 8% iron

Although alternative flours can be a great way to add nutritional variety to your diet, it’s important to note that, unlike all-purpose flour, they are not enriched with minerals like folic acid. Folic acid is an important nutrient that helps prevent birth defects. In the end, all-purpose flour will always be a staple, but alternative flours can also be a great way to experiment in the kitchen.