From cassava to coconut, the increased availability of alternative flours in recent years has opened up a world of possibilities in the kitchen. Gone are the days of skipping sweets, as there are now over two dozen flours made without grains, almost all of which you can buy online.
In the list of grain-free flours below I cover the flavor profile, characteristics, and best uses of each one, including whether it's a good substitute for all-purpose flour. I've marked with an asterisk which grain-free flours are NOT paleo, i.e. the legumes chickpea, lentil, and lupin flours, though potato starch is also hotly contested.
Note also that while all of these flours are directly low histamine, the ways they're processed and stored may affect how you personally react, so always introduce new ingredients slowly and carefully.
Medical Disclaimer: as with everything on this site, this article is provided for information only. I strongly urge you to speak with your doctor or a licensed medical professional in order to assess whether or not you have histamine issues and/or other medical issues.
- ❓ Why Choose Grain-Free Flours
- 🎓 Paleo Vs. Grain-Free Flours (Health Benefits)
- ❌ Common Errors When Going Grain-Free
- ✔️ Best Grain-Free Flours to Use
- 👨🏻🍳 How to Use Grain-Free Flours (Tips)
- 📋 Dietary Considerations and Alternatives
- 🌟 Where to Buy Grain-Free Flours
- 🙋🏻♂️ Frequently Asked Questions
- 💬 Comments
❓ Why Choose Grain-Free Flours
Choosing grain-free flours for your baking and thickening needs can be a game-changer. This is especially true if you need to follow specific dietary restrictions beyond low histamine, such as a keto, paleo, gluten-free or grain-free diet.
For example, since the paleo diet emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods and excludes any and all grains, choosing flours like cassava or almond flour allows you to maintain a paleo lifestyle while still enjoying the occasional baked goods.
While most grains are low histamine, the inflammation they can cause in your gut can affect every level of your well-being, like my own experience with severe anxiety and depression before going grain-free.
Unlike with histamine, there's no bucket to empty here; when you're hyper-sensitive, even one bite of bread can have cascading negative effects. In addition to suiting various dietary preferences, grain-free flours can also offer unique textures and flavors to baked goods.
Experimenting with different flours could even lead you to discover new takes on old classics or uncover new, tasty recipes. Some grain-free flours can even provide additional nutritional benefits.
For example, almond flour is rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber, while coconut flour is known for its healthy medium-chain triglycerides. Most of these flours also contain essential minerals like iron, potassium, manganese, copper, and zinc that play crucial roles in your body's daily functioning.
No matter your reasoning or length of time going grain-free, get ready to experiment, and remember to be patient when adapting your favorite recipes. Like with gluten-free flours, each one has its own unique properties and may require some trial and error to achieve the best texture and taste.
A Note on Pseudo-Grains: technically also soy (a legume which is cross-reactive to gluten and thyroid-affective), amaranth, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa flours are not made from grains, but they're also *not* generally considered part of an inflammation-prevention approach or grain-free, paleo, keto, etc.
🎓 Paleo Vs. Grain-Free Flours (Health Benefits)
When exploring the world of health-conscious baking, you'll likely encounter both paleo and grain-free flours. While all paleo flours are grain-free, not all grain-free flours fit into the paleo paradigm.
Paleo flours, such as almond or coconut flour, are derived from ingredients that were available to our ancestors and exclude grains due to their agricultural era origins. Replacements often boast a high protein content, healthy fats, and fiber, aligning with the nutrient-dense focus of the paleo diet.
Grain-free flours, on the other hand, can include options like tapioca or potato starch, which are less nutrient-dense and more refined. The health benefits of going grain-free can include improved digestion and reduced inflammation, particularly for those with grain sensitivities.
For those with specific dietary needs, diabetics for example, some might find that using grain-free flours helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce overall fluctuations in sugar levels due to the more balanced nutrient profiles.
However, the paleo approach tends to offer a broader spectrum of nutritional benefits, as it emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods that support a holistic approach to health.
For example, almond and coconut flours are high in fiber and protein, which help you feel full for longer periods and support healthy digestion. They also contain essential minerals like iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, and zinc that play crucial roles in your body's daily functioning.
When you choose grain-free flours for your baking, you're not only accommodating dietary restrictions, but you're also providing numerous health benefits that can compete with grain flours.
❌ Common Errors When Going Grain-Free
While going grain-free can be a beneficial dietary change for many - myself included -it's not without potential pitfalls. Here are some common errors people make when transitioning to a grain-free lifestyle.
Overconsumption of Processed Grain-Free Foods: Just because a product is labeled 'grain-free' doesn't automatically make it healthy. Many processed grain-free foods are high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories, like potato chips or deep fried vegetables.
Nutrient Deficiencies: Whole grains are a source of essential nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and fiber. Eliminating grains without proper substitution can lead to deficiencies in these nutrients unless obtained from other foods.
Ignoring the Need for a Balanced Diet: Some may focus solely on removing grains and overlook the importance of a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats to meet all nutritional needs, most commonly overeating meats, potatoes, and sweets.
Not Reading Labels Carefully: Grain ingredients can hide under different names, so it's important to read labels carefully to avoid accidental consumption. This is especially crucial for those with conditions like celiac disease or severe sensitivity.
Overlooking Cross-Contamination: For those with grain-related allergies or sensitivities, failing to consider cross-contamination in the kitchen can lead to exposure to grains, which can be harmful.
Not Preparing for Social Situations: Social gatherings often revolve around food, and not planning ahead can make it difficult to stick to a grain-free diet when options are limited.
Failing to Adapt Recipes: When substituting grain-free flours in recipes, it's important to understand that they don't always - or even usually - behave like wheat flour. Without adjusting recipes, the end result may not live up to expectations (or even be edible).
✔️ Best Grain-Free Flours to Use
Coconut flour is a popular choice for grain-free baking due to its generally neutral taste and texture. This flour comes from the dried coconut meat, and is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, though it's used in much lower ratios than other flours.
When using coconut flour in baking, you typically need to substitute ¼ cup to ⅓ cup for 1 cup of grain-based flour, and adjust the amount of eggs and liquid, such as coconut milk, in your recipe.
- Characteristics: High in fiber, very absorbent, mildly sweet and coconutty
- Common Uses: Low-carb baking, pancakes, muffins, and as a thickener
Almond flour, made from blanched almonds, is another popular grain-free flour. It has a mild, nutty flavor and a slightly coarse texture. It's rich in protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients, as well as being one of the most easily available grain-free flours.
You can usually substitute almond flour 1:1 for all-purpose flour in recipes, but keep in mind that it's denser, so you might need to adjust the recipe slightly.
- Characteristics: High in protein and healthy fats, fine texture, nutty flavor
- Common Uses: General baking, macarons, bread, cakes, and cookies
Made from the cassava or yuca root plant, cassava flour is starchy and similar to all-purpose flour. It's a suitable 1:1 substitute for wheat flour in most recipes, but it's gluten-free and nut-free.
Cassava flour is used extensively in Latin American cooking for its versatility and close resemblance to wheat flour, though it tends to yield a more chewy final product.
- Characteristics: Starchy, slightly sweet, similar to all-purpose flour in texture and use
- Common Uses: Making tortillas, pizza crusts, and most other baked goods where you would use all-purpose flour
Arrowroot Starch (Arrowroot Flour)
Arrowroot flour is derived from the arrowroot plant and is a popular thickening agent and substitute for cornstarch. It's versatile, tasteless, and has a fine texture. You can mix arrowroot flour with other grain-free flours for improved baking results, or use it in recipes that require thickening.
- Characteristics: Neutral taste, excellent thickening agent
- Common Uses: Gravies, sauces, fruit pie fillings, and as a cornstarch substitute
Tapioca Starch (Tapioca Flour)
Tapioca starch or flour is made from the cassava root, but differs from cassava flour due to its processing methods. It has a fine, powdery texture and is commonly used as a thickening agent or combined with other grain-free flours to improve the texture of baked goods.
- Characteristics: Starchy, slightly sweet, good for chewy texture
- Common Uses: Puddings, gluten-free baking, thickening sauces, and bread
Tigernut flour comes from a small, tuber-like root and is gluten-free and nut-free, despite the name. It has a naturally sweet flavor, and can be used in various baking applications, as well as being made into tiger nut butter.
Tigernut flour is particularly popular in paleo and AIP diets, though it's also been growing generally in popularity over the years.
- Characteristics: Nut-free, slightly sweet and nutty, high in prebiotic fiber
- Common Uses: Paleo baking, cookies, cakes, and as a nut flour alternative
Sesame flour is made from defatted sesame seeds and offers a slightly nutty flavor. It's high in protein and fiber and can be used in a variety of baked goods, especially when mixed with other grain free flours.
You can also buy black sesame powder, which is grittier than sesame flour and needs to be used as an infusion or flavoring, or further processed to make it finer for baking and energy balls. I like to even process it into black sesame paste.
- Characteristics: Rich in calcium and protein, robust flavor
- Common Uses: Breads, crackers, tahini-based recipes, and Middle Eastern dishes
Cauliflower flour is a nutritious, grain-free alternative to traditional flours. Made from dried and pulverized cauliflower, it's an excellent source of fiber. It's also a fantastic way to sneak more veggies into your diet and is superb for anyone cutting back on carbs.
Cauliflower flour can be used as a substitute in many recipes, offering a mild flavor that doesn't overpower other ingredients.
- Characteristics: High in fiber, subtle taste, low-carb
- Common Uses: Pizza crusts, tortillas, thickening soups and sauces
Acorn Starch (Acorn Flour)
Acorn flour, also known as acorn starch, is made from ground acorns and has been used historically in various cultures, including Korean cuisine. It's a gluten-free flour that provides a unique flavor profile with a slightly sweet and nutty taste.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, acorn flour also contains fats and proteins, making it a nutritious option for baking and cooking. However, it's important to process acorns properly to remove tannins before consumption.
- Characteristics: Nutty flavor, gluten-free, requires processing to remove tannins
- Common Uses: Rustic bread, traditional jellies, unique baked goods
Pumpkin Seed Flour
Pumpkin seed flour is packed with essential nutrients like zinc and magnesium, as well as healthy fats. It's known for its deep green color and rich, nutty flavor, which can enhance breads, crackers, and even sweet baked goods.
It's also a great source of plant-based protein, making it a nutritious addition to any meal.
- Characteristics: Nutrient-dense, rich in healthy fats, deep green color
- Common Uses: Gluten-free bread, pancakes, nutrient boost for baked goods
Green Banana Flour
Green banana flour is made from unripe bananas and is rich in resistant starch, which can aid in digestion and support healthy blood sugar levels. This makes it an ideal choice for those looking for a low-glycemic index option.
It's also gluten-free and can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in many recipes. With a subtle banana flavor, it works well in smoothies, baked goods, and as a thickening agent.
- Characteristics: Low-glycemic, rich in resistant starch, subtly sweet
- Common Uses: Smoothies, cakes, gluten-free baking
Chestnut flour offers a nutty, rich flavor to your recipes. It's ideal for making pancakes, cookies, and breads, and it's also extremely versatile. This naturally sweet flour is a staple in many traditional European dishes, particularly in Italian cuisine.
It's a good source of fiber and vitamins, and it's gluten-free, making it a great option for those with dietary restrictions.
- Characteristics: Sweet, rich flavor, versatile in use
- Common Uses: Pancakes, cookies, Italian pastries
Hazelnut flour is produced from pressed hazelnuts, packed with vitamins and minerals. It contributes a rich, nutty flavor to your baked goods and works well in recipes that call for almond or coconut flour.
Hazelnut flour is perfect for those looking to add a flavorful twist to their baking, and it's also a great way to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet. It's commonly used in pastries, pie crusts, and even as a breadcrumb alternative.
- Characteristics: Nutty flavor, rich in nutrients, great for sweet recipes
- Common Uses: Pastries, pie crusts, baked goods
Coffee Cherry Flour
Coffee cherry flour is derived from the dried cherries of the coffee plant. It's produced from a completely different part of the coffee plant from coffee beans, so it adds a subtle, fruity sweetness to your recipes, along with a boost of antioxidants and fiber.
This unique flour can be used in baking to create distinctive flavors and is a sustainable choice, as it utilizes parts of the coffee plant that are often discarded. It's also gluten-free and can contribute to the nutritional profile of various dishes.
- Characteristics: Fruity sweetness, rich in antioxidants, sustainable
- Common Uses: Artisan bread, unique desserts, flavor enhancement
Sweet Potato Flour
Its vibrant hue can also bring an appealing look to your culinary creations. It's a dream for creating moist and tender treats that are as nutritious as they are delicious. Let it be the secret ingredient in your next batch of muffins or the star of your homemade pancakes.
- Characteristics: Naturally sweet, adds moisture, rich in vitamins
- Common Uses: Muffins, pancakes, sweet baked goods
Potato starch is a common ingredient in grain-free recipes. It's known for its ability to add a light and fluffy texture to your baked goods, making it the perfect alternative to traditional wheat flour. You can also buy potato flour, which is a bit lower in starch.
Potato starch is more common, however, as it's commonly used as a thickener in sauces and soups, favored for its neutral flavor and thickening properties.
- Characteristics: Light texture, neutral flavor, great thickener
- Common Uses: Baking, sauces, gluten-free recipes
Lentil flour is a great source of protein and fiber, perfect for enhancing grain-free baking, or more commonly, in savory recipes. Lentil flour is also beneficial for those looking to increase their intake of iron and folate, and it can serve as a nutritious base for flatbreads, crackers, and even pasta.
It's a fantastic way to infuse a unique, earthy flavor into your homemade flatbreads or to add substance to your veggie burgers.
- Characteristics: High in protein and fiber, earthy flavor
- Common Uses: Flatbreads, savory baked goods, veggie burgers
Chickpea flour is versatile and packed with protein. You can use it in various recipes such as pancakes, breads, and even as a replacement for eggs in vegan dishes.
It has a slightly bean-like flavor that can complement savory recipes, and it's also a good source of fiber and micronutrients. It's a staple in many cuisines for a reason: it's as versatile as it is nutritious.
- Characteristics: Protein-rich, versatile, slight bean flavor
- Common Uses: Pancakes, vegan baking, egg substitute
Lupin flour is a high-protein, low-carb option made from the lupin bean, popular in low-glycemic and gluten-free diets alike. It's really the underdog of grain-free flours, boasting an impressive protein punch with a low-carb profile.
With its rich nutritional profile, including essential amino acids and dietary fiber, lupin flour is an excellent choice for those looking to make their baked goods more nutritious without compromising on taste.
- Characteristics: High in protein, low in carbs, gluten-free
- Common Uses: Keto-friendly baking, bread, biscuits
Apple flour is created from dried and finely ground apples, including the peel, which is rich in nutrients. This flour is a good option for adding natural sweetness and fiber to baked goods, different from dried apple slices in how quickly it's processed.
Apple flour can be used in combination with other flours to enhance the flavor profile of cakes, muffins, and bread. It's also gluten-free and can help retain moisture in recipes, contributing to a tender crumb in the final product, though it's not yet very common.
- Characteristics: Sweet, fruity, high in fiber
- Common Uses: Muffins, granola, fruit-flavored baked goods
Flaxseed Flour (Flax Meal)
Flaxseed flour, also known as flax meal, is made from ground flaxseeds and is a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. This flour is a popular choice for adding a nutritional boost to baked goods and can be used as an egg substitute due to its binding properties when mixed with water.
Flaxseed flour has a nutty flavor and is often used in small quantities to increase the health benefits of bread, pancakes, and smoothies.
- Characteristics: Omega-3 rich, nutty flavor, binding properties
- Common Uses: Vegan baking, bread, energy bars
Chia Seed Flour (Chia Powder)
Chia seed flour - also known as milled chia seeds or chia powder - is made by grinding chia seeds into a fine powder, very similar to flax meal. It's an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein, making it a nutritious addition to grain-free diets.
Chia seed powder can be used to thicken sauces and as a binding agent in baking. Its ability to absorb water and form a gel-like consistency also makes it useful in creating chia puddings and other desserts.
- Characteristics: High in omega-3s and protein, gel-forming
- Common Uses: Puddings, cookies, thickening agent
Hemp flour is produced from ground hemp seeds and is rich in protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. It has a mild, nutty flavor and can be used to add a nutritional punch to bread, muffins, and protein bars.
Hemp flour doesn't rise like traditional flour, so it's often mixed with other flours in baking. Its dense and hearty texture is ideal for those seeking a grain-free flour option that also provides a boost of plant-based nutrients.
- Characteristics: Rich in protein and fiber, hearty texture
- Common Uses: Bread, smoothies, protein bars
Pecan flour is made from finely ground pecans and is an excellent source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. With its rich, buttery flavor, pecan flour can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, from cookies to breading for chicken.
It's a gluten-free alternative that adds depth to the flavors of your recipes and can often be used in place of almond flour. I particularly enjoy using it to make pie crust.
- Characteristics: Buttery, sweet, nutrient-rich
- Common Uses: Pie crusts, nutty desserts, savory coatings for meat
Sunflower Seed Flour
Sunflower seed flour is derived from finely ground sunflower seeds and is a nutritious, grain-free flour alternative. It's packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats, particularly vitamin E and selenium.
This flour has a mild, slightly nutty taste and is versatile in baking, working well in bread, cookies, and as a nut-free alternative to almond flour for those with nut allergies.
- Characteristics: Nut-free, mild flavor, versatile
- Common Uses: Allergy-friendly baked goods, bread, cookies
Cashew flour is made from ground cashews and offers a rich, creamy texture to baked goods. It's a good source of monounsaturated fats and magnesium, and it can be used in a variety of recipes, including cakes, cookies, and crusts.
Cashew flour has a subtle sweetness and can be a great alternative for those looking for a grain-free flour with a less pronounced nutty flavor than almond or coconut flours, though it's generally considered high histamine.
- Characteristics: Creamy texture, subtly sweet, nutritious
- Common Uses: Cookies, cakes, thickening agent
👨🏻🍳 How to Use Grain-Free Flours (Tips)
When you start using grain-free flours in your kitchen for baking and cooking, it's essential to understand how to use them properly for the best results. Here are some tips to help you make the most of these flours in various recipes.
First, remember that grain-free flours often need more liquid than their grain-based counterparts. This is because ingredients like cassava flour and coconut flour can be quite absorbent, so you may need to add extra liquid to your recipes to achieve the desired texture.
To make better use of grain-free flours in your baking:
- Choose the appropriate type of grain-free flour for your recipe.
- Adjust the amount of liquid in your recipes to accommodate the specific grain-free flour you're using. Start by adding small amounts and adjusting as needed.
- Consider incorporating more eggs into your recipes, as eggs can help provide structure and stability in the absence of gluten. Experiment with different ratios to find what works best for your preferences and needs.
When it comes to yeast-based recipes, using grain-free flours can be a bit tricky, as the flours may not behave the same way as traditional flours. While some paleo baking flours may work in non-yeast recipes, you might need to experiment with different types and ratios of grain-free flours to find what works best in yeast-based recipes.
📋 Dietary Considerations and Alternatives
When it comes to grain-free baking, it's essential to consider your dietary needs and preferences. Whether you're following a paleo, keto, or gluten-free diet, or you have food sensitivities, there's a variety of grain-free flours to suit your requirements.
For those on a paleo diet, you'll want to avoid grains, legumes, and dairy products. Some excellent grain-free and paleo-friendly flour options include almond flour, coconut flour, and tapioca starch, which can be used in various recipes, from bread to cookies.
If you're following a keto diet, low-carbohydrate flours are your best choice. Almond flour and coconut flour are popular choices since they have a lower carb content than many other grain-free flours. However remember that keto recipes may also contain dairy products, so if you have dairy sensitivities, opt for non-dairy alternatives.
On the other hand, those on a gluten-free diet need to steer clear of flours with gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye. Luckily, many grain-free flours are naturally gluten-free, like cassava flour or banana flour. However, always check the labels for any gluten-related allergens or potential cross-contamination.
For individuals with food sensitivities, it's crucial to choose flours that won't trigger any adverse reactions. If you have a nut allergy but still want to enjoy grain-free baking, go for nut-free options like cassava flour or arrowroot starch. Always keep the following in mind:
- You might need to adjust the liquids in your recipe, as some grain-free flours absorb more than traditional wheat flours.
- There could be a difference in texture, so be prepared for some trial and error when replacing regular flour with grain-free options.
- Don't forget to experiment with different flours to find the perfect mix for your needs and taste preferences.
With a bit of creativity and several nutritious grain-free flours to choose from, you can enjoy delicious baked goods while accommodating your dietary needs. Happy baking!
🌟 Where to Buy Grain-Free Flours
One of the most convenient options is to buy your grain-free flours is through Amazon. On there you can find a wide variety of grain-free flour brands and types to choose from, including full customer reviews. The best part is that they deliver right to your doorstep!
Another online option for purchasing grain-free flours is Thrive Market. Thrive Market specializes in organic and healthy products, making it an ideal place to buy grain-free flours or even the raw materials to make your own flour.
In addition to flours, they offer a range of other baking ingredients and supplies. Sign up for an account to enjoy members-only discounts and free shipping direct to your door on orders over a certain amount.
Sprouts Market or Whole Foods
With similar selections, both Sprouts Market and Whole Foods have a good selection of paleo flours and more generally grain-free flours beyond the usual almond and coconut.
Don't forget to check your local grocery stores, health food stores, and specialty shops. Some stores have dedicated sections for gluten-free and grain-free ingredients these days, making it easy for you to find the flours you need.
Be sure to read the labels carefully to ensure that the product you're purchasing is truly grain-free.
🙋🏻♂️ Frequently Asked Questions
The best grain-free flours for baking depends on the specific recipe, but almond flour and coconut flour are popular choices for their versatility, availability, and relatively neutral flavors. They can be used in all sorts of recipes, often in combination with other grain-free flours, and due to their popularity, there are thousands of recipes formulated to use them.
On the paleo diet, flours made from nuts and seeds, like almond, coconut, and flaxseed meal, are allowed, as well as those made from roots and tubers, such as arrowroot and cassava flour. These flours are grain-free and fit within the paleo framework and goals.
Flours considered anti-inflammatory include those made from sprouted nuts and seeds, like almond and flaxseed meal, as well as coconut flour. These flours are gluten-free and rich in nutrients, which may help reduce and balance inflammation in the body.
For gut health, flours that are high in fiber and prebiotics, such as green banana flour and coconut flour, are most beneficial. They support healthy digestion and the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, contributing to overall long-term gut health.