Constantly trying to sub flours in when cooking or baking is a massive pain. It sucks to have to avoid one food, much less several hundred, but somehow we’re all managing it. My goal is just to make that easier for you, and for Future Me. Because when Past Me had to suddenly learn a lot about making my own gluten-free flour, she got very overwhelmed and often just ended up eating her safe meal again (sound familiar?).
Eventually I went back to the drawing board, calmed my symptoms, reintroduced ingredients, and found a few blends that worked for me. But I was particularly trying to come up with a single well-balanced low histamine flour blend for baking and bread making, so I had to slowly test out each flour one at a time. Thus, I accumulated nearly a dozen different histamine friendly flours that I use in a variety of dishes as well as combined together in blends. I figured I’d round them all up and write about them, so here we are.
Remember that even though I may be able to tolerate one low histamine flour, you may not be able to tolerate it. As listed in this post I wrote, add in new foods and flour slowly, one by one in small amounts. This article explains quite well why you use each type of powder and which category it would fall into, so that you can slowly try out each type of flour for yourself. When blending, just don’t forget to add a binder of some kind, to replace the gluten; I like either flax meal or psyllium depending upon what I’m making, though now I can also tolerate small amounts of xanthan gum.
Note that you can also make your own versions of many of these flours, if you initially react to the pre-made flours but don’t react to it in other forms, like with oat flour or sticky rice flour.
Low Histamine Grains (As Flours)
Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is as sturdy as it sounds, with an earthy and somewhat more nutty flavor, very different from either white rice flour or sweet rice flour, the latter of which is made from a different type of rice. This option is different from white rice flour in that manufacturers keep the bran on when milling it, leading to a slightly grittier grind, although I’ve never noticed it. You’ll quickly realize that either brown or white rice flour is usually the base for a gluten-free flour blend, which should clue you in on its potential. But I’ve never really noticed a flavor or texture difference between them, so I always buy the “healthier” option of brown rice flour, so do whatever you tolerate best.
Comparable Flours: Brown rice flour can be substituted with white rice flour, oat flour, or maaaaaybe tapioca starch.
Sweet Rice Flour (Glutinous Rice)
This is probably the most unique flour on this list. It’s best-known as the basis for mochi, the sweet but sticky East Asian dessert that’s traditionally filled with red bean paste or honey & nuts, but is now more commonly filled with ice cream. It creates a very sticky dough when mixed with water, and is also known as glutinous rice thanks to this gluten-like characteristic. While I use the intact version of this grain for my Mango Sticky Rice recipe, I’ve only ever used the rice powder to make crepes (recipe coming soon!), and it’s most often used in other dessert-type dishes.
Comparable Flours: Sweet rice flour can sometimes be substituted with tapioca starch, but it won’t be as chewy or sticky.
Sorghum flour is often said to be the best substitute for white flour, as it can be used 1-to-1 in almost any recipe. The flavor is mild and sort of earthy, but doesn’t taste as sweet to me as popped sorghum, one of my favorite low histamine snacks. It’s a middle-of-the-road option with a similar protein and fiber balance as wheat, but none of the gluten. Its whole form is often compared to popcorn, but about 1/10th of the size. I prefer to use sorghum flour for sweeter applications, like in cookies and cake.
Comparable Flours: Sorghum flour can be substituted in small portions with buckwheat flour, or in larger portions with oat flour.
I love using oat flour in sweeter recipes, especially when I make something to pair with fruits or cream, as its flavor blends well into the background of recipes. It’s roughly a third lighter than regular wheat flour, but remember that if you’re 1-to-1 replacing white flour with oat flour, it’s important to replace them by weight not by volume, for that reason. I’ve been trying to find the perfect oatmeal cookie made with oat flour, but I have yet to discover a low histamine version. If you know of any, please drop your leads below!
Comparable Flours: Oat flour can be substituted with buckwheat flour, amaranth flour (low histamine-friendly), or even just finely-ground oats from your cupboard.
Low Histamine Starches (As Flours)
Arrowroot Flour (Arrowroot Starch)
You’re most likely to find this low histamine thickener in rather small portions in any given recipe, as it has some textural superpowers. When you’re adding it to a recipe, you’ll almost always be directed to mix the arrowroot flour with some water to form a slurry, as adding it directly by itself can leave you with jelly-like clumps. It’s got a very mild flavor that blends into the background quite well, but it’s also much more powerful than the high histamine flours it’s likely replacing (corn starch or potato starch). Note that arrowroot flour is the same as arrowroot starch and arrowroot powder.
Comparable Flours: As it’s a thickener, arrowroot flour can be substituted with other thickeners such as xanthan gum or tapioca starch.
Tapioca Flour (Tapioca Starch)
Tapioca flour has a very unusual texture, sort of sticky but also extremely smooth, like powdered sugar. In reality, it’s the starchy portion of the yucca root (also called cassava), and it’s known for having almost no discernable taste, making it great as a thickener. But another popular use for tapioca flour is in adding a crunch or a crisp to anything being pan-fried, deep-fried, or air-fried, even breads. Note that tapioca flour also called tapioca starch and tapioca powder, but it’s very different from tapioca pearls.
Comparable Flours: Tapioca flour can be substituted with arrowroot flour or cassava flour for thickening, or with white rice flour or brown rice flour for baking/frying in larger amounts.
Cassava Flour (Yucca Flour)
Cassava flour has become quite popular in the low histamine community; I even use it in my pizza dough recipe, which is purposefully dense. This is because cassava flour is heavier than the traditional stuff, so you need to weigh it out rather than measure it traditionally (that is, by volume). Along with oat and sorghum flours, cassava flour is often touted as the perfect replacement for white flour, thanks to its mild and neutral flavor, and I have to second that recommendation. Cassava flour is often compared to tapioca powder, however it contains the entire root of the cassava plant while tapioca powder contains only the starch of the root.
Comparable Flours: Cassava flour can be substituted with tapioca starch or arrowroot starch in smaller amounts (or whenever it’s used for thickening).
Other Low Histamine Flours
Almond flour has changed the game for me when it comes to low histamine desserts. Not only is it the main ingredient in my vanilla cookies, but it’s also the savior in some of my favorite crackers and snacks. The nut flour is very high in protein and quite dense, but it adds a mild and chewy almond flavor to whatever it’s used in, though be aware that it’s very high in lectins. Don’t confuse almond flour for almond meal, as the latter is much grittier than a flour.
Because of its unique properties, remember when you substitute almond flour for coconut flour you won’t need any extra liquid (unlike when substituting it with other flours), but it will change the fiber & protein content of your dish. That could affect the final flavor and texture of whatever you’re making, so always be careful when subbing for this unusual flour with any other.
Comparable Flours: Almond flour can be substituted with coconut flour, most lower-fat seed flours, or with cassava flour in small amounts.
Despite the name, buckwheat is actually a seed, unrelated to the wheat grain from which white flour is made. It’s a gluten-free flour option that’s got an earthy, grassy flavor, great for your most savory or heavy dishes. Traditionally, buckwheat flour is used to make soba noodles, crepe batter, and even crackers, but when substituting directly for white flour, it’s best to keep buckwheat as no more than a quarter of the flour in your dish. Unless the recipe was specifically formulated to use more buckwheat, you may not be happy with the flavor results when subbing it 1-to-1, but it certainly plays a solid supporting role in blends.
Comparable Flours: Buckwheat flour can be substituted with brown rice flour, oat flour, or sorghum flour.
This was the first type of flour I reintroduced into my diet, and boy does it have a learning curve. Coconut flour is very high in fiber and contains some protein and fat, so it’s super absorbent like almond flour, but it also has very filling and anti-inflammatory properties. I find it to be super filling, so most of my coconut flour goes into making sweets, as I find that the flavor of coconut pairs beautifully with monk fruit and keeps my blood sugar stable.
Comparable Flours: Coconut flour can be substituted with almond flour or maaaaaybe cassava flour (though you need to use much less liquid in your recipe).
All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour
This option is included because I have found that most gluten free flour blends are low histamine, except for the few people who are more sensitive to certain common ingredients (like potato starch or corn starch). For example, I use the Bob’s Red Mill blend linked below for about half my flour needs, but it includes potato starch and fava bean flour, which may be inflammatory for some people.
However, I tend to eat rather histamine-balanced meals, that is to say that I eat actively antihistamine foods at the same time as some moderately high histamine foods that are otherwise nutrient-rich. This means that I can use a pre-made gluten free flour blend without worrying about taking DAO or having a reaction, but you just may not be in that place yet. Find what works for you, and move forward from there.