When it comes to whipping up a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies, it’s all about choosing the right set of ingredients to give them the perfect flavor and texture. However, if you’re on a grain-free diet, you might feel a little stuck. Which flour should you use? And how do you know which will bake those cookies to soft and gooey or crispy and flaky perfection?
Luckily, we have a handy guide to the best grain-free flours to stock in your pantry for the next time you’re looking to get creative in the kitchen. Each one differs in terms of nutrition and baking abilities, so take note when shopping at the grocery store. And feel free to experiment! Have some fun playing around with different types to see which ones you like the most.
This flour is pretty low carb and it contains healthy fats, protein, and a little extra fiber, says Suzanne Dixon, registered dietitian with The Mesothelioma Center in Orlando, Florida. While bulking up on protein and fiber is great for boosting satiety, the fat is what’s so great for baking needs, she says.
“Lots of fat makes for moist baked goods and the almond flavor is slightly sweet and very pleasing to most people,” she says. The high fat content can make baked goods very dense and heavy, which can be awesome if you want something thick and gooey; however, if you're going for a flaky, light texture, almond flour probably isn't the best option.
The only reason to avoid this one is if you have an allergy. “Some people are allergic to tree nuts, and obviously, this flour is a no go if a person has this allergy,” she says.
This flour can do a great job of making a fluffier, lighter baked good like a stack of airy pancakes. “It doesn't have a strong flavor, which is a plus if you are making a baked product with a ‘delicate’ flavor you don't want to overpower with the flour itself,” she says. Yet that also means it could be a bit bland without adding in some seasoning yourself.
“Coconut flour is a nice balance of protein, fat, and carbs, plus offers a huge boost to fiber intake,” says Dixon.
It has a great texture for baking and gives a “lighter” feel, which can be useful for when you don’t want to feel too lethargic or full. “It's delicious and easy to find in any grocery store. It also has significantly fewer calories compared with regular wheat flour,” she says.
But if you’re not nuts for coconuts, definitely take a pass. “The coconut aroma and taste come through in any finished product, so enjoying coconut is a prerequisite,” she says. There's also the allergen issue, of course.
Per Serving (1/4 cup): 85 kcal, 0.25 g fat, 16.5 g carbs, 5 g protein, 1 g fiber.
Similarly to coconut flour, this option is lower calorie, which can be super helpful if you’re looking to diet. There are about half the calories per ¼ cup, compared to regular flour and many other non-grain flours, she explains.
Plus, it has a fairly mild flavor, so it works well in sweet or savory recipes! There’s an excellent balance of protein and carbs, while still being low fat, so it’s a good flour to use if you’re on a more low-fat diet.
Try using it in Indian cuisine at home! “This also is referred to as ‘gram flour,’ a popular ingredient used in Indian (east) cooking. I do a lot of Indian cooking, so I use this fairly often and love it in traditional Indian recipes that call for it, such as dosas,” she says.
It doesn't bind ingredients together as well in baked goods, so things can turn out a bit crumbly and dry compared to other flour options, and it does have a very slight "beany" taste.
Soy Flour (Defatted)
Protein, protein, protein! It's one of the few flours that adds significant protein to anything you make with it so you’re really boosting that staying power and building muscle.
“For this reason, a lot of people also like using it to make entrees, such as homemade veggie burgers or veggie mac and cheese. It's pretty mild in flavor and provides a nice addition of fiber to the diet, too,” says Dixon.
If you're allergic to soy, you can’t have it, but if you’re free of allergies, it’s a great option! It's not a "fluffy" replacement, so it may not work as well in baked goods that need to rise, though, she says.
Another drawback? Soy is one of the ingredients most likely to have been genetically modified, so if non-GMO ingredients are important to you, you might want to choose another option.
Which to Choose?
Try them all on for size and pick your favorite! You can’t go wrong.
"I believe coconut and cassava have great baking properties, and if you don't mind a denser baked good, almond flour is a good choice, too,” Dixon says. But if you or anyone you're serving has allergies, opt for more crowd-friendly choices like chickpea or cassava.
Chickpea flour is ideal for more savory snacks like pretzels and meals and adds nutrition when mixed with the light texture of cassava flour.
Start experimenting at home and feel free to buy a variety for different cooking needs, such as for making delicious grain-free brownies or a “breading” for a chicken dish.
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. She can't resist a good sample, a margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. She writes for various magazines, such as Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, LIVESTRONG, POPSUGAR, Allure, Health, Cooking Light, and more. Learn more about her on her website: isadorabaum.com.