I’m excited to share with you how to go gluten-free with cooking flours and baking flours — thanks to my list of the best gluten-free flours.
Most people today use white flour and wheat flour, neither of which are good for your health. Most white and wheat flours are bleached, contain gluten (which many people have an allergy to) and are hard on your digestive system — plus, there are a number of side effects from using white and wheat flour.
The good news? There are all-natural, great-tasting flours that have been used for thousands of years that you can replace white or wheat flour with. Gluten-free flours include coconut flour, basic gluten-free flour, sprouted flour, oat flour, rice flour and more — each packed with unique benefits and nutritional value that I’ll discuss in detail below.
Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
First, as you probably know, you can buy general gluten-free flours. Some all-purpose gluten-free flours use garbanzo bean flour, also known as chickpea flour, along with sorghum flour and potato starch. Others use rice flours in place of chickpea flour.
General gluten-free flours actually have a great texture and work as an all-purpose baking flour. Typically, one cup of white flour or one cup of wheat flour is equivalent to one cup of most all-purpose gluten-free flours. You can find these in almost any local grocery store.
Although these flours are incredibly convenient, they generally do not offer as many health benefits as the individual gluten-free flour options I presented in the section above. One reason for this is that some of the flours are created with rice flours and potato starch.
White rice and potato starch are refined and processed carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates have been stripped of their nutrients and enter the bloodstream like sugar. This prompts the release of insulin, which then converts sugar into stored fat rather than energy, causing the brain and body to miss out on fuel.
You can actually make your own gluten-free flour mix, too, and make it plenty healthy. Take, for instance, our own Paleo flour blend that is comprised of almond, arrowroot, tapioca and coconut flour. It’s a true macronutrient flour, with 34 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of healthy fats and 9 (!) grams of fiber per serving along with 6.5 grams of protein. This protein will fill you and your guests for hours, rather than just jack up everybody’s blood sugar.
Individual Gluten-Free Flours
1. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is a great replacement to white and wheat flour. Coconut flour nutrition is high in fiber and healthy fats, so if you’re looking to go on a lower-carb diet, want to try a Paleo or vegan diet or hope to lose weight fast, one of the best things you can do is start using coconut flour.
The health benefits are superb. For instance, coconut flour’s high levels of healthy saturated fats are used by the body easily for energy and help support a healthy metabolism and more. Coconut flour also assists in creating a healthy blood sugar level, since it carries a low glycemic load and doesn’t spike blood sugar levels. In fact, studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition show that consuming products that contain coconut flour can help lower the overall glycemic impact of the food and support stable blood sugar levels.
Studies also show that coconut flour has the ability to help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and serum triglycerides in people who have raised cholesterol levels. Coconut flour has this positive effect because of its high supply of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber plus its healthy MUFA fat content.
2. Sprouted Corn Flour
Sprouted corn flour a gluten-free, sprouted, yellow-corn flour. If you want to make homemade cornbread, this is the flour to use.
Sprouting is when you take a grain and soak it anywhere between 12 to 48 hours. That kills off the phytic acid in the flour. Phytic acid is what binds to minerals. If you buy whole-wheat bread today, you’ll notice that the package says, “contains riboflavin,” which is vitamin B2, and contains a few other vitamins.
The truth is that when you consume this, you’re not absorbing those vitamins because they’re bound to phytic acid. Imagine you have all these vitamins and minerals that are all stuck together. You may consume this seemingly healthful mixture, but it just passes right through you.
However, when you sprout a grain, the process kills off that phytic acid. Now, all the minerals and vitamins are free so you can absorb and digest them. When purchasing sprouted corn flour, it is vital to buy non-GMO verified corn flour, like my favorite variety sold by Sprouted Flour Co.
The largest downside of traditional corn flour is that it’s often made from GMO corn, which is associated with a variety of health issues. However, organic corn nutrition is a worthy addition to a gluten-free diet — in moderation, of course.
3. Oat Flour
This flour is even better than regular oats in terms of digestibility — the nutrients, including all the vitamins and minerals, you find in oats are easier to digest in gluten-free oat flour. Oats also help lower cholesterol, provide fiber to keep you feeling full, increase immunity and more.
4. Rice Flour
The next flour here is brown rice flour, another gluten-free flour. Rice flour, we know, tends to be non-allergenic for a lot of people, and most people digest it well. Even though I do like the sprouted flours more, brown rice flour is fine as well. And if you’re loathe to give up pasta, brown rice pasta probably represents the best simulation of pasta.
A health benefit to having the brown rice version compared to white is that the husk remains intact, which provides more fiber and nutritional value, such as increased calcium and zinc. Brown rice flour has a nutty flavor and works best when combined with other flours to help avoid a crumbly, dry texture.
5. Almond Flour
Nutritious almonds are packed with L-arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium. Studies published in Nutrition Reviews show almonds have a consistent “bad” LDL cholesterol-lowering effect, especially in individuals with high cholesterol and diabetes. Almonds are also a high-fiber food and contain certain types of healthy fats.
And the awesome thing about almond flour is that it’s simply ground-up almonds so it gives you all of the original almond’s health benefits. One cup of this flour contains about 90 almonds and provides more than 100 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin E.
Almond flour is super versatile and can be used in all kinds of baked foods. It’s also useful in different meals or even coating for things like chicken tenders.
6. Tapioca Flour
Tapioca is one of the purest forms of starch there is. Tapioca is typically used as a thickening agent in recipes. Although it doesn’t offer many nutrients outside of carbohydrates/starch, tapioca is a low-calorie, sugar-free option. In a quarter cup of tapioca flour there is 100 calories, 26 grams carbohydrates and almost no sugar, fat or protein.
While tapioca flour is a great thickening agent, when compared to cassava flour (see #10 below), cassava flour may be a better option for some. Tapioca and cassava flour both originate from the cassava root. Tapioca, however, only comes from the starch of the root and is then bleached. Cassava contains more vitamin C and is less processed overall.
Compared to many other flours, tapioca absorbs and retains a higher water content, which means it does a great job of binding, thickening and moistening recipes. While gluten-free baking can sometimes be hard without the sticky and bouncy quality of gluten protein (found in wheat, rye and barley flours), adding some tapioca flour can help keep recipes from crumbling and getting too dry.
7. Chickpea Flour
Chickpea flour — also known as gram flour, garbanzo bean flour or traditionally besan — provides a number of health benefits. As a member of the legume family, chickpeas provide high levels of fiber to help with digestion and promote weight loss.
Chickpea flour also has what is thought to be an ideal ratio of magnesium and calcium, energizing B vitamins and potential benefits specifically for pregnant women as it contains large amounts of folate.
One of the most popular ways to use chickpea flour is to make socca, which is similar to a hearty pancake or thin bread (but gluten-free!). Traditionally, it’s simply made with chickpea flour, olive oil and spices.
8. Sorghum Flour
As a heavy flour, sorghum flour works best in recipes that require a small amount of flour or when used in combination with other lighter gluten-free flours.
So why use sorghum flour at all? This flour provides high quantities of fiber and antioxidants. Sorghum also helps balance blood sugar and fight inflammation and diseases. If you are looking to lose weight, sorghum contains tannins that are thought to help fight obesity.
9. Cassava Flour
Cassava flour is made by grating and drying cassava root (also known as “yuca”). One cup of raw cassava provides 71 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, which promotes healthy skin, fights free radical damage and improves the health of gums and teeth.
Although cassava flour provides little other nutrients, it allows you to enjoy baked goods low in calories, fat and sugar — all at a low cost. One of the best things about using cassava flour is its neutrality in terms of taste. It doesn’t have a dry, strong or unfamiliar taste or texture that often comes with using some gluten-free flours.
10. Amaranth Flour
Amaranth is a highly versatile plant and can be consumed as a leaf, cereal grain or grain flour. Amaranth flour has a nutty, earthy flavor that tends to take on the flavors of other ingredients.
Amaranth has a number of benefits. It helps fight diabetes, supports bone health and provides the body with necessary protein. One cup of cooked amaranth grain has nine grams of protein, 160 milligrams of magnesium (40 percent DV) and manganese, phosphorus and iron. Like chickpea flour, amaranth flour also contains high level of folate that makes it beneficial to pregnant women.
11. Buckwheat Flour
Don’t let the name fool you. Buckwheat actually contains no wheat or gluten. Buckwheat is a seed that provides so many nutritional and antioxidant benefits that it is sometimes called a superfood.
This seed provides the body with B vitamins and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron and folate. Buckwheat helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, fight diseases and improve digestion.
12. Teff Flour
Teff, the world’s smallest grain, also provides a gluten-free flour alternative to white and wheat flours. High in iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, calcium and other essential minerals, teff flour may help circulation, improve PMS symptoms, boost the immune system, support cardiovascular and bone health and more.
Like with sorghum flour, it might be best to use teff flour in combination with other gluten-free flours because alone it can potentially make baked goods dry and coarse. Teff is often compared to millet, so substituting teff in a recipe that calls for millet may help prevent any major difference in the recipe.
13. Arrowroot Flour
Arrowroot is used most often as a thickener in food. It serves as a gluten-free, healthier alternative to cornstarch, which is often a genetically modified (GMO) product.
Also beneficial for sensitive digestive systems, arrowroot is one of the easiest starches for the body to digest and contains many anti-inflammatory properties.
14. Tigernut Flour
The tiger nut is not part of the nut family and is completely safe for people with any sort of nut allergies. It’s also a very balanced nut nutritionally, with one serving of tiger nuts (one ounce or 30 grams) containing about 120 calories, 9 grams carbohydrates,
2 grams protein, 7 grams fat and a whopping 10 grams fiber.
Tiger nut benefits include containing a high load of antioxidants, providing a great source of fiber, holding antibacterial properties, working as a prebiotic, controlling diabetes and lowering bad cholesterol.
15. Cricket Flour
Lastly, we have cricket flour. Yes, you read that right. Cricket flour, made by drying or roasting crickets, makes a great gluten-free flour option because it’s packed with protein. Cricket flour has three times the amount of protein as a sirloin steak and two times the amount of protein as chicken. Cricket flour also provides vitamin B2 and B12, iron and calcium.
With all of the beneficial nutrients, you may want to give cricket flour a try. Even better, you don’t have to worry about a “buggy” taste. Cricket flour actually tastes very mild and even nut-like.
I think you’re going to see that going gluten-free is actually easier than you think. Plus, you’re going to reap major health benefits from doing it, so try these gluten-free flours to start. There are plenty of gluten-free recipes on my website, like my Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread or Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins to get you going, and you can use gluten-free flours in place of traditional flour in most recipes.