Gluten-Free Alternative Flours: Coconut, Garbanzo Bean, Almond, Quinoa

Mar 20 2015


With gluten-free being a hot buzzword and dietary trend, people are frequently looking to non-wheat flours. We've sifted through the info (tee-hee!), and here are a few that are on-trend and worth checking out...

Wheat-Flour 411: For comparison's sake, here's how wheat flour stacks up. A 1/4-cup serving of all-purpose wheat flour has 110 calories, 0.5g total fat (0g sat. fat), 0mg sodium, 22.5g carbs, 0.5g fiber, 0g sugars, and 3.5g protein (SmartPoints® value 3*). The same amount of whole-wheat flour has an extra 3g fiber (SmartPoints® value 3*).

Coconut Flour

1/4 cup, average: 130 calories, 4g total fat (4g sat. fat), 48mg sodium, 18.5g carbs, 12.5g fiber, 3g sugars, 6g protein — SmartPoints® value 5*

The Need-to-Know Info: Coconut flour is a bit lower in carbs than traditional wheat flour, which makes it good for blood-sugar control. And it's loaded with fiber -- specifically inulin, a type of fiber that's great for satiety... but not great for people with digestive sensitivities. It's also less allergenic than most nut flours. It's not exactly low in fat, but it isn't high either. There's a slight coconut flavor and scent... We likey!

How to Use It: Here's the thing -- coconut flour is crazy absorbent. So you need to balance that out with more liquid in recipes -- you can't swap out regular flour on a cup-for-cup basis. We find it works really well in cakes and muffins. Try it out in this PB Protein Mug Cake!

Where to Find It: Bob's Red Mill -- a supermarket staple -- makes coconut flour, and Nutiva also has a popular version. If you wanna save some dough (pun intended), go online and scope out deals... Amazon has some smart finds!

Garbanzo Bean Flour (a.k.a. Chickpea, Besan, or Gram Flour)

1/4 cup, average: 110 calories, 2g total fat (0g sat. fat), 5mg sodium, 18g carbs, 5g fiber, 3g sugars, 6g protein —SmartPoints® value 3*

The Need-to-Know Info: Just as garbanzo beans are nutritious, so is garbanzo bean flour. It has fewer carbs and more fiber than wheat flour. Bonus? It tends to be cheaper than other alternative flours. It's widely used in many cuisines across the globe, but not so much in the States. Get with it, USA!

How to Use It: While it doesn't measure cup-for-cup like regular wheat flour, the difference isn't quite as significant as it is with coconut flour: You'll want to use slightly less chickpea flour than you would the regular kind. It is a bit heavier, though, so increase any rising agents (like baking powder) if you're going for a fluffy texture. GB flour is also a smart way to thicken soups and stews. And give it a try in these amazingly delicious DIY veggie patties -- just use it in place of the gluten-free all-purpose flour.

Where to Find It: Bob's has a version, and several brands are sold on Amazon. And since it's a staple of Indian cooking, there's a good chance you can find it in the ethnic-foods aisle of a well-stocked grocery store. Make note of all the different names this flour goes by (above) before you go shopping!

Almond Flour

1/4 cup, average: 160 calories, 14g total fat (1g sat. fat), 5mg sodium, 6g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 6g protein — SmartPoints® value 4*

The Need-to-Know Info: Now, you might have noticed that this is much higher in fat than the other flours here. Well, it is made from almonds. But it's also very rich in nutrients, super low in carbs, and high in protein. Our take? Mix it with lower-fat flours to create a super blend!

How to Use It: Almond flour isn't great for bread baking, but other than that, it's pretty versatile. If you want to use it in recipes calling for wheat flour, just reduce the liquid and increase the rising agent. Your batter might look thicker than you expect, but just go with it. Also, use plenty of nonstick spray, because this stuff sticks.

Where to Find It: Hit up natural-foods stores -- there's your old pal Bob, hooking you up again, and a version by King Arthur Flour. Or bargain hunt on Amazon. Fair warning: This stuff is pretty pricey. Once you get it, store it in the fridge or freezer so it doesn't go bad; that would be tragic.

Quinoa Flour

1/4 cup, average: 128 calories, 2g total fat (0g sat. fat), 10mg sodium, 22g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 1g sugars, 4g protein — SmartPoints®  value 4*

The Need-to-Know Info: You've heard all about how nutritious quinoa is -- it's a complete protein, which is especially great for vegetarians -- so obviously that applies here as well. In the stats department, quinoa flour is actually pretty similar to whole-wheat flour.

How to Use It: It works really well in quick-bread-style recipes, like muffins. You may need to increase the egg amount as a binding agent -- food that falls apart will only bum you out. And you'll also want to up the rising agent, because it can get dense.

Where to Find It: No surprises here... For brands like Bob's Red Mill and Ancient Harvest, check out natural-foods stores, or stock up via Amazon.



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Chew on this:

Happy spring! Yup, today (March 20th) marks this year's spring equinox. Cook up some spring produce -- hopefully, the snow has melted in your neck of the woods.

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