Following a baking recipe used to be easy. You’d gather your all-purpose flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and get to mixing. These days, though, there are several flour options on the table (err…shelf, rather), and it can be overwhelming to know what types work best for particular recipes.
Not to worry, we’re here to help you sift (pun intended) through all the details, sharing eight types of non-traditional flours. Rather than getting overwhelmed, consider this an opportunity to change up your favorite recipes, allowing them to adhere to dietary restrictions and preferences (think gluten free and paleo) and giving more variety to texture and flavor.
Spelt flour does contain gluten, but also has fewer calories than wheat flour and more protein. It has a nutty, lightly sweet flavor profile, and can be easily substituted for all-purpose flour in many recipes, usually resulting in a slightly heartier overall taste. When baking with spelt flour, it’s important not to over-mix or knead, as the gluten in this type of flour breaks down quickly. Over-stirring can result in a crumbly end result (and nobody wants that).
Recipe recommendation: Minimalist Baker’s Toasted Coconut Pancakes
When dealing with almond flour, the first thing to be aware of is the difference between almond flour and almond meal. Almond flour is finely ground and made of blanched almonds, and is therefore light in color and light in texture. Almond meal consists of coarsely ground whole almonds (skin included), resulting in darker, slightly heartier flour. The two flours can
be used interchangeably in some more forgiving recipes (such as brownies or quick breads), but you’ll want to be sure to reach for almond flour as opposed to almond meal when you’re baking a light, fluffy cake. Because almond flour doesn’t contain any gluten (making it a great option for the food sensitive), it doesn’t generally work as a one-to-one substitute for wheat flour. You can use almond flour in combination with gluten-free flour if you’re going for a gluten-free result, or search for an almond flour paleo recipe if you want to avoid wheat altogether.
Recipe recommendation: Wellness Mama’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Making oat flour is easy to do in your own kitchen: just grind oats using a food processor or blender and—voila!—oat flour. It’s a grain-free flour and, when made from gluten-free oats, is also a gluten-free flour. It’s easy to incorporate into many recipes, and substitutes well for wheat flour (with some other modifications, such as using additional baking powder with oat flour than you would with wheat flour if a recipe calls for that ingredient). Oat flour also has more moisture than wheat flour, making it an ideal option for cookies and quick breads.
Recipe recommendation: Fat Loss Foodies’ Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Brown rice flour, as its name suggests, is made by grinding whole grain brown rice, and the flour has a mild, nutty taste. It works best as a substitute for wheat flour when used as a thickener, such as in a gravy, but can work well in baking as well with additional adjustments. For wheat-free baking, typically it’s best to use brown rice flour in combination with other gluten-free flours. (For example, one cup brown rice flour and one cup chickpea flour equals two cups of conventional flour). When it comes to baking, brown rice flour performs especially well in bread, muffins and cookies.
Recipe recommendation: The Roasted Root’s Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Muffins
Tapioca flour is made from the pulp of the cassava root (a plant native to South and Central America), and works well in gluten-free baking, especially when you’e going for a crispy crust or chewy texture in a dish. It can also work as a thickening ingredient, similar to cornstarch. Also, be sure to cut down on the liquid in a recipe if using tapioca flour to replace all-purpose flour, as tapioca flour isn’t as absorbent as a wheat flour. To use tapioca flour for a completely gluten-free or paleo dish, you’ll need to combine it with other alternative flours to get the right combination. When replicating an all-purpose flour with tapioca flour, a good rule of thumb is to make a concoction consisting of one part tapioca flour, two parts potato starch, and six parts brown rice flour.
Recipe recommendation: Bakerita’s Blackberry Crisp Tarte
Made from stone-ground garbanzo beans, chickpea flour, though relatively new to U.S. shelves, has been popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking and baking for years. It’s high in protein, fiber and iron, and the flour is naturally gluten free. This flour is an especially good choice when you’re baking pizza crusts and breads, and can also work well in quick breads that have heartier flavors, such as pumpkin. Use it to replace up to a quarter of the flour in your baking to hike up the protein and fiber content in your dish.
Recipe recommendation: The Colorful Kitchen’s Easy Vegan Gluten-Free
Chickpea Crust Pizza
As the name suggests, this flour comes from the high-protein grain quinoa (the food the Incas called “mother of all grains”), and is a wonderful choice for someone looking for a gluten-free baking option. You can sub out half of the all-purpose flour in a recipe in favor of quinoa flour to pump up the protein in a dish, or totally replace wheat flour in many cookie or cake recipes. Quinoa flour will bring an earthy, slightly nutty taste to food.
Recipe recommendation: Ambitious Kitchen’s Gluten-Free, Protein-Packed Quinoa Flour Banana Pancakes
Looking for a way to add extra complexity and richness to baked goods? You may have found just the thing in hazelnut flour (made of peeled-then-ground hazelnuts). By replacing some of a recipe’s traditional flour with hazelnut flour, you’re not only adding to the flavor profile, you’re also cutting carbs in a big way.
Recipe recommendation: Food, Faith, Fitness’ Hazelnut Paleo Brownies for Two
Anna Keller likes the occasional fancy, over-the-top meal served on a white tablecloth, but will be just a happy with dinner from Taco Bell (she and her husband were there the day they launched their new breakfast menu). For her, food is about the experience, the story, the tradition, and the community it provides, and it takes a starring role in her blog, where she shares recipe creations and recreations — usually of the baking variety.