Whether you think wheat is super unhealthy or not, I doubt few would argue we eat waaay too many wheat-based foods these days.
We really do love our bread, pasta, breakfast cereals and bagels!
I suppose for many, the thought of cutting these staples from their diet seems completely unreasonable. I mean, where would you start looking for alternatives?
The good news is, many of us are indeed finding new (and exciting) ways to eat sans wheat.
There are actually a number of very good alternatives to wheat flour. And, while they do take a bit of getting used to, most give very acceptable results in the end.
Take care with grain flours
While there are many wheat flour substitutes out there, I don’t recommend all of them.
Products like rice flour, oat flour, buckwheat flour and millet flour are roughly comparable to wheat flour, in terms of their health properties, so they are really not any healthier than wheat flour.
For this reason, I stress the need to exercise caution with a grain flour substitute like this, and urge you to use them sparingly.
But, there are plenty of other options available to you…
Four Healthy Wheat Flour Substitutes
For me, nut flours are the best option.
Not only are they highly nutritious, but they give a lovely rich flavor and dense texture to baked goods, which I really enjoy.
Flours or ‘meals’ made from nuts and seeds, such as almond, hazelnut and flaxseed, are also lower in carbohydrate content than grain flours, and many are higher in fiber, too.
So, whether you are looking for a flour substitute because you are intolerant to gluten, or because you are following a lower carb diet, here are 4 of my favorite alternatives to wheat flour;
1. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is basically flour made from the ground meat of the coconut. It is lower in fat than the other nut flours, and also higher in fiber than most.
Coconut flour is a bit lighter in texture than other nut or seed flours, too, which means it is perfect for cakes, muffins or breads.
The first time I used coconut flour, I was a bit concerned by the look of my mixture before it went into the oven. It was a huge sloppy mess, and I was convinced it was going to be a baking disaster.
But, coconut flour really does have a strange ability to absorb and hold on to moisture, so you end up with lovely, moist delights, and a subtle hint of coconut flavor.
But, coconut flour is one I’m pretty new to, which means I’m still learning new techniques and recipes so that I can use it more frequently.
In terms of tweaking a wheat flour recipe to add coconut flour instead, Jules from Stone Soup has some good advice,
I’ve found the best starting point is to replace the flour with 1/3 coconut flour and 2/3 water. For example in a recipe that calls for 100g (3oz) regular flour, I’d use 33g (1oz) coconut flour and 66g (2oz) water or other liquid.
Get your coconut flour here (affiliate link).
2. Almond Flour
Almond flour is a fantastic high protein, low carb alternative, which can be used in place of wheat flour.
Unlike other alternatives to wheat flour, almond flour gives a very moist and delicious result, which many think is superior to other flours in taste, nutrition and ease-of-use.
I should stress that almond flour is not to be confused with almond meal.
Almond meal contains whole, ground almonds which have their skin on. You will, however, have better results, if you choose a flour where the skins have been removed before milling (blanched).
If this is a little confusing, think about it like this…
If the almond flour/meal you are using has large grains when your recipe calls for finely ground almond flour, it’s a bit like replacing some of the flour with chopped nuts. You would never do that normally.
Rather, you would add chopped nuts as an addition to the other ingredients, you wouldn’t use them to replace the flour.
Basically, if you are using coarsely ground almond flour for a cake intended to be delicate and light, you will end up with a soggy mess.
If your almond meal is too coarse, one solution is to grind it in a food processor or coffee mill. But, do keep an eye on it, or you will end up with almond butter.
Get your almond flour here (affiliate link).
3. Flaxseed Meal
Flaxseed meal (or flaxmeal) is another super flour substitute.
It gives baked goods a lovely rich and nutty flavor, and it’s healthy, too, being high in protein, fiber, and omega fatty acids, yet it is also low in carbohydrates in comparison to wheat flour.
To get the greatest health benefits, it is best to grind your flaxseeds just before you need them, using a food processor or coffee grinder.
But, if you don’t want to be bothered grinding your own meal, you can purchase it pre-packaged.
Flaxseeds do need to be stored carefully to prevent them going “off.” The best way to store the seeds or meal is in the fridge or freezer, in a covered container. This will prevent the omega 3 fats from spoiling due to light or heat.
As an aside, another use for flaxseeds is as a replacement for eggs.
So, if you run out some day, you can use flaxseed meal as a replacement for eggs in pancake, muffin or cookie recipes.
One-egg substitute formula:
- 1 tbsp flaxseed meal
- 3 tbsp water
- Mix the flaxseed meal and water in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit for two to three minutes to thicken.
- Then, add to your mixture according to your recipe instructions.
Get your flaxseed meal here (affiliate link).
4. Peanut Flour
Another option is peanut flour. And again, it is a nutritious wheat flour substitute, that is relatively low in fat, but still provides a decent amount of protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
I’ve heard of people blending peanut flour into smoothies, as well as adding it to oatmeal, but I haven’t personally tried those options.
My mum regularly makes peanut muffins using peanut flour(and almond flour) as one of the ingredients. The peanut flour gives the muffins a very definite, yet delicious, nutty flavor.
I’ve shared her grain free, paleo friendly recipe below 🙂
Get your peanut flour here (affiliate link).
A cautionary note on nut and seed flours
I think it’s important to say here that even though you are making cakes and cookies with more nutritious flours, these foods should still be considered treat foods.
So, if a treat really is just a treat, this means you only eat them occasionally and in moderation.
This is a topic I want to address in detail soon, but one reason I recommend moderation even with these foods, is that almost all nuts and seeds are high in omega 6 fatty acids (exceptions include coconut, macadamia nuts, and walnuts).
This is significant because most people are already getting enough (or too much) omega 6 fats in their diet. Omega 6 is an essential fat, however when you go overboard it can lead to inflammation and numerous health issues.
If you eat nuts or seeds (whether whole or flour) it is really important that you balance your omega 6 intake with plenty of omega 3 (seafood or supplements), ideally in an omega 6: omega 3 ratio close to 1:1.
So, just because something is made with healthier ingredients doesn’t mean you should eat it at each meal, particularly if it is intended to be a treat food.
I’ll talk more about this in the near future, but for now, here’s the recipe I mentioned. Hope you enjoy it!
Wheat Free Peanut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/2 cup peanut flour
3 tbsp ground golden flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt or Himalayan salt
½ cup xylitol sweetener (find out about xylitol here)
1/2 cup buttermilk*
3 1/2 tbsp light olive oil
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (softened)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
*To make your own buttermilk, add 1 tsp of white vinegar (or lemon juice) to your cup measure and top up with milk to make 1/2 cup. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until it thickens slightly. Then add to the recipe as required.
- Preheat the oven to 350º F (177º C). Line your muffin tray with paper liners.
- In large bowl, sieve the almond meal, peanut flour, ground flaxseeds, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and xylitol.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, olive oil, peanut butter, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine. Then, fold in the peanuts.
- Fill each paper liner about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Cool on a wire wrack for around 30 minutes.
Recipe based on this one.
So, what’s your favorite flour substitute? Please share your suggestions in the comments below…