Oat, almond, spelt, and more — we’re breaking down the most popular flour substitutes and how they compare to their all-purpose counterparts.
My mom always tried to make her recipes a little healthier by sneaking in alternative ingredients. This meant flaxseeds in our pancakes and almond flour and coconut sugar in her cookies. I loved these ingredients, but my younger sister would complain. “Is it really that much healthier?”
And that’s actually a great question. Is your chocolate chip cookie really better for you because you swapped white flour for almond, quinoa, chickpea, or another alternative flour? The short answer: Yes.
All-purpose white flour is processed to remove the bran and germ, which store most of the wheat plant’s fiber and nutrients. The sole reason is to give white flour a smoother texture and a longer lifespan for storage. But we need fiber to help regulate our digestive system and nutrients to give us the energy to go about our day. So while your white flour can last as long as eight months in the pantry (crazy, right!?), it doesn’t offer much nutritional value.
But how do alternative flours actually compare to standard, all-purpose white flour? Well, flours like almond, coconut, quinoa, or buckwheat are actually made from nuts and seeds — not grains — which means they’re also gluten-free. Other popular alternatives include oat, spelt, and chickpea flour, each with varying amounts of calories, protein, fat, carbs, and fiber.
You may select a certain flour due to its nutrient content or which will be most compatible with your favorite recipe. No matter which alternative flour you choose, you can feel a little less guilty about adding in a few extra chocolate chips! Here’s a breakdown of what all these flour substitutes are made of and their benefits:
- Almond: Made from blanched and ground almonds, almond flour is rich in protein, unsaturated fats, and vitamin E and is often used to make biscuits, pancakes, brownies, and pasta.
- Coconut: Made from dried and ground coconut pulp, coconut flour is high in fiber and is a reliable alternative for cakes, cookies, and breads.
- Quinoa: Made from ground raw quinoa seeds, quinoa flour is known for its high protein content and is great for pancakes, breads, and gluten-free pizza crust.
- Buckwheat: Made from grain-like buckwheat seeds, buckwheat flour is a good source of protein and fiber and is a preferred alternative in crepes, galettes, and quick breads.
- Oat: Made from ground oats, oat flour is rich in protein and fiber and is often used in protein bars, muffins, and fruit pies.
- Spelt: A type of whole grain wheat flour (not gluten-free), spelt flour has high fiber and protein content and is a favorite in pancakes, breads, and scones.
- Chickpea: Made from dried and ground garbanzo beans, chickpea flour contains lots of protein and fiber and is a popular substitute in soups, veggie burgers, and flatbreads.
All these alternative flours can be overwhelming. I’ve found it’s best to experiment with them to see which fits my needs and makes the best baked goods. Personally, I’m a big fan of oat flour because it’s super versatile — it’s an easy substitute, has a smooth, rich texture, and a simple, neutral taste. It also has a small environmental impact compared to other flours because oats need less land and water to grow.
But what works for one person may not work for another. So test each of these alternative flours out and see which is your new, healthy favorite — we see a lot of cookies in your future.
Read more: The Low-Down on Sugar Substitutions
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