Flour is an incredibly common ingredient, one that’s used in countless foods, including bread, crackers, cakes, pasta, and even sauces. It’s hardly surprising that it has become such a common kitchen staple.
So, what if you don’t want to use flour? After all, white flour is highly refined and has been stripped of most nutrients. It is also high in carbs, leading to blood sugar spikes.
Then there’s the gluten. While gluten provides some important properties, like making dough elastic and helping it to rise, the protein also triggers digestive side effects for some people and can even cause long-term harm.
If you’re sensitive to gluten, want to decrease your carb intake, or simply want a healthier ingredient, substitutes for flour are the answer. Many of these are gluten free and provide more nutrients than highly processed flour. They’re also helpful for days when you simply don’t have flour on hand.
Flour substitutes include some familiar entries like almond flour, coconut flour, and gluten free flour mixes. There are also more obscure options, like banana flour, cassava flour, and even potato flour. Each type will behave differently, so it’s important to understand what to expect and the features you’re looking for.
Substitutes For Flour
This gluten free flour substitute is made from ground rice and comes in a few versions. White rice flour is the most common choice. This version has little flavor, making it useful as an all purpose flour substitute. You can even use it as a 1:1 replacement for wheat flour.
However, there are differences. The lack of gluten means that baking with rice flour tends to be more dense than regular baking. Rice flour also absorbs liquids better than regular flour. So, if your recipe calls for more than a cup of flour, you’ll need a little extra liquid to compensate.
There’s also brown rice flour, which has a nuttier flavor. Both this and regular rice flour are popular as thickening agents. They also work well for fried foods, helping to make the finished dish light and airy.
Finally, there’s glutinous rice flour. This version is best reserved for recipes that focus on it (like mochi), as it has a distinct texture and won’t work well as a general flour replacement.
Almond flour is one of the most famous substitutes for all purpose flour, as it’s gluten free, keto friendly, paleo friendly, and high in protein. At the same time, almond flour is also versatile and can even be used in baking.
For many recipes, you can simply use almond flour as a 1:1 replacement for wheat flour. However, tweaks are sometimes needed, such as adding a little extra almond flour to compensate for its higher moisture content or including extra egg whites in your recipe to keep the batter together.
Pay attention to the specific product you use too. Finely ground almond flour is your best bet, as this is the most versatile option. Some recipes also work well with almond meal, which is made using the entire almond (including the skin) and is often coarser than almond flour.
Coconut flour is another extremely popular choice, especially as it is keto friendly and won’t trigger nut allergies. The low carb content makes this an excellent flour for people with diabetes as well.
Despite being popular, coconut flour isn’t an ideal replacement for all purpose flour. You’ll often need to replace just 20% of the flour in your recipe with coconut flour and use another type of flour for the rest.
Or, you’ll need to make extra tweaks to ensure your recipe works. For example, Bob’s Red Mill recommends using between 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup of coconut flour per cup of regular flour in your recipe, then increasing the amount of eggs to account for coconut flour’s absorbency. For some recipes, extra milk or water may work better than extra eggs.
Needless to say, substituting with coconut flour requires patience and experimentation. Otherwise, it’s best to stick with recipes that are designed for this type of flour. These will already account for the ingredient’s complexities.
While the need to experiment is frustrating, it isn’t a reason to avoid coconut flour. You’ll find a similar issue with most flour alternatives.
Made from dried cassava root, cassava flour is perfect when you’re looking for a neutral gluten free and grain free option. The flour is also easy to use, as you can simply use it as a 1:1 wheat flour replacement.
Cassava is also one of the few gluten free flours that works fairly well on its own. In most other cases, you need to blend together multiple gluten free flours to get close to the effect of wheat flour.
It’s also important to mention that cassava flour isn’t poisonous. There’s a myth that it is because cassava root contains toxic cyanide compounds. However, those compounds are only relevant when cassava is raw, not once it has been processed to make flour.
The only catch is cassava flour is very high in carbs. This makes it unsuitable for low carb and keto dieters. Even if you’re not watching your carb intake, too much cassava flour mightn’t be wise.
As the name suggests, chickpea flour is simply made using ground chickpeas. It’s a fairly coarse type of flour and is also surprisingly versatile. The flavor is mild enough that you can even use chickpea flour in desserts and bread. It works well in curries and plenty of other recipes as well.
The most notable feature is how well chickpea flour binds ingredients together. This is a common property in gluten-containing flours, but is rare elsewhere, making chickpea flour powerful indeed.
This substitution is best in recipes with plenty of body, including fritters and pasta sauce. It can be used for baking too, although you’ll often need to mix it with another gluten free flour to get enough lightness.
Other Nut Flours
While almond flour is the most famous nut flour, it’s hardly the only one. There’s also chestnut flour, pistachio nut flour, and walnut flour. For that matter, most types of nuts can be made into a flour, so there are plenty of obscure options out there too.
Nut flours tend to be dense and rich. They also offer plenty of moisture, which gets you away from the all-too-common style of dry gluten free baking. However, the flours are often too much of a good thing, especially as there’s a risk of clumping.
Bakers often get around this issue by using a mixture of nut flour with another type of gluten free flour (an all purpose gluten free flour product also works well here). For example, you might use ½ cup of nut flour and ½ cup of gluten free flour for every cup of all purpose flour in your recipe.
Then there are the seed flours. Some rely on traditional seeds, like flaxseeds, while others rely on pseudocereals instead, such as millet, quinoa, or amaranth (these are also called pseudograins and are seeds that we use as if they were grains).
Seed flours tend to be gluten free and offer a decent number of nutrients and antioxidants. Many are also less processed than wheat flour, as they’re simply made by grinding seeds.
You’ll most often see these flours as part of a flour mixture, rather than being used on their own. For example, my quinoa flour pizza dough recipe relies on quinoa flour and brown rice flour to create the right texture.
Despite their similarities, each type of seed flour has its own properties. For example, quinoa flour is relatively high in fat and protein, which can make it a little tricky to balance the liquids in your recipe. Because of this, it’s best to start with one or two types seed flour and get to understand their properties.
Oat flour is a popular choice, partly because it is so widely available. This is also a healthier option than all purpose flour, as it contains many more nutrients. The flour is free from all major allergens, provided you find one that avoids gluten contamination (some companies market their oat flour as being gluten free and regularly test for contamination).
To substitute, you’re looking at a 1:1 replacement by weight. Because oat flour is lighter than all purpose flour, this means you’ll generally need 1 1/4 cup or 1 1/3 cup of oat flour for each cup of all purpose flour in your recipe. The substitution will make your baking chewier and add a touch of sweetness.
However, oat flour isn’t a perfect all purpose flour alternative. It tends to produce denser bakes than all purpose flour. Your products tend to be richer and chewier as well. This difference works well for some recipes, like muffins and bread, but isn’t as helpful when you want light and fluffy baking, like cakes.
The lack of gluten has effects too, so it’s important to consider this before swapping to any gluten free alternative. You may want to look at some tips for substituting gluten free flour, so you know what to expect and how to get the most out of your ingredients.
Spelt is actually classified as a type of wheat. This means the flour does contain gluten and behaves much like regular flour in recipes. Still, some people find spelt easier to digest and the flour is a nice alternative to all purpose flour.
The flour is also useful because it’s easier to work with than many other flours on this list. This makes it a great starting point if you’re new to the world of alternative flours.
Spelt also offers a more interesting flavor profile than all purpose flour. This includes notes of minerality and even salt. Beyond this, you may notice some brown flecks in your baking from the spelt, which simply makes recipes look more rustic.
Here’s an interesting one. If you don’t have any traditional flour alternatives in your cupboard, you can make do with potato flakes instead. I’m not talking about potato flour here, but actual dehydrated instant potatoes.
For this substitution, roughly six tablespoons of potato flakes will replace half a cup of flour. You may also need to tweak the liquid in your recipe since the flakes will absorb moisture. This type of experimenting is needed for most flour substitutions, as the behavior of the flour will vary depending on the other ingredients in your recipe.
Using potato flakes may change the flavor and texture of your baking, especially if the recipe calls for a decent amount of flour.
Canned Black Beans Or Chickpeas
Sometimes you can get rid of the flour in your recipe entirely and replace it with beans or chickpeas. Black bean brownies are the most common example of this style, but you can also make blondies using white beans and experiment with other recipes.
The approach works best for recipes that are meant to be dense and don’t need to rise. There are also recipes that combine beans and flour, like white bean flatbread. Such recipes are useful if you want to decrease your flour consumption instead of cutting flour out of your recipes entirely.
Banana flour is typically made from green bananas and is a naturally gluten free option. The flour is slightly sweet and tastes a little like bananas when it is raw. However, once cooked, the flour ends up with earthy flavor notes instead. As a result, the flour works well in many baked goods, both sweet and savory, and even in other situations, like sauces and soups.
Because this is a fairly absorbent type of flour, you’ll need to use less of it than all purpose flour. Roughly 3/4 cup of banana flour for each cup of all purpose flour is a good starting point. The absorbency also means your baking will end up denser than it would with all purpose flour.
What’s more, you can actually use mashed bananas in the place of flour in some cases, like these Banana Bread Cookies. This trick only works with some recipes, as mashed bananas create a denser piece of baking than banana flour.
Gluten Free Flour Mixes
We’ve been focusing on single flour substitutes, like rice flour and coconut flour. However, you’ll often see flour blends as well, especially gluten free flour blends.
Such blends are fantastic, as they use the properties of multiple types of flour. Doing so gets them much closer to the texture and behavior of regular flour. You can often use them as a 1:1 substitute for wheat flour, even in complex recipes.
If you don’t want to buy a gluten free flour mix, you can easily find a recipe online. For example, minimalistbaker.com offers a DIY Gluten Free Flour Blend that relies on white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. As strange as that ingredient combination may sound, it works well and gives you similar properties to all purpose flour.
Barley Or Rye Flour
Unlike many other items on this list, barley flour and rye flour aren’t gluten free options. However, they’re still viable in some situations, especially if you’re simply looking for a different flavor profile.
Barley flour is the milder option of the two and has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. Rye flour has more earthy tones instead. Its intensity varies depending on the type of rye flour you choose, with dark rye offering a more dramatic flavor.
Other Types Of Wheat Flour
Finally, the simplest substitution for all purpose flour is simply another type of wheat flour. This substitution may also get you as close as possible to the original flavor and texture of your dish.
Of course, each type of wheat flour has its own quirks, so it’s still important to choose carefully. Here are your main options and what to expect.
Cake Or Pastry Flour
These flours are both lower in protein than all purpose flour, so they behave differently in baking. However, you can use them as a 1:1 replacement for all purpose flour in a pinch.
Bread flour is higher in protein and gluten than all purpose flour, which is what you need when making bread. It works best for sturdy or hearty recipes (not cakes!). Be careful not to overmix when using it, as doing so can ruin your baking.
This is basically all purpose flour with baking powder and salt. It’s only a good substitute if your recipe has a leavening agent that you can remove. Even then, you’ll need to pay attention to ratios to make sure there isn’t too much leavening in your finished dish.
On a side note, the presence of baking powder makes self-rising flour a good baking powder substitute in some recipes as well.
Whole Wheat Flour
Regular flour tends to be highly refined and is made using just the wheat endosperm. This is why it has such a light color and mild flavor. However, the approach also strips away most of the nutrients and leads to a faster blood sugar effect.
Whole wheat flour is made using the entire grain, which gives it a darker color and more flavor. You can use whole wheat flour as a 1:1 replacement for wheat flour in most recipes.
However, baked goods will often rise less and will be denser than those made with all purpose flour. This change can be unappealing in some recipes, like if you’re making a cake.
Which Flour Substitutes Are Right For You?
The best flour substitute will depend on your recipe and your needs. It’s also important to experiment, as these ingredients have their own quirks and behave differently in different recipes.
Many people find that they simply need to get familiar with a given ingredient. Once you’ve used it for a while, you’ll be able to anticipate how it will behave and its effects on your recipes.
The Best Gluten Free Flour Substitutes
Gluten free blends are your most powerful option, as they’re carefully designed to mimic the properties of regular flour. The catch is that you need multiple types of gluten free flour to make them, which can be frustrating. Still, once you find a recipe or product you love – you’re away.
Otherwise, almond flour and coconut flour are both excellent choices, as they’re easy to find and work well in countless dishes. Plus, because these are popular products, many recipes already take advantage of these and show you exactly how to use them.
The Best Flour Substitutes For Cooking
If you’re cooking meals rather than baking, the best flour substitutes will vary based on the properties you’re looking for. Chickpea flour is the perfect starting point here, as it is excellent for binding and works as a thickener too. You can also use it to make some delicious fried foods.
Which Flour Substitutes Are Easiest To Find?
Wheat-based flour remains the easiest type to find, including whole wheat flour and self rising flour. However, almond flour, coconut flour, and rice flour are now widely available. You’ll even find them at local grocery stores. Canned beans and mashed bananas are options too, especially if you don’t have any alternative flours in your cupboard.
Low Carb Flour Substitutes
Almond flour and coconut flour are the most popular low carb options. They even feature in many keto bread recipes, like naan bread and cheese bread. Other low carb flours include pecan flour, flaxseed meal, and cricket flour (yes, that’s a thing).
Coconut flour isn’t as low in carbs as the other listed options but still works well in many keto recipes. This is partly because it is easy to find and is perfect for people with nut allergies.