In the words of comedian Jake Whitehall, “For the love of God, we have enough milks now. Would everyone stop milking s@$#!” Almond milk, coconut milk, banana milk, oat milk, pea milk…the list goes on and on. Turns out Mr. Whitehall is definitely not wrong!
Clean eating diets are on the rise! So, in order to accommodate the ever-changing consumer, clean eating ingredients must also constantly evolve. Milk being a prime example of that. However, another ingredient that seems to be undergoing several identity changes lately is flour.
While nuts are once again a prime source of experimentation, there have been a few surprising options I’ve discovered. Each time I bought a new flour, I had no idea what to expect. While some flours turned out to be rock stars, others were more recipe specific. Since my main goal is to help my readers better navigate the journey of clean eating, I thought I’d give a brief overview of each flour currently in my cabinet. Let’s get started!
All-purpose flour…the O.G. of the baking world. No, all-purpose flour is not considered a clean eating ingredient…at least anymore. Since it’s been genetically modified, flour is void of nutrition, full of inflammatory properties, and wreaks havoc on gut health. So, why is it in the line up? Because unfortunately, it’s in my cabinet.
I’m only human and have two little humans roaming around. While I try my best to eliminate grains all together, special occasions and party hosting require a little more western diet love. I also like having it on hand for non-food purposes such as paper mache and cloud dough.
For more information on why all purpose flour is a bad idea, check out this article by Chris Kresser, M.S.
This flour alternative has been a go-to on my paleo journey. Almond flour is low carb, high in nutrients, and gluten free. I’ve used it for everything from baked goods to pie crust to chicken breading. You can learn all about the Health Benefits of Almond Flour from WebMD.
Most websites will tell you that you can replace flour with almond flour in a 1:1 ratio. I strongly disagree. Most almond flour skeptics are skeptics for this very reason. Almond flour has a gritty texture and contains no gluten, which is the component that binds and creates elasticity. Without gluten, baked goods will be really dense, not rise correctly, and likely fall apart.
Fortunately, I discovered the secret to making almond flour act more like traditional flour. It’s actually a partnership. Which leads me perfectly into my next cabinet staple…
Tapioca starch and arrowroot starch are very similar ingredients, but not the same. Arrowroot starch comes from the arrowroot plant while tapioca starch comes from cassava. I prefer arrowroot because tapioca starch can get gummy in texture. But if you combine arrowroot and almond flour, you have a match made in Heaven. For more info on the different types of starches, check out this Bob’s Red Mill article.
Arrowroot starch compliments the almond flour by creating a less gritty texture and providing a little more elasticity. This creates a final product that more closely resembles that of traditional all purpose flour.
However, arrowroot is not just a co-star. Sometimes it like to shine all on it’s own. Like in my delicious Paleo Gravy or Homemade Sweet n’ Sour Chicken recipes. Oh. So. GOOD!
Oh coconut flour, how we have a love hate relationship. Being completely honest, coconut flour is one of the reasons that I hated paleo in the very beginning of my clean eating adventure. But over the years, I have discovered when coconut flour is useful and when it needs to go bye bye.
Coconut flour is cheaper, has a finer texture, and is a great alternative for those with almond allergies. It’s high in fiber and extra filling. Unfortunately, that also makes it higher in calories than traditional flour.
In my baking experience, coconut flour is only good for two things. Coconut taste and absorbing excess moisture. This makes it an asset in dessert recipes where coconut is already present or would elevate the flavor. It’s also great to have on hand incase a recipe needs a moisture absorbent. For these reasons, I keep a small bag on hand just incase.
Please allow me to introduce you to the newest flour friend in my home. And guess what? It actually comes from a root vegetable.
Cassava flour is less expensive, higher in carb, and doesn’t have much nutritional value compared to other flour alternatives. However, it’s still a far better option (grain free) than traditional flour. Let’s just call it a paleo gateway ingredient.
I first heard about cassava when I discovered the brand Siete. Siete makes grain free tortillas, tortilla chips, cookies, and other Mexican fare. If you’ve never tried them, I suggest you do! They fixed what coconut flour broke…my hope in paleo. Because of my love for Siete, I decided to start experimenting with this flour alternative.
So far, cassava flour has shown great promise. It’s raw texture feels just like wheat flour. However upon baking, the same gumminess that tapioca starch creates comes through. Which makes sense considering tapioca starch comes from the cassava root. I’m excited to continue to experiment with this new product. More on that coming soon!
Finally, the weirdest flour of the bunch. When I first saw this product on the store shelf, I had to do a double take. I picked it up, flipped it over, and expected to see it was actually a combination of flours. I was wrong. This is purely cauliflower in flour form.
As it turns out, cauliflower flour is the lowest in carbs and calories. It has a good amount of vitamins and minerals and is super fine in texture. These qualities make it extremely attractive to clean eating gurus.
Unfortunately, this flour alternative has the same taste and smell as it’s vegetable origin. So, I don’t recommend this for sweet confections. But it’s a great option for pizza crusts, crackers, breads, or other savory items.
Like cassava, cauliflower flour is a newer flour friend. I am excited to see what the future has in store for this promising flour upstart here on MMB.
There are so many more flour alternatives that I do not own or have experience with. The article 16 Best Flour Substitutes from the Pioneer Woman proves that. Unfortunately, many of the flour options listed are not considered paleo. The even sadder reality is that no matter what wheat flour alternative you choose to use, it’s still an alternative. Alternatives do not always taste or act like the original.
This is why it can be so hard to make the clean eating swap. Many of our favorite foods are going to be off the menu. Their alternatives just won’t taste the same. That’s when you need to get serious and ask yourself the hard question… “What do I really want? Do I want a couples minutes of something that tastes good? Or a lifetime of feeling good?” And trust me friends, I’m right there with ya’!
Don’t give up. If you mess up, start over. We’re in it for the long haul. Good luck friends!
To see some of these flours in action, head to the MMB Paleo Cookbook.