What Exactly Is Banana Flour & How Do You Use It?
Whether you're eating gluten-free, keto, paleo, or just looking for better-for-you food options, chances are you've come across some interesting flour substitutes that promise to deliver more nutrition than traditional all-purpose (AP) flour. Almond and coconut are among the most popular alternatives, and there's also rice, oat, and rye, to name a few others. However, the newest addition is a little more unexpected. Enter: banana flour.
Unlike AP flour that's ground from wheat, banana flour is made from, well, bananas. It's gluten-free, paleo-friendly, and made from a fruit, so it's certainly unique. Experts share info on banana flour, where it comes from, and how to use it.
What is banana flour?
To no surprise, banana flour is made from bananas. "It's made from green, unripe bananas that are collected, peeled, cooked, and ground into a fine powder," says accredited dietitian and nutritionist Rebecca Gawthorne, APD, A.N. "The flour is mildly sweet in flavor and light in texture, so it can be substituted for all-purpose flour in nearly all recipes." And since the flour is naturally sweet, it's a great go-to for baking.
Is banana flour good for you?
Since the flour itself is made from bananas, you'll reap the same benefits you'd get from eating a banana in whole form. "Banana flour is mostly made of carbohydrates, but it also provides some fiber and protein, as well as zero grams of fat," says registered dietitian Mia Syn, RDN. "It's also a great source of potassium, which is important for heart and muscle health."
Because it features green, unripe bananas, the flour is also a resistant starch, which "acts as a prebiotic to help feed the good bacteria in our gut and thus support gut health," explains Syn. And even though bananas are naturally sweet, you don't have to worry about blood sugar spikes, thanks to the low glycemic index.
Another plus is banana flour helps mitigate some food waste. "It's a more sustainable option since it's made from bananas that are damaged or don't look nice," says Gawthorne.
As for how it compares to other flour alternatives, it really depends on what you're looking for. "It's naturally gluten- and nut-free and adds more nutrition to your recipes," says Syn, so it's a great substitute for anyone with certain dietary restrictions. Other flour alternatives, like almond flour, are higher in protein—but banana flour offers more potassium and gut support.
What do you use banana flour for?
First off: Does banana flour taste like bananas? In short, the answer is no. Since banana flour is made from green bananas, the taste of sweet ripe bananas doesn't come through. It may add a slight sweetness, but it likely won't be too noticeable.
It's also fairly seamless to substitute banana flour for AP flour. "It's very versatile and can be used in all different recipes, not just baking," Gawthorne says. For a simple swap, she suggests using the ration of 1 cup AP flour to ¾ cup banana flour. This is due to the higher starch content. "And if you need to make it rise, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of the banana flour." TBH, it sounds like classic banana bread is about to get way better.
"Besides baking, you can use banana flour as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and even smoothies," says Syn. To do so, start with 1 tablespoon and gradually build from there.
One thing to keep in mind when cooking with banana flour is, due to the high starch content, it absorbs more liquid than other flours. So, if you're looking for something to be light, airy, and fluffy, you'll want to choose another option for optimal results.
Banana flour is a great flour alternative if you're looking for a gluten- and nut-free option. Although it's not as healthy as eating a whole banana, you'll reap similar nutrients, including extra potassium and fiber. And since you can use it in any recipe that you please, there are really no limits when it comes to adding the fruity flour to your dishes.
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