Why Coconut Flour Might Be The Very Thing Your Baking Projects Are Missing
Whether you're on a mission to cut gluten from your diet or you're just trying to get more creative in the kitchen, you might be slightly (if not totally) overwhelmed by the vast variety of flours on the market these days. From oat and buckwheat to almond and amaranth, there is a seemingly endless array of options out there. One type of flour, in particular, that's been popping up in everything from baked goods to gluten-free breads and pastries is coconut flour, but some wonder if the sweet, textured powder is the right option for them.
What is coconut flour?
"Coconut flour is an allergen-friendly flour that is derived from the dried meat of a coconut," says dietitian-nutritionist Dana K. Monsees, M.S., CNS, LDN. The texture of coconut flour is soft and light, while the flavor has a subtly sweet coconut flavor. The flour is a byproduct of making coconut milk; the coconut meat is soaked, then the pulp is dried out and ground into the flour.
"It's gluten-free, so that's great," says New York City–based holistic nurse practitioner Victoria Albina, N.P., MPH. "It has a delicious natural sweetness, allowing you to use less sweetener in your baking."
Coconut flour is naturally gluten-free, which makes it an ideal option for people who either can't tolerate gluten or are seeking out ways to reduce their intake. The nutritional info for coconut flour is as follows:
- Calories: 120
- Carbs: 18 grams
- Sugar: 6 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Iron: 20% of the daily value (DV)
5 health benefits of coconut flour.
There are a variety of reasons coconut flour might make a solid option to integrate into your diet.
"Coconut flour is dried and finely ground coconut meat," says registered dietitian Danielle Fineberg, M.S., R.D. "Per ¼ cup, it's a great source of fiber (10 g), has 6 g of protein per ¼ cup, and boasts 12% of your daily recommended iron."
Most of the fiber included in coconut flour is insoluble, meaning it can help food move easily through your gut, and it adds bulk to your stool. Coconut flour also includes small amounts of other kinds of fibers that can feed the good bacteria in your gut and improve digestion.
May promote weight loss.
May support heart health.
Research has shown that eating 15 to 25 grams of coconut fiber a day can help lower total blood cholesterol by 11%, LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9%, and blood triglycerides by up to 22%.
May support healthy blood sugar.
Because of its high fiber content, coconut flour may help keep blood sugar levels stable by slowing down how quickly sugar enters the bloodstream.
How does it compare to other flours?
Coconut flour can be used in just about any kind of baked good, but it's worth noting that it may take some experimentation to get the ratios just right. "It is high in fiber and naturally gluten- and grain-free for those with food allergies or for special diets," Monsees says. "It generally absorbs more liquid than other flours, so it cannot be substituted one-to-one for other flours." Some home cooks find that substituting just ¼ to ⅓ cup of coconut flour for every full cup of all-purpose flour does the trick, and some say adding an egg to coconut flour helps bind the flour together and promote rising.
If coconut flour isn't available in your local grocery story, but you'd still like to try subbing in a gluten-free option in standard recipes, you might consider alternatives like buckwheat, sorghum, teff, or brown rice flour. One option that's particularly popular is almond flour, made from ground, blanched almonds. Like coconut flour, it contains small amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, and potassium and is rich in vitamin E. However, it has more calories, higher fat content, and a different texture than coconut flour, so it may not fit into every recipe. The nutritional profile of almond flour per quarter-cup is approximately:
- 150 calories
- 6 grams of protein
- 11 grams of fat
- 6 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of sugar
- 60 mg of calcium
- 2 mg of iron
Recipes that use coconut flour.
Ready to start experimenting with coconut flour but don't know where to start? Here are some suggestions:
- Try Keto English Muffins with coconut and almond flours or Keto Lemon Muffins.
- "I love using coconut flour in pancakes or as a coating for zucchini fries, baked tofu, or cauliflower 'wings,'" Fineberg says.
- If you're dead set on whipping up some coconut flour pancakes this weekend, try these grain-free grain mixes, and if you're looking for something truly unique and delicious, get started on these Coconut-Flour-Based Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pancakes ASAP.
The bottom line.
Whether you're looking for a gluten-free option or just need to shake things up in the kitchen, coconut flour can be a healthy, nutritious baking option. You may need to experiment in order to get the proportions just right, but once you figure out how to work with its distinct texture, coconut flour can enhance your recipes with added fiber, protein, and yummy sweetness.
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist and marketing specialist. She UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, O: The Oprah Magazine, SF Weekly, and a many more.
She’s also a contributing editor at California Home Design.