Keto Flours: 4 Low-Carb Flour Substitutes
A few months back, innocently perusing the baking aisle of my local Whole Foods Market, I was struck by a new product on the health food shelf: cauliflower flour. While I'd seen the cruciferous vegetable masquerading as rice and ground into ready-made pizza crusts, it hadn't occurred to me that the veggie could be pulverized into a powder fine enough to bake with. But it turns out cauliflower flour is very much a thing, and it's just the latest in a slew of flour substitutes marketed as low-carb and keto-friendly.
There are a variety of reasons why some people are opting for alternatives to all-purpose white or whole wheat flour. While the keto diet isn't for everyone, advocates claim the low-carb, high-fat diet may aid in weight loss1 and even protect against certain diseases like diabetes2. Other people are buying up flour alternatives in order to reduce their carbohydrate intake or in an effort to avoid gluten and grains.
"I recommend high-fiber, high-protein flour alternatives (not necessarily within 'keto' guidelines) to my clients to increase the nutrient density of their foods and help them feel more energized and satisfied," says registered dietitian Danielle Fineberg, M.S., R.D.
According to nutrition consultant and natural chef Karyn Forsyth Duggan, M.S., BBS, there's no shortage of flour alternatives on the market, but the key to success is to shake things up on a regular basis. "There are so many to choose from these days, e.g., almond, hazelnut, coconut, cauliflower, etc.," she says. "My recommendation is to use a variety of 'keto' flours rather than consuming the same one over and over and over again. There are a plethora of ways we can increase susceptibility to developing a food sensitivity and eating the same foods over and over again is said to be one of those potentially triggering factors."
Both Fineberg and Duggan are fans of several different types of flours. "Some of my favorites include almond flour, coconut flour, chickpea flour, and buckwheat flour," Fineberg says. "I enjoy using them all for pancakes. Coconut flour and chickpea flour make a great 'breading' for buffalo cauliflower bites or zucchini fries." Here, four of the most popular, and exactly how to use them.
This soft, sweet flour is a byproduct of coconut milk production. Once the coconut meat is soaked, the pulp is dried out and ground into flour. It's naturally gluten-free and contains a solid amount of fiber, protein, and iron. Coconut flour is a great option for breakfast treats, so try in these grain-free pancake mixes or these Coconut-Flour-Based Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pancakes.
Nutrition info (per ¼ cup):
- Calories: 120
- Carbs: 18 grams
- Sugar: 6 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
Almond flour/ground almonds/almond meal:
Almond flour is just one of the many nut flours flooding the market today. Made from ground, blanched almonds, almond flour contains trace amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, and potassium and is rich in vitamin E, but it's slightly more caloric and higher in fat. It also has a slightly grittier texture (almond meal is even more coarse), so it may be best for cookies and muffins. It's also the signature ingredient in classic French macarons. Not into almonds? You can also find flours made from hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and more.
Nutrition information (per ¼ cup):
- Calories: 150
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 15 grams
Ground flaxseed/flax meal:
Flaxseed has been touted as a "superfood" for years, and there's some evidence to support that regular consumption may help reduce the risk of health conditions like heart disease due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Flax is available in the form of seeds, oil, powder, and more, but flax meal is what's often used in baking as a flour alternative. Culinary experts often recommend mixing flax with another form of flour when using it as a grain substitute for texture purposes—try mixing it into your favorite bread or muffin recipe to reap some of its benefits.
Nutrition info (per 2 tablespoons):
- Calories: 60
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 4.5 grams
Chia seed flour:
Chia seeds have popped up in everything from yogurts and açai bowls to smoothies and dinner entrees, but chia seed flour is a unique pantry addition. Like the meal made from flaxseeds, chia flour is made by grinding chia seeds into a fine powder. The texture can be a bit thick and gummy, so it's best to use it in heartier recipes that don't require a delicate dough. Try using it as a "breading" for chicken or fish.
Nutrition info (per ¼ cup):
- Calories: 148
- Carbs: 24 grams
- Sugar: 0.4 grams
- Fiber: 9.4 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat 2.2 grams
There's no such thing as a single one-size-fits-all diet, but for people who feel their best when eating gluten-free, low-carb, or keto foods, these flour alternatives may be nutritious options to integrate into everyday dishes. Just be sure to vary the kinds of flours you're using on a regular basis, and try experimenting with different ones to ensure you nail the texture and flavor you're after.
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.