We all know that white flour doesn’t do anything good for our waist or our overall health, but are alternatives all they’re cracked up to be? It’s hard to be worse than white flour, but alternatives are certainly more expensive so it’s worth knowing which ones are the best to reach for and when. I often use pulverized GG crackers (I use my Vitamix to get them to a flour consistency) instead of flour in things like pancakes, waffles, cakes, muffins… but sometimes I don’t want that texture/taste. And let’s be honest, it’s not the most delicious…
I’m obsessed with sugar-free quinoa flour, berry muffins (pictured above), but are they actually good for me? I turned to The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT to find out! Here they break down the pros and cons of some of the most popular white flour alternatives. When you’re ready to do some experimenting I love Bob’s Red Mill. They have a ton of organic options and they’re reasonably priced for their high level of quality.
Spelt flour: Spelt is a grain and it provides more nutrients than wheat flour, including vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, thiamin, and copper. While it is not gluten free, it is easier to digest then wheat flour.
Cons: Spelt flour isn’t gluten free, so if someone has celiac it’s not suitable for them.
Quinoa flour: Quinoa flour is made from raw quinoa seeds and it’s light and fluffy and an excellent way to get plant protein. It’s gluten free and works well in waffles, breads and cakes.
Cons: It tends to be a bit pricey.
Buckwheat Flour: Great gluten-free baking alternative–it actually has no relation to wheat and is closer to a berry. It’s a good source of antioxidants, fiber, protein, B-vitamins, manganese, copper, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. It’s good in baked goods—and mixed with other flours in pancakes.
Cons: It’s higher in oils than most grains, so it needs to be kept in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid. It’s typically best mixed with other flours and not easily substituted on its’ own for wheat flour.
Millet flour: Millet is actually a seed. It is high in B vitamins (particularly thiamine and niacin) and a good source of iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and zinc. It doesn’t contain gluten and can be used in baking.
Oat flour: Made from whole-grain oats. Great for gluten free cooking, just make sure you buy oat flour labeled “gluten-free” since conventional oats are often contaminated during the growing and/or processing.It’s a great source of soluble fiber, so it can be helpful for lowering cholesterol and fighting against heart disease. It typically adds a light, sweet taste to bake goods so it’s used for pancakes, breads, toppings and coatings. Great for fruit crisps.
Con: If you don’t check the label and need a gluten free product, it’s not guaranteed unless it says so
Coconut Flour: Gluten-free, nut-free alternative to regular flour. Made from meat of the coconut. High in protein, fiber and saturated fat. Adds a coconutty-flavor. Great for bread, thickening soups, as a binder with burgers and veggie burgers and meatloaf. Absorbs excess moisture (can be positive or negative).
Cons: High in saturated fat which can increase the risk for heart disease. Typically best combined with other flours and used in small quantities. Can make products seem dry when it absorbs too much moisture.
Whole Wheat Flour: While white flour is stripped of most nutrients and just contains the starch, whole wheat flour is closest to how it grows in nature and has a lot more fiber and nutrients than white flour.
Cons: Creates a denser product (breads, muffins, cookies, etc. than white flour does) so many bakers prefer to use half whole wheat flour for nutritional benefits and half white flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is a great option for a more tender baked good.
Nut Flour: Typically made from raw (sometimes blanched), whole nuts that have been ground into a fine powder. Great for gluten-free baking. Smooth-mouth feel and adds a rich, buttery, nutty flavor to baked goods. Compared to other gluten-free flours (made from white and brown rice, potato starch, tapioca, etc.) nut flours have more protein, fiber and fat (which adds calories). The higher protein content enhances and quickens browning of baked goods. The fiber adds texture to baked goods and can make them crunchy (not always ideal depending on the item).
Cons: When baking with nut flours, results tend to be best when mixing with other flours. Not good for thickening sauces. For someone watching their weight, there are extra calories in nut flours. Also, because nut flours have fiber, it can make some baked goods crunchier than ideal.