Wheat or, more specifically, wheat flour is a common ingredient in many foods. Bread, cakes, cookies, cereals, and pasta are some of the more obvious places you’ll find wheat in your diet, but it’s often used in things like sauces and soups as a thickener.
Wheat contains carbs, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients, but it also contains gluten. Gluten can be a problem for some people. Gluten is a sticky protein that gives wheat and wheat products their texture. It’s what makes bread and cakes spongy but firm.
Unfortunately, some people struggle to digest wheat, and that can cause bloating and other digestive upsets. This gluten sensitivity can range from very mild symptoms to severe gastric distress. While unproblematic for many, people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should not consume wheat flour or consume any other grains that contain gluten.
So, does not eating wheat men you have to give up baked goods entirely? Not so fast! Fortunately, there are several gluten-free flours that are good alternatives for wheat flour. They all have different tastes and textures, which means it’s worth having a couple of different options so that you can use the right flour for whatever you are making.
Here are ten of the best wheat-free flour alternatives for baking.
Almond flour is a very nutritious alternative to wheat flour. It’s made from ground, skinless almonds and it has a nutty flavor. It can usually be used in a 1:1 ration in place of regular flour. Because it’s a little denser than wheat flour, you may need to add an extra egg when you use almond flour for baking.
Almond flour also contains more calories than regular flour – 640 calories per cup compared to 440. Most of these extra calories are in the form of monounsaturated fats.
Brown rice flour
As the name suggests, brown rice flour is made from ground brown rice. Rice is, contrary to popular opinion, a gluten-free grain. Brown rice flour is high in fiber and also contains protein. This makes it more filling than regular wheat flour. It’s also rich in iron, B vitamins, and magnesium. Brown rice flour can be used to thicken soups and sauces, and also for baking.
Oats are another grain that a lot of people think contains gluten but is actually gluten-free. Oat flour is made by grinding oats, and it gives baked goods like bread and cookies a chewy, crumbly texture.
Oats are high in soluble fiber, which means they are very good for your cardiovascular health. Eating oats can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and also help control blood glucose levels and insulin levels too.
Make sure you only buy certified gluten-free oat flour. Oats ARE gluten-free but are often processed in facilities where wheat is also processed. Cross-contamination could mean that some oat flours also contain trace amounts of what.
Corn flour is finely ground cornmeal. It’s a commonly used thickener for soups and sauces and is also used for making breads and tortillas, including cornbread and corn chips. High in fiber and a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, corn flour also contains vitamin B6, thiamine, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.
Coconut flour is a popular wheat alternative for followers of the paleo diet. It’s made from the flesh of dried coconuts and has a slight coconutty-flavor which makes it ideal for making cookies and cakes. Coconut flour tends to soak up a lot of water, so you’ll need to add more fluids to your recipes to avoid making your food too dry.
Coconut flour is high in the medium chain triglyceride lauric acid. This is a good source of energy and can also help reduce bad cholesterol. Its fiber content may also help regular your blood glucose levels.
Tapioca flour is made from the South American cassava root. Naturally gluten-free, tapioca flour has no real flavor and can be used to make breads and cakes, as a thickener in soups and sauces, and also to make tapioca pudding which has a texture like thick custard.
While tapioca flour is not as nutritious as other wheat-free flour alternatives, it does contain fiber, and a substance called resistant starch. Resistant starch is linked to improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and reduced appetite as well as additional digestive benefits.
Contrary to its name, Tigernut flour is made from North African and Mediterranean root vegetables rather than nuts. It has a sweet, nutty flavor which means you won’t need to add as much sugar to your recipes as usual. It has a coarse texture and contains plenty of fiber, monounsaturated fat, iron, potassium, and phosphorous, as well as vitamins C and E.
Chickpeas are a legume, and chickpea flour is also known as gram flour, garbanzo flour, and besan. It has a nutty flavor and texture and can be used to make flatbreads, hummus, and falafel. Chickpea flour is a good source of both protein and fiber, and it digests slowly to help maintain stable blood glucose levels.
Often processed in facilities that also process wheat flour, make sure that your chickpea flour is certified gluten-free.
Teff is the smallest-diameter grain in the world and is about one-hundredth of the size of a wheat kernel. It is available in a wide range of colors and varieties, from white to red to dark brown. The darker the grain, the stronger the flavor tends to be.
Teff flour can be used to make bread, cereals, and snacks, and can be used in place of all-purpose flour in most recipes. High in both protein and fiber, teff also contains more calcium and vitamin C than any other grain.
Despite having wheat in its name, buckwheat is not made from wheat grain but is actually a type of pseudograin – a substance that looks and is used like a grain but is actually from a different biological family.
Buckwheat flour is widely available and was one of the first widely available gluten-free flours. It is used to make pasta and bread and can be used in most baking recipes. Buckwheat is high in antioxidants, and especially the polyphenol rutin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Giving up wheat used to be very hard. After all, wheat and wheat flour are an intrinsic part of many of the foods we eat. With gluten sensitivity and celiac disease on the rise, it’s nice to know that, even if you cannot tolerate gluten, you can still eat all of your favorite foods, although you may need to make them yourself!
Let me know if you’ve used any of these alternative flours above and what your experience was using the comments section below…