Almond flour and coconut flour: a primer

By Andy Bellatti MS, RD | 2015-03-10 00:11:30 | 0 Comments

Over the past few years, almonds and coconuts have commanded national attention, not only as nutritious additions to our diets, but also as tasty and versatile ingredients. By now, many of us are familiar with almond butter, almond milk, coconut water, and coconut oil, in large part because they simply replace other ingredients we’ve used in the past. A tablespoons of coconut oil easily takes the place of a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and there isn’t any guesswork involved in adding almond milk to iced coffee.

When it comes to almond and coconut flours, though, I get the sense that many people stay away due to sheer unfamiliarity. Baking in and of itself is more of an exact science than cooking (you can’t really improvise and add “a splash of this” or “two tablespoons of that” when baking and expect the product to come out the way you intended), and different flours have different properties. And, really, who wants to spend time and money experimenting with cookies and muffins that may end up resembling something out of an E-Z Bake Oven?

Almond and coconut flours have become staples in my kitchen, so allow me to formally introduce you to these two popular gluten-free varieties.

 

ALMOND FLOUR

organic-almond-flour

 

Baking and Flavor Properties: I love the nutty flavor that almond flour imparts to savory and sweet baked foods. As an FYI, almond flour is made from blanched almonds that have had the skin taken off, while “almond meal” is literally ground up almonds (you can make it at home in your food processor). Almond flour yields a finer texture than almond meal.  You can use a 1:1 formula to substitute almond flour for wheat flour.

Nutritional Properties: Almond flour’s high fiber and protein content, along with its low carbohydrate count, makes it very diabetic-friendly. It is also an excellent source of magnesium and vitamin E, and also offers calcium and potassium. And, unlike grain-based flours, it offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. FYI: I am not making the case that whole wheat flour or oat flour are “bad”; rather, I am highlighting why almond flour is worth adding to your pantry.

Nutritional Comparison: White, Whole Wheat and Almond Flour

Type of FlourCarbohydrates (g/serving)Fiber (g/serving)Protein (g/serving)
All-purpose (white)2713
100% Whole-Wheat2256
Almond636

My Favorite Recipes:

Detoxinista’s vegan almond flour chocolate chip cookies

Elena’s Pantry’s almond flour “wheat thins”

The Pretty Bee’s banana almond flour muffins (I like to replace chocolate chips with walnuts)

 

COCONUT FLOUR

coconut-flour

 

Baking and Flavor Properties: I love coconut flower’s aroma, which is a combination of coconut and vanilla. Whereas almond flour can substitute wheat flour 1:1 in many recipes, coconut flour – which is made from dried coconut meat — is a little trickier. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid and gives a dry and “fluffy” mouthfeel to baked goods.

Nutritional Properties: Since coconut flour is so absorbent, a small amount goes a long way. This is why two tablespoons of coconut flour constitutes a serving, while a quarter cup equals one serving of grain flours (such as wheat and oat) and nut-based flours (i.e.: almond, hazelnut, and cashew). With that in mind, here is a comparison chart, utilizing ¼ cup of coconut flour.

Nutritional Comparison: White, Whole Wheat and Coconut Flour

Type of FlourCarboydrates (g/serving)Fiber (g/serving)Protein (g/serving
All-Purpose (White)2713
100% Whole-Wheat2256
Coconut16104

My Favorite Recipes:

Real Raw Kitchen’s angel food cake (FYI: not a raw recipe, but wow, this is delicious!)

Detoxinista’s coconut flour chocolate chip cookies

So now, time to get busy in the kitchen! You can purchase these flours at health food stores (you can get great prices if you buy in bulk) or online (Bob’s Red Mill has a wide variety of flours available).

 

andy-iconAndy Bellatti, MS, RD is a Las Vegas-based nutritionist with a plant-centric and whole-food focus who takes an interest in food politics, deceptive food marketing, sustainability, and social justice. His work has been published in Grist, The Huffington Post, Today’s Dietitian, Food Safety News, and Civil Eats, among others. He is also the Strategic Director of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, a group that advocates for ethical and socially responsible partnerships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can read more of his work on his Small Bites blog and can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. 

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