Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen more & more gluten-free recipes on the menus at restaurants, bars & cafes throughout. The popularity in gluten-free recipes is great for diversifying our diet & helping out those living with celiacs. I use a lot of gluten-free flour in my baking because I don’t want the heaviness of whole wheats or the processed taste of unbleached flour all of the time. I like to mix it up by making sweet & savory treats with alternative flours, like brown rice flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour, quinoa flour, masarepa and plantain flour. These are just a few ‘alternative flours’ that sit in my kitchen during the week and help me during every meal. I like to try to substitute alternative flours into my recipes to see how it changes the texture or taste of my baked goods. Lately, I find myself pouring a bit of plantain flour in recipes that don’t call for it, just for a little extra flavor.
I know deciding on the right alternative flour can seem overwhelming. Sometimes when you go into the market there are just too many options & if you are new to the game of alternative flours you can get loss in endless labels & suggestions. Here are a few tips & tricks I’ve learned along the way for working with alternative flours in gluten-free and vegan baking.
You might be familiar with sprinkling almonds on your salad, toasting them in the oven or eating them as a snack on the go, but almonds are also a really great substitute for flour when you are baking. We are most familiar with eating sweet almonds, which have a hard crunch on the outside, as well as an earthy & sweet finish. They are generally mild in flavor and give your baked goods or salads a nutty finish. Almond flour, which is also known as almond meal, is made by grinding up whole, raw & unblanched almonds. Almond flour is not only reach in protein, but is also gluten-free and contains a nutritionally significant value of Vitamin E.
You can use almond flour when you are making cakes, cookies, breads & even crackers. It’s important to remember that you will have a mildly nutty finish to any baked good you make with almond flour. I’m pretty in love with these Gluten-Free Muffins from The Vanilla Bean Blog – they look so delicious, not to mention the awesome photography.
Almond flour sells in most markets for $12.99; however, you can make it much more affordably at home if you have a food processor, blender or Vitamix. The success of your almond flour depends on your ability to process the almonds into a fine enough grain to use in baked goods. The more powerful the food processor or blender then the finer the your almond flour. Remember, don’t add oil or crush your almonds for too long or you might just end up with almond butter.
To be honest, I can’t get enough of tapioca. When I lived with my best friend on the Big Island, I think I made enough purple sweet potato tapioca pudding to feed the whole town, at least 3 times a week. I love tapioca. Tapioca flour, which is also known as tapioca starch, is a great replacement for wheat flour. It is finely ground powder that gives baked goods a crispy & chewy texture.
I use tapioca flour in almost all of my vegan cookie recipes to create a gooey outside & a crispy inside. A lot of gluten-free flours contain flavors that can impact the taste of your recipe; however, tapioca flour is tasteless, which means you don’t have to worry about it interfering with other flavors. I use tapioca flour in vegan cookies & love this recipe for Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies from The Sprouted Kitchen. You can easily replace the butter with chilled sunflower oil to replace the fat.
Tapioca flour sells in the regular market for around $13.99. There are some recipes out there for grinding tapioca pearls down into a fine powder, but I honestly go straight to the market for this one. You can get tapioca flour at tropical food stores for as cheap as $3.79, which means that you can save money for other expensive treats. If you live in Boston, then you can go to Tropical Foods/El Platanero to pick up your tapioca flour & some other great food that is hard to find elsewhere in the city.
Brown Rice Flour
A side of brown rice and vegetables is delicious, but you might not have thought that you can turn your side into flour! Brown rice has a mild and nutty flavor, which is perfect when creating baked goods. The main difference between brown rice and white rice is that the former only has the husk, or the outermost layer removed, whereas the ladder is also missing its bran layer and germ. Since brown rice retains the bran layer and germ, then it also carries added nutritional benefits, like manganese, iron and fiber. Grinding brown rice into a light flour creates a healthy alternative to wheat flour.
If you would like a nutty-flavored tofu, then you can coat your tofu in brown rice flour & rosemary or use it to thicken sauce. I also like to use brown rice flour in smooth and nutty baked goods. I used brown rice flour in these Maple Walnut Bars, which was a favorite recipe of one of my old roommate’s. I one time woke up to the whole pan gone, which actually made me really happy. It’s always nice to create something delicious for someone. I also love this recipe from have cake, will travel for Gluten Free Fudge Brownies and cannot get enough of the other recipes on this blog.
Brown rice flour goes for about $5.39 at the market, which isn’t too bad. I am a big fan of purchasing brown rice flour; however, there are also easy ways to make it at home. If you experience symptoms from celiacs, then you might also find it important to make things at home where you know there won’t be any contamination. If you don’t have a grain mill, then you can use a food processor to break down the brown rice.
I love to roast chickpeas in olive oil & smoked paprika or cayenne, but I also love to use them in my baked goods. As you probably know from the smooth texture of hummus, chickpeas are creamy and rich legumes that are high in protein. Chickpea flour can add additional nutrition to your baked goods and it also gives a rich flavor to your foods. This type of flour is not only good for people are following a celiac diet, but it is also a good source of iron, which is an important nutrient for vegans.
Chickpea flour is perfect for savory, rather than sweet, baked goods. You can use chickpea flour in crusts & breads to create a rich flavor. I am going to surpise the bf & slip this gem, Chickpea Flour Flatbread W/ New Potatoes + Fresh Basil, from Dolly | And | Oatmeal on the menu for this week. I am anxious try to it out topped with cranberries, roasted chickpeas & fresh basil.
I’m all about getting this one from the store at $2.69 per lb. You can always purchase dried chickpeas and process them in your food processor; however, this one is an affordable gluten-free option. This type of flour not only helps you create delicious baked goods, but it will also gives you more opportunities to work nutrients into your diet.
Quinoa is a great addition to salads, as well as a delicious breakfast grain cooked with almond or cashew milk. You can also transform quinoa into a highly nutritious flour. Over the last few years, quinoa has soared in popularity and you can now find quinoa in almost any store, bulk or packaged. This super grain has been hailed for its powerful health benefits for those following gluten-free and vegan diets because it carries both complete proteins & essential amino acids.
I’m a complete quinoa flour novice because I have been trying to find a simple recipe for ages. I’m all about this vegetarian (easily made vegan) recipe from Eat This Poem for Quinoa-Flour Steaks, which is from the cookbook The Homemade Flour Cookbook.
A 22 oz. bag of quinoa flour generally goes for $16.99, so this is one of the more expensive alternative flours to add to your home pantry. This is a great place to cut costs & bring your flour making to your kitchen. With a food processor you can easily grind dried & toasted quinoa into flour.
One summer I moved back to Boston early from working on a farm up in New Mexico and I had a cafe job where I was just too tired to cook most days after work. That summer, I think masarepa saved my life. Make sure not to confuse masarepa with masa harina, which is used to make things like tortillas & tamales. Masarepa is unique because it is corn that has been precooked & soaked so that you can easily mix it with water & salt to make arepas. The flour comes in both yellow & white. There is always debate about which one tastes best, but I usually go with yellow if I want a rich corn flavor & white for a fluffier texture and more subdued taste.
I always have a stock of masarepa in my kitchen. It’s easy to put arepas together with avocado & tomatoes after a long day at work. I know it’s kind of bizarre, but I also had a stint of PB&J arepas that ere eerily delicious. In all seriousness, this is a simple recipes for arepas from Adriana Lopez of pica pica. I also like to add nutritional yeast to the batter, which gives your arepas a rich & cheesy flavor.
Masarepa is a very inexpensive alternative to white flour products. This type of corn flour can be found at the market for $3.69. This is not a flour you will most likely use in other products; however, you can use it to make vegetable empanadas.
This might be my personal favorite. I discovered plantain flower two or three years ago when I was picking up tapioca flour at Tropical Foods/El Platanero. I couldn’t wait to substitute wheat flour with this gluten-free flour. I love to make sweet & green plantains, so the chance of working this into baked goods got me really excited.
I like to substitute plantain flour with wheat flour in cakes & cookies. I typically use a one-to-one ratio; however, plantain flour is very fine compares to wheat flour. The texture of plantain flour can give your baked goods an extra gooey texture with a crunchy exterior. I have a new cookie recipe with plantain flour I will be popping up in a few days.
This is another ingredient that you should probably just head to the closest caribbean food store. I have never seen plantain flour the mainstream markets. I can’t find the exact one online that I typically buy to link for you all, but I usually pay somewhere in between $2-$3. I really like to use this both to get that gooey center on my cookies and to add the sweet & delicious plantain flavor.
There are other flours I have heard about out there, but this is a handful of the ones I have been fortunate to try. I am on a new adventure to find the best alternative flours for making sweet breads and patisserie sweets. I have been drooling over some french pastries, as well as Chinese pastries, that I am dying to try out! Off to the kitchen, let’s talk soon <3