Hi there and welcome to Flawed yet Functional! I’m Emily, a Type 1 Diabetic, AVM survivor, and pursuer of a whole, healthy life. A big part of managing my health is the food I eat. I’ve gone through the Autoimmune Protocol to discover my food sensitivities which are eggs, dairy, and gluten. My current diet is the Autoimmune Protocol plus several reintroductions. It’s almost Paleo but not quite. Today I’d like to show you a simple guide to grain-free, Paleo flours. If you are just starting out this grain-free, dairy-free, and possibly, egg-free way of eating then you will benefit from this what-in-the-world-do-I-use-to-bake guide!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which just means if you purchase from the links provided, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you! At Flawed yet Functional, I only reference products that have real value that I actually use.
Let’s jump right into the first issue many people on the AIP or Paleo diet run into: flour. What do you bake with? Is baking still possible? Why are there so many options? How do they work?
The short answer is yes, you can still bake. There are many options out there, but unfortunately, there isn’t usually one specific flour that will do the same thing as wheat. You will find most recipes require a mixture of these flours.
What Is It?
First up is almond flour. This is made up of ground, blanched almonds; therefore, it is acceptable for the Paleo diet but not AIP. It is very versatile, mild in flavor, and lower in carbs making it a popular choice. When in doubt, try almond flour first!
Tips For Use
- Use cup-for-cup for wheat flour
- Does not thicken or bind ingredients together
- Usually used in conjunction with another ingredient to bind: coconut flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, or eggs
What Is It?
The second most common flour substitute is coconut flour. It is made from ground up dried coconut meat, and is acceptable for both Paleo and AIP diets. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid, so only use 20-25% of the amount of coconut flour to replace the wheat flour in a recipe. Too much coconut flour in a recipe will leave a distinct taste, so use sparingly.
Tips for Use
Even though coconut flour absorbs a ton of liquid, it is not a good thickener. Do not use it to thicken gravy or soup! You will be disappointed!
- Use 20-25% for wheat flour
- Absorbs TONS of liquid
- Will bind ingredients together, so often used in conjunction with almond flour
- Will NOT thicken – not for use in gravy, soups, or other thickened liquids
Tapioca Starch & Arrowroot Powder
What Is It?
Third, let’s learn about tapioca starch and arrowroot powder. These are grouped together because I find they behave similarly. It acts gluten-like, in a way, in that it creates an elastic-like texture. Made from the cassava/yuca root and Maranta arundinacea root, both are Paleo and AIP friendly. Use these sparing in recipes to bind ingredients together.
Tips for Use
- Use sparingly, never as main flour, but rather, to bind or thicken
- Often used in conjunction with almond flour to add a gluten-like consistency to baked goods
- Use as a thickener in gravy or soup – dissolve 1-2 tablespoons in 2 tablespoons of water. Remove hot dish from heat and stir in dissolved starch to thicken. Repeat as necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time. Do not overdo it!
Important Note: Too much starch though is a bad thing. It will turn a baked good gummy and create a snot-like gravy. Sorry for that visual, but it is possible to completely ruin dishes with too much starch. I’d like to help you avoid that!
Important Note #2: I’ve seen pancake recipes floating around Pinterest claiming to be able to make them AIP-friendly with only arrowroot powder as the flour. Do not believe them! A pancake with only arrowroot powder will not cook through like other flours. It will be gummy inside no matter how long you cook it!
Important Note #3: Both tapioca starch and arrowroot powder are SUPER high in carbs. Use with caution if you are a diabetic!
What Is It?
Fourth, cassava flour which is ground up cassava/yuca root is an excellent substitute for wheat flour, definitely the best in this list. It is both AIP and Paleo compliant, and the easiest to work with as far as measuring and using like wheat flour.
However, there are two major drawbacks that keep me from using this one on a regular basis.
- Price – Cassava flour is EXPENSIVE. I usually get Pamela’s from my local health food store: $13 for 14oz. less than a pound for $13! Now it looks like Amazon has some better prices for the Ottos Naturals ($9/pound) and Anthony’s ($5.75/pound), but that’s still a chunk of change to make cookies!
- High in Carbs – Now even if the flour was cheaper, I would use it extremely sparingly due to its high carbohydrate count. The yuca root is very starchy which makes a high carb flour. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is not a wise choice for a diabetic.
Tips for Use
- Use cup-for-cup like wheat flour
- Additional liquid not usually needed
- Watch the carbs if using this flour frequently
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Gluten-free flours can be confusing because no one can do all the things wheat can. Drat it all! However, with some practice, you can create delicious baked goods that rival the wheat varieties. Use this guide to grain-free Paleo flours to help you dive into the gluten-free baking world!