Alternative Flours

If I had a pretty penny for every time a recipe called for a random flour I didn’t have…  Well, I might not be rich, but I’d definitely be getting there! Throw catering for dietary requirements into the mix – things can get tricky.

So, what flours can be subbed, cup-for-cup, and which swaps should be avoided? For home cooks, (particularly those with limited pantry space – myself included) it’s the ultimate question.

That’s why I’ve been tinkering with just about every flour variety I could get my hands on in recent weeks and months to try to get to the bottom of it.

And I think I’m there! At least almost. As more flour varieties cross my kitchen counter and make their way into my cooking, I’ll endeavour to continue to update this list, but it’s a start, and I think most of the more common offenders have been covered.

As far as substitutions go, I’ve found flours are not always a one stop shop, so I’ve noted where recipes may benefit from a little mixing and matching to find their sweet spot.

If there are any flours I’ve missed that you want to know more about, please let me know in the comments below.

FlourFree-fromTexture/tastes likeSubstitutions
White all-purposeNutsLight and fluffyTry a 50/50 split with another flour to increase fibre
Whole-wheatNutsMore textured and slightly denser than white, but still quite light and very versatileA straight swap works well in most recipes
Gluten-freeGluten, wheat, nuts – check the packet for preservatives or stabilisers if you have a specific sensitivity, intolerance or allergyVery fine – some brands can be chalky. Neutral flavourCan vary by brand – check the packet.   Try a 50/50 mix with another gluten-free flour like buckwheat for added fibre and depth of flavour
SpeltNutsLighter than whole wheat but denser than white. Mild nutty flavourDepends on the recipe – but I have had a lot of success with straight swaps, particularly with flavoured foods (i.e.: chocolate or spiced recipes). A 50/50 swap with whole-wheat works well too
BuckwheatNuts, gluten, wheatDenser and slightly more textured than whole-wheat, with a nutty/earthy flavourCan be subbed cup-for-cup in heavier recipes – like brownies or cookies.
For lighter foods, like cakes and breads, try adding ½ tsp baking soda per cup and use a 50/50 mix with another gluten-free flour, or whole-wheat if gluten/wheat isn’t an issue
QuinoaNuts, gluten, wheatTextured consistency and bold, earthy and at times bitter flavourCan be subbed cup-for-cup in heavier recipes – like brownies or cookies.
For lighter foods, like cakes and breads, try adding ½ tsp baking soda per cup and use a 50/50 mix with another gluten-free flour, or whole-wheat if gluten/wheat isn’t an issue
Green bananaNuts, gluten, wheatCan be very dense and dry if other ingredients are not balancedSubstitute 1.5 cups of green banana flour for every 2 cups of white or whole wheat flour called for in a recipe.   Try adding ½ tsp baking soda per cup and make sure there’s enough liquid/binding agents, like eggs
Chickpea/garbanzo bean/gramNuts, gluten, wheatHeavy and savourySubstitute 1.5 cups of gram flour for every 2 cups of white or whole wheat flour called for in a recipe.   When baking, try adding ½ tsp baking soda per cup and consider a 50/50 mix with another gluten-free flour, or whole-wheat if gluten/wheat isn’t an issue. I wouldn’t recommend this flour for sweet recipes
OatUncontaminated oats are gluten-free, wheat-free and nut-free – but check the packetDense texture with a neutral flavourBest used in combination with another flour in lighter baked goods – try a 50/50 split with buckwheat or whole-wheat if gluten/wheat isn’t an issue
AlmondGluten, wheatDense and nuttyTry a 50/50 split with another flour to avoid weighing down your recipe
CoconutNuts, gluten, wheat Dry. Dry. Dry. Did I mention dry? I don’t recommend trying to substitute another flour with coconut flour. Recipes which use coconut flour need plenty of moisture/oilHonestly, don’t try to sub it. I’ve been there, and it never works out. However, I find coconut flour works great with nut butters or very moist mixtures where there’s lots of liquid to absorb, if you want to experiment
ArrowrootNuts, gluten, wheatVery fine and neutral flavourTechnically a starch. Best used as a thickening agent in soups, pies, sauces, crumbles or custards, and in some baking – but stick to a majority flour (at least 3:1 flour to arrowroot)
TapiocaNuts, gluten, wheatVery fine and neutral flavourTechnically a starch. Best used as a thickening agent in soups, pies, sauces, crumbles or custards, as well as in crepes, and some baking – but I couldn’t recommend substituting tapioca flour in recipes that don’t already call for it
Corn starchNuts, gluten, wheatVery fine and neutral flavourBest used as a thickening agent in soups, pies, sauces, crumbles or custards

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