Alternative flours for baking power
As gluten-free living becomes more popular, more home cooks are seeking out substitutes for wheat flour. But alternative flours can deliver so much more than just gluten-free baked goods. Many of them are rich in nutrients that you won’t find in your standard self-raising. They also offer a unique variety of flavours and textures that can take your home baking to the next level. But which flour should you choose? And how do you use them? We sift through some of the most delicious and nutritious alternative flours now available.
Why choose alternative flours?
Alternative flours offer much more than simple relief from wheat intolerance. Diversifying your grains and seeds provides you with a much broader spectrum of nutrients. And when consumers choose to buy different grain and seed products, this also encourages our farmers to grow more of them. When farmers rotate their crops, it benefits soil health, helps to boost crop productivity and even provides insect and weed control.
While once you could only find alternative flours at health food stores, nowadays you can find them everywhere – from online retailers to major supermarkets. And the variety that’s available now is huge. We’ve chosen some of our favourites to feature here. Try these for starters, and see if this inspires you to expand your flour repertoire.
Cauliflower flour is high in fibre, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and protein. For parents of fussy eaters, this is the perfect way to sneak some vegies into your kids’ diet. It can be swapped cup-for-cup with regular flour. And cauliflower flour’s mild flavour means it can work equally well in sweet and savoury dishes. Sydney-based family business PomPom Paddock makes a range of cauliflower flours, pancake and waffle mixes and crispy coatings. You can check out the full product range here.
Almond flour and almond meal
Almond meal and almond flour are both made from ground almonds. But there’s a slight difference. The meal is made from raw, unpeeled almonds; the flour is made from peeled, blanched almonds. This means almond meal has a courser texture, which makes it great for cookies and cakes or as an alternative to breadcrumbs. Almond flour is much finer. It’s a key ingredient in traditional French macarons, and works well in light, airy baked goods. You’ll find both meal and flour available everywhere, but try to choose an Australian-grown brand, such as PBCo, which sources its almonds from South Australian farmers.
Another protein-rich alternative, amaranth flour contains iron, amino acids, calcium, iron and fibre. Because it’s quite dense, when using it in baking its best to only substitute up to half of the wheat flour called for in the recipe with amaranth flour. It also works well as a thickener for soups, stews and sauces, and to make flatbreads like tortillas and chapatis. It’s available from retailers like Vava Pantry, the online store for family business Peanut Market in Dandenong, Victoria, and Eclipse Organics. Both offer a range of alternative flours.
Green banana flour
Green banana flour contains high levels of resistant starch, which means it’s great for your gut health. Because of this high starch content, banana flour works well as a thickening agent. And because there’s a hint of sweetness to it, banana flour also works well in baking. Natural Evolution makes green banana baking flour from unripe Cavendish bananas grown on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. Founder and banana grower Rob Watkins first got the idea to produce banana flour after seeing how many bananas were going to waste due to market specifications or oversupply. Check out the full range here.
Red lentil flour
Also helping to reduce waste in the food industry, South Australia’s Pinnaroo Farmer has found huge success in producing red lentil flour from lentils that have been rejected for being cracked or chipped. Red lentil flour is rich in protein and fibre, but as it’s quite dense, you should only substitute around 25 to 50 percent of regular flour for lentil flour. It’s a great way to add more nutrients to a whole range of recipes.
Rich in fibre, B vitamins and amino acids, buckwheat flour has a stronger flavour than some alternative flours. This means it’s best to use it combination with another flour like wheat if you’re making sweet things like cakes, muffins or buns. Start with 25 percent buckwheat flour and see how you like it. Then experiment from there. You can find buckwheat flour at most supermarkets and health food stores, including bulk food retailer The Source Bulk Foods, which sells organic buckwheat flour and a range of other alternative flours.
This ancient grain has been around for millennia, but it’s seen a resurgence in recent years as consumers seek out healthy wheat alternatives. It does contain some gluten, so it’s not suitable for those with an intolerance. Rich in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, spelt flour can be used in place of regular flour in recipes of all kinds. However, its flavour is nuttier and more complex. When using spelt in baking, trying subbing in 25 percent spelt along with wheat flour and experiment from there. South Australia’s Laucke Flour Mills produces sustainably grown spelt flour, as well as a range of other flours and baking mixes.
One of the most nutrient-dense alternative flours you can find, chickpea flour is rich in protein, fibre and micronutrients. Unlike some other flour alternatives, chickpea flour binds well, and its natural density makes it ideal for breads, cakes and muffins. It’s produced by a number of Aussie businesses, including McKenzie’s Foods and Mount Zero Olives.
Quinoa is a complete protein, which means quinoa flour is a great ingredient for those looking to boost their plant protein intake. Its pleasant, nutty flavour works in both sweet and savoury recipes, and it can usually be substituted 1:1 for regular flour in recipes. But because some people can find it a tad bitter, start off by combining it with another flour if you’re feeling unsure. You can find it at The Source Bulk Foods and other online retailers like Sensory Mill, which also sells some other unusual flours, including apple flour.
Edible insects might still be a bridge too far for many Aussies, but if you’re curious to try them, crickets could be the perfect “gateway bug” for you. Crickets are rich in nutrients, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, folate, calcium and vitamin B12. They’re also a far more sustainable protein source than meat or poultry. Hoppa Foods offers a range of cricket-based superfoods, including cricket baking flour. Hop to it!