Paleo flours can be used to make baked goods and treats to thicken a gravy. From nut flours and seed meals to starches made from tubers and coconut, you can make and bake just about anything without grains. There are even flours that are allergen and AIP friendly. With so many options to choose from we put together a guide on the most popular of these products and even a great recipe using them!
Cassava root is a starchy tuber root veggie, and it’s commonly used as a major source of energy in the tropics where it grows in abundance. Cassava flour is suitable for people who cannot or do not eat nuts, it’s AIP-friendly, and fairly easy to work with Cassava is the closest standalone replacement for white flour or whole wheat flour and works well when baking cakes, muffins, biscuits, or sandwich-style breads
Cassava is not a rich nutrient source in the nutrition department containing just trace amounts of minerals and vitamins like phosphorous, calcium and vitamin C but cookies, cakes, and bread will take on a pretty good texture and taste with this alternative to gluten-filled wheat flour.
You can use a 1:1 replacement in most recipes. Don’t be fooled though, cassava flour is by no means a low-carb substitute for flour; it contains nearly 40 grams of carbohydrates per 100-gram serving!
Almond Flour (Or Almond Meal)
The most well-known Paleo flour. Almond flour is a good one-for-one replacement for whole grain flours, and does not impart a nutty flavor. Thanks to the popularity, you can now find this in bulk at places like Amazon and Costco, which cuts down on the price per pound. Almond flour is great for savory breads, muffins, dense cakes (like carrot cake), and meatloaf. A bulk bag from one of those stores will easily last a few months, if not longer, when you store it in the refrigerator and when you are baking a few items each week.
This flour is made from finely ground almonds. You can also use other nuts to serve the same purpose.
Almond flour can also be made at home in very quickly if you have a food processor – simply pulse the almonds and do not blend too hard, which will result in almond butter.
Nut flours contain some protein, plenty of healthy fats, a little fiber and are rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Nuts can be poorly tolerated by some and they are higher in omega-6 fatty acids which can be inflammatory on the body if consumed in excess.
Read more on the downside of nuts here
It has a nutty taste and lends itself well to sweets.
Recipes using nut flours are best reserved for special occasions and indulgences, but almond flour will yield good results. You can often substitute almond flour 1:1 for wheat flour, making it an easy alternative. You can also sub almond flour for another 1:1 substitute like cassava pretty invariably, in case you have a preference or only have one handy.
Due to the polyunsaturated fat content, it is best to store almond flour in the fridge to avoid oxidation.
Coconut flour provides another nut-free option and is perhaps the most popular grain-free flour substitute. This is easily one of the healthiest Paleo flour substitutes; coconut offers its “superfood” powers in flour forms like its milk and meat, which are high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber – a truly dynamic trio!
Coconut flour also has an inherently low-carbohydrate nutritional profile which makes it more accessible to those following a lower carb Paleo diet. Coconut flour has a strong coconut flavor, but it does produce smooth results that are closer to that of white flour.
Unlike other Paleo flours, coconut flour works differently in recipes and can be tricky to bake with because it is not a one-for-one flour replacement. It soaks up a large amount of liquid. Often recipes will only call for a few tablespoons to a ¼ cup at most.
It’s best used in combination with another flour substitute due to its absorbency. This makes it tough to reliably replace it in a recipe that calls for it.
For a cup of regular flour, you will only need to use 1/4-1/3 of coconut flour along with a lot more liquid and/or eggs. While baking, this usually means more eggs.
Arrowroot Or Tapioca Starch/Flour
Arrowroot or tapioca starch can be used interchangeably and are a suitable alternative to cornstarch as a wheat-free thickening agent. They can also be combined with other flours to make your sweets, treats, bread, and cakes a little fluffier.
Tapioca is actually derived from cassava root but has a much finer texture, almost like a starch powder. It can be used in similar ways in baking but it fails to provide the exact same texture results.
Both arrowroot or tapioca are neutral tasting and provide great thickening alternatives for gravies, stews, and pie fillings. As a thickener, use 1:1 ratio if switching out another flour in recipe adaptations.
While using these starches in baked recipes, you can expect a soft and chewy result which is best reserved for loaves of bread or bread-like goods (think pizza crust or bagels).
Green Banana And Plantain Flour
Green banana and plantain flours are newer Paleo flour options, and very comparable to cassava flour utilization. These flours can be used interchangeably in both sweet and savoury applications. Green bananas have a uniquely healthy nutrient profile!
They both have a mellow, earthy flavour that is generally well-received. Green bananas are a fantastic source of resistant starch and are full of prebiotic fiber which acts as fuel for the good bacteria in our gut. Both plantain and green banana flour are also a good source of potassium. You can use these in any recipe with flour – simply use about 40% less banana or plantain flour.
Although not quite as common yet, not as easily available and priced higher than cassava, these flours provide a good option for anyone who does not respond well to cassava.
Tigernuts are, in fact, root vegetables and not actual nuts making them a great substitute for those intolerant to nuts or following an AIP diet. They are similar in resistant starch to plantains and green bananas. You can use tigernut flour in much the same as cassava and plantain, although tigernut at this point is the most expensive of the three, and tends to be a little grittier than the other two. Still, it’s an excellent option for anyone on an AIP diet or who can’t eat tree nuts
The nutritional value of tigernuts are rather superior to most Paleo flour substitutes because they have more nutrient similarities to nuts than roots, despite its origin. Nuts are notably higher in vitamins and minerals, and the tigernut contains some phosphorus, potassium, vitamin E, and vitamin C.
This root has a slightly sweet and slightly nutty flavour. You can generally use a 1:1 ratio when adapting recipes with this flour. You can also make tigernut flour at home using whole tigernut roots. You can grind them down to a fine mixture in the food processor and you can even make tigernut milk!
Sunflower Seed Flour
Sunflower seed flour is made in the same way as most nut-based flours - by grinding up the seeds. It is also nutritionally similar, being high in healthy fats with moderate protein content as well as providing fibre. Sunflower seeds are not tree nuts, and are a great option to replace almond meal for those who have nut allergies or avoid them for other reasons.
As with nut flours, store sunflower seed flour in an airtight container in the fridge to avoid rancidity and keep their nutrition intact.
You can use sunflower seed flour in any recipe that calls for almond meal or another nut meal.
If you are wanting the three best and most versatile Paleo flours, cassava, almond, tapioca or arrowroot are your best choices. These will give you the ability to make a majority of Paleo recipes and one or more can substitute for the other Paleo flours if needed for allergy purposes, taste preferences or lack of availability.
Making a Paleo pie crust is easy with these options – opening up a host of sweet and savory possibilities for your holiday meals or seasonal treats.
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Flaky Paleo Pie Crust
Yield: 2 x 9" Pie Crusts
- 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour (or other nut/seed flour)
- 1 1/2 cups tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup solid fat of choice (lard, duck fat, bacon fat, coconut oil etc.) at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Cold water as needed
- Place the almond flour, tapioca or arrowroot, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your food processor, and pulse to mix.
- Add the egg, fat, and vinegar and pulse several times to combine. Continue pulsing until the dough holds together when pressed with your fingers. Add cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time as needed, until the dough comes together.
- Transfer to a flat surface and lightly knead until smooth. Use additional tapioca/arrowroot starch to prevent sticking.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and tightly wrap the unused portion in plastic wrap when not being used. This can be stored in the refrigerator
- The dough can be carefully rolled out between 2 sheets of parchment paper or pressed into a pie plate using your fingers.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 15 minutes, or until crispy.
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com