A Primer: Baking with Almond Flour

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Please welcome Amy Love from Real Food Whole Health. She is a sweetheart, which I know for a fact because I got to meet her last year at the Wise Traditions conference! She’s a very knowledgeable GAPS practitioner and today she’s helping you discover easy and delicious baking with almond flour. –Wardee

As a nutritional therapist and GAPS practitioner, I get many questions about almond flour. Many of my GAPS clients miss their favorite baked goodies from time to time and need GAPS-friendly, real food alternatives — and almond flour often fits the bill! Almond flour is nothing more than ground almonds, but there are some important qualities we’ll talk about below.

Why Use Almond Flour?

Almond flour can be a wonderful alternative to wheat and other gluten-containing flours. It’s also grain-free (because almonds are nuts), so those who are sensitive to grains or on a gut healing protocol like GAPS can often eat almond flour goods.

While many people can eat and enjoy almond flour, it is not for everyone. Obviously, those allergic or sensitive to almonds or nuts in general would not be able to tolerate it, and those with oxalate issues would probably be wise to avoid almond flour because it is high in oxalates.

Kinds of Almond Flour

If you have started exploring alternative baking flours, you may have seen almond flour referred to as both “almond flour” and “almond meal”. Is there a difference? Well, many people use the terms interchangeably to talk about the same thing.

I think this is confusing, because I believe there is a real difference. For me, almond meal is coarser and almond flour is more finely ground. I prefer the more finely ground texture of almond flour all around, but especially in baked goods.

There are further differences as well. Almond meal will often have the skins in the blend, and I’m not a fan of this. Why? Because almond skins contain phytic acid — an anti-nutrient that inhibits mineral absorption. Neutralizing phytic acid is one reason that we soak/sour nuts, seeds and many grains, so almond meal would need to be made from soaked almonds if the skins are to be included or the recipe would need to be specially formulated to include soaking. But you can avoid all this with blanched almond flour.

Blanched almond flour is made from almonds without the skins. This is what I buy and what I use in all my almond flour recipes. Because the skins are removed, there is no phytic acid and the flour does not require any soaking. You’ll want to double check before purchasing, but typically the almond skins are removed by steam without the use of any chemicals. If they’ve used any chemicals, skip that brand and opt for blanched almond flour which has undergone the steam process only.

Baking with Almond Flour

So now you know what almond flour is, how do you use it? Because blanched almond flour is so finely ground, it can substitute for wheat flour in many recipes, both sweet and savory! I make a wide range of items like muffins, quick breads, tarts, cakes and even bread chicken and fish — all with blanched almond flour.

If you are modifying a family recipe to use almond flour, you can usually substitute it at a rate of 1:1 with wheat flour and go from there. So if you would have used 1 cup of all-purpose flour in your pumpkin muffins, try 1 cup of blanched almond flour instead and see how it goes. You might need more almond flour, so increase until you get the right consistency. Most often, this method will work nicely.

Keep in mind that almond flour does not contain gluten, so it will not behave the same way as in loaves of bread. But, muffins and the like will generally turn out great!

My Favorite Almond Flour Recipes

Here are some of my favorite almond flour recipes:

Also, Wardee shared these two recipes in the past: Blueberry-Lemon Muffins (pictured above) and Grain-Free Almond Bread. There are also cookbooks dedicated to baking with almond flour and many European recipes call for this traditional ingredient.

Have you tried almond flour before? What’s your favorite way to use it?

New to our GAPS series? Get up to speed by browsing past posts in this series or reading what the GAPS diet is.

This post is shared with GAPS-Friendly Fridays.

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Comments

  1. Cara says

    Can you please tell me the brand of Almond Flour that you prefer…where I live I can only seem to find Almond Meal, I have looked at all the health food stores for Almond Flour but everyone only carries the Meal….

    • Cally says

      I’ve been trying two types of almond flour. One is Honeyville, the other Lucy’s Kitchen. I do not see a different in either and Honeyville has a standard shipping cost, no matter what the size of your order. Yet, I can’t for the life of me get a good product working with almond flour. I find it’s too oily, especially since I’m using butter. It flattens out and burns easily as well. I’m working on my own blend of almond flour, almond meal and arrowroom flour, but still having issues. Is almond flour simple too oily so I should cut down the amount of butter that the wheat flour recipe is calling for? Today I added corn starch and xanatham gum, but still it flattened out. I was making scones. I want to work with almond flour, but the oil in the almond with the butter is too much. I can almond ring the result product out like an oil-filled washcloth! Any suggestions? I want to have an all-purpose almond flour I can use for most all of my baking. Thanks

      • says

        Hi Cally!

        I have never had this issue, even when converting gluten recipes to gluten-free. I use the blanched almond flour from Honeyville, and most of my recipes have a good amount of butter and/or coconut oil, but I’ve never noticed extreme oiliness. Does it stay that way when cooled? The product will not be as fluffy as a wheat flour product- it will be a bit flatter and denser, which is why these recipes often call for baking soda and/or baking powder. However, I’ve never found the texture to be unpleasant, especially in cookies or muffins, and certainly never in “breading” – like with the Chicken Parmigiana or nuggets/strips. I have never mixed almond flour, meal and arrowroot, so I can’t comment on that blend. I’m sorry I can’t be more help- perhaps another reader has experienced this?

  2. says

    I didn’t know that about the phytic acid in the skins…another reason why most people seem to recommend Honeyville. I sure wish they sold it in stores though. The only almond meal I’ve ever worked with was TJ’s and it seemed to work for my purposes, but I can see how Honeyville is superior in many ways. My hubby always wants me to make my own, but it seems so hard and time-consuming and I can’t imagine I’d be able to get it fine enough.

      • says

        Also found out from a friend today about Bob’s Red Mill and that they carry blanched almond flour. I have not tried it and can’t personally vouch for it, but she made one of my (new) recipes with it and it worked well for her. It does not have skins and I think she said it’s organic, but not sure on that. I prefer, buy and recommend Honeyville, but if you need it fast at a store, you might try to find this certain Bob’s style. (They also have a regular almond meal that is coarser and has skins, so avoid that one!) Hope that helps!

        • says

          Amy, I have used Bob’s Red Mill blanched almond meal/flour and it works beautifully. I checked the package and it does not say it is organic, however, the Honeyville does not claim to be either. They are comparable in price, but I like the idea of the larger 5 lb bag that Honeyville offers–most stores only carry small bags. Great post, thanks.

          • says

            Awesome! Thanks for sharing that, Judy! That will give people other options, especially if something is needed quickly, it can be found at many local stores. :)

  3. mary says

    my son has severe tree nut allergies, so almond flour is out…can coconut be subbed for almond? how can i do that conversion?

    • says

      Hi Mary! Coconut flour baking is another whole issue in itself. To coat chicken or fish, you can usually sub ground coconut, or coconut flour, but for baking…it’s certainly different. It is a special flour that honestly can’t be used like anything else! It absorbs a lot of liquid and is used in small amounts, usually with extra eggs. It definitely can not be subbed for regular wheat flour or almond flour in a recipe.

      Coconut flour recipes abound on real food blogs these days, because of nut allergies, sensitivities and oxalate issues. Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife is another good resource. I have a few coconut flour recipes I can share, and Wardeh probably has several as well!

      One note of caution- coconut flour IS very fibrous and some people do not tolerate this well if they have gut issues. Start slowly and small and see how it’s tolerated (there would probably be bowel changes and/or tummy pain if not tolerated) and then you will know if it’s something you can use now or if it needs to wait until after gut healing. Hope that helps!

      Here’s are two coconut flour recipes:

      Honey Butter Muffins
      http://www.realfoodwholehealth.com/2011/07/grain-free-gluten-free-honey-butter-muffins/

      Coconut Flour Blueberry Muffins
      http://www.realfoodwholehealth.com/2010/12/gluten-free-blueberry-muffins-with-coconut-flour/

  4. Annette says

    Is it possible to bake my original recipe of saffron yeast dinner rolls, using almond flour? My next option would probably be to make saffron muffins, right? Thanks!

    • says

      Annette — I’m not sure you can go tright to yeast rolls, but the muffins would probably work! :) Let’s see if Amy has an answer for you, though. She may know more than me.

      • says

        I don’t think you would be able to make yeasted rolls from almond flour. I think it needs the glutinous structure to rise properly, so yes, the muffins would probably be the best option :) Sounds yummy!

  5. Krissy says

    I have read that Almond Flour needs to be homemade because the almonds do need to be soaked and dried prior to using. I have read this on several WAPF members’ blogs, among others. The reason stated, aside from the phytic acid you mentioned, is enzyme inhibitors. I have been using Honeyville as well, but would love to hear your take on this. Is the heat from cooking enough to break down the enzyme inhibitors?

    • says

      Hi Krissy!

      I’m not sure about that. I feel like the blanching does take care of these issues, but I would be open to learning more if you have links, studies or experience with this.

      • Jesse says

        Hi Krissy,
        If the phytic acid is in the skins and you are buying blanched, I don’t see what the problem would be.. and the phytic acid is the enzyme inhibitor, correct? They are one in the same. I have never heard of heat breaking that down either. I believe that would defeat the whole process that we go through with soaking with an acidic medium.
        Wardee and Amy, please correct if that is wrong.

    • says

      Hi Christine- I do feel that almond flour should be used sparingly- we personally bake something with almond flour 1-2x per month, and use it for breading chicken, in meatloaf/meatballs or in other savory recipes maybe once a week, if that (in 1/4-1/2 cup or so amounts for a full recipe).

      Coconut flour is not tolerated by everyone, including many of my clients with gut issues, nor is almond flour (oxalates, etc). It’s about finding solutions that work for you. I definitely agree that nuts in general should not be overconsumed due to Omega 6 imbalance rampant in the modern diet, but I feel that in the context of a traditional foods diet (REPEAT- in the context of a TRADITIONAL foods diet), most people can tolerate some Omega 6 fatty acids- as they ARE essential after all- but need to make sure to keep up with the Omega 3 to keep the ratio in check.

      I also feel like the butter/coconut oil buffers some of the “damage” done to the PUFAs in the almond flour. Just like you would mix olive oil and butter to get a higher heat stability of the olive oil, I think these healthy saturated (and stable) fats buffer some of the issues here. Plus, even though it’s 350 in the oven, the food isn’t that hot. You can cook a chicken at 400 degrees for an hour and the internal temp will be like 150-160, so even though it’s not meat (dense) it’s something to keep in mind.

      The important thing to remember is that while alternative flour goods can help the transition to whole foods (especially with kiddos or a resistant spouse), the goal is really to EAT WHOLE FOODS in their natural form, not rely on substitute foods. However, I am all for using almond flour (or coconut flour) when it’s tolerated, in moderation, and in the context of an otherwise very healthy diet :)

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