Wheat isn’t just a staple of the American diet, it’s an integral part of traditional cuisines worldwide.
But what happens when you can’t eat this popular grain?
Anyone following a gluten free or paleo diet knows that wheat isn’t easy to replace in baked goods and that wheat-free products are often strange in texture or in taste.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the success of wheat-free baking lies in the kind of flour you use.
On Wheat-Free Baking
Wheat contains gluten, a protein that helps dough rise and gives shape and a chewy texture to baked goods (1). Gluten is found in many grains, including wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale (2).
“Baking without gluten can be challenging because gluten contributes important properties to baked products like cookies, cakes, pastries, and breads,” says Carol Fenster, PhD.
Instead of gluten, many gluten-free recipes rely on starch to improve the taste and texture of your food. Popular gluten-free flours are made from:
- Brown rice
- Fava beans
- White beans
These options may be gluten-free, but most aren’t suitable for the paleo diet, which bans wheat and all other grains (3).
The Challenge of Paleo Baking
The Paleo diet mimics the eating habits of our ancestors in the Paleolithic period, between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. At this point in time, humans lived as hunter-gatherers and did not cultivate food.
The diet restricts the consumption of dairy, processed grains, legumes, and sugar. Instead, it focuses on eating large quantities of meat, as well as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Following a daily paleo diet is already difficult on its own, but baking takes it to a whole other level.
Here’s a list of 5 Gluten Free and Paleo Perfect for Baking:
1. Almond Flour
Almond flour is made from ground up blanched almonds.
It has a high protein content and a neutral taste, making it great for baking healthy goods.
2. Coconut Flour
This popular flour is made of ground up coconut meat after it has been pressed for coconut milk. It’s very absorbent and requires an equal amount of liquid to prevent your baked goods from getting too dry. Some recipes even call for the use of eggs or coconut oil to keep the batter moist (6).
Coconut has a high fiber content and relatively low carb content. It’s a great way to sweeten baked goods and it’s appropriate for diabetics to use (7). It can even lower LDL cholesterol levels and serum triglycerides (8).
Because of its high fiber content, coconut flour isn’t recommended to people with digestive issues such as SIBO or IBS.
3. Cassava Flour
Cassava is a root vegetable popular Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It’s best known for being the origin of tapioca.
Tapioca is the bleached starch extracted from the cassava root. It’s used in gluten-free baking as a thickening agent. In comparison, cassava flour is made from the whole roots and includes the fiber (9).
The flour has a soft and powdery texture and a neutral flavour. It’s typically used in the same proportions as wheat flour, except in recipes that require the used of yeast.
People suffering from a latex allergy should avoid cassava as they can experience hypersensitivity to the food (10).
4. Chestnut Flour
Chestnuts grow on trees, and contain lots of starch and low quantities of fat, unlike other nuts. Chestnuts are also low in phytic acid, a compound in nuts which binds to essential nutrients and makes them unavailable (11).
This healthy flour contains high levels of vitamin C, B6 and folate as well as potassium, manganese and copper. Chestnut flour can be used to replace almond flour in a 1:1 ratio (12).
Unlike their name may lead you to believe, tigernuts are not nuts: they’re root vegetables that grow in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean.
Tigernuts have a sweet flavour, so it’s best to cut back on the sugar content of your recipe if you’re using this flour. They’re also full of gut-healthy fiber and resistant starch, which is prebiotic. Additionally, tigernuts contain high levels of magnesium, potassium, and protein (13,14).
Tigernut flour is best used in combination with coconut and almond flour, but can be used in a 1:1 replacement ratio instead of wheat flour.