Living with someone who does not eat gluten, and also being a person who would do depraved things for a cookie, I have a lot of experience cooking and baking with gluten-free alternatives to flour. I have tried almost everything in my baking experiments to get my bread dough to stretch nicely, my cookies to bake evenly, and my cakes to rise tall.
More often than not, I find that a product I’ve had great success with in five trials fails miserably in the sixth. What I have deducted from this is that each type of flour substitute has its strengths and its weaknesses, and is thus best utilized in certain instances. Below are my findings.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that I have not been reimbursed, coerced, or rehearsed in any way to alter my opinions. These are simply my observations. Take them with a grain of salt and just a dash of paprika.
1. Rice Flour
Rice flour is a powder made form finely milled, dehusked rice. I know, I know, you would be floundering without me here to tell you these things. It comes in both brown and white varieties.
Pros: Rice flour has very little taste, so it won’t interfere with flavor. It is also widely available and not overly expensive.
Cons: Rice flour is extremely fine, and therefore results in baked goods with very little structural integrity. It tends to cause cakes to come out so fluffy that they crumble at the slightest breeze. It also has little nutritional value, being mainly starch.
Best for: Things which are meant to be both fluffy and eaten with a fork, like pancakes or angel food cake.
2. Soy Flour
Soy flour is made by roasting soybeans, removing their husks, and grinding them up.
Pros: Soy flour is very high in protein, with ten grams of it per quarter-cup serving.
Cons: Soy flour, in my personal opinion, has a noticeably funky aftertaste of beans.
Best for: Garlic bread, pizza dough, and other dishes that have a strong savory flavor to cover up the taste of the flour.
3. Oat Flour
Oat flour is simply made of pulsed-up oats. In fact, you can make it at home in your food processor.
Pros: Oat flour is extremely versatile. It is full of fiber and protein, and is super easy to digest. It has no flavor whatsoever, and works well in any number of contexts.
Cons: It can sometimes result in a slightly tough product.
Best for: Brownies, bagels, and any other food that benefits from a slight chewiness.
4. Almond Flour
Almond flour consists of finely ground raw blanched almonds. Sometimes, it is referred to as “almond meal,” indicating that the grind is less fine and there are larger chunks of almond present.
Pros: Almond flour has a decent amount of protein and fiber, and it has the pleasantly nutty, aromatic taste of almonds.
Cons: Obviously, almond flour is not allergy friendly. Also, depending on the brand, there may be noticeable chunks of almond floating around, which may or may not be desirable.
Best for: Pies crusts, oatmeal cookies, or other things which can stand up to a bit of grittiness from the almond pieces.
5. Chickpea flour
Chickpea flour is simply made of ground-up chickpeas.
Pros: Chickpea flour contains six grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving. Apparently, you can also use it as a facial exfoliant! Who knew?
Cons: I find that chickpea flour can often result in a slightly dry, crumbly baked good.
Best for: Biscotti, tortillas, or other non-delicate items which won’t suffer from a slight dryness.
6. Sorghum Flour
Sorghum is a type of grass native to the tropic and subtropics. Sorghum flour is sometimes known as sweet sorghum flour, for it is made from the sweeter varieties of the plant.
Pros: Sorghum flour is very low in calories, if you’re into that sort of thing. Despite its “sweet” name, it also contains no sugar and rather a lot of iron.
Cons: While it is not as bad as rice flour, it does tend to result in baked goods that disintegrate somewhat easily.
Best for: Muffins, cakes, and other foods that need to be fluffy and light.
7. Corn Flour
Corn flour is made from dried corn that has been pulverized. Cornmeal is basically a less ground-up version of corn flour.
Pros: Corn flour is the lowest calorie flour on this list. It results in fairly sturdy baked goods, and has a nice complex flavor. It is also not expensive, since corn is one of the most massive crop industries on the planet.
Cons: Corn flour provides very little in terms of nutrition, and corn farming is doing the planet absolutely no favors.
Best for: Cornbread (obviously!), shortbread, and anything else that embraces a slightly salty, crunchy nature.