If you follow the ketogenic diet, you already know that pizza, cake, and cookies are high-carb foods that will kick you out of ketosis. Foods made with traditional wheat flour just don’t fit the low-carb lifestyle.
Fortunately, you can bake low-carb, keto-friendly versions of your favorite treats using flour substitutes.
Coconut flour and almond flour are both gluten-free, grain-free alternatives to wheat flour. Not only that, coconut and almond flour are minimally processed, nutritious, and tasty.
That’s why they’re the most popular choices for paleo, low-carb, and keto baking recipes. Other low-carb flour substitutes like flax meal and psyllium husk are less popular because they aren’t as tasty or versatile.
In this article, you’ll learn how coconut flour and almond flour compare nutritionally, the pros and cons of each, and how to use them to make the keto diet more enjoyable.
When it comes to nutrition and macronutrients, there are major differences between almond flour and coconut flour.
Not only that, they have different textures and consistencies. Coconut flour is incredibly absorbent, so 1/4 cup of coconut flour is roughly equivalent to a full cup of almond flour. If you substitute coconut flour for almond flour, remember it’s not a one-to-one swap!
Here’s the breakdown:
1 Cup Almond Flour
- 600 calories
- 24 grams of protein
- 44 grams of fat
- 12 grams of fiber
- 12 grams of net carbs
1/4 Cup Coconut Flour
- 120 calories
- 4 grams of protein
- 4 grams of fat
- 10 grams of fiber
- 6 grams of net carbs
As you can see, almond flour has more of everything in each serving. More fiber, more net carbs, more protein, and a lot more fat and calories. That’s because a cup of almond flour can contain up to 90 ground almonds!
If your goal is weight loss, or if you want easier portion control, coconut flour is the better choice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy almond flour too (in moderation).
And while almond flour contains a lot of fat (which is excellent for keto), most of the fat comes from omega-6. A cup of almond flour contains about 12 grams of omega-6 fatty acids.
Generally speaking, most people eat too many inflammatory omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3 healthy fats. You can balance your fatty acid ratio by eating more fatty fish or using an omega-3 supplement, so this may not be an issue depending on what else you eat.
Additionally, research shows that eating more nuts (including almonds) is good for your heart health, which means that the omega-6 content isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to almonds[*].
Nutritional value is important, but almond flour and coconut flour are also different in other ways.
Here are other things to keep in mind as you decide which low-carb flour alternative is best for your keto baking needs.
Allergies and Food Sensitivities
Research shows that nut allergies are increasing, especially among children[*]. Allergic reactions to nuts can range from mild skin irritation to life-threatening respiratory distress. As a result, many schools have implemented “nut-free” policies.
Even though almonds are technically drupaceous seeds, meaning seeds from thin fleshy fruits, they’re usually banned along with peanuts and tree nuts. That means most schools won’t allow your child to bring any baked goods that contain almond flour.
And of course, if you or someone in your family has a nut allergy, almond flour is off the menu entirely.
When it comes to food sensitivities, almond flour fares a bit better. Anti-nutrients are compounds in foods that can upset your stomach and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid and lectins are anti-nutrients found in the skin of almonds, but almond flour is made from peeled, blanched almonds, so it doesn’t contain many anti-nutrients.
Coconuts are drupaceous seeds like almonds, but fewer people have severe coconut allergies. One study found that among children with nut allergies, the risk of coconut allergy was similar to children without nut allergies[*].
So while some people are allergic to coconuts, it’s rarer, and having a nut allergy doesn’t necessarily mean someone is allergic to coconuts. However, if you or your child are allergic to nuts, speak to your doctor or allergist first before eating coconuts or coconut flour.
If you aren’t allergic to almonds or coconuts and you aren’t packing lunches to go to a nut-free school, almond flour and coconut flour are tied when it comes to food allergies and sensitivities. But among people with food allergies, coconut flour is less likely to be a problem.
Depending on where you live, you can probably buy organic coconut flour for a quarter to a tenth of the price of organic almond flour (by weight).
Not only that, you can use 75% less coconut flour (by volume) in place of almond flour in most recipes.
That means for each dollar spent on coconut flour, you’re getting up to 40 times greater value. Wow!
Sorry, almond flour. As far as cost, coconut flour is the winner hands-down.
Manufacturing and Environmental Impact
Almond flour comes from blanched, skinned almonds. The almonds are dried and ground into a finely-textured meal for use in cooking.
Nearly 80% of almonds come from California. The bad news? According to recent peer-reviewed literature, it takes between one and three gallons of fresh water to produce each almond in California[*]. That means a cup of almond flour from California requires up to 270 gallons of water to manufacture!
On the other hand, Spanish almond farmers tend to use rainwater instead of artificial irrigation methods. They’re probably more efficient when it comes to water usage. So if you want to be more eco-friendly, stick with Spanish almonds (and almond flour).
What about coconuts?
Coconut flour comes from coconut pulp. This pulp is a byproduct of coconut milk manufacturing. The coconut meat is soaked, then dried out and ground into a powdery flour.
The good news is that coconut production doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides, and they’re generally harvested by hand rather than giant machines. And while some manufacturers use harmful solvents and other chemicals for processing, you can avoid this issue by going organic.
Unfortunately, as demand for coconut products grows, coastal mangroves are being cleared for coconut monocrops[*]. These mangroves are vital ecosystems for native animal life, and they also provide natural storm protection in countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka.
While you can buy coconut flour with Fair Trade and other eco-certifications, these credentials don’t appear to address the ecological impact of mangrove clearing. Bummer.
When it comes to manufacturing and environmental impact, almond flour has a slight edge over coconut flour. California almonds are water-intensive, but all food requires water to produce, and you can go with imported Spanish almond flour to offset the water cost.
While most cooking is an art, baking is a science, and it can be pretty unforgiving. Luckily, if you’re patient and motivated, you can create delicious keto-friendly taste treats with almond flour or coconut flour.
Both flour alternatives require a little bit of tinkering, but almond flour recipes are more user-friendly, especially if you don’t have much experience baking yet.
Here’s what you need to know before you substitute almond flour in your favorite recipes:
- You can start with an equal amount of almond flour (one-to-one substitution for wheat).
- Some recipes may require extra almond flour, up to double (experiment to figure this out)
- Almond flour is denser than wheat flour, so don’t pack the measuring cup–just fill it up to level.
- Almond flour is more absorbent than wheat flour and lacks gluten, so you can also try adding extra eggs (or other binding agents) to help it set.
- Almond flour browns more quickly than wheat flour, so keep an eye on it. Loosely covering the dish with foil during baking can also help prevent burning.
- Baked goods made with almond flour are more moist, so you may need to let the container breathe to prevent mold.
If you’re new to baking or new to coconut flour recipes, they can be pretty tricky. Here’s what you need to understand before you give coconut flour a try:
- Start with a one-to-four ratio of substitution (75% less coconut flour compared to wheat or almond flour).
- You may need to adjust coconut flour downward (or add more liquid).
- Don’t pack the measuring cup. Fill it to level without pressing down.
- When you mix coconut flour into a batter, let it stand for several minutes so it soaks up all the liquid and thickens fully before you use it.
- You will probably need to add more eggs to your recipe to compensate for coconut flour’s absorptive properties and allow cakes to rise.
- It can lend a subtle coconut flavor to recipes–sometimes this is desirable, but for many sweet or savory dishes, you’ll want to adjust the recipe by adding more flavoring.
In summary, it’s probably a good idea to test out small batches first. Plan ahead. Don’t rush, and don’t expect to make a large, perfect batch on your first try.
Coconut flour and almond flour each have distinct pros and cons, and one isn’t necessarily a solid winner over the other.
If you want to make lower-calorie baked goods, or if your goal is fat loss, coconut flour is more compatible with your needs.
Coconut flour is also much more cost-efficient than almond flour.
Almond flour is definitely more user-friendly, but you can still learn to bake with coconut flour, even if you’re brand-new to low-carb baking.
Coconut flour is more likely to impart a coconut flavor to dishes, so almond flour is a more neutral option, especially for savory dishes.
There’s a lot to like about both flour substitutes. They’re both high in fiber and protein, low in carbs, more nutritious than wheat flour, minimally processed, and fantastic choices for keto-friendly recipes. They won’t spike your blood sugar or kick you out of ketosis, either.
You really can’t go wrong, so why not try both before you choose your favorite type of flour?