A few things come to mind when you hear the word flour: baking, pizza, cakes, and cookies, to name a few. Other phrases — like low-carb and keto diet — are almost never used in the same sentence.
Many people hesitate starting a low-carb or keto diet because the thought of giving up these comforting foods seems too harsh. If you’re one of these people, you can stop stressing.
There are plenty of low-carb baked goods that you can enjoy on keto. The Perfect Keto blog is filled with low-carb dessert recipes — and while they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet on keto, they’re perfectly fine to consume in moderation.
These desserts are made from alternative flours: low-carb, gluten-free flours typically made from ground nuts or seeds. Below, you’ll learn about each of these flours and how to use them in low-carb baking.
Flour is a powder made by grinding raw roots or grains. Some different types of flour include all-purpose flour, bleached, unbleached, white, and wheat. Most flours — like bleached and white flour — are considered simple carbohydrates, with no fiber to slow down digestion. Whole wheat flour is considered a complex carbohydrate, with over 14 grams of fiber per cup[*].
When grain is broken down into flour, the wheat kernel separates into three parts: endosperm, bran, and germ.
- The endosperm is the center of the grain — with its starchy texture it makes up most of the carbohydrates.
- The bran is the outer shell of the grain, which is what gives grain its texture, color, and fiber.
- The germ is where all the nutrients are stored. Flour that still has the germ during milling will be abundant in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
What makes white flour different from wheat flour?
White flour is stripped of the bran and germ. It’s entirely made up of the endosperm. Because the fiber and nutrients are removed, only non-fiber carbs are left behind[*].
Wheat flour contains the endosperm, germ, and bran. You may see in the store that wheat flour has a shorter shelf life — this is because bran and germ contain fats that tend to spoil quickly.
Both white and wheat flour are incredibly high-carb. One serving of all-purpose flour (about a quarter cup) contains 23 grams of total carbs, 0 grams of fat, and 3 grams of protein[*]. Whole wheat flour contains 22 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup[*].
A typical keto meal plan contains 30 grams of carbohydrates for the day. Therefore, a single serving of flour makes up around 75% of your daily carb intake.
So, if you want to stay low-carb it’s best to ditch most flours. But don’t worry — there are plenty of keto-friendly flour substitutions for your baking pleasure.
Luckily, gluten-free and keto baking recipes use low-carb flour alternatives. High-fat, low-carb foods like almonds, flaxseed, and coconuts are ground into a meal (or flour) to prepare low-carb breads, treats, and baked goods.
# 1: Coconut Flour
Pictured: Dairy Free Cauliflower Keto Pizza Crust
You’ve heard about all the health benefits of coconut oil, but have you tried coconut flour? While there’s a slight taste of coconut, the flour takes on the taste of the other ingredients it’s mixed with.
Coconut flour is a low-carbohydrate alternative to regular flour. A quarter cup serving contains 16 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of fiber, 4 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein for a total of 120 calories.
While it’s a bit higher in carbs compared to other low-carb flour substitutes, it makes up for it in texture. Its light appearance and consistency make it more absorbent than any other flours.
You also may want to watch the calories on this one — one cup of coconut flour runs you almost 500 calories. Luckily, you usually don’t need much. Coconut flour is not a 1:1 white flour substitution.
It’s low-carb count isn’t the only benefit this flour offers. Coconut flour is made from the actual pulp of the coconut, which is formed as a by-product during the coconut milk-making process.
However, you can make your own coconut flour at home by taking hydrated coconut pulp and scraping the dry coconut pulp into a food processor.
Not only are getting real coconut, but you’re getting all of its nutritional benefits. Coconut flour is a nutritional powerhouse, providing monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and other nutrients such as iron, manganese, and copper.
Baking With Coconut Flour
It’s recommended to use 2 tablespoons of water for every 2 tablespoons of coconut flour. Otherwise, you risk your food coming out too dry. Coconut flour is also known for being dense, so don’t be surprised if you see recipes call for additional eggs (sometimes half a dozen in a single recipe) to balance out the consistency.
Try using coconut flour in these sweet yet sometimes sugar-free treats:
Recommended coconut flour brands include:
#2: Almond Flour
Pictured: Low-Carb Gingersnap Cookies
Like coconut flour, almond flour is gluten-free, but contains fewer carbohydrates. One quarter cup serving contains 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and only 6 grams of carbohydrates with 3 grams of fiber[*].
You read that right. Only 3 grams of net carbs per serving.
Almond flour has the same benefits as (you guessed it) almonds. Almond flour is a nutritional powerhouse that can help improve cholesterol, overall heart health, blood sugar, and energy levels[*]. It may even help combat certain cancers[*]. Almond flour is also a good source of vitamin E, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and calcium[*].
Baking With Almond Flour
The best part about almond flour? You can make it at home. All you need is blanched almonds — aka, almonds with the skins removed — and a blender or food processor. Simply combine almonds into a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Try almond flour in these keto recipes:
- Chewy Chocolate Chip Keto Cookies
- Low-Carb Gingersnap Cookies
- Almond Butter Keto Pop Tarts with Coconut Butter Frosting
- Best Homemade Keto Cinnamon Rolls
- Ooey Gooey Keto Almond Flour Brownies
Recommended almond flour brands include:
- Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour
- Nature’s Eats Blanched Almond Flour
- Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour
- Wellbee’s Almond Flour
#3: Almond Meal
Pictured: Keto Bread
The only difference between almond meal and almond flour is that meal is made from almonds with the skin on and flour is made from blanched, ground almonds with the skins off. This subtle difference creates a meal texture that is more dense and grainy while almond flour is finer.
Almond flour and almond meal have the same nutrients, with a quarter cup containing 3 grams of net carbs, 14 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein with a total of 160 calories per serving[*].
Baking With Almond Meal
Since almond meal has such a gritty texture, avoid using it in cakes, “sugar” cookies, or other recipes where you need a finer flour. Instead, use it for pie crusts, oatmeal-free cookies, and muffins. It also creates a great breading to “dredge” meats, such as chicken fingers, breaded fish, or chicken parmesan.
If you want to bake with almond meal, try experimenting with this keto bread recipe.
Recommend almond meal brands:
#4: Flax Meal
Alternatives to Flour – Flax Meal
Pictured: Cheesy Broccoli Meatza
Flaxseed has been around for over 6,000 years, making it one of the world’s oldest classified superfoods. Flax meal is simply ground flaxseed. Freshly grinding the seeds allows for better absorption of all of the fiber and nutrients in flax[*].
One serving of flaxseed meal, or about 2 tablespoons, contains 6 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of fiber, giving flax meal a net carb count of zero. Flax meal also provides 4 grams of protein and 8.5 grams of fat (with a majority of healthy omega-3 fatty acids), making it ideal for keto baking.
Lignans are plant nutrients that have a similar function to estrogen, which is why they’re called “phytoestrogens.” These phytoestrogens can alter the metabolism of estrogen, causing changes in estrogen activity depending on the status of your hormones[*].
Baking With Flax Meal
Like almond meal, flax meal has a more course texture. It works well in recipes for crackers, bread, and faux granola. You can also add flax meal to your morning smoothie for extra fat and fiber.
Try baking with flax meal in this recipe:
Recommended flax meal brands:
#5: Sunflower Seed Flour
If you’re new to paleo, keto, or low-carb baking, you might be surprised to see sunflower seed flour on this list. While few brands seem to be selling it online, it’s relatively easy to make at home.
Simply grind raw sunflower seeds in a food processor until it reaches a flour-like consistency. Be careful not to overdo this process, as too much time in the food processor will result in sunflower seed butter instead.
One cup of sunflower seeds directly translates to a cup of flour, giving you a flour that’s low in carbs yet high in fiber and protein. Sunflower seeds are made up of 74% fat and only 14% protein, with an entire cup containing 9.2 grams of carbs, 23.7 grams of fat, and 9.6 grams of protein[*].
Recommended brands of sunflower seed flour:
#6: Hazelnut Flour
Hazelnut flour is a healthy, keto-friendly alternative to wheat flour. And although it’s lesser known, it can be an excellent alternative to almond flour. It has a finer consistency than almond or flax flour, yet it’s not quite as fine or dense as coconut flour. Therefore, low-carb bakers find it to be an incredibly versatile ingredient, working in both sweet and savory dishes.
While Perfect Keto doesn’t have any recipes using hazelnut flour, you will find that it’s often paired with chocolate. Try baking with hazelnut flour in this recipe for low-carb hazelnut chocolate sandwich cookies.
Recommended brands for hazelnut flour:
#7. Pecan Flour
Like sunflower seed flour, pecan flour is a relatively new ingredient on the low-carb baking scene. Yet many keto bakers like its taste and texture even more than almond flour. Since pecan flour is a bit more course than coconut or hazelnut flour, you’ll find that it works best in pie crusts, bars, and some cookie recipes.
Pecan flour is a bit higher in calories than other flours on this list, but it’s extremely low in carbohydrates. Pecans are made up of just 8% carbs and 87% fat, making them ideal for a ketogenic diet. A cup of pecans contains a whopping 753 calories, which includes 15.3 grams of carbs, 78.5 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein[*].
Recommended brands for pecan flour:
When shopping on Amazon or visiting your local grocery store, you may want to include a few other items on your list. While not flours, these items are common in many keto recipes. Keep them stored in your cupboards along with low glycemic sweeteners, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and a few spices to cover all your low-carb baking needs.
Psyllium husk is made from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. It’s used to give a bread-like texture for recipes, replacing eggs or gluten. It’s an excellent source of dietary fiber, so throw it in your morning smoothie or chia pudding for an extra fiber boost.
Psyllium is a prebiotic — the food that probiotics need to thrive and grow in your gut[*]. It also keeps your pipes (read: stools) running smoothly, making it a chosen ingredient for people with IBS or Crohn’s disease[*].
Recommended brands of psyllium husk powder:
Xanthan gum acts as a thickening agent, allowing dough to stretch and rise just as it would with regular flour. Think of a pizza crust: You can stretch, roll, and toss it in the air easily. In gluten-free and keto baking, adding xanthan gum to a nut or seed flour will create a similar effect.
Recommended brand of xanthan gum:
Use Low-Carb Flour for Your Baking Needs
You can still enjoy your favorite baked goods on a low-carb diet. Now that you understand the basics of alternative flours, how to use them and their nutrition benefits, it’s time to stock your pantry.
Pro tip: To extend the shelf life of any of the above ingredients, store them in an airtight container. If you don’t bake often, keep them in your refrigerator or freezer.
The Perfect Keto recipe collection is a great place to get started on your low-carb flour baking adventures, so check it out and have fun with it. You can also download the FREE Perfect Keto Recipe eBook.