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 depriving themselves of satiating foods seems a bit harsh. If you are one of these individuals, you can stop stressing.
There are plenty of low carb baked goods that you can enjoy on keto. Perfect Keto is filled with low carb dessert recipes — and while they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet on keto, are 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.
Why Isn’t Flour Low Carb Friendly?
Flour is a powder made by grinding raw roots or grains. Flour was made as early as 6000 BC by crushing wheat seeds between stones. In 1879, along came the first steam mill in London during the beginning of the Industrial Era.
Some of the 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 which makes up most of the carbohydrates due to its starchy texture.
- 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 the 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 is entirely made up of the endosperm. It is stripped of fiber and nutrients, leaving only sugar behind[*].
Wheat flour is made up of 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 is about a quarter cup, including 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 will contain 30 grams of carbohydrates for the day. Therefore, a single serving of flour makes up around 75% of your daily carb intake.
4 of the Best Low Carb Flour Substitutes
Luckily, the introduction of 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 treats.
Pictured: Dairy Free Cauliflower Keto Pizza Crust
We’ve heard about all the amazing 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 substitutes for flour, it makes up for it in texture. Its light appearance and consistency make it more absorbent than any other flours.
It’s low carb count isn’t the only benefit this flour offers. Coconut flour is made from the actual pulp of the coconut, getting formed as a by-product during the process of creating coconut milk. However, you can make your own coconut flour at home by taking a hydrated coconut pulp and scraping the dry coconut pulp into a food processor.
This means that not only are you getting real coconut, but you’re getting all the nutritional benefits of the coconut as well. 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, or else you risk the prepared food coming out too dry. Coconut flour is also known for being incredibly dense, so don’t be surprised if you see recipe calls for additional eggs (sometimes half a dozen in a single recipe!) to balance out the consistency.
Recommended coconut flour brands include:
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[*].
Yep. 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 sure to help improve cholesterol, overall heart health, blood sugar and energy levels. It’s even been shown to 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 (almonds with the skins removed) and a blender or food processor. Simply combine almonds into a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
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
Pictured: Keto Bread
The only difference between almond meal and almond flour is flour is made from blanched, ground almonds (skins removed), while meal is made from almonds with the skin on. This subtle difference creates a texture that is more dense and grainy, while almond flour has a finer texture.
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 for 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 a finer flour is needed. Instead, the texture works better with some pie crusts, n’oatmeal cookies and muffins. It also creates a great breading to “dredge” meats, such as chicken fingers, breaded fish or chicken parmesan.
Recommend almond meal brands:
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. The grinding of the seeds allows for better absorption of all of the fiber and nutrients flax contains[*].
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.
Flax meal also improves skin and hair health, helps lower cholesterol, supports gut and digestive health, improves hormonal imbalances and provides a strong source of the antioxidants called lignans[*].
Lignans are plant nutrients that have a similar function to estrogen, which is why they are called “phytoestrogens.” These phytoestrogens are capable of completely altering 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 gritty texture. It works well in recipes for crackers, bread and faux granola. You can also add flax meal to your morning smoothie for the added fat and fiber.
Recommended flax meal brands:
Other Low Carb Pantry Essentials
When shopping on Amazon or visiting your local health grocery store, you may want to include a few other items on your list. While not flours, these items are a common ingredient in many keto recipes.
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 like 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 the same effect.
Recommended brand of xanthan gum:
Use a Low Carb, Alternative Flour for All 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.
Use the above ingredients for all your favorite treats, including cakes, cookies, pie crusts and pizza crusts. The Perfect Keto recipe collection is filled with various almond flour and coconut flour recipes and a great place to get started. Or, download the FREE Perfect Keto Recipe eBook.
Steph is a writer, competitive weightlifter and nutritional consultant with a passion for health and wellness. She is the founder of The Athlete’s Kitchen, a website dedicated to providing its audience with articles, recipes and the latest nutritional information on their favorite foods.