What is almond flour?
Almond flour is made from blanched almonds that are finely ground into a meal. It has become a popular gluten-free flour alternative for baking. Almond flour is naturally gluten-free, so it’s a safe option for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. It’s also popular with paleo dieters since almonds are considered a paleo-friendly food.
Benefits of using almond flour
Almond flour offers several benefits for gluten-free baking:
- It’s naturally gluten-free and won’t aggravate gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
- It’s high in protein – about 6g per 1/4 cup serving. This gives structure and rise to baked goods.
- It contains healthy fats from the almonds, mostly monounsaturated fat.
- It has a mildly sweet and nutty flavor that tastes great in pastries and desserts.
- It’s relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other gluten-free flours like rice flour or tapioca flour.
Using almond flour in baking
Almond flour can substitute for about 1/4 to 1/3 of the regular all-purpose flour called for in a recipe. It contains no gluten, so it can’t replicate the elasticity of gluten. For best results, almond flour is often combined with other gluten-free flours and binders:
- Flours: cassava flour, coconut flour, white rice flour
- Binders: xanthan gum, psyllium husk powder, gelatin
- Leaveners: baking powder, baking soda
- Eggs help add structure and density in the absence of gluten
Using a blend of these ingredients helps replicate the textural properties of regular wheat flour for lighter, fluffier results.
Tips for baking with almond flour
Follow these tips when using almond flour for gluten-free recipes:
- Start by replacing 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour in a recipe with almond flour. You may be able to use a higher ratio in cookies and muffins.
- Reduce any liquid called for in the recipe slightly to account for the higher fat content of almond flour. Usually reducing by 1-2 tablespoons does the trick.
- Add eggs for structure. Most almond flour recipes call for at least 1 extra egg compared to their wheat flour counterparts.
- Allow baked goods to cool completely before serving. This allows the starches to set fully for a better texture.
- Store baked goods made with almond flour in the fridge or freezer since they tend to dry out faster due to the lack of gluten.
Substituting almond flour in recipes
Most traditional baking recipes can be adapted to use almond flour with a few modifications:
- Replace up to 1/3 of the flour with almond flour
- Add 1 extra egg for every 3 eggs
- Increase baking powder to 1.5 tsp per cup of total flour
- Add 1 tsp xanthan gum per cup of total flour
- Reduce liquid by 2-3 tbsp
- Replace up to 1/2 of the flour with almond flour
- Increase eggs by 1 per batch
- Slightly reduce butter or oils
- Allow cookies to cool completely before handling
- Replace up to 1/3 of the flour with almond flour
- Whisk 2 tbsp cornstarch into the almond flour to cut greasiness
- Add 1 extra egg
- Increase baking powder to 2 tsp per cup of total flour
For pie crusts:
- Replace up to 1/4 of the flour with almond flour
- Reduce liquid slightly, adding more if dough won’t come together
- Chill dough thoroughly before rolling
For yeast breads:
- Replace up to 20% of the flour with almond flour
- Supplement with psyllium husk powder, which offers a “stretchy” quality
- May require slightly more kneading to develop the gluten
Best recipes to try with almond flour
Here are some delicious recipes to try baking with almond flour:
- Almond flour muffins – carrot cake, blueberry, banana nut
- Almond thumbprint cookies
- Almond tart crust or pie crust
- Almond cake or cupcakes
- Almond scones with lemon glaze
- Almond biscotti – perfect for dunking!
- Almond meal bread or dinner rolls
- Almond flour waffles or pancakes
Almond flour works wonderfully to add flavor, nutrition, and structure to these baked goods in the absence of gluten.
Potential downsides of almond flour
While almond flour offers many benefits for gluten-free baking, there are a few potential downsides:
- Higher in fat and calories – Almonds are high in fat, so recipes made purely from almond flour tend to be higher in calories than wheat-based versions.
- Potentially dense or heavy texture – Items made with almond flour don’t tend to rise as well without gluten. Using lots of leaveners and proper baking techniques can counteract this.
- Doesn’t work as well for bread – The lack of gluten limits how much almond flour can be used in yeasted bread recipes. Works better for muffins, cookies, and pastries.
- Relatively expensive – Almond flour tends to cost significantly more than regular wheat flour. Making your own at home can save money.
- Can dry out faster – Foods made with almond flour tend to dry out faster because of lower starch content. Proper storage helps.
Is almond flour worth trying?
Almond flour can be a versatile, healthy, and delicious gluten-free alternative for all kinds of baked goods. The naturally nutty flavor and aroma make it especially well suited to cookies, pastries, cakes, and other sweets.
While it does have some limitations compared to regular wheat flour, almond flour produces pleasing results when used properly. Combining it with other gluten-free flours, binders, leaveners and eggs can help mimic the properties of gluten for lighter, fluffier texture.
If you follow recipe guidelines carefully and account for the differences between almond and regular flour, there’s no reason you can’t bake successfully with almond flour. For gluten-free bakers or those simply looking to experiment with nutritious ingredients, almond flour is absolutely worth trying.
Almond flour can be an excellent gluten-free alternative for baking a variety of delicious pastries, cookies, cakes and other goodies. Its naturally sweet, nutty flavor provides great taste in the absence of gluten. While some adjustments are needed in techniques and ingredients to account for lack of gluten, almond flour combined properly with other binders produces satisfying results. Although it does come with a few drawbacks like density, dryness and cost, almond flour gives homemade gluten-free baking a delicious try for any intrepid baker. With the proper recipes and substitutions, almond flour can be a tasty way to meet dietary needs while still enjoying homemade baked treats.