If you’ve wondered what the best flour substitute might be for a recipe instead of using all-purpose flour, today’s post covers how you can swap all-purpose flour with:
- oat flour
- gluten-free flour mix
- whole-wheat flour
- cake flour
- almond flour
- coconut flour
- cassava flour
With hundreds of recipes on my websites that call for all-purpose flour, I often get asked: can I substitute the all-purpose flour for X?
If you’re trying to make cleaner baked recipes without the refined flour, I should tell you that my newest cookbook, Clean Treats, has no wheat flour at all.
The only flour that is grain derived inside the book is oat flour and then there are some recipes that also use almond flour and some coconut flour.
So if you’re tired of converting recipes from across the internet to suit your clean eating and gluten-free dietary needs, check out the Clean Treats Cookbook.
There are many types of flours available. In essence, flours come from grains (like wheat, oats, rice, buckwheat, etc). However, with the rise of flour alternatives, the term “flour” is also used to refer to another ingredient that is finely ground to the consistency of wheat flour.
Wheat comes in two types: hard wheat and soft wheat. The difference between the two is the color of the kernel and the protein content. The higher the protein content the more gluten the flour contains and therefore, the stronger the flour it will be for “rising.”
What is All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour comes from a mix of hard and soft wheat and it’s the most recommended flour in recipes across the internet because it yields consistent results.
Self-Rising Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour
If you’ve wondered the difference between self-rising white flour and all-purpose flour, you’re not alone.
“Self-rising” is white, all-purpose flour with added baking powder, a rising agent. It’s perfect to make muffins, pancakes, or biscuits. However, be careful when swapping out the “all-purpose” in a recipe with “self-rising” since the recipe will likely have baking powder and the amount will need to be adjusted or omitted completely and your baked goods might not come out as expected.
All-Purpose Flour Substitutions
There are a large number of flour varieties sitting on grocery shelves and at a first glance, one might think: flour is flour, right? Wrong. When it comes to all-purpose flour substitutions you might want to take a minute and learn what can be substituted for all-purpose flour in your favorite recipes.
The need to find an all-purpose flour comes up for my readers for several reasons:
- need to eliminate “refined” ingredients and want to eat clean
- have a gluten allergy or intolerance but still want to enjoy baked goods
- have simply run out of white flour (all-purpose)
If you’re in the first group and want to eliminate all refined ingredients and clean eating as a family is your goal, check out the Family KickStart Program. It’s like Whole30 but made for families
If you have celiacs disease, a gluten allergy, or intolerance, I’ll cover in the next section my favorite flour to use at a 1:1 ratio; meaning, you won’t have to calculate how much flour to use, you simply swap it with the same amount.
If you have run out of white all-purpose flour and want to use whole-wheat, oat flour, or another flour you have on hand, keep reading, I’ve got you covered.
Gluten-Free Flour Substitute
Over the years, I’ve tested many recipes with gluten-free alternative flours and mixes. I even had a crazy stint where I attempted to make my own “mix” and after wasting a lot of ingredients, I realized the best results came from a gluten-free flour substitute specifically made to be swapped at a 1:1 ratio for traditional flour.
From pancakes, quick breads, cookies, muffins, and most baked treats, my preferred gluten-free flour substitute is this Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour
I call it the “all-purpose” of gluten-free flours because it’s the perfect ratio/mix of gluten-free flours from white and brown rice, and starches like potato starch and sorghum flour, and xanthan gum to help keep the ingredients together.
For this reason, it’s my go-to flour blend to transform traditional baked recipes (including pancakes) without having to “convert” or change anything about the recipe.
There’s whole-wheat flour and regular wheat flour. Whole-wheat flour is obtained by grinding the entire wheat berry and it keeps all the wheat nutrients intact.
Regular wheat flour (also called white-whole wheat) is derived after grinding the wheat kernel after the bran and germ are extracted.
For many years, I ground wheat berries at home and made whole-wheat flour. I even created the perfect whole-wheat bread recipe for my bread machine.
Why did I stop? I had more kids, started a media company, and got busy with the demands of a full-time job and juggling life. However, that period of time taught me a lot about using whole-wheat flour in my recipes.
Whole-wheat flour is best used for recipes that were created for its use, like these:
- whole-Wheat Waffles recipe
- whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies recipe
- whole-wheat cinnamon rolls recipe
- whole-wheat sugar cookies recipe
- almost whole-wheat pancakes recipe
Replacing All-Purpose Flour with Whole-Wheat Flour
Replacing “white” or all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour isn’t as easy as replacing it 1:1. The results of doing that will be a denser baked good; what’s oftentimes referred to as a hockey-puck-like texture.
For best results, replace whole-wheat flour for white flour by volume -this means by measuring the flour lightly into the cup- not by weight.
Check out this quick video showing how to measure flour properly if you plan on incorporating more whole-wheat flour into your family’s diet.
Cake flour is simply soft wheat berries (remember what I explained above about hard and soft wheat?) ground into an extremely fine flour texture.
Cake flour is specifically made for cake recipes and can be used in baking nearly always -and pancakes, of course! However, cake flour is not a good substitute for flour to make yeast-rising bread.
In recent years, almond flour has become one of the most popular “flours” for gluten-free and low-carb baking. Almond “flour” is achieved by grinding almonds into a flour-like texture -but not so much that the oils are extracted and you get almond butter.
Almonds are both nutritious and satisfying and it is true that almond flour-based recipes tend to be more nutritious than white all-purpose flour. It has vitamin E, protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
In addition, almond flour is low in carbohydrates when compared with wheat flour and it’s inherently gluten-free (there is no gluten in almonds). Almond flour is a grain-free, paleo, low-carb, and keto baking favorite.
Almond Flour vs. Almond Meal
Almond flour is when whole, skin-on almonds are ground into a flour. You’ll see small specks of brown in the flour-like powder.
Almond meal is when almonds are blanched whole and their skins are removed. The skin-less almonds are then finely ground into a flour-like texture.
Any recipe that calls for “almond flour” can be made with almond flour or almond meal.
Almond Flour Uses
Almond flour can also be used in place of bread crumbs, like in a meatball recipe or to coat chicken and fish.
Substitute Almond Flour for All-Purpose Flour
With the internet blockbuster hit that almond flour has been in recent years, many people suggest you substitute almond flour in place of all-purpose flour in every recipe.
As the author of 5 cookbooks, two of which that focus on clean, paleo, and gluten-free eating, I can tell you that is is simply not true.
You can substitute almond flour 1 to 1 (same amounts) in place of bread crumbs, all-purpose flour to coat fish or chicken… but that’s where it ends.
The truth is that you can only substitute almond flour for all-purpose flour at 25% ratio. This means, that for each (1) cup of white flour, you can only “swap” out ¼ cup of almond flour, the rest ¾ cup needs to remain all-purpose flour.
For this reason, I suggest you look for recipes developed exclusively to be used with almond flour so you don’t waste your money on ingredients and your treats come out great.
If you came to this post looking for an almond flour substitute, meaning, how to take out the almond flour in a recipe and use another (nut-free) alternative, make sure you click on that post.
Coconut flour is the “internet cousin” to almond flour. Meaning, as alternative flours have come to be more popular, so have the recipes created with coconut flour.
I mean, can you imagine a Healthy Blondie made with coconut flour? It’s epic.
Coconut flour is simply put, dried coconut meat (the white part) that has been ground to the consistency of flour. It is not flour at all, but simply coconut meat.
The fact that it’s labeled as “coconut flour” it’s confusing for a lot of people.
Coconut flour alone, when used in baking, can give off a spongy texture, so you’ll often see coconut flour mixed with nut flours to create the perfect texture in a baked good.
It’s also high in fiber and very (and I mean very) absorbent. Recipes with coconut flour will always call for additional eggs compared to the traditional recipe.
Coconut flour is considered a healthy all-purpose flour alternative because of its high-fiber content, medium-chain triglycerides, and lauric acid (healthy fats) found in coconut products.
Coconut Flour Uses
Coconut flour is best for sweet or savory recipes and it’s a terrific coating for chicken, fish, or other proteins.
Make sure to check out these Copy-Cat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets recipe made with coconut flour.
Because of the added nutritional benefits of coconut flour, many baked and no-bake uses have surfaced for coconut flour.
Coconut Flour Substitute
So you’re wondering if coconut flour is a good substitute for all-purpose flour. The short answer: NO.
Coconut flour is not a good substitute for all-purpose flour without modifying other ingredients in the recipe. Coconut flour is 10x more absorbent than wheat-derived flour so for starters, the recipe will need more liquid.
For this reason, I suggest you simply look for a recipe specifically made with coconut flour as the main ingredient.
Substitute Almond Flour for Coconut Flour
While we’re on the topic of coconut flour, I’ll try to drive the point home that coconut flour is:
- not a flour at all
- high in fiber and very absorbent
- not the same as any other flour
For this reason, you cannot substitute almond flour in equal parts 1 to 1 with coconut flour without changing the recipe by reducing liquid ingredients.
Finally, my favorite substitute for all-purpose flour is oat flour. Oat flour is made from oats that have been ground or blended to a flour-like texture.
Whole-grain oat flour referred to flour that’s made from milling (grinding) the whole groat (the germ, bran, and endosperm). Whole-grain oat flour is comparable to whole-wheat flour and it’s denser than oat flour made from oat flakes.
This version of oat flour is lighter in texture, especially if you are using oat flakes. Oat flour can be made from steel-cut oats, old fashioned or rolled oats, or quick oats.
Oat Flour is best for cookies, pancakes, and many baked goods. It can also be used to thicken gravies, soups, and stews.
I love using oat flour in baked recipes because it provides a heartier texture and a nutty flavor. Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats (at very low levels) and lower in carbohydrates than other whole grains. And, most importantly, they have more soluble fiber so it’s a terrific ingredient for baking.
Oat Flour Substitute
It can be tricky to use oat flour as a substitute for all-purpose flour. When you purchase oat flour at the store that contains the whole groat, you can substitute about 30% of oat flour for all-purpose flour in most baking recipes.
When you make oat flour at home with oat flakes, you can nearly always substitute most if not all of the flour in a recipe. One of my favorite ways to use oat flour is in my oat flour pancakes, my Banana Oatmeal Muffins, and my Blueberry Oat Flour Breakfast Bread.
All of those recipes were specifically created to be made with 100% of the recipe using oat flour.
If you’re an oat flour fan, you’re going to love the recipes inside the Clean Treats Cookbook.
On a final note, oat flour is not a good substitute for flour in bread recipes that use yeast. Oat flour is naturally gluten-free and will not “rise” with yeast. For true gluten-free oat flour, make sure the package is labeled as such to avoid cross-contamination.
Cassava flour is made from a root and it’s not a grain at all! I have to admit that it’s the next best-kept secret when it comes to grain-free baking.
Cassava flour, while gluten-free, is actually a starch; cousins with tapioca starch and corn starch. Because of the variation in starch content depending on where the plant was grown, not all cassava flour brands will yield great results.
Hands down, this brand of cassava flour will yield the best results.
How do you know if your cassava flour will work for you? Try my recipes for Paleo Cassava Flour Pancakes. When I use generic cassava flour, they turn out gummy and chewy. With my favorite brand, they are fluffy and perfect.
Does that mean that you need to throw out the bag you have in your pantry? Not at all!
Cassava flour is great for breading meat and seafood, replacing breadcrumbs in meatballs, or as a substitute for tapioca or corn starch.
Cassava Flour Substitute
As you can imagine, cassava flour does not behave like all-purpose flour at all in baked goods; therefore, cassava flour is not a good substitute for traditional all-purpose flour.
Baking & Treats with Clean Flours
It’s easy to bake treats with many of the flours above. Clean Flour is a term used for unrefined flours like whole-wheat, oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour, cassava flours, for example.
The traditional white, all-purpose flour is not considered a “clean” ingredient because many of its nutritional properties have been removed. Some recipes mentioned in this post that you might want to try:
- Paleo Pancakes with Cassava Flour
- Blueberry Bread with Oat Flour
- No-Bake Blondies with Coconut Flour
- Blueberry Scones with Almond Flour
If you’re looking for clean recipes, The Clean Treats Cookbook is an excellent choice that incorporates many of the flours in this post and zero white, all-purpose flour.