The Definitive Guide to Low Carb Flours ( Plus Recipes )

The Definitive Guide to Low Carb Flours

A low carb diet can seem overwhelming, especially at first. A big part of that is the various low carb flours. There are so many to choose from and they can seem very similar to one another.

Yet, the flour types aren't all the same. 

Instead, there are differences in nutrition, along with how the flours behave. So, which should you use? And when?

This definitive guide compares the main low carb flours and the key features of each one.

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1. Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is an incredibly flexible choice – being both nut and grain free. It can also be used by most diet types, including the paleo diet, and allergic responses are rare. The flour is simply made from coconuts, which gives you many of the fatty acids that make coconut oil so beneficial.

Coconut flour tends to draw in moisture, making it a perfect choice for baking and for other moist foods. Because of this, recipes with coconut flour tend to need more ingredients like eggs and butter than you might expect.

Just be warned, coconut flour is never a 1-to-1 substitute for other types of flour. There are also some recipes that it simply won’t work in. Blissful Basil highlights this in her post titled, It’s Not You, It’s Coconut Flour.

If you’re going to substitute coconut flour in, you can check out this guide from All Day I Dream About Food.

Coconut Flour Recipes

Coconut Flour Nutrition

For a two tablespoon serving (18 g), coconut flour contains: 45 calories, 2 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fiber (giving 3 grams of net carbs) (1).

Brands

Here are my top picks:

Storage

Coconut flour absorbs moisture easily, so you should keep it in an airtight container. If possible, stick to a cool dark place and don’t store the flour in the fridge.

2. Almond Flour

Almond flour is another extremely popular choice. It even beats out coconut flour in many circles. The flour is made from ground almonds. These have been blanched and had their skin removed. This gives you most of the nutrients that almonds have to offer.

It is a versatile type of flour and can be used in many different types of cooking. The flour is also low in carbs and is fairly high in protein and healthy fats.

Because almond flour is nut-based, it won’t suit everyone. But, it is a high-quality choice and can work well.

Almond Flour Recipes

Almond Flour Nutrition

For a 1/4 cup serving (28 grams), almond flour contains: 170 calories, 15 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber (giving 2 grams of net carbs) (2).

Brands

Almond flour is easy to find but it is often overpriced in local stores. In contrast, online stores are often cheaper and they’re more convenient too. Here are my top three picks:

Storage

Nut-based flours should typically be stored in the fridge or the freezer – as they are susceptible to oxidation. Many people choose to freeze most of their flour and just keep a small portion out in the fridge.

3. Almond Meal/Ground Almonds

Almond meal is almost the same as almond flour. The main difference is that the skin is kept on the almonds. This creates a coarser flour – but you can still cook with it in the same way.

In fact, you can often substitute almond meal and almond flour for one another, depending on what you have. Almond meal is often slightly less expensive as well, which may be a reason for choosing it.

Of the two, almond flour is a better choice in recipes where you want a smooth texture. If that’s not the case, almond meal may be just fine.

Almond Meal Recipes

There aren’t many specific recipes for almond meal, as most authors just use almond flour. But, unless the author says otherwise, you can normally substitute one for the other.

Almond Meal Nutrition

For a 1/4 cup serving (28 grams), almond meal contains: 170 calories, 15 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber (giving 2 grams of net carbs) (3).

Brands

Here are my top picks:

Storage

Like almond flour, almond meal is best stored in the fridge or the freezer.

4. Psyllium Husk

Technically speaking, psyllium husk isn’t a flour – it’s fiber. As such, psyllium husk is often used to add fiber to a diet. This includes mixing it in as part of a meal replacement shake or even just adding it on top of meals.

But, low carb chefs also use psyllium husk as a flour. It helps add bulk to recipes, without bringing in any extra carbs.

This makes it an invaluable tool for cooking and many recipes use it.

Psyllium Husk Recipes

Psyllium Husk Nutrition

Psyllium husk is almost entirely fiber. For example, a 5 gram serving is 15 calories and contains 5 grams of fiber. The levels of fat, protein and sugar are negligible.

Brands

Here are my top picks:

Storage

Psyllium husk can simply be stored in a cool cupboard without any issue. 

5. Ground Flax Meal

Ground flax meal has a number of other names, including ground flaxseed, ground flax, flaxseed meal and linseed meal. In all cases, the product is the same. The flour is nutritious and a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.

As a flour alternative, flax meal is effective. But, it also makes a good substitute for eggs in some situations. Minimalist Baker talks about how you can make flax eggs and all you need is the ground flax meal and some water.

The idea isn’t a perfect substitute for eggs (and you’re missing all the nutrition eggs offer). Nevertheless, many recipes do work just as well with a flax egg.

Ground Flax Meal Recipes

Ground Flax Meal Nutrition

For a two tablespoon serving (14 grams), ground flax meal contains: 70 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber (​giving 1 gram of net carbs) (4).

Brands

Here are my top picks:

Storage

This is a seed-based flour alternative, so it needs to be kept in the fridge or the freezer, inside an airtight container.  

6. Sunflower Seed Meal 

Sunflower seed meal just comes from sunflower seeds. The flour is less common but it is a good choice if you’re allergic to nuts or to coconut. 

There aren’t many recipes specifically for sunflower seed meal. But, you can replace almond flour with sunflower seed meal in a 1-to-1 ratio.

Sunflower Seed Meal Recipes

Sunflower Seed Meal Nutrition

For a 28 gram serving, sunflower seed meal contains: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber (​giving 3 grams of net carbs) (5).

Brands

Here is my top pick:

Storage

Unlike most seed-based flours, sunflower seed meal is relatively stable. It can be kept in a pantry for months and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

7. Pumpkin Seed Meal

Pumpkin seed meal is a similar concept to the previous example. It is another unusual option but you can substitute it in any recipes that use almond flour (1-to-1 ratio).

The flour alternative is typically made from the ‘cake’ produced after creating pumpkin seed oil (6). This means that it contains most of the compounds from pumpkin seeds, except for the oil.

Pumpkin Seed Meal Recipes

Pumpkin Seed Meal Nutrition

For a 28 gram serving, pumpkin seed meal contains: 140 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber (resulting in 4 grams of net carbs) (7).

Brands

Here is my top pick:

Storage

Pumpkin seed meal keeps well outside of the fridge, as the oil content has been removed. It can also be kept in the fridge if you prefer to.

Comparing the Flours

The Definitive Guide to Low Carb Flours

So, which low carb flour should you use?

There isn’t a single answer because they’re all simply different from one another. Which is best depends on what you’re looking for and what recipe you’re using.

For nutrition alone, you can use the following table to compare the various flours.

Swipe left to view more columns. 

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Serving Size

Calories

Net Carbs

Fat

Prot​ein

2 Tbsp (18 g)

45

3 g

2 g

4 g

1/4 cup (28 g)

170

2 g

15 g

6 g

1/4 cup (28 g)

170

2 g

15 g 

6 g

2 Tbsp (14 g)

70

1 g

6 g

3 g

28 g

160

3 g

14 g

7 g

28 g

140

4 g 

12 g

7 g

Using Low Carb Flours

The best way to start with low carb flours is to focus on recipes that already use them.

The reason is that low carb flours are tricky. They don’t behave like regular flours. So, you can’t just substitute a low carb flour into a normal recipe.

The individual flour options are also different than each other. For example, you can replace almond flour with coconut flour in some recipes. But, you’d have to make additional adjustments at the same time.

As you get more experienced with low carb cooking, working out the adjustments becomes easier. But, to begin with, sticking with normal recipes works best. In many cases, you can also contact the author of the recipe and ask which substitutions will be effective.

And finally, you can also find low carb flour blends. These will combine multiple types of flour with one another. A blend often behaves more like regular flour and gives you extra flexibility. But, you need to plan carefully. Each blend will differ in its carb content and in how it behaves.

Some examples of recipes for low carb blends are below. In each case, the author offers information about what to expect and what the blend is good for.

So, what do you think? Which is your favorite low carb flour to work with?

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3 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Low Carb Flours ( Plus Recipes )”

  1. Bob’s Red Mill Almond flour states that there are 5 net carbs in a 2 Tablespoon serving which would give a 1/4 cup serving 10 net carbs not 2. Please for the sake of my own personal knowledge is your information correct or am I missing out on an exceptional brand of low carb Almond Flour? Thank You so much for your kind understanding and patience.

    Reply
    • The nutritional information you’re referring to was for the brand Anthony’s and is taken from the nutritional label. For that brand, a 1/4 cup serving has 5g carbs total, 3g of which are from fiber.

      Reply

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