No one ever said that committing to a Paleo-type diet was easy, but in the pantheon of attendant challenges, some weigh heavier than others. Some Paleo eaters struggle with the idea of breakfast after breakfast without pancakes, muffins or waffles; almond butter without crackers; or celebrating birthdays without indulgences. Others wonder how to pack a lunch without bread. Trust us, we know that lettuce wraps require a little adjustment (and extra napkins), at least initially.
But Paleo life isn’t all lettuce wraps. In fact, there are a panoply of gluten-free flours that will give you back at least some of your food liberty without sacrificing too much on the health front. The following items are Paleo-friendly flour options that we encourage you to put to the test.
As with all products derived from coconut, coconut flour deserves a place in every Paleo kitchen. It is dynamic, relatively well-balanced and will leave you feeling full. Unlike some of the more common carbohydrate-laden flours used in processed foods, coconut flour provides 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of fiber for every 3 grams of carbohydrates. Edward & Sons offers a quality coconut flour as part of its Let’s Do … Organic product line.
Coconut flour can be used alone or in combination with other Paleo flours to achieve different textures/consistencies. When used alone, coconut flour is relatively dense and requires mixing for a good five to 10 minutes to fully expand in a batter; impatience can lead to thick, dry foods.
Almond flour is a dense, mealy flour that can be used in a variety of items. It’s unique in that it can easily be made at home using a food processor and almonds; the longer you process, the more fine the flour becomes. But be careful, processing the almonds too long will leave you with almond butter instead.
Among other things, almond flour can make some pretty awesome cookies. In fact, it’s the one Paleo flour you might be able to trick your non-Paleo friends and family into eating without even noticing. However, because almonds contain primarily unsaturated fats, which make them inherently more susceptible to oxidation at high heat than foods containing a lot of saturated fat, almond flour is not the best option for cooking. Almond flour also can be relatively pricey, so reserve using it to satisfy those strongest cravings or to convince your non-Paleo friends that there is life beyond gluten.
Tapioca flour, also known as tapioca starch, is made from cassava root. It’s a smooth, white powder — less dense than coconut and almond flours — that can add a chewy consistency to baked goods or thicken your favorite soups and sauces. Tapioca flour is naturally sugar-free and contains some iron, potassium and phosphorous, but unlike coconut flour, tapioca flour is made up entirely of carbohydrates; it contains about 26 grams of carbohydrate per ¼ cup flour.
Tapioca flour is best used in combination with other Paleo flours to achieve optimal consistency. For example, increasing the ratio of tapioca flour to coconut flour in your Paleo pancake recipe will yield a more stretchy batter ideal for making Paleo crepes. Tapioca flour also can be used to replace cornstarch at a 2:1 ratio.
Arrowroot flour, also known as arrowroot starch, is a neutral-tasting powder derived from the arrowroot plant. Unlike coconut flour, but similar to tapioca flour, it is made up almost entirely of carbohydrates and may not be the best option for those trying to lose weight or who are inactive.
Like tapioca flour, arrowroot flour can be used as a substitute for cornstarch and makes for a great thickener for soups, sauces and gravies. It should only be used over a low heat, though, and is not well-suited for reheating or using in (non-Paleo) milk-based cream sauces. It also can be used to make breads and other baked goods.