Baking with low carb flour and baking well can be difficult.
See, you can’t just swap out that conventional all-purpose stuff with one of the low carb gluten free flours below, and expect that favorite cookie recipe to turn out just like Mom’s…
But, sometimes (or all the time) the occasion calls for baked goods.
So, after many failed recipes attempts, and years of alternative flour baking experiments, I know what’s up in the low carb flour world, and am excited to share with you all that I’ve learned!
Here’s a breakdown of the top 7 low carb flours, from nut meals to coconut, seeds, and more, and how they can fit into your low carb meals.
Put some of these flours in your low carb shopping list.
Use this table of contents to quickly skip to the section you’re looking for:
Table of Contents:
- Conventional Flour—Nutritional Breakdown
- Coconut Flour
- Almond Flour
- Almond Meal
- Sunflower Seed Flour/Meal
- Flaxseed Meal
- Pecan Flour/Meal
- Hazelnut Flour/Meal
- Low Carb Flour Mixes
- Lowest Carb Flour
- Highest Protein Flour
- Important Notes + Tips For Baking with Low Carb Flours
- Your Low Carb Flour Cheat Sheet Graphic
The Top 7 Low Carb Flour
Whether it’s brunch and you just gotta have low carb waffles that won’t disappoint…
…or low carb peanut butter cookies make perfect sense for that upcoming work potluck, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of the top 7 low carb flours:
- Coconut Flour
- Almond Flour
- Almond Meal
- Flaxseed Meal
- Sunflower Seed Meal
- Hazelnut Meal
- Pecan Meal
Now, before we delve more deeply into each of these flours, here’s the nutritional breakdown of conventional flour for reference.
Conventional Flour—Nutritional Breakdown
There’s not much to it. Conventional white flour contains, well, calories and carbs. In a quarter-cup serving, you’ll get 100 calories and a whopping 22 carbs.
You’re not getting any notable vitamins or minerals, though, there are four grams of protein.
In short, if you’re watching your carb intake, flour is going to be the thing to avoid.
Whole wheat flour is marginally better than the bleached stuff, you’re getting an extra gram of protein per quarter-cup serving and the same 22 carb. Plus whole wheat flour contains a solid serving of dietary fiber, which gets stripped away when whole wheat is processed into white flour.
So, if you’re not eating primarily low carb foods or like to indulge from time to time, whole grain beats white any day of the week.
But, if you don’t consider low carb grains (don’t worry, I don’t either), then let’s take a look at the content of various low carb flours and when it’s appropriate to use one over the other…
…Spoiler alert—they’re not all created equal.
Coconut flour has been on the rise due to an increase in paleo, low carb and gluten free diets, as well as the long standing popularity of all things coconut.
Coconut flour is, however, a lot different than regular flour. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but if you play your cards right, you’ll be swimming in delicious treats.
Coconut flour is a soft, absorbent flour made from the dried meat of the fruit. It’s a byproduct of coconut milk – which gets dried at a low temperature before being ground into a fine powder.
Coconut Flour Nutrition
Coconut flour is rich in several nutrients. It contains fiber, fat, and protein, making it especially filling.
It also contains a substance known as lauric acid—found in much smaller quantities in coconut flour when compared to coconut oil (about 50%) and coconut meat. Lauric acid is a saturated fat that’s believed to have antimicrobial properties.
Here’s the nutritional breakdown for coconut flour by quarter-cup serving:
4 grams of fat
4 grams of protein
10 grams of fiber
16 grams of carbohydrates
2 grams of sugar
So, it’s worth pointing out that coconut flour isn’t the lowest carb option in a sea of nut flours and the like, but it’s on the lower side in terms of calories and packs a decent protein punch.
Baking with Coconut Flour
Because coconut flour is super absorbent and not made from grains, this ingredient doesn’t work exactly like conventional flour.
If you’re making a cake or cookies, you generally can swap a full cup of conventional flour for just ¼ to 1/3 cup of the coconut version – but keep in mind a lot more liquids will be needed to prevent coconut flour from resulting in dry and undesirable products.
This can be done with water, oil, butter or eggs. The reason for this is, well, coconut flour is super dense—it needs another element to provide some lightness.
But, if you’re looking for a new kind of breading for shrimp, chicken, fish—coconut flour can be swapped out 1:1 for regular flour. It’s a great low carb flour for frying—bringing a sweet/savory combo to dinner that simply can’t be beat.
In the end, there are so many options out there that making low carb foods doesn’t mean kissing baked goods goodbye. But, it does take some practice and sometimes a few recipe mishaps before getting it down.
Making your own coconut flour for your low carb meal is easy, BUT pretty darn time consuming.
If you’re already making your own coconut milk, and you’ve got the pulp sitting around, why not? But, TBH, for how long it takes to dry + how little each batch yields – I’d way rather go buy a bag at the store.
What are your thoughts on homemade coconut flour?
Coconut Flour Recipes
As you know, I love all baked goods – and have done a ton of experimenting with coconut flour. Here are few of my favorite recipes:
Almond flour is a type of milled flour, made from finely ground almonds.
I like almond flour a lot – in fact it’s my personal favorite of the low carb flours.
It’s lower in carbs than coconut flour, and of course, regular flour. It’s gluten free and it works well in baked goods, both sweet and savory.
Almond meal works great in savory recipes like crackers and bread – since there’s so few carbs in cheese, I use almond flour bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
For breakfast, I use the same flour to make low carb pancakes topped with low carb fruits – yum!
Almond Flour Nutrition
Almond flour offers just about the same benefits of eating whole almonds and comes with a handful of healthy fats – responsible for lowering your LDL (bad cholesterol).
A 1/4 cup serving of almond flour comes with:
11 grams of fat—most of which are mono-saturated fats
6 grams of protein
3 grams of fiber
1 gram of sugar
Baking with Almond Flour
Almond flour works well for lighter textured items like cakes and cookies.
Additionally, almond flour is just plain versatile—this stuff can be used to make things like low carb pasta, as well as a this low carb bread recipe.
For the most part, I’ve been able to swap regular flour with almond flour using a 1:1 ratio.
However, almond flour is heavier than regular flour, and doesn’t bind as well – which is why many recipes call for a gelatinous ingredient such a psyllium husk or flaxseed meal to help the product stay together.
When purchasing almond flour, there are different grain sizes available. I stick to the “super fine” almond flour, as I find it easier to work with.
Make Your Own Almond Flour
Making your own almond flour for use in low carb snacks, cookies, or whatever else, is relatively easy…
…All you do is add one cup of raw almonds (no skin) to a blender or food processor, and pulse on high until the nuts are transformed into a powder. Store bought almond flour may give you a finer grind, but the DIY version is sure to save you a few bucks.
Almond Flour Recipes
As I mentioned above, almond flour is my favorite low carb flour to bake with. So I’ve made almost all of my favorite low carb recipes with it! Check out some of the best…
Almond meal and almond flour are essentially the same thing, with one key difference, almond meal is made from almonds with the skin left on.
So, as a result, one can expect almond meal to impart a brown, nuttier consistency to baked goods, where almond flour is closer to what you’d get with a traditional flour.
As a point of reference, almond meal is used to make French macarons.
The calorie, carb, and protein counts are about the same between almond meal and flour, but leaving the skin on provides some added nutrition. Almond meal can be used interchangeably with its blanched counterpart, but keep in mind it changes the look of the dish—often for the worse.
Think of it as the difference between say, bleached white paper and recycled paper with those little brown flecks. The latter calls more attention to the fact that you’re using so-called alternative flour.
Sunflower Seed Flour/Meal
Perhaps one of the lesser-known types of flour, sunflower seed meal is a high-protein, low carb flour that works as an alternative to nut flours.
You can use sunflower seeds in the same way—as a pie crust, in cookies, muffins, and more.
However, if you’ve tried sunflower seed butter, you know what I mean when I say, sunflower seeds have a very particular flavor. Where almonds are mild and work in foods both sweet and savory, sunflower seed meal works best when accompanied by flavors like chocolate or fruits.
Sunflower Seed Flour Nutrition
The main benefit of sunflower seed flour over other low carb flours is this ingredient is nut free.
1 ounce serving features:
14 grams of fat
7 grams of protein
3 grams of fiber
6 grams of carbohydrates
0 grams of sugar
Now, it’s worth noting some of the awesome health benefits of these seeds. First they’ve got an amino acid called tyrosine, which helps regulate our body’s thyroid hormones.
They also contain naturally occurring phytochemicals called lignin phytoestrogens, “which prevent collagen breakdown and boost the skin’s lipid barrier” (source).
Not to mention they’ve got Vitamin E, magnesium and healthy oils for heart health!
Making your own Sunflower Seed Flour
Sunflower seed flour is relatively easy to make from home! I’ve cheated and made it by grinding the seeds in a food processor until they resemble any other nut flour.
You can also soak them before processing.
Flaxseed flour is an interesting one, in that it can work as both a flour and an egg substitute in baking.
Flaxseed flour is made from ground flaxseeds, so you may be able to pack more into each bite then if you were to sprinkle the whole seeds over a bowl of yogurt or in a muffin mix.
PS… I think flaxseed brings an awesome flavor to baked goods – what about you?
Flaxseed Meal Nutrition
Flaxseed is rich in fiber, which helps with a myriad of things, such as keeping our digestion on point.
They also contain omega-3s, which play a major role in brain function, as well as potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
In a ¼ cup serving, you’ll get about:
9 grams of fat
6 grams of protein
6 grams of fiber
8 grams of carbohydrates
0 grams of sugar
Now, most of that fat content is polyunsaturated fat—which according to the American Heart Association are beneficial to your health when used in moderation.
Additionally, flaxseeds contain a polyphenol called lignans, which are thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men.
On top of all that—they’re a good source of fiber. As compared to whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal contains 6 grams of dietary fiber, while the former contains just 3.2 grams per serving.
Baking with Flaxseed Meal
Though flaxseed contains a whole host of nutritional benefits, it might be a little tricky to bake with.
The primary use of this ingredient is as an egg replacer, rather than as a low carb flour.
In my opinion, flaxseed meal works best when combined with another flour (I usually add it to my almond flour recipes)—most recipes I’ve tried seem to use the ingredient as a way to bring more nutrients to a recipe.
It’s rare to see this one as a straight swap.
I typically use this is lieu of psyllium husk, which most low carb recipes call for, as flaxseed meal is lower in carbs and doesn’t upset my stomach as much.
Both ingredients will help your gluten free baked goods bind, however they’ll need a liquid to do so.
Baked goods that use flaxseed might brown a little more quickly than standard flour. It’s got a relatively high fat content, and becomes gelatinous, when mixed with water.
If you’re on a nut flour kick, pecan flour might be worth a try. You’ll get a slightly different taste than you’ll get with other nut flours, but they tend to behave about the same.
In terms of nutritional content, pecan meal is one of your best bets for lowest carb options…
At a ¼ cup serving, you’ll get:
15 grams of fat
1 gram of protein
1 gram of fiber
3 grams of carbohydrates
1 gram of sugar
Plus small amounts of calcium and iron—along with magnesium, vitamin E, and phytosterols (source).
According to Dr. Oz, pecans are the most antioxidant rich tree nut! In fact, pecans made the cut for the top 15 foods with the highest antioxidant capacity.
Like other nut flours, pecan flour works best the finer the grind.
I haven’t done a ton of experimenting with this flour, but with everything I’ve tried, it seems work well replacing almond, hazelnut or any other nut flour.
Again, the lack of gluten means you’ll need to increase the egg content in order to achieve that airiness that gives your favorite cakes and cookies that perfect texture.
Another nut flour gem, hazelnut flour isn’t as popular as almond meal, but it sure is tasty!
Bob’s Red Mill makes a version, or you can whip up your own batch by grinding the nuts in a blender. So, like almond meal and sunflower meal, hazelnut flour is made from ground hazelnuts, with the skin left on.
Hazelnut Flour Nutrition
Because you’re getting a hefty serving of nuts, it’s safe to say that using hazelnut flour isn’t exactly a low-calorie option.
12 grams of fat
4 grams of protein
4 grams of fiber
8 grams of carbohydrates
2 grams of sugar
You’ll also get some calcium, iron and potassium.
Baking with Hazelnut Flour
Hazelnut flour is a decadent addition to a favorite cookie recipe! Guzzle it down with some low carb milk, and you’ve got yourself an awesome treat.
You can use this low carb flour much in the same way you’d use almond flour—giving it a rich, nutty texture.
My recommendation is, use hazelnut flour in a recipe specifically designed for nut flours. Seeing as it doesn’t contain gluten, it’s a little tricky to bake something with structure based on pure experimentation.
Again, adding more eggs will come in handy.
Low Carb Flour Mixes
Rather than grinding your own sunflower meal or grappling with the mysteries of flax, make things easier on yourself and pick up a bag of low carb flour.
I like the two listed below because they take the best of a few different flours, making sure they don’t get too dense or fatty for basic recipes. If you’re just getting your feet wet when it comes to low carb baking recipes, going pre-blended may be a good option.
Bob’s Red Mill Low Carb Flour Mix
The beauty of this Bob’s Red Mill blend is, you can swap out typical flour cup for cup without a second thought. This ready-made, low carb flour recipe contains a blend of oat bran, wheat bran, soy flour, rye, and flaxseed meal.
It contains only 7 grams of net carbs per serving, which isn’t bad for those counting net carbs and still wanting baked goods. However it’s on the higher end of overall carbs with 13 grams per serving. Depends on your routine!
Carbquick Baking Biscuit Mix
So, Carbquick is essentially a low carb version of Bisquick—creative name, I know. It’s got 90% less carbs than the conventional stuff, plus high fiber and high protein. Just add water and you’ve got yourself a batch of biscuits—or low carb pancakes, pizza dough, and other low carb snacks.
I haven’t personally baked with Carbquick – and to be honest, it’s not my thing.
Again, it runs pretty high in overall carbs (16 grams per serving). Plus it’s got a ton of ingredients I try to avoid.
Lowest Carb Flour
So, what flour has the lowest carb count?
While you can’t go wrong with any of the nut flours, pecan flour takes the cake for the lowest carb flour on our list.
Highest Protein Flour
Sunflower seed flour, contains a hefty amount of protein – 7 grams per serving – making it he highest protein flour on our list!
Followed closely by almond flour and almond meal.
Important Notes + Tips For Baking with Low Carb Flours
There are a few things I’d like to point out here:
1. Moderation. As you can see from the nutritional breakdowns above, baking with these low carb foods doesn’t quite mean you’re dropping calories. In fact, baking with these flours increase fat content (when compared to regular flour).
That said, these types of foods are meant to be enjoyed sparingly, not the primary focus of your low carb meal plan.
If I’m eating a lot of crackers, breads, or other goods made from nut flour, I try not to snack on nuts to limit my portions.
2. Gluten as a binder. Gluten, found in wheat flour, works as a natural binding agent.
Which is why so many gluten free products are dry, break easily, and lack that special “fluffiness” – unfortunately almond and coconut flour don’t have the same elasticity.
Which is why so many low carb and gluten free recipes call for a combination of flours. Here are a few ingredients that may help with the binding process:
– Flax seed meal + water
– Chia seeds + water
– Psyllium husk + water
Baking with Low carb flour Just Takes a Little Getting Used To…
It may be hard to find that low carb wheat flour of your dreams, but there are plenty of other options out there.
While baking with low carb flour can be a little intimidating, some flours are more challenging than others. My recommendation is to start off with an established recipe, versus trying to experiment. Approach with an open mind, and get to know the ingredients a little better before diving into a new baking challenge.
Now that you know about low carb flours, why no try one of our low carb dessert recipes? You can also check out how many carbs in milk to take you low carb baking to the next level.
Your Low Carb Flour Cheat Sheet Graphic
If you’re more of a visual person (like me), here is a look at the nutritional breakdown of everything…
…from coconut flour, and those from low carb nuts to the more elusive sunflower seed flour. From protein counts to carb content, let this be your guide: