Rice flour and rice flour mixes are typically the first flour substitutes a novice gluten-free baker discovers. White rice flour is readily available and well-known as a gluten-free flour alternative. However, a heavy dependence on rice flour leaves us with little in the form of nutrition and taste.
There is good news though. As we have previously explored, there are many other gluten-free flour options available, including flours that are far more nutritious and flavorful than white rice flour.
In addition to a variety of flours made from whole grains that are higher in fiber and antioxidants, there are also “flours” made from various types of nuts. Also referred to as “nut meals,” nut flours are still unknown to many home cooks, yet can truly unlock a whole world of flavor and texture in the gluten-free kitchen.
The nut flours most widely available in mainstream grocery and health food stores include:
- Pecan meal/flour
- Hazelnut meal/flour
- Walnut meal/flour
- Almond meal/flour
During the late winter and early spring they can often be found in the Passover section of grocery stores that cater to the Jewish community. This is a good opportunity to stock up on reasonably priced nut flours. If you cannot find nut flours near you, or they are prohibitively expensive, consider pulsing your favorite whole nuts in a food processor until they have a sandy texture. You can blanch the nuts (remove the skins) or toast the nuts (create a full-bodied flavor) before pulsing them, if you prefer.
Discover the Advantages of Nut Flours
- Nutritionally, nuts are true superstars. They are rich in essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and heart healthy monounsaturated fats. They are high in protein and fiber, and some also contain significant amounts of calcium (especially for those of you with lactose intolerance, nuts are great because they’re one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium). Nuts contain a variety of antioxidants including resveratrol, carotenoids, lutein, and others. Nuts also contain many micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, manganese, copper and potassium. Some contain iron as well.
- They lend moisture to gluten-free baked goods due to their high moisture/oil content.
- When combined with eggs and other ingredients, they can be used to create sumptuous gluten-free baked goods that are grain-free. This is great for people on diets that restrict their grain consumption, such as the Paleolithic diet or Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
- Because nut meals can be made at home using a food processor, you can tailor the texture of the flour to your liking.
Wondering How to Use Nut Flours in Your Gluten-Free Kitchen?
- Use ½ almond flour and ½ gluten-free breadcrumbs when you make chicken schnitzel (breaded chicken cutlets). Combine spices and dip egg-coated chicken into the mixture before pan-frying at a medium temperature.
- Coat fish in almond flour before baking.
- Replace a small amount of the flour in your favorite banana bread recipe with walnut or pecan flour.
- Create grain-free gluten-free macaroons using almond meal, sugar and stiffly whipped egg whites. Other grain-free creations using nut meals can be found by looking in Passover cookbooks or searching online for Passover nut recipes.
- Add hazelnut meal or walnut meal to a black bean brownie recipe to add texture and flavor.
- Instead of breading on top of a casserole, try almond meal or hazelnut meal mixed with a little parmesan cheese.
- Incorporate pecan flour into your favorite pumpkin-based baked good for extra flavor.
Due to their high oil content, you should always store nut meals in the refrigerator or freezer to avoid rancidity. They can last a few months when frozen or refrigerated, but should be replaced when they stop smelling or tasting fresh.