Coconut flour is one of the staples in Gluten-Free cooking, if that’s the route you have chosen. But even if you aren’t going gluten free, it’s a great way to pack additional fiber into your diet and lowering the glucose load in your bloodstream as well. Some bakers say this type of flour is less hearty than almond meal, but closer in texture to standard wheat flour. My own view is that it has almost nothing in common with standard flour, aside from looks, and even that might be a little stretch, since they are very easy to tell apart.
Coconut flour does not work well to thicken sauces, or even make fluffy bread out of, but there are plenty of other uses for this type of “Primal” flour. You can still use coconut flour as an excellent batter for coconut shrimp or chicken, as long as you use eggs in your recipe as well to hold the flour mixture together. Also, you will find that coconut flour is super absorbent and you will have to use way more eggs and liquid, and way less flour, than you are normally used to.
Coconut flour is simply dried, ground-up coconut meat. In fact, it’s a byproduct made during the coconut milk manufacturing process. “When making coconut milk, you soak the coconut meat,” according to Bob’s Red Mill. “That pulp is then dried out and ground into this powdery flour.” Sometimes you will see highly-processed, ultra-white coconut flour in stores, but you’ll want to steer clear of this type of product, as it has been over-processed and some of the natural goodness has been removed. The good stuff is slightly cream-colored, soft and unsweetened.
Coconut Flour Nutritional Info
Self Nutrition Data says that, compared to wheat flour, 2 tablespoons of coconut flour has…
• Slightly more calories (124 vs. 102)
• More saturated fat (4 grams vs. 0)
• More sodium (56 mg vs. 1 mg)
• Fewer carbs (17 gram vs. 21 grams)
• Lots more fiber (11 grams vs. 1 gram)
• Slightly more sugar (2 grams vs. 0 grams)
• More protein (5 grams vs. 3 grams)
• Less iron (0% vs. 7%), and
• A lower Glycemic load (3 vs. 15).
The amount of fiber in coconut flour is one of the most compelling reasons to use it. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber helps us absorb and use sugar for energy, lower our cholesterol, maintain regular bowel movements, feel full longer, reduce our risk of developing heart disease, and lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. The recommended daily dose of fiber is 20 to 35 grams per day, but this is two to three times higher than what the average person actually gets. Adding coconut flour is a great way to reach your recommended daily value and protect yourself from disease.
The other noteworthy fact about coconut flour is that there is NO GLUTEN in it. Other gluten-free flours include almond flour, rice flour, hempseed flour, sorghum flour, and teff flour, to name a few. People with Celiac Disease, gluten allergy, or gluten intolerance are not the only ones interested in this type of flour, though. Others avoid wheat and grains to cut down on their carbohydrate intake, improve health and lose weight.
Diabetics seeking low Glycemic Index food can benefit from the use of coconut flour in their kitchens. The addition of fiber reduces blood sugar spikes, slows sugar absorption and maintains insulin levels. Sweets made with coconut flour do not cause the same type of blood sugar elevations as the same sweets made with wheat flour. This is great news for diabetics who crave a sweet treat every once in a while, or even people simply looking to be a bit more health concious.
Coconut Flour Baking Tips
Naturally, every type of flour has its own quirks. Perhaps the most definitive characteristic about coconut flour is its ability to soak up moisture. It’s a very dry flour that tends to act as a sponge – remaining thick as porridge until fully saturated. You can add extra liquid, but you also don’t want to end up with a soggy baked good that doesn’t hold together or cook through – so, like anything, it’s a balancing act. There is no exact wheat-to-coconut conversion ratio that works in every scenario, but there are plenty of recipes that use coconut flour only. Often you will find you need less flour than what is called for in a traditional recipe. While it may take some time to get used to, cooking with coconut flour can be very rewarding, especially if you’re looking to make more Paleo and Gluten-Free foods.
Another approach for people like myself who are looking to reduce, not necessarily eliminate, their white flour consumption, is to include some percentage of coconut flour into the overall recipe. For instance, instead of substituting 100% of coconut flour for all of the white flour in your recipe, which simply won’t work, try working in 25% coconut flour, and then up your eggs or liquid ingredients by the same percentage.
There are many different opinions on the precise flavor of coconut flour. Some say it tastes slightly “sweeter” or “a little coconutty,” while others say it really has no taste – like other flours. If you feel there is an overwhelming presence of coconut in your dishes, you can use chocolate, herbs or spices to balance out the flavor. Generally speaking, coconut flour fares best in pancakes, waffles, muffins, cakes, cookies and quick breads, there really isn’t a good way to have an airy crunchy French baguette using just coconut flour, it’s just not going to happen.