You may have heard about coconut flour and wondered if it’s not just another novelty fad or specialty diet food that will soon fade out of popularity. But coconut flour deserves a second look and may soon be a staple in your pantry. You don’t have to subscribe to the Paleo diet, have food sensitivities, or travel to the tropics to enjoy the flavor and versatility of coconut flour. Its naturally sweet flavor, fragrance, and rich texture lends well for baking and cooking in a number of ways, with added health benefits you won’t find in regular wheat flours.
Unlike other flours
Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat that has been finely ground to a powder. It has a lower glycemic index than most traditional flours. Unlike traditional grain flours, coconut flour is gluten-free. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber and contains healthy saturated fats. It also contains protein and some iron. It is low in calories with only 45 calories per serving (2 tablespoons).
Is it good for you?
As a low glycemic food, coconut flour does not cause spikes blood sugar. In fact, it is the ideal flour for diabetics as it assists in balancing blood sugar levels. Low in digestible carbohydrates, sugar and calories, coconut flour assists in weight loss efforts, and helps you feel satisfied longer. The healthy saturated fats in coconut flour when ingested are converted by the body into energy and boosts metabolism. As a gluten-free food, rich in nutrients and fiber, coconut flour aids the body’s digestion, making it the perfect flour substitute for those with nut, wheat, or gluten sensitivities.
What about the cost?
At first glance, it may appear that coconut flour is more expensive than wheat flour. After all, you can buy one pound of coconut flour for about the same price that you can buy five pounds of all-purpose wheat flour. However, the coconut flour will most likely be organic and the wheat, not.
But there’s another difference to consider. Coconut flour is very absorbent. For this reason, it takes less flour when cooking with coconut flour than it does wheat. A recipe for pancakes using coconut flour will typically use only one-half cup of flour, maybe less. A pancake recipe using all purpose (wheat) flour will use at least 1 cup of flour, and will yield the same amount of pancakes.
Because it is highly absorbent, coconut flour can be used not only in baking dense breads and cakes, but to thicken savory soups and stews, as well. And it makes a great substitute for breadcrumbs.
Can coconut flour be used interchangeably with other flour recipes?
Coconut flour can be used to bake delicious cakes and breads, but not without making some adjustments to basic, wheat and other grain flour recipes. It cannot be substituted at a 1:1 ratio for other flours. Nutiva, Inc., an organic superfoods company, states, “Coconut flour can be substituted for up to 1/3rd of wheat flour in standard recipes. Due to its high fiber content it absorbs lots of liquid, so increase the liquid in the recipe by an equal amount. Because it is gluten-free, it is necessary to add egg, chia gel, or even substitute a small amount of tapioca flour to assure that it binds properly.”
How to store
Coconut flour should be stored in an airtight container, away from sunlight, in the refrigerator or freezer, as it contains no preservatives or sulfites.
Where to buy
Coconut flour is available in almost every supermarket these days, in the “health food” section, or at a natural foods market. You can also buy it online at Amazon.com.
To take the guesswork out of cooking with coconut flour, start with a tried-and-true recipe, like my special upside down cake recipe. Let me know if you give it a try!
Caramel Peach Upside-Down Cake (Gluten Free)
This recipe tastily illustrates that upside down cakes aren’t limited to pineapple, or standard all-purpose flour. The raw honey and blend of key ingredients makes this light, grain-free cake so incredibly moist and delicious, it almost melts in your mouth. The caramel glaze and fresh peach slices on top make a great visual impression.
4 tablespoons organic or grass-fed butter
⅓ cup raw honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 to 2 fresh organic peaches, sliced (when peaches aren’t in season, try kiwi slices instead.)
4 pastured or free-range eggs
¼ cup applesauce
⅓ cup raw honey
⅓ cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup coconut flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup almond or coconut milk
To make the caramel glaze, place the butter in a 9” nonstick cake pan and place in a warm oven, just until butter has melted.
Remove pan from the oven and stir in the honey and spices. Continue stirring until the spices have completely dissolved into the warm caramel glaze.
Arrange fresh peach slices on top of the caramel in the pan.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a mixer. Add the applesauce, honey, coconut oil and almond extract to the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
Place coconut flour and baking soda in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to remove any lumps. Fold the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour the milk into the bowl and mix to combine. Spoon the cake batter over the peaches in the pan. Smooth the batter with a spatula to ensure an even distribution.
Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake pan from the oven and place on cooling rack for approximately 20-30 minutes. As the cake cools, it should separate slightly from the inside of the pan. Once the pan has cooled, run a thin spatula around the inside of the pan, between the cake and the pan. Place a cake plate on top of the cake pan. Flip the two over. The cake should release from the pan and transfer easily to the cake plate.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.