The ultimate flour guide | beachbody blog

Almost all baked goods require some form of flour and as all bakers know, baking is as much a science as it is an art – it requires precise ingredients and measurements to get the texture and flavor you want.

Our definitive guide to flours will help you choose the one that suits your nutritional needs.

If you’re looking to bake better bread or delve into gluten-free treats, you might be surprised to learn that the recommended flours for these two health goals aren’t the same.

“It really depends on what your health goals are with nutrition,” says Natalie Welch, MS, RDN. “In general, though, whole wheat flour is a good choice because it still contains the bran (fiber) and germ (nutrients) of the wheat kernel.”

Read on for an overview of the different types of flour and their uses.

All Purpose Flower

Pink glass measuring cup in a bowl of flour

The name explains how versatile this flour is. Made from wheat flour that has been refined to remove the bran and germ, all-purpose flour (also known as white flour or AP flour) can create flaky pie crusts, soft muffins and chewy cookies.

“Good for traditional baking and fun treats, there’s not a lot of good nutrition here as it’s mostly carbs, not much fiber, and not much protein,” explains Quyen Vu, Beachbody Culinary Nutrition Specialist. “It’s considered a refined flour.”

Reserve it for special occasions rather than everyday use.

almond flour

Made from peeled, blanched almonds, almond flour is gluten-free with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.

Since it doesn’t contain gluten, it can’t help hold baked goods together like wheat flour can.

Compared to all-purpose flour, almond flour is higher in calories and higher in fat, says Vu, and can lead to denser baked goods.

Use almond flour in small amounts with other flours, or try it in our Mini Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Bites.

coconut flour

Another gluten-free, grain-free option popular with the Keto and Paleo clubs, coconut flour is made from dried, ground coconut.

It doesn’t have as many calories as almond flour, says Vu, but can make baked goods compact.

Coconut flour can also have a strong taste, so keep that in mind when switching it up in recipes. Read more about using coconut flour.

Gluten-free flour

Woman pours flour into a bowl

Flours made from wheat, rye, and barley contain a naturally occurring protein called gluten, which helps bind ingredients together and adds structure and strength.

For those who can’t tolerate gluten, there are plenty of gluten-free flour options, including rice, oats, quinoa, millet, beans, peas, cassava, or lentil flour.

Some gluten-free flours are also whole wheat flours.

If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, Welch recommends looking for a gluten-free option with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving.

Check the label of gluten-free flour blends, as they may vary. Our gluten-free flour guide can help you choose the right one for your project.

Whole grain flour

Made from hulled wheat berries, this fiber-filled flour (13 grams per 100 grams!) can be used in place of all-purpose flour in almost any dish — even pumpkin pie.

Using 100% whole wheat flour can make cookies and bread denser and drier.

Make up for that by adding 2 extra tablespoons of liquid per cup of whole-wheat flour, suggests PJ Hamel, a baker and food writer.

White whole wheat flour is made from peeled white spring wheat. Use it instead of whole wheat flour for a milder flavor and color.

Other wheat-based flours

Woman pouring water into bowl of flour

In the supermarket you will see all kinds of other wheat flours: bread flour, cake flour, pastry flour, etc. These are best used for what their name indicates.

  • Bread flour contains a lot of gluten to give the dough structure and firmness.
  • Cake and pastry flour have a finer structure and give a soft crumb. Look for whole-wheat puff pastry flour for extra fiber and protein (compared to the refined flour version).
  • Semolina is coarse and is often used for couscous, pasta or gnocchi.

Alternative Flour

This category includes all non-wheat flour.

From the aforementioned almond and coconut flours to pea and chickpea flours to ancient grain flours (quinoa, barley, teff or spelt), these flours are most commonly used in gluten-free baking (as long as they’re gluten-free).

These flours can add more protein and fiber to recipes.

Feel free to get creative with recipes, but know that it will take some experimentation to get the texture and flavor you crave.

“If you’re trying to use a ‘healthier’ flour (with more protein and fiber) for a recipe that calls for a white refined flour, you’ll definitely have to play around with the amounts,” says Vu. “It’s not a direct 1-to-1 replacement if you want to get the same or a similar product.”

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