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Coconut vs Almond Flour

by (748)
Updated about 3 hours ago
Created June 28, 2011 at 8:42 AM

Last night I tried my hand at banana bread made with coconut flour and they came out great (the bf thought they were a little dry, but was still impressed considering that they had no flour)! I'm now hooked onto paleo baking!

Can anyone tell me the difference between the properties of coconut flour and almond flour? Should one be used more than the other if I want to bake crunchy cookies as opposed to chewy ones? What if I want to make a fluffy bread or cake? Come recipes call to mix coconut and almond flour together. What does that do? I know coconut flour is very absorbent, and I can imagine the oily almond flour will be less so. Is there a way to make coconut flour baked goods less dry (add coconut milk, mix with other flours)? Are there any other alternative flours I can also use? Do you have a preference between the flours in terms of: 1) taste 2) consistency 3) price 4) satiation 5) health?

My recipe for banana bread goes as follows:

Mix together 3 eggs, 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1 1/2 banana, 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt and bake at 350 degrees for 20 min. You can also top the bread with shredded coconut before baking.

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20519 · September 15, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Ooo... nice. jealous!

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3
827 · September 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM

It also might be useful to use an old-fashioned sponge cake type recipe. Whipping the whites stiff creates a sturdy air-holding structure. (Just like the "oopsie rolls".

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3
827 · September 15, 2011 at 6:27 PM

I'm lucky to live in Stumptown, so Bob's Red Mill products are available in bulk at their mill, at very low prices, compared to to Whole Foods, or other retailers that stock their packages. I highly recommend their products.

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5232 · September 10, 2011 at 8:11 PM

Is the right answer that coconut flour gives me the trots?

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2387 · June 30, 2011 at 6:07 AM

Thanks. I just wish I wouldn't lack the words/phrases to describe it better. And an edit button for comments would be great. It should have been "...to expand the dough withOUT breaking it".

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78417 · June 30, 2011 at 2:57 AM

Yes I think for many Central and South Americans, their cooking culture has a lot of uses for the Yucca plant and the sweet potato and the potato. I also find those flours as well as sweet rice and glutinous rice flour in Asian markets. Basically I'm guessing they didn't grow/have as much wheat as they had yucca or rice.

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1932 · June 29, 2011 at 7:04 PM

@Felix: good answers, and definitely give a better explanation than I did. Thanks for elaborating on it.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e
20519 · June 29, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Trader Joe's falls into the finer category but every TJ's is different. So annoying that each one has different products! Bob's Red Mill is aces as an almond meal resource - easily found and I know they have the fine version. They also have hazelnut meal that is truly awesome. I would recommend making your own but one slip and you've made almond butter.. expensive almond butter :)

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2387 · June 29, 2011 at 4:32 PM

Protein is what makes things stick together, yes. And gluten IS a protein. But it is a special kind and it is important in baking not for its stickiness but for its elasticity (hence the word gluten = latin "glue")). This elasticity allows the air produced by yeast or baking soda to expand the dough with breaking it, so it will stay inside the dough and make it fluffy. "Normal" protein can't do that, it will just make things stick together. Look at a hard-boiled egg: It sticks together but will tear quite easily and cleanly. So: It is hard to make air stay inside a gluten-free cake.

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2387 · June 29, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Yes. But keep in mind: Gluten IS a protein. But gluten is important not so much for stckiness but rather for the elasticity ("glue") it lends to the product. Gluten enables bread to rise but still keep its shape and this property is enhanced by kneading the dough (which creates long strands of gluten). Normal protein can't do that, it just makes things stick together, leading to a rather tight structure. Look at a hard-boiled egg. It sticks but will tear rather easily.
By providing elasticity, gluten allows the air produced byyeast or baking soda to expand the dough but stay inside.

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748 · June 29, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Just to clarify - so the PROTEIN in dough is what makes it stick together? Thx for the bits of wisdom, guys!

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2387 · June 29, 2011 at 6:26 AM

@GHarkness: My reasoning is not that it does not hold together (as a cake, i.e. after spending time in the oven) because of its "runniness" but because the coconut flour (and therefore the protein) is too diluted. The higher protein content of almond flour allows for a more runny dough that still sticks together when coagulating. The eggs work because of their protein content (as they don't contain any gluten either).

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748 · June 29, 2011 at 5:02 AM

What brands provide a coarse or fine grind? What would you consider the grind of the Trader Joes's brand?

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2486 · June 29, 2011 at 5:02 AM

I do find myself using almond flour for the base of bar cookies (I've never done scones; they just seemed like a mix of useless carbs + butter). Cakes I've been too scared to attempt; I've made a few edible-but-not-great pumpkin or other quick breads. I'll see if I can find the recipe I riffed on for either the coconut/lime bars or the pumpkin bread. I do find that as long as I enjoy sensibly with either flour, I'm fine. If I eat too much almond flour it's heavy in my tummy and I'm grumpy; if I eat 3 coconut flour muffins my tummy gets super-full.

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748 · June 29, 2011 at 5:01 AM

Laura, is there a reason why gluten free flours are available in Latin stores? We have a bunch of them over here in San Diego. I should check next time I'm there! :)

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748 · June 29, 2011 at 4:26 AM

Since the almond flour is denser, do they make better cookies and scones? And do coconut flour make better cakes and muffins? Do you have a good base recipe (one where I can mix in berries or nuts) for a cookie or muffin? Does one satiate you more than the other?

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748 · June 28, 2011 at 4:07 PM

+1 for a great answer, Felix!

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2387 · June 28, 2011 at 9:37 AM

I made another coconut flour cake just yesterday. My impression is that (de-oiled!) almond flour wins in every situation.

But to answer your questions, first a couple of numbers:
Coconut Flour (de-oiled): 18g Protein, 17g Carbs, 16g Fat, 40g fibres
Almond Flour (de-oiled): 37g Protein, 7g Carbs, 12g Fat

As you have noticed, coconut flour sucks up insane amounts of fluid. Mixing coconut flour to fluid 1:3 will still yield a dry dough. By the time you have a runny dough (and juicy cake) the flour so so diluted that the cake won't hold together by itself (you'll need to add eggs then). The only way to get a juicy, reasonable coconut flour cake is to use lots of fat and a couple of eggs.

The de-oiled almond flour does not absorb as much fluid. Also, it sticks together better due to its much higher protein content. Making crumble is totally possible with almond flour (mix butter and almond flour 1:2 and add some Stevia) and tastes delicious.

While almond flour does not behave like grain flour, it is a lot closer than coconut flour

What if I want to make a fluffy bread or cake?

This usually requires yeast, which in turn relies on gluten to unfold its full potential. You could use baking powder instead but with coconut flour you still don't have enough "stickiness" to keep the air in.

Do you have a preference between the flours in terms of: 1) taste 2) consistency 3) price 4) satiation 5) health?

5 x almond flour (de-oiled). The taste is perfect for most kinds of cake, it adds a subtle sweetness. The consistency is great as well, it is a little bit crunchy and has a "real" feel to it. Over here, Almond flour is 20% cheaper. Satiation is almost the same as coconut flour but I find almond flour more satisfying (probably because I don't have to drink a bottle of water with every bite). Health: One might discuss the problem of O6-fatty acids but I don't see a problem as long as you don't eat that stuff every day.

Where to get de-oiled alond flour? Basically this consists of the ground remains from almond oil production ("ground press cakes") so the mill of your choice should be able to supply you.

Buckwheat flour would be an alternative, though rather high in carbs.


Edit: I have made a video about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1vBGAE7H6E I guess few of you speak German so among all my blabla in the video, what is important is that the flours are (from left to right) coconut flour, almond flour, ground almonds, wheat flour. I just add water, mix and then bake it. As you can see, coconut flour works like a sponge and as a result does not stick together very well.

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748 · June 28, 2011 at 4:07 PM

+1 for a great answer, Felix!

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1932 · June 28, 2011 at 10:32 PM

As you have noticed, coconut flour sucks up insane amounts of fluid. Mixing coconut flour to fluid 1:3 will still yield a dry dough. By the time you have a runny dough (and juicy cake) the flour so so diluted that the cake won't hold together by itself (you'll need to add eggs then). The only way to get a juicy, reasonable coconut flour cake is to use lots of fat and a couple of eggs.

You got the facts right, Felix, but the reasoning is lacking a tiny bit. The reason that the cake won't hold together by itself is NOT because it's so runny, but because it contains no gluten. Gluten is what holds together the particles of wheat in "real" breads and cakes, but coconut flour doesn't have any. Thus, the need for additional eggs, which do tend to bind the flour.

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2387 · June 30, 2011 at 6:07 AM

Thanks. I just wish I wouldn't lack the words/phrases to describe it better. And an edit button for comments would be great. It should have been "...to expand the dough withOUT breaking it".

145d4b0f988af15acc6b26eccc1f4895
1932 · June 29, 2011 at 7:04 PM

@Felix: good answers, and definitely give a better explanation than I did. Thanks for elaborating on it.

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5
2387 · June 29, 2011 at 4:32 PM

Protein is what makes things stick together, yes. And gluten IS a protein. But it is a special kind and it is important in baking not for its stickiness but for its elasticity (hence the word gluten = latin "glue")). This elasticity allows the air produced by yeast or baking soda to expand the dough with breaking it, so it will stay inside the dough and make it fluffy. "Normal" protein can't do that, it will just make things stick together. Look at a hard-boiled egg: It sticks together but will tear quite easily and cleanly. So: It is hard to make air stay inside a gluten-free cake.

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5
2387 · June 29, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Yes. But keep in mind: Gluten IS a protein. But gluten is important not so much for stckiness but rather for the elasticity ("glue") it lends to the product. Gluten enables bread to rise but still keep its shape and this property is enhanced by kneading the dough (which creates long strands of gluten). Normal protein can't do that, it just makes things stick together, leading to a rather tight structure. Look at a hard-boiled egg. It sticks but will tear rather easily.
By providing elasticity, gluten allows the air produced byyeast or baking soda to expand the dough but stay inside.

E2456a3b347d37b526a6b8293faae77b
748 · June 29, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Just to clarify - so the PROTEIN in dough is what makes it stick together? Thx for the bits of wisdom, guys!

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5
2387 · June 29, 2011 at 6:26 AM

@GHarkness: My reasoning is not that it does not hold together (as a cake, i.e. after spending time in the oven) because of its "runniness" but because the coconut flour (and therefore the protein) is too diluted. The higher protein content of almond flour allows for a more runny dough that still sticks together when coagulating. The eggs work because of their protein content (as they don't contain any gluten either).

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2486 · June 29, 2011 at 12:49 AM

I've found both can work, particularly when following actually working, tested recipes (a skill I'm sorely lacking). However, when used incorrectly, I've found almond flour to result in a denser muffin than I had hoped- more like a hockey puck. And coconut flour has its own drawbacks- tricky to get the exact right amount, and muffins have a tendency to both collapse and be kinda chewy. Neither keeps as well as gluten goods, so I just bake on the day it's needed. In that case, I prefer the lightness of the coconut flour almost always. But I am very excited to have these verified recipes for my next endeavor.

D5a4ff096a452a84a772efa0e6bc626e
2486 · June 29, 2011 at 5:02 AM

I do find myself using almond flour for the base of bar cookies (I've never done scones; they just seemed like a mix of useless carbs + butter). Cakes I've been too scared to attempt; I've made a few edible-but-not-great pumpkin or other quick breads. I'll see if I can find the recipe I riffed on for either the coconut/lime bars or the pumpkin bread. I do find that as long as I enjoy sensibly with either flour, I'm fine. If I eat too much almond flour it's heavy in my tummy and I'm grumpy; if I eat 3 coconut flour muffins my tummy gets super-full.

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748 · June 29, 2011 at 4:26 AM

Since the almond flour is denser, do they make better cookies and scones? And do coconut flour make better cakes and muffins? Do you have a good base recipe (one where I can mix in berries or nuts) for a cookie or muffin? Does one satiate you more than the other?

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20519 · June 29, 2011 at 12:38 AM

Almond flour (meal) reacts basically the same as wheat flour - but of course you won't get the gluten effect. The finer the almond grind you'll get a normal-like texture.. the coarser the grind you'll get that crunchier effect. Coconut is much much drier so you would need to adjust the liquids.

Totally play with the coconut flour - it's pretty fun. Just go slow with the liquids until you think it looks right. I cook a lot so sorry if that's the worse description ever :)

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e
20519 · September 15, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Ooo... nice. jealous!

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3
827 · September 15, 2011 at 6:27 PM

I'm lucky to live in Stumptown, so Bob's Red Mill products are available in bulk at their mill, at very low prices, compared to to Whole Foods, or other retailers that stock their packages. I highly recommend their products.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e
20519 · June 29, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Trader Joe's falls into the finer category but every TJ's is different. So annoying that each one has different products! Bob's Red Mill is aces as an almond meal resource - easily found and I know they have the fine version. They also have hazelnut meal that is truly awesome. I would recommend making your own but one slip and you've made almond butter.. expensive almond butter :)

E2456a3b347d37b526a6b8293faae77b
748 · June 29, 2011 at 5:02 AM

What brands provide a coarse or fine grind? What would you consider the grind of the Trader Joes's brand?

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78417 · June 29, 2011 at 1:39 AM

I've got access to lots of different gluten free flours here in Sf, but the one that stands out to me these days is Chestnut flour. It makes awesome cakes that have just the right texture. I mix it with Almond flour, Tapioca/yucca flour/starch (find it cheapest in Latin markets) and sometimes potato starch or arrowroot.

To tell you the truth one of my first purchases was some Bob's Red Mill Coconut flour but I haven't used it a lot. Most of the recipes that appeal to me don't call for it. I figure if I make a mistake and one of my recipes turns out too runny the coconut flour will come in handy as a quick fix.

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78417 · June 30, 2011 at 2:57 AM

Yes I think for many Central and South Americans, their cooking culture has a lot of uses for the Yucca plant and the sweet potato and the potato. I also find those flours as well as sweet rice and glutinous rice flour in Asian markets. Basically I'm guessing they didn't grow/have as much wheat as they had yucca or rice.

E2456a3b347d37b526a6b8293faae77b
748 · June 29, 2011 at 5:01 AM

Laura, is there a reason why gluten free flours are available in Latin stores? We have a bunch of them over here in San Diego. I should check next time I'm there! :)

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580 · June 28, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Thanks for the recipes Sophia and Felix!

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103 · April 12, 2013 at 5:10 AM

Just to throw it out there, if you don't mind products with big sciency names, I've heard that Methyl-cellulose can straight up replace gluten in baking... except it doesn't nuke your intestines like gluten. From there, you'd need starch, a lavener, yeast, and whatever else you normally use in baking and you may be golden.

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0 · April 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM

I found a recipe for Very Vanilla Cupcakes using only coconut flour and made a 9" birthday cake for my 3-yr-old. Even at high altitude it worked great and was not dense or dry like most of my other almond and/or coconut experiments. My husband (who had never tried a gluten-free cake) asked for the recipe because he loved it. It's a much smaller recipe than the other one linked above, in case you don't need mountains of cake.

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10 · September 10, 2011 at 2:28 PM

Check out this site: http://www.elanaspantry.com/why-almond-flour/

I bought Elana's cookbook from Amazon and have been really happy with the results. The chocolate chip cookies were soft and chewy, the pizza crust is great. A friend of mine recommended the honeyville almond flour and although it's expensive, it's working well. I'm trying out the bread recipes this weekend. I miss sandwiches!

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1303 · September 02, 2011 at 4:02 AM

I've had a lot of luck with a Paleo coconut flour/almond flour (half & half) banana bread recipe by doubling the fat (in my case, butter). I think I also used an extra banana, but I can't remember for certain. I also have had great success with a non-Paleo coconut flour chocolate cake. My husband prefers it to regular (wheat based) chocolate cakes. :-) In both cases, I've noticed that the texture and the flavor are best when served cold. I really couldn't tell you why, but it just seems more moist and flavorful cold, which is totally the reverse of my experience with pretty much everything else.

Also, thank you for that cake recipe! I've been trying to find a coconut flour white cake recipe, and I think I can play with the extracts to get what I want out of that one. Plus, my husband loves coconut cake. :-)

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422 · September 02, 2011 at 3:05 AM

You might be able to use less eggs and have cakes hold a bit better with some added arrowroot or sweet potato flour.

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3
827 · September 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM

It also might be useful to use an old-fashioned sponge cake type recipe. Whipping the whites stiff creates a sturdy air-holding structure. (Just like the "oopsie rolls".

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4181 · June 29, 2011 at 1:07 AM

I have not made this yet (I'm waiting on my coconut flour to be delivered!) But when it comes this is the coconut flour cake that I'm going to try. It calls for a dozen eggs! It has to be awesome! Coconut Flour Cake

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78417 · June 28, 2011 at 2:37 PM

I know a lot of folks who don???t eat eggs (they???re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here???s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs: http://EggFreeLiving.com

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