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Flour Alternatives | Best Flour Alternatives for Runners

Flour alternatives are appearing more and more frequently on the shelves. Made from foods like brown rice, chickpeas, almonds, cassava, coconut, and even hazelnut, these types of flours offer a wide range of nutrients, flavors, and textures.

But how do these wheat flour alternatives stack up and are they worth a try? To find out, we consulted with two culinary registered dietitians: Jackie Newgent, RDN, author of the Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, and New York-based registered dietitian and cook Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN.

The experts walk us through six flour alternatives, how they taste, their nutritional information, how you would use them in place of wheat flour, and whether it makes sense to include them in your diet for performance.

1. Chickpea flour

Chickpea flour has a similar nutritional profile to wheat flour, with one outstanding nutrient: fiber. Both wheat flour and chickpea flour contain around 20 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup, but chickpea flour contains 5 grams of fiber compared to 1 gram of wheat.

And just as you’d probably expect, according to Newgent, chickpea flour tastes a little more beany or earthier than all-purpose wheat flour.

For runners who want a little more fiber in their lives, chickpea flour can be a good tradeoff. It’s not too much fiber that causes GI problems, and it can lower post-meal blood sugar levels and the subsequent crash that comes with wheat flour, according to Newgent.

“You can often use chickpea flour in a 1: 1 ratio (ideally by weight). However, since it is a bit heartier and more flavorful than all-purpose flour and gluten-free, you should use 50 percent chickpea flour, which is mixed with chickpea flour, another flour, ”says Newgent.

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2. Almond flour

Since almond flour consists of 100 percent blanched, skinless almonds that have been finely ground, according to Newgent it is not “flour” in the technical sense. Regardless, it is used as a flour substitute and has a nuttier taste.

Some of the standout nutrients are unsaturated fat, fiber, and vitamin E, says Newgent, but there is one disadvantage for runners. A 1/4 cup of almond flour contains only about 6 grams of carbohydrates compared to the 24 grams of wheat flour. As a result, muffins made from almond flour may not be the best choice before a morning run.

“While you can use it as a 1: 1 swap for wheat flour, almond flour will make for a denser baked good if no further changes are made to the recipe,” says Newgent. She recommends using a mixture of equal parts almond flour and wheat flour, or adding more baking powder or baking powder.

“It can actually improve the flavor of recipes where a slightly denser texture still works well, like pancakes,” Newgent adds. She also says that almond flour can add a hearty texture to savory dishes, like when you use it to coat your chicken in breadcrumbs.

3. Cassava flour

Cassava flour is mild and neutral with a touch of earthiness, making it a good substitute for wheat flour. Cassava flour is made from the cassava root, which is similar to a potato. At 31 grams per 1/4 cup, it’s actually higher in carbohydrates than wheat flour. Not to mention, it has 0 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fiber. This makes it a good option for any runner who loads carbohydrates or runs long distances and is concerned about GI issues.

“You can generally use cassava flour as a 1: 1 swap for wheat flour – no further adjustments are required,” says Newgent. She adds that cassava flour can absorb more liquid when baking than wheat flour. Therefore, using a little less cassava flour or adjusting the liquid level can help for best results.

Store your pantry with these flour alternatives

Bob’s Red Mill Chickpea Flour

Anthony's Premium Blanched Almond Flour

Anthony’s Premium Blanched Almond Flour

Terrasoul Superfoods organic cassava flour

Terrasoul Superfoods organic cassava flour

Naturevibe Botanicals organic natural rice flour

Naturevibe Botanicals organic natural rice flour

4. Coconut flour

Coconut flour is made from drying the coconut meat and then finely ground. It’s slightly sweet and has a hint of coconut flavor.

“Coconut flour is an excellent source of plant-based fiber and iron. It contains more protein than wheat flour, but also more fat than wheat flour, and many coconut products are high in saturated fats, ”says Gellman.

For runners with sensitive stomachs, the 10 grams of fiber in 1/4 cup of coconut flour can be too much to handle. It’s also a bit less carbohydrate than wheat flour – 18 grams compared to 25 grams.

“It is often used for dredging [coating a food in flour], but can also be a gluten-free alternative to wheat-based flour for baking, ”says Gellman.

She also notes that you may find it mixed with other gluten-free flours to make a mix. Because coconut flour is very fibrous, the batter can be dense and require more liquid. A general rule of thumb, according to Gellman, is 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour per 1 cup of wheat flour.

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5. Brown rice flour

Brown rice flour has a mild, earthy and nutty taste. “It has more carbohydrates than all-purpose wheat flour – 30 grams versus 25 grams – but because it’s a whole grain, it has more nutrients like zinc, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B6,” says Gellman.

It’s a good gluten-free substitute for runners looking to maintain their carb intake. However, brown rice flour does not contain gluten, so it does not absorb liquid or fat and cannot be exchanged for wheat flour in a ratio of 1: 1.

“In general, you can swap 25 percent of all wheat flour for brown rice flour in a recipe,” says Gellman. “If you’re trying to create a gluten-free recipe, the brown rice flour works best when mixed with other gluten-free flours and a binder like xanthan gum,” she adds.

6. Hazelnut flour

Like almond flour, hazelnut flour is made from finely ground whole raw hazelnuts. It has a sweet, buttery, nutty taste and dense texture that works well in both sweet and savory dishes.

“This nut-based flour is a great source of fiber, vegetable protein, and healthy unsaturated fats,” says Gellman.

The downside for runners, however, is that it’s a low-carb flour at just 8 grams per 1/4 cup. You may not want to use it to fuel up recipes, but you can use hazelnut flour for breadcrumbs in recipes to give a boost to a protein or healthy fat.

“The general change is [a] 1: 2 [ratio]- For example, 1 cup of all-purpose flour would be swapped for 2 cups of hazelnut flour, ”says Gellman. “However, because nut flour is not gluten-bound, other binders such as eggs may be required.”


Registered dietitian
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a New York City-based nutritionist, food and nutrition writer, national spokesperson, and owner of Nutrition a la Natalie, a sports nutrition practice.

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