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5 All Purpose Flour Substitutes & How To Use Them

Are you puzzled by all the different all purpose flour substitutes out there? Cassava flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, almond flour, and coconut flour – we’ve broken down these top 5 alternative flours that are most commonly used to take all the confusion out of it. 

wooden spoons with variety of all purpose flour substitutes in them

There’s so many different all purpose flour substitutes, and none of them are very straightforward when it comes to conversions. How do you know what to use, when to use it, and how it will act as a substitute flour?

I was there once too, and I’m here to help. In this post I’m breaking down the top five all purpose flour substitutes that will help you successfully make gluten-free and grain-free recipes every time!

Almond flour

I love writing posts like this, because I usually end up learning things myself that I didn’t know before researching for the post. For example: did you know that California is the largest almond producer in the world, and is the only place in North America that grows almond for commercial purposes? Me either. But we do now!

Did you also know that almonds are not actually nuts, but are something called a drupe? They’re actually more similar to peaches than they are nuts.

Almond flour vs. almond meal

Almond flour is ground up almonds, typically with the skin removed and the nuts blanched. This helps give it the consistent white color to make it more closely resemble traditional flour.

Almond meal is ground up almonds with the skin left on. It’s often flecked with pieces of the darker skins, and is usually less finely ground than typical almond flour.

You can purchase almond flour at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Sprouts, or whatever your local gourmet-ish grocery store is. It often carries a higher price tag when purchased in store, and you can typically find it online for less.

I like to use the Blue Diamond brand, which I buy at Costco. I also always get great results with Anthony’s brand products like this one.

How to substitute almond flour

Substituting almond flour in recipes as an all purpose flour substitute can be tough. Almond flour has a higher moisture content than wheat flour, so you have to use a larger quantity of it in order to offset that.

Another trick for this can be to combine with with a drier alternative flour like coconut flour to get the right moisture level.

When substituting, a general rule of thumb is a 1:2 ratio of regular flour to almond flour. Be aware that some recipes may require some trial and error before finding the right amounts.

If you are looking for an almond flour substitute, you’ll want to to focus on other nut flours as they will have a similar profile and will respond similarly when baking. Look for things like pecan, macadamia, or cashew flour.

Coconut flour

So we know we can combine coconut flour with almond flour, but what else do we know about it?

How coconut flour is made

Coconut flour is actually made from the leftover coconut meat after a coconut milk pressing. It is then dried and ground up into a fine powder, which is the coconut flour you use in your recipes.

Another fun fact: a coconut is actually also a drupe, so it’s more similar to an almond. Neither one is a nut. Hrm.

Also, it’s SUPER dry. It soaks up a ton of moisture, and you need very small amounts of it in recipes. If you add too much coconut flour, the recipe will end up overly dry.

With coconut flour, you want to think in terms of tablespoons instead of cups.

How to substitute coconut flour

I’ve found in my kitchen experiments that I like to add coconut flour a little at a time to a recipe, and then let it sit for a few minutes. It takes a little bit for the coconut flour to soak up the moisture, and that will let you see the true consistency of what the finished product will be like.

You’ll be tempted to just keep moving through the recipe. Patience, grasshopper. It’s worth it.

While coconut flour does behave differently in recipes, with a little research you can use it to your advantage. Nourished Kitchen has a great article on how to bake with coconut flour.

I prefer the Nutiva Coconut Flour . While it might seem pricey for flour at first, since you only use it in tablespoons, it will last for what seems like forever.

Cassava flour

When it comes to grain-free baking and alternative flours, cassava flour steals the show.

Cassava flour vs. tapioca flour

Both cassava flour and tapioca flour are made from the cassava plant. It grows a starchy, high-carb tuber similar to yams, taro, plantains and potato. The cassava plant is a staple crop in South America and parts of Asia and Africa.

As a tuberous root vegetable, cassava is gluten, grain and nut-free, as well as vegan, vegetarian and paleo. 

To make tapioca flour, the starch is extracted from the cassava root through a process of washing and pulping. The wet pulp is then squeezed, leaving a starchy liquid behind. Once all the water evaporates, the tapioca flour remains.

Alternatively, cassava flour uses the whole root – peeled, dried and ground. This results in it having more dietary fiber than tapioca flour.

Some people talk about how the cassava root contains naturally occurring cyanide compounds that can be extremely toxic. These compounds are only a risk when the cassava is eaten raw, which is why the traditional cultures who use on cassava for sustenance have the processes of soaking, cooking and fermenting – this removes the toxic compounds. 

All commercially available cassava and tapioca flours do not contain any harmful levels of cyanide.

Cassava flour’s nutrition profile

Since cassava is a starchy tuber, it’s obvious that it is high in carbohydrates. It’s actually extremely high – per 100 grams, cassava has double the calories and carbohydrates as sweet potato. Woah.

For people who have limited food supplies, this makes it a valuable and relied upon resource. But for us, it can mean we’re consuming more than we need to. As with anything in life – moderation is key. 

Why cassava flour is the best of the all purpose flour substitutes

In addition to being gluten free, grain free, and nut free, cassava flour is very mild and neutral in flavor.  It has a soft, powdery texture and can be replaced on a 1:1 basis with wheat flour in many recipes, which makes it the star of the show when it comes to alternative flours. 

As with any ingredients, quality matters.  Otto’s Cassava Flour is the preferred brand among foodies and bloggers who are experimenting with recipes. I’ve used the Anthony’s Cassava Flour brand and gotten good results with it as well. 

Some people who use cassava flour mention that their results were not great. As cassava flour has grown in popularity, so have the number of manufacturers, and the quality does seem to vary from brand to brand.

If you have issues with your cassava recipes, I recommend you try one of the two brands above. 

Tapioca flour

Ok, so we already learned how tapioca starch was made, and the difference between it and cassava. But what else do we need to know about it?

How tapioca flour is used

Tapioca flour is a very fine, white powder that works well in gluten free baking. It can replace cornstarch as a thickener for pies and sauces and aids in creating a crisp crust and chewy texture in baking.

Tapioca flour vs. tapioca starch

These are just two different names for the same product. Regardless of how it is labeled, as long as it is “tapioca” and not “cassava,” they are the same!

I always use Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Starch and get great results.

How to make a tapioca flour substitute

If you have a recipe that includes cornstarch, replace with tapioca flour at a 1:2 ratio. If you have a recipe that is using all purpose flour for thickening (think sauces, stews, gravy, etc), replace with tapioca flour at a 1:1 ratio.

Arrowroot flour

Arrowroot is another starchy food product that’s a popular addition to gluten-free baking.

Often referred to as arrowroot powder, arrowroot is typically made from the arrowroot plant, but commercially is sometimes made from several different root plants including cassava or yuca root.

It’s high in starch and is low in calories, protein and fat. It is often uses to bind, thicken and moisten recipes just like tapioca.

How to use arrowroot flour

Similar to cornstarch, arrowroot flour soaks up a lot of water to form a smooth, gel-like consistency. It’s often added to desserts like puddings, cakes or custards, and can also be used in savory recipes like hot sauces, milks and broth.

When using arrowroot to thicken a sauce, soup, etc that is hot, you’ll need to make a slurry with the powder first. Otherwise, when you add the arrowroot to the hot contents, it just turns into a big ball of jelly – no bueno.

To make the slurry, you’ll combine arrowroot to room temperature water at a 2:1 ratio. Once you stir that up, you should get a starchy water. Wait until the end of the recipe to add it , then stir the slurry into the recipe to thicken.

Always make a slurry first. Stir the arrowroot powder with a small amount of cold liquid first (like water) to create a slurry, before adding to your recipe. Add the slurry at the very end of the recipe.

You don’t really want to cook with arrowroot as it will break down at higher temperatures, so stir in right before serving. Bonus: arrowroot holds up beautifully when used with acidic ingredients or frozen (not so with cornstarch), so feel free to batch cook and freeze your recipes.

I include a slurry in both my Instant Pot Sesame Orange Chicken as well as my Turkey Pumpkin Chili.

How to make an arrowroot flour substitute

If used alone, the substitution is 1 teaspoon arrowroot flour = 1 tablespoon wheat flour. This will only work for cooking, not baking – imagine if you replaced 1 cup of flour with 1/3 cup arrowroot flour in a baked good.

Your ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients would be way off! Arrowroot can be used in baking, but its typically used in smaller amounts, combined with another gluten free flour like almond flour. It’s too starchy to use on its own.

It can also be used as a thickener in the same way tapioca starch can be.

If you’re in need of an arrowroot powder substitute for a thickener, tapioca starch will work in the same fashion!

Hopefully that helps reduce any confusion you might have had about the different all purpose flour substitutes that are out there. If you’ve found a great recipe using one of these flour subs, post a link in the comments below!

Have you made a gluten free or grain free recipe with one of these flours?  I want to see! Tag me on social media and follow along for more delicious recipes. You can find me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest to see more delicious food and what I’m getting into.

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Eileen

Sunday 24th of January 2021

Any experience with tigernut flour? I can't eat almonds, have used tigernut flour as a 1:1 substitute for almond flour, but wonder if a combination of flours would work better.

Jessica

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

Hi Eileen! I have used tigernut flour a bit. We tried out AIP for awhile for my husband's autoimmune disorder, and tigernut flour is used frequently with AIP. I haven't experimented with combining it with anything else, but let me know how it goes if you do try it! Cassava flour is my current favorite go-to for baking.

Tessa

Sunday 22nd of November 2020

Can I use all purpose flour instead of tapioca flour for an eggless pumpkin pie?

Jessica

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Hi Tessa, it sounds like your recipe is calling for tapioca flour, is that correct? It's hard for me to say without seeing the recipe. However, I would not recommend using all purpose as a sub for tapioca 1:1 in baking.

Nancy Burditt

Thursday 19th of November 2020

I want to make a crumb topping for an apple pie, the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup lt. br. sugar,1/4 cup white sugar, 1 tsp,. cinnamon, and a stick of oleo! Can I substitute the 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of Bob's Red Mill tapioca flour? Thank you!

Jessica

Thursday 19th of November 2020

Hi Nancy! I would not recommend substituting tapioca as a 1:1 here. I would actually recommend for a crumb topping like that to use an almond or other nut flour to get the intended result! My apple crisp recipe has a similar topping here: https://www.paleoscaleo.com/apple-cobbler/ Hope that helps!

Irene Post

Monday 31st of August 2020

Hi, Jessica ! Found this article about all-purpose and wheat flour substitutions. Big help just not quite enough. I'm trying to make Rye Bread. I have Bob's Red Mill Dark Rye Flour, Nuts.com Rye Flour, Almond Flour, Tapioca Flour, and Arrowroot Powder. I can't use Coconut anything or Wheat anything. Do you have a recipe we can use ?

Jessica

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

Hi Irene, Thanks for your comment! I'm glad the article was helpful. I don't have a gluten free rye bread recipe on hand. I did a quick search and found these two options: https://www.letthemeatgfcake.com/gluten-free-mock-rye-bread/ and https://angelaskitchen.com/2013/03/06/gluten-free-dairy-free-swedish-rye-bread/. I hope one of those can work out for you; best of luck!

Nancie

Thursday 16th of July 2020

Hi Jessica, Was wondering if you have tried replacing all-purpose flour with cassava flour on a cupcake recipe. You reckon it would be on a 1:1 basis?

Thanks for sharing btw

Jessica

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Hi Nancie - in my experience, cassava won't translate on a 1:1 basis. I have read that it does, but in the trials I have done, it has not worked out the way I wanted it to. Cassava is a starch, so it is very dry and absorbs a lot of moisture. I imagine it would take a bit of experimenting with the other ingredients in the recipe to find the right ratio.

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