Almond Flour or Meal for Gluten-Free and Low-Carb Cooking

How to Make and Use Almond Flour

almond meal
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Almond flour and almond meal are both made by grinding almonds. You can buy them commercially prepared or make them yourself at home with a food processor or grinder. They are a gluten-free alternative to wheat products in some recipes. Almond flour is higher in protein and lower in starch than many other gluten-free flours, which is appealing for a low-carb diet.

Types of Almond Flour and Almond Meal

Almond flour is most often made with blanched almonds (no skin), whereas almond meal can be made either with whole or blanched almonds. In either case, the consistency is more like corn meal than wheat flour. They can usually be used interchangeably, although using flour from blanched almonds will produce a more refined, less grainy result. Superfine almond flour is a favorite for baking cakes, but hard to produce at home. You may be able to find Bob's Red Mill Super Fine Almond Flour in your store or order it online.

Carbs and Calories

A half cup of commercially-prepared almond flour contains about 12 grams of total carbohydrate, 6 grams of which are fiber, for a net carb count of 6 grams of carbohydrate. A half cup also contains 12 grams of protein, 28 grams of fat, and 320 calories.

The glycemic index of almond flour is less than 1, which means it should have little effect in raising your blood glucose level. Compare this with the high glycemic index of whole wheat flour (71) or rice flour (98).

Uses

Almond flour is good for making gluten-free "quick-bread" type recipes. You can use it to make gluten-free muffins, loafs such as pumpkin bread, pancakes, and even some cakes. Cookies are another favorite that can be made gluten-free with almond meal.

Almond meal not good for foods such as bread that require a true dough as you can't knead dough to develop the gluten structure as you can with wheat flour. You will also need to use more eggs when baking with almond meal to provide the structure that gluten in flour would usually create. You can produce almond meal biscuits by careful attention to the recipe.

It can be hard to adapt recipes yourself to substitute almond meal for wheat flour. For one thing, a cup of wheat flour weighs about 3 ounces while a cup of almond flour weighs almost 4 ounces. That will make a big difference in baked goods. You may want to start with a recipe already adapted for almond flour and then make your own variations.

Almond meal can also be used in breading fish and other fried foods, but care must be taken not to burn it. Almond meal can be cooked as polenta or grits to serve for breakfast or as part of the main meal, such as shrimp and grits. Almond flour is beneficial for adding nutrients to foods. Almonds, in general, are more nutrient-dense than grains.

Sensitivities

Be aware that almonds are a tree nut, which is one of the eight most common food allergies. As this can result in life-threatening anaphylaxis, you must be sure to alert any guests that your baked goods and dishes contain almonds. If you take almond flour goodies to a potluck, be sure they are labeled as containing nuts. While peanuts are not tree nuts, many people with peanut allergy also have an allergy to almonds.

Making Your Own Almond Flour

You can make almond flour in a blender or food processor. You must take care not to grind it for too long, or you will have almond butter. Use fairly small amounts, and pulse until it is ground into meal. Store any that you don't use immediately in the refrigerator or freezer as it will go rancid quickly if left out. Because almonds are shelf-stable and almond flour is not, it makes sense to only grind what you need for recipes for the next couple of days unless you want to freeze batches of almond meal.

Where to Find Almond Flour and Almond Meal

Most health food stores sell almond flour, and more traditional supermarkets are stocking it as more people look for gluten-free products. Trader Joe's often has good prices for almond meal that includes the skin. Check the bulk prices for almonds compared to almond meal and decide whether it wouldn't be more economical to grind your own.

Packaged almond flour and almond meal will also go rancid after you open the airtight bag. You should keep it in the refrigerator or freezer after opening a bag. It can be smart to buy bags of the size you will use for one recipe or can use within a few days.

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