Everything You Need to Know About Baking with Nut Flours

Can you use them in place of wheat flour in your favorite recipes?

almond flour pancakes served with fresh strawberries
Photo: Photographer Bryan Gardner; Food Stylist Laura Rege; Prop Stylist Paige Hicks

Nut flours are finely ground nuts that are used in baked goods and savory cooking. They serve as a gluten-free, high protein alternative to traditional wheat flour, and they add a rich, nutty taste to whatever you're making. Before you start using nut flour in your recipes, there are a few key things to know.

It Isn't as Simple as a One-to-One Swap

If you're looking at a recipe that includes a wheat-based flour like all-purpose flour, you can't simply substitute a nut flour and call it a day. Angi Rassi, vice president of innovation and business development for Fisher Nuts, explains that this is because nut flours are naturally rich in fat. "We recommend following specific recipes from your favorite publications and recipe developers." She suggests using recipes that specifically call for nut flour until you are ready to experiment on your own. "Nut flours have no gluten and create a crumbly end product, so if substituting nut flour in recipes that use wheat flour, you'll need to add a binder," Olivia Roszkowski, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, adds. This binder can take the form of eggs, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, banana, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, applesauce, or even oat flour.

Oven temperatures will also need adjusting if you're modifying a recipe that's made for wheat flour. "Nuts contain natural oils, so it's a good idea to drop the oven temperature by 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit when baking with them to avoid a singed product," Roszkowski says.

In General, Nut Flours Can Be Swapped for Other Nut Flours

If a recipe already calls for a nut flour, substituting it with another nut flour that you already have on hand should yield similar results. "We have found that certain nut flours work better in different baked goods," Rassi says. For example, almond flour has a rich, nutty flavor that works well in pancakes, breads, meatballs, burgers, and even breading for chicken or fish. Pecan flour has a maple flavor that is ideal for muffins, cookies, and streusel.

They Are More Perishable Than Wheat Flours

The higher oil and fat content of nut flours mean that they are more perishable than your standard wheat flour. To store them, Roszkowski recommends putting nut flours in a sealed bag or jar in the fridge or freezer, as this will help preserve them. If you don't have room in the fridge or freezer, store them in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. Given the perishable nature of nut flours, she recommends buying them in small quantities. Some nut flours are more perishable than others. Rassi notes that walnut flour is the most delicate.

They Lend a Sweet Nutty Flavor and Dense Texture to Baked Goods

Like the nuts they're made from, different nut flours will lend a slightly different flavor to the resulting baked good. "Pecan flour adds a hint of maple flavor while coconut flour is more tropical," Rassi says. "Overall they all add a rich, sweet nutty flavor."

Don't forget to consider texture, too. Because nut flours are heavier than wheat flour, Roszkowski says that they will create a denser baked product. "Since they don't have gluten, nut flours won't produce baked goods with as much structure, chew, or bounce," she says. Baked goods with nut flour will typically be softer and more tender. "Because nut flours have more fat content, the end result is almost buttery due to the way nuts release their natural oils when baked."

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