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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 23, 2017

8 Primal-Friendly Flours

By Mark Sisson
56 Comments

Various types of flour in five wooden spoonsWhile I don’t recommend making Primalized versions of grain-based foods a staple, the fact remains that people love them. They’re going to want them. There’s not much you can do about that. And if we want to incorporate pancakes, muffins, cookies, and other flour-based items into our diets without ruining everything we’ve worked toward, we need the healthiest, most Primal flours.

The alternative flour market has exploded in recent years. A decade ago, you had gritty almond flour and fibrous coconut flour, and that was about it. Today, there are many more flours to sift through. But what are the best ones? Which ones fit best into a Primal way of eating, and why?

Today, I’m going to lay it all out. I’ll give a brief explanation of each Primal-friendly flour, including the facts, features, and characteristics that I find relevant and notable. That way you can decide what’s best for you.

Almond Flour

You know it. You love it, or at least tolerate it. For most long-term Primal eaters, almond flour was the only option if you wanted anything approximating a cookie or a pancake.

What’s notable?

Nutrient-dense: Almond flour is rich in magnesium, vitamin E, copper, and manganese.

Polyphenol-rich: Almond skins have tons of polyphenols.

Prebiotic: Almonds make great food for our beneficial gut bacteria.

Rich in MUFA: Over half of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated, the same kind found in avocado and olive oils. It’s really good stuff.

Calorically dense: A cup of almond flour has about 650 calories. It’s more than a cup of whole almonds, which is already a lot of nuts. It’s a tightly-packed cup of pulverized almonds. If you’re eating almond flour pancakes, it adds up quickly.

Moderately high in PUFAs: Nothing wrong with the PUFAs in a handful of almonds, but it’s easy to get too many eating baked goods made from PUFA-rich almond flour.

Less oxidatively stable: Increasing the surface area of an almond by milling it into flour makes the polyunsaturated fats more vulnerable to oxidative damage. Heating the flour adds another oxidative input.

What brand?

Bob’s Redmill has a very nice super-fine almond meal.

Cassava Flour

You’ve probably heard of tapioca starch. That’s pure starch pulled from the cassava root. This isn’t that. Cassava flour is the whole dried tuber ground into a fine, mild, adaptive flour. But before you get too excited, know that cassava root—even the whole food—isn’t terribly nutrient-dense unless you count starch. It’s mainly useful as a reliable source of starch for people who rely on it for caloric bulk. So the flour, even derived from the whole root, is basically glucose.

What’s notable?

Reduces blood glucose. When researchers added cassava flour to regular wheat flour-based baked goods, the glycemic response plummeted. The more cassava flour they added, the lower it went.

What brand?

Otto’s Naturals.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is made from dried coconut flesh with most of the fat removed. Only a little bit remains—a gram of fat per tablespoon.

What’s notable?

High in fiber, low in digestible carbs: A quarter cup of coconut flour contains 16 grams of carbs, 10 fiber, 6 digestible. It enjoys a correspondingly low glycemic index and can even make other foods lower in glycemic index when incorporated.

Contains prebiotics: A portion of the fiber in coconut flour is fermentable (PDF) by the gut bacteria, which create butyrate and other beneficial short chain fatty acids as byproducts.

Tricky to work with: Coconut flour is incredibly dry, fibrous, and absorbent. It soaks up liquid like nothing else. Cook with a quarter of the flour you’d usually use, and have extra eggs handy.

Reduces blood sugar: Adding coconut flour to a hypocaloric diet reduced blood glucose and cholesterol in overweight Brazilian women.

What brand?

Anthony’s seems to be the best value.

Coffee Flour

Coffee flour isn’t ground up coffee beans—that’s coffee. It’s ground up coffee fruit pulp, the pod that contains the beans we know and love.

I’m going to be honest here. I have a bag of it sitting in my pantry, picked up from Trader Joe’s, but I haven’t used it yet. From what I gather, coffee flour is a great flavor enhancer (think roasted fruit rather than espresso) that also provides a ton of micronutrients. You probably don’t want pancakes made entirely out of coffee flour, but a couple tablespoons added to the gluten-free flour of your choice would probably turn out really well. Another option is to add to smoothies.

What’s notable?

High in phytonutrients: Coffee fruit pulp is rich in various phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant qualities.

High in potassium: A tablespoon has about 300 mg of potassium.

High in fiber: The product is new enough that studies haven’t yet determined the fermentability of the fiber, but I’d wager a guess that coffee flour will have prebiotic qualities.

What brand?

Trader Joe’s.

Green Banana Flour

Green banana flour is a recent phenomenon, emerging as the resistant starch craze hit its peak. Reason being: green bananas are fantastic sources of resistant starch, and so is the flour.

What’s notable?

High in resistant starch: Cooking the flour nullifies the resistant starch.

Tricky to work with: Like coconut flour, green banana flour soaks up a lot of liquid. Cook with 2/3 of the flour you’d usually use, and have extra eggs handy.

What brand?

WEDO.

Hazelnut Flour

Hazelnuts receive little fanfare already—especially this side of the Atlantic. Hazelnut flour gets even less. That’s a mistake, as hazelnuts are incredibly underrated in the nutrition department. They also taste great, although I find the flour lends itself best to desserts.

What’s notable?

Surprisingly nutritious: Hazelnuts and their flour are good sources of vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.

Has surprising heart health benefitsHazelnuts reduce LDL particle numberimprove cardiovascular health beyond the effect they have on lipid profiles, and reduce the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation.

Makes homemade Nutella possible: Hazelnut and chocolate belong together. Throw hazelnut flour, cocoa powder, 85% dark chocolate pieces, a sweetener (honey, xylitol, ec), and some avocado oil into a food processor.  Process until it starts looking spreadable, then salt to taste.

What brand?

Bob’s Redmill does a good hazelnut flour/meal.

Potato Starch

Potato starch is just that—starch—so don’t expect any micronutrients. Most use it as a complement to other gluten-free flours, finding it lends a light, fluffy quality to the finished product. I included it while omitting other pure starches for three main reasons:

If you’re making crispy fried chicken or fish, potato starch is a fantastic dredging agent.

If you’re making gravy or need to thicken a pan sauce, a tablespoon or so whisked into liquid (e.g. broth, water, milk, cream) then added to the pot will provide the perfect texture.

If you want a quick source of resistant starch, stir a couple tablespoons into a glass of sparkling water.

What’s notable (besides the three reasons I keep it around)?

Resistant starch: Gram for gram, it’s the best and most inexpensive source of resistant starch around. Add it to smoothies or mix a couple tablespoons with sparkling water and drink it down. Keep it away from heat, or else you’ll turn the resistant starch into plain glucose.

Some people have reported stomach pain and digestive issues with resistant starch consumption. Not many, but some. If that’s the case, start really small—a half teaspoon or so—and work your way up to larger doses. The benefits to your gut biome are worth the wait.

What brand?

I always go with Bob’s Redmill.

Tigernut Flour

You’ve probably not tried this. I actually find tigernut flour subpar for baked goods thanks to a grittiness that never quite goes away. It’s an intrinsic characteristic, resistant to heat, high powered blending, and every other form of food processing available to home cooks and, I assume, food manufacturers, or else the companies that make it would eliminate the grittiness.

Believe it or not, it’s still one of my favorite flours. Mixed with Greek yogurt, it lends a subtle sweetness. And because you don’t quite “chew” Greek yogurt, instead sorta swallowing it whole, the grittiness doesn’t impede enjoyment. But by far the best way to eat it is in ball form. Add tigernut flour and nut butter (peanut honestly tastes the best, if you’re a legume heretic) in a 2:1 ratio to a food processor along with salt and just enough honey to let you roll the mixture into balls. Freeze the balls and enjoy. Successful variations I’ve tried include adding 85% dark chocolate chunks/bars or even a dash of whey protein.

What’s notable?

High in resistant starch: Tigernut flour is actually enjoyable in its plain state, compared with the tolerable potato starch. It has about half the resistant starch of potato starch, but there are other good points.

High in MUFAs: Who doesn’t love MUFA? The fatty acid profile overall resembles olive oil.

Rich in nutrients: Tigernut flour contains good amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, folate, and zinc.

Evolutionary precedent: There’s good evidence that one of our early African ancestors, Paranthropus boisei, relied on tigernuts for the bulk of calories. Doesn’t get much more ancestral than that.

What brand?

I love Organic Gemini flouralthough this brand claims to have eliminated the grittiness.

As I see it, those are the 8 most important Primal-friendly flours. They cover a wide range of applications, from baking to cooking to prebiotic supplementation to sauce thickening and Nutella making. You don’t have to get them all, or even any.

But it’s nice to have something laying around when it’s 7 A.M. on a Saturday and boy wouldn’t a stack of pancakes be great?

Now let’s hear from you. Got a favorite flour that didn’t make the list? Let me know! Got any questions about these or other flours? Shoot. 

Thanks for reading, all. Take care.

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TAGS:  gluten, nuts/seeds

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56 Comments on "8 Primal-Friendly Flours"

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paleofam321
paleofam321
2 months 28 days ago

Anyone else get all kinds of groggy from Cassava Flour or Tapioca Starch? They seem to be all the rage in paleo recipes these days, and I may as well drink six beers for the way they make me feel.

Nannsi
Nannsi
2 months 28 days ago

There is cross-reactivity between latex and tapioca. Are you latex allergic? I am, and anything with tapioca starch does NOT agree with me. For me, a pass on the cassava flour is in order.

Liver King
2 months 28 days ago

Maybe they weren’t prepared properly. “Cassava roots contain the toxic compound linamarin, which converts to hydrogen cyanide. Improper cooking of cassava root is associated with cyanide poisoning, which can cause symptoms of vomiting, nausea, dizziness….” – Mercola.com

Another MDA reader pointed out the dangers of cyanide from my sprouted sorghum… turns out, cassava has some issues too if not prepared properly.

Brandi
2 months 9 days ago

I get super digestively I’ll from it. And I’ve tried in mannnnny ways (I am not latex allergic). No can do

Bryan
Bryan
2 months 28 days ago

What about plantain flour?

Jack
Jack
2 months 28 days ago

Almond flour and coconut flour are in every grocery store I go to. A few years ago they were nowhere, and the prices are getting better.

Laura
Laura
2 months 28 days ago

I have always had almond and coconut flour on hand for paleo baking on special occasions, and for breading meat. I also like arrowroot starch. I have never used any of the other flours mentioned here. Anyone else use arrowroot? It makes baked goods lighter and fluffier, and is a wonderful thickener for gravies and sauces.

Jack
Jack
2 months 28 days ago

I use it to. 2 parts almond flour, 2 parts coconut flour and 1 part arrowroot is my formula. Like you say it makes it lighter. It’s described as a thickener, used instead of corn meal. And it apparently grows on the sea shore so absorbs a lot of minerals

Anne
Anne
2 months 9 days ago

I use arrowroot flour when I want to thicken my casseroles etc. also if I want to make something like shortbread I substitute some with arrowroot flour to make the mixture a bit lighter. If I’m making ice-cream I’ll use a little in my custard mix so the ice cream doesn’t set too hard in the freezer. Having said all that, these “treats” are treated as that – occasional treats, otherwise I’d be putting on weight!

barry
barry
2 months 28 days ago

I’m going to level with ya, I don’t use many flours. For one I’m a horrible baker, but two I also saw a podcast of Chris Kresser explaining why a-cellular carbohydrates cause weight gain a lot quicker then cellular carbohydrates. Flours are a form of a-cellular carbohydrates.

Dan
Dan
2 months 27 days ago

^^^This. Flour of any kind should NOT be a regular part of your diet.

Zoltan
Zoltan
2 months 25 days ago

I second that.

lynn
lynn
28 days 21 hours ago

this is great info. while baked goods in general are a thing of the past, special occasion recipe options are great. my husband will appreciate a way to have a black berry pie for his birthday, as has been the tradition for years.

Shary
Shary
2 months 28 days ago

Good information for those who are interested. That said, I’m glad you included a disclaimer of sorts as your first sentence. I’ve never been a fan of substitute foods. I’ve found them all to be seriously lacking in both flavor and texture and not worth bothering with. Also, for me at least, the whole idea of Paleo is to eat closer to nature. That means a committed switch to healthful, UNprocessed foods like whole fruit and vegetables, not a continuation of “business as usual” foods that are simply made with different ingredients.

Katie
2 months 27 days ago

I agree, Shary. I have seen people derail their progress by going overboard with paleo “treats”. I’ve found that when I have had the occasional paleo/primal approved baked goodie I end up wanting MORE (like the old days, when I couldn’t stop myself with sugary snacks).

Zoltan
Zoltan
2 months 25 days ago

I agree.

OnThe Bayou
OnThe Bayou
2 months 28 days ago

You can get much cheaper potato starch at Asian food markets. Where I used to live, it was made here in the USA.

Alisa
2 months 28 days ago

Coffee flour does make a nice addition to homemade protein bars and such, lending that roasted fruit flavor you’d mentioned (kind of similar to Chinese red dates/ jujubes). I like using mesquite flour in a similar way, due to its mild sweetness and high fiber content. The latter also goes well with cinnamon, which I’d used most recently to flavor homemade chocolate.

Jon
Jon
2 months 28 days ago

Anyone know which of these will make the best roux?

Ruth
Ruth
2 months 28 days ago

I would definitely go with the potato starch.

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
2 months 28 days ago

If I had to guess, I’d say potato flour. But I’ve never tried it without regular wheat flour. The others don’t seem like they’d be starchy enough.

Dan
Dan
2 months 28 days ago

White rice flour

Rueben
Rueben
2 months 27 days ago

That’s my question as well. I have found that rice flour added into your trinity is sort of workable. The color is never going to be right . . . but texture is pretty good. I’ve never measured, just added a bit over the course of the cooking time until the thickness is where I need it to be. You’ll need to rely on the browning of your meat and trinity for the flavor though. I’ve never actually tried cooking it in the traditional way.

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons
2 months 28 days ago

I save paleo-primal flours for extremely rare occasions – they make me feel overly full and sluggish. And, anyway, I prefer eggs to paleo pancakes.

That said, my husband is ALL about paleo pancakes. This will be a great post to share with him and my clients, who often ask about alternative flours. Thank you!

Devin Nordson
Devin Nordson
2 months 26 days ago

Our household recipe for paleo pancakes is equal numbers of eggs and bananas– no flours needed. 🙂

Nicole
2 months 28 days ago

I have some of the green banana flour but am not really sure what to do with it since baking would eliminate the resistant starch benefit. I enjoy using the flours from Anti-Grain: apple flour, sweet potato flour, and squash flour are good, but my favorite is their pumpkin flour.

Zoltan
Zoltan
2 months 25 days ago

Do you mean pumpkin seed flour? The green stuff?

Darko
Darko
2 months 27 days ago

It is like: don’t take heroin, methadone is better for you. Don’t change ingredients – change habits. It is harder but in a long run not using anything is better then methadone.

2Rae
2Rae
2 months 27 days ago

Good illustration! Heroin and methadone both kill people, it’s just picking one poison over another.

Zoltan
Zoltan
2 months 25 days ago

Yeah, excellent analogy.

Frans
2 months 27 days ago

I use cocoa powder as flour. Want a pancake? Eggs + milk + cocoa powder = chocolate pancake. You can add some fruit, yogurt, nuts and whatever else you might like if desired.

Coccinelle
Coccinelle
2 months 27 days ago

That’s really interesting! Thanks for sharing!

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
2 months 27 days ago

I’m not a Flour Child but interesting and informative article none-the-less. 🙂

Julia
Julia
2 months 27 days ago
I had contacted Bob’s Red Mill Co several months ago. They said their potato starch had no resistant starch. I went back to Chris Kresser’s (I think) article. He replied that he was puzzled because others have had the starch tested in a lab and that there was definitely resistant starch in it. Others chimed in with agreement, and expressed puzzlement as to why they’d give that disclaimer. Here’s a link to my comment: https://chriskresser.com/how-resistant-starch-will-help-to-make-you-healthier-and-thinner/#comment-597697 In the meantime, I had switched to green banana flour for my protein smoothies, but have since gone back to Bobs Red Mill.
Grant
2 months 27 days ago

Don’t eat much flour but when I do I just go for the real thing and enjoy it. Certainly, haven’t tried all of these listed but I find must of them lacking in terms of flavor and texture.

Ross
Ross
2 months 27 days ago

Sane comment. If you need a teaspoon to thicken a stew, just use it. If you want to bread some chicken or fish, go for it.

I made some scones a few weeks ago. Flour, butter, milk. Delicious. Probably won’t have them again for six months. Sometimes you’ve just got to relax.

Shary
Shary
2 months 27 days ago

My sentiments exactly. I don’t bread meat or thicken stew and seldom eat foods made with flour, but I prefer the real thing when I do. I consider this part of the 80/20 rule.

Linda Sand
Linda Sand
2 months 27 days ago

I’ve never been a fan of alternate flour baking. But, in an attempt to get more vegetables into our vegetable resistant family our daughter started baking muffins with almond and/or coconut flour. Our favorites are the chocolate zucchini ones and the carrot cake ones. We are allowed a maximum of one per day to keep us from pigging out on these treats.

Seth Carnett
2 months 27 days ago

These other types of flowers are excellent when you’re on a ketogenic diet like I am. If there is on lifestyle advice I can give other men out there it’s to try the ketogenic diet. It really improved my life a lot! It also gave me room to learn how to be more confident because I wasn’t fluctuating in insulin all the time and now I’m less fidgety!

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 months 27 days ago
My take: 1) Cassava isn’t recommended to those with Hashimoto. 2) The claim that tiger nuts (tubers) composed 80% of the diet of an early species of hominid (Paranthropus boisei. P. boisei) is also challenged. They did eat them but 80% included many other nuts. Could you look into it further? Side note – they are also really bad for your teeth when eaten raw, based on anthropological findings. I just saw at the store a tiger nut and almond spread, but will stick to my home made almond and coconut butter, mixed with cacao and a dash of red… Read more »
Ion Freeman
2 months 27 days ago

Wait! Didn’t we get an ancestral health update saying legumes were cool, now? It’s in the link,

Eugenia
2 months 27 days ago

I’d suggest against cassava/tapioca. We don’t know if the cyanide was removed before these products were packed and sold. I was also very unhappy to see the Primal salad dressings I bought from Mark’s shop contained tapioca.

I personally just use a bit of almond flour, here and there, that’s it.

Saga
Saga
2 months 27 days ago

You have mentioned a few times that hazelnuts and hazelnut flour don’t receive much attention in USA.
I am puzzled as to why. In my country “nut” refers to hazelnuts, it is the nut everyone likes, and I suspect it is the most commonly used nut (that and, almonds).
I wonder if you don’t eat it as much because it isn’t that sweet? Or because it is a nut from a temperate climate (but you have that too).
Curious.

Coccinelle
Coccinelle
2 months 27 days ago

In my experience, flour is always more expensive than buying the real thing. So if you already have a food processor, why would you use hazelnut flour instead of whole hazelnuts to make homemade Nutella?

Allene Lowrey
2 months 26 days ago

I don’t use almond flour very often, but what I will do (mostly for breading meat or making okonomiyaki) is put some sesame seeds through my spice grinder and use sesame flour. Raw and toasted give a very different flavor, and they seem to generally work in the same places almond flour will. Other than that, I keep arrowroot starch (spendy, but doesn’t have the weird flavor we got off of tapioca starch) and Trader Joe’s coconut flour around for the occasional treat.

Pan Saitanis
Pan Saitanis
2 months 26 days ago

Hi there. Here in Greece, especially in the southern island of Crete, we often use Carob flour. For cakes it is pretty hard to use it on its own so adding almond or coconut flour works fine but you can easily make bars or cookies along with honey and seeds.

Richie
Richie
2 months 26 days ago

I use Arrowroot powder as a thickener in the rare occasions I make a gravy or soup or whatever. It works really well. NOT a fan of almond flour.

GeorgeCat
GeorgeCat
2 months 26 days ago
I’m glad you mentioned the possibility of digestive issues with the Potato Starch. Even doing as you suggested, and slowly introducing it into my diet, along with the Green Banana Flour (in a misguided attempt to increase my resistant starch per the fad that hit the ancestral health community a few years back), I ended up with seriously bad SIBO. It was a long road back from that, and I am mostly fine now, but I think for many people, resistant starch is better consumed in naturally-occuring amounts in real, whole foods (including a small serving of pre-soaked and cooked… Read more »
Zoltan
Zoltan
2 months 25 days ago

The best resistant starch is RS3 – the one that forms after the cooking-and-cooling of starchy foods, particularly high-amylose foods. Raw resistant starch – mostly RS2 – as found in raw potato starch, raw/green banana flour etc. is actually quite bad for your digestive tract if eaten in excess, as you found out the hard way.

Zoltan
Zoltan
2 months 25 days ago
“While I don’t recommend making Primalized versions of grain-based foods a staple, the fact remains that people love them. They’re going to want them. There’s not much you can do about that.” Well, I’ve pretty much managed to stay away from baked goods. Sure we have made a few coconut flour muffins and other similar stuff, but not a lot. Milling anything into flour and defatting it is pretty high-level processing, and flour-based foods will always be highly processed foods, even if you make them in your own kitchen. They are not whole foods by anyone’s standards. But yeah, they… Read more »
Angie
2 months 22 days ago

Chestnut flour is great – one of our hands-down favorite cookie recipes is Chestnut, Choc Chunk and Hazelnut. The texture is fabulous. As for Cassava Flour, I’m a huge fan for it’s versatility. We buy it from Asia/Africa supermarkets – it might not be as pure and organic as other brands on the market, but you can pick up a one kilo bag for a fraction of the price.

framistat
framistat
2 months 9 days ago

One thing not mentioned: some of these flours should be stored in the fridge or freezer, eg almond flour.

Brandi
2 months 9 days ago

I often use apple flour, butternut squash and sweet potato flour from Anti-Grain Foods. I mix it with coconut and fluffy texture. I can’t do cassava – it makes me so bloated and ill – so this s a great sub.

Kalima
Kalima
2 months 3 days ago

I’m excited to try cooking with cassava flour today. I’ll post a recipe if it turns out well.
Side note: You can get cassava flour for way cheaper than the one suggested above. It is a staple in some African cultures, so try an African or Caribbean market. My local market carries goods from all over the world, and I got a 2lb bag for $2.99.

Yasmin
Yasmin
2 months 21 hours ago

Anyone from Brazil here? I’m brazilian and love everything made from cassava. We have many different types of cassava flours here, and I’m not quite sure which one corresponds to what you call cassava flour. Would it be “farinha de raspa de mandioca? Farinha de crueira?

TangibleSky
TangibleSky
1 month 16 hours ago

As someone who is just starting out on following the primal blueprint, I think I’ll stay away from flour for now. It reminds me of “vegan chicken,” when a person is trying to recreate a way of eating that they left behind. At this point, I think I need to go “cold turkey” off of pancakes and such.

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