As you might recall from our pie  and cracker  recipes, and Son of Grok’s pizza  recipe we like to use almond flour or almond meal as a foundation for Primal baking. It has a similar consistency to traditional flours (albeit denser and heavier), forms good batter with eggs and other fats, and it gives whatever you’re making a nice nutty quality. Almond meal is also fairly taste-neutral; it has a distinct nutty taste that coincidentally works well with many food combinations. So just what is almond meal (or almond flour, for that matter)?
Almond meal is just ground up almonds, usually with the skin still on. Almond flour is ground up blanched (skin off) almonds. The two can basically be used interchangeably. I can’t really notice a difference, but try both to see which works best for you. Personally, I like to use the meal, but not because of any qualitative deductions on my part: my local Trader Joe’s sells almond meal at a great price.
Because it’s just almonds, almond meal has the same nutritional profile  as its nutty forebear: high in protein, manganese, potassium, copper, and vitamin E, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. Going by volume, though, a quarter cup of almond meal contains 15g fat (1g saturated), 5g carbs (3g fiber, 1g sugar), and 7g protein. Hearty stuff indeed.
Most high end or specialty grocery stores (like the aforementioned Trader Joe’s, or Whole Foods, or any similar establishment) should carry almond meal. Trader Joe’s should sell it for $3.29 a pound, or something close to that. You can expect to pay way more at Whole Foods, of course.
If you can’t find the stuff prepared, you can always make your own. Just toss a bunch of almonds in your food processor and use the pulse function to turn them into meal. Be careful you don’t process them too much (unless you want fresh almond butter). Store your homemade almond meal (and really, even store bought meal) in an airtight container in the fridge, for the short term; if you’re going to keep it longer than a few weeks, move it into the freezer. Otherwise, it may turn rancid.
Okay – now what?
Well, with the holiday season in full tilt and baked goods changing hands like herpes, I thought it might help to provide some alternative holiday recipes prominently featuring almond meal. You know, so when your office mates are gorging themselves on brownies and sugar cookies at the Christmas party, you can join in too (or even surreptitiously sneak in some Primal treats to see if they notice, or care about, any difference – report back to us if you do!).
If there’s one thing almost every neo-Primalist misses, it’s a heaping stack of pancakes on a cold winter weekend morning. This recipe will sate those deep-seated cravings and make you forget about your extended tryst with Mrs. Buttersworth (as sweet and sinful as it may have been).
1 cup almond meal
3 large eggs
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Mix it all together until a batter forms. Pour the batter onto a buttered or greased skillet. Cook over medium heat until both sides are golden brown. Drizzle raw honey or just eat it plain. For kicks, add some blueberries or bananas to the batter.
One word of caution on this recipe: I would suggest keeping the size of these almond pancakes on the small side. Larger pancakes have a tough time sticking together.
FitDay breaks the whole batch down thusly (without any honey or added berries);
Fat: 65.4 g
Carbs: 20.1 g (11.2 g fiber)
Protein: 42.1 g
Dense, delicate, and delicious, these almond cookies come highly recommended.
1 1/4 cup almond meal
1 cup maple flakes
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir together almond meal, baking soda and maple flakes, then blend in the butter, egg, and vanilla. Refrigerate dough for half an hour. Spoon out one-inch balls onto a greased or non-stick cookie sheet and flatten with a fork. Bake for eight minutes or until set. Be careful not to let your cookies brown, because that means they’re too well done. Allow them to cool for 2 minutes on the sheet before moving them.
Fat: 112.6 g
Carbs: 123.9 g (14 g fiber)
Protein: 33 g
Depending on how many cookies you get out of this batch, some simple division will net you the per-cookie facts.
Almond meal can also be used in pretty much any recipe as a substitute for traditional grain flours. You can thicken sauces or make tempura batter with it. The possibilities are myriad. Of course, you’ll have to experiment, as pound-for-pound almond meal is a lot denser than traditional flours, and it has different textural properties and flavors. Just as we’ve all grown to love the Primal way, not just for the health benefits, but also for the delicious and satisfying food on the menu, almond flour shouldn’t be seen as a replacement or a stopgap or a cheap imitation; we should regard almond flour as a unique and useful ally in the kitchen.
Let us know if you come up with any great recipes – holiday or otherwise – using almond meal!