Almond flour is a popular nut flour that is best known as a white flour substitute. Both flours play similar roles in recipes though they are quite different in terms of nutritional content. They are also different with regard to the results that they deliver. If you are trying to decide which one is right for a particular dish, take a look at the SPICEography Showdown comparison below.
How does almond flour differ from white flour?
Almond flour’s best-known attribute is that it is gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in some grain flours and is particularly high in wheat flour. Gluten is what makes dough made with wheat flour stretchy thus enabling it to rise. It is the source of the chewy texture in wheat bread. The softer and chewier the bread, the more refined the flour used to make it and the more gluten it is likely to contain. Bread flour is used because it has a particularly high gluten content. Almond flour lacks gluten and therefore is unable to deliver the same texture that you would get from wheat flour. Unfortunately, consuming gluten can cause symptoms in people who have celiac disease or who are otherwise gluten-intolerant.
Another key difference is the fact that almond flour is rich in fiber; white wheat flour is notoriously lacking in fiber. White flour is white because it has undergone processing that has removed many of its ingredients, including its fiber. Among other things, the removal of its fiber means that it gets digested much faster than flours with more fiber. The result is that it has a greater impact on blood sugar and a high glycemic index.
Almond flour retains many of its nutrients, which include vitamin E along with iron and calcium. White flour has been processed to remove the natural nutrients found in wheat. It has been enriched by adding nutrients back, but many of those nutrients may not be bioavailable. Almond flour has never had its nutrients stripped from it and thus there is no need to enrich it.
Can you use almond flour in place of white flour and vice versa?
The fact that almond flour lacks gluten keeps it from being a perfect white flour substitute. It will not provide the best results if you use it in applications like pizza or bread dough. On the other hand, it may work as a decent white flour substitute in cookies and pie crusts. When you use almond flour in place of some or all the white flour in baked goods, it will usually result in something that is denser and dryer. Note that nut flours can brown more quickly than grain flours, so you may need to shorten your baking time or lower the temperature.
When using white flour in place of almond flour, you will need to bake it at a higher temperature. You may also need to bake it for a longer time if you want it to brown properly without drying out.
When should you use almond flour and when should you use white flour?
Almond flour is best if you are looking for a flour without gluten and which contains higher levels of certain important nutrients. In other words, it is a great option if you are gluten intolerant or trying to get more nutrients from your food. You should use almond flour in preparations where the absence of gluten will not have a dramatic effect on the outcome. It does particularly well in pie crusts and as the breading on certain fried foods. White flour’s main benefit is texture and appearance. Use white flour when you want a white, elastic dough that produces bread that is soft and chewy.