Rice flour and almond flour are both great options if you want to make gluten-free dishes. However, you will need to take their very different characteristics into account if you need to choose between them. The SPICEography Showdown below will compare these two popular alternative flours.
How does rice flour differ from almond flour?
The most obvious difference is that these flours come from very different sources. Rice flour comes from a grain; almond flour comes from a nut. The result is that these flours have very different characteristics and must be treated very differently when used for cooking, baking, and frying.
The flavor of rice flour is very different from that of almond flour. White rice flour has a neutral taste with a very slight nuttiness in baked goods. Brown rice flour is more flavorful with a noticeably stronger nutty flavor because of its germ and bran layer. Almond flour is the nuttiest of the three with a distinctive toasted almond flavor when it is baked.
Because rice flour is starchy, it absorbs liquid. Almond flour is a nut flour, which means that it is oily and, therefore, not very absorbent.
Nutritionally speaking, both versions of rice flour are quite different from almond flour. Rice flour will come with a much higher calorie load than almond flour. Each serving contains more than twice the amount of calories than the same serving of almond flour. White and brown rice flours contain significantly higher amounts of most essential nutrients per serving than almond flour. You will get more B vitamins and minerals like magnesium and iron than you will from almond flour.
Rice flour is carbohydrate-rich; almond flour is a low carbohydrate flour. The difference is important for people diabetics and others who might be trying to cut their carb intake. The starchiness also gives rice flour an elasticity that you won’t get from almond flour.
Can you use rice flour as a substitute for almond flour and vice versa?
Rice flour can work as a 1:1 substitute for almond flour in a few limited instances, such as when used in the coating for certain fried or baked items. Almond flour can be used to replace rice flour too.
Even so, the differences in flavor will be immediately apparent but not necessarily negative. Besides being useful for breading, they can still work as substitutes for each other, but you may need to make adjustments. The absorbency and elasticity of rice flour will significantly affect how it performs in recipes that call for almond flour while the lack of those properties will affect how almond flour performs in rice flour recipes. The flavor will also be an issue since the mildness of white rice flour will make almond flour recipes bland, while the relatively strong taste of almond flour may throw off the flavor profiles of recipes that call for rice flour.
When should you use rice flour, and when should you use almond flour?
Rice flour works best for noodles, cakes, and any recipe where you want a lighter and softer texture. It also makes an excellent thickener for stews, soups, and sauces. When white rice flour is used as a thickener, it will not affect the flavor profile or color of the dish.
Almond flour is better when used for applications that benefit from a dense texture. Use it in scones, pie crusts, and cookies.