Most everyone is familiar with coconut milk, coconut water, coconut oil, and tasty coconut flakes that have limitless potential. But as grain-free diets continue to grow in popularity, we’re seeing an increase in interest in coconut flour.
Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat and is actually a byproduct of coconut milk production. The meat (or pulp) leftover after the coconut milk has been pressed out of it is dried at a low temperature and then ground, producing the soft powder we know as coconut flour. And since it’s literally just dried coconut, coconut flour offers many of the same health benefits as fresh coconut.
Coconut Flour Nutrition Breakdown
Compared to most flours, coconut flour is fairly dense in nutrients – it’s high in fiber, healthy fats, and protein, and low in sugar and calories. A quarter cup of coconut flour contains about 10 grams of fiber, 4 grams each of fat and protein, and about 16 grams of carbs. In contrast, the same amount of all-purpose white flour contains less than a gram each of fiber and fat, and about 23 grams of carbs.
Coconut flour is also a good source of several micronutrients, including manganese, iron, and copper. Manganese is particularly important as it is a powerful antioxidant, supports bone health, and plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol.
Properties of Coconut Flour
Though it’s made entirely from coconut meat, coconut flour is relatively free of any strong coconut taste or scent. This means that even people who dislike coconut probably won’t mind eating meals or baked goods that contain it.
Coconut flour is incredibly soft and extremely absorbent. For this reason, it’s not a flour that can be substituted 1:1 for other types of flours in recipes and it tends to make baked goods somewhat dry and heavy. You can counteract this by increasing the amount of eggs, which add structure and moisture.
Finally, it’s not uncommon for coconut flour to be a bit gritty. It’s good practice to give it a good sifting before you use it, which will keep it soft and fluffy in your recipe.
How to Use Coconut Flour
As noted above, the properties of coconut flour mean that it can’t be used as a straight substitution for all-purpose flour – or any other kind of flour – in recipes. Here’s how it can be used:
In baked goods. In some recipes you can substitute up to ¼ cup of coconut flour for a cup of all-purpose, but you’ll need to add an extra egg. You may also need to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe, and it’s likely that the texture will change. When baking, it’s best to stick with recipes that were developed specifically for coconut flour. You’ll find that most of them combine coconut with other types of flour – often almond and arrowroot – to get the ideal texture.
As a thickener. You can use coconut flour as a gluten-free alternative to thicken soups and sauces, but be sure to sift it first to reduce any grittiness. Since coconut flour is so absorbent, start with ¼ of the amount of wheat flour the recipe calls for and add more if necessary.
As a breadcrumb substitute. Coconut flour works well in meatballs and meatloaves, and as a coating (for chicken, for example). If you’re adding the flour to something like meatballs, reduce the amount by half. For example, if a recipe calls for ¼ cup of almond flour or all-purpose flour, use about 2 tablespoons of coconut flour.