Monday Mission: Explore Grain-free Baking

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grain free cranberry nut muffins (8) (475x356)

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to try your hand at baking grain-free.

You may not need to eat grain-free and think this is a specialized mission that doesn’t apply to you, but I think it’s good for everyone to stretch their boundaries a bit and get out of their whole grain (or especially refined grain) comfort zone every so often.

Whether you think carbs are problematic or not, whether you are doing a food combining strategy where some meals need to be low-carb, or whether you just might have to make something for a diabetic dinner guest or a gluten-free classmate – it’s handy to have a low-carb baking recipe or two that fits the bill. Grain-free options are perfect for these and so many other reasons.

I firmly believe that overall, grain-free baking is easier than gluten-free baking because you generally need only one flour, so especially if you’re only baking without gluten (or grains) occasionally, you’ll want to have grain-free recipes that you know how to make.

What is Grain-Free Baking?

Grain free pizza (6) (475x317)

Grain-free baking would be mimicking bread products that most people make with wheat flour: muffins, tortillas, crepes, banana bread, biscuits, pie crusts, ETC., without using any grains at all. No rice flour, no cooked oatmeal, no sorghum or buckwheat or any other seed-based grains.

The most common two flours for grain-free baking are coconut flour and almond flour (in the muffins and pizza crust above, respectively), and you’ll sometimes see some starch, like arrowroot starch, thrown in on certain recipes.

Thrive Market is a great place to find these ingredients if you can’t get them at your local store. Especially if you are in a rural area or somewhere without access to Whole Foods or Costco, you might want to check them out. You get a 30-day free trial AND 15% off your first order. They carry both almond meal and coconut flour along with many other fun ingredients. You don’t want to miss out!

grain free almond apple pancakes (3) (475x356)

Some grain-free recipes use whole nuts or even legumes ground into the batter, such as these grain-free almond apple pancakes (above), brownies made with walnuts as the base from the cookbook Nourishing Meals (they’re amazing, truly) or the “looks like whole wheat” biscuits, also with walnuts, from Health Home and Happiness’s Grain-free menu plans (below), the black bean brownies found in my eBook, The Everything Beans Book, or these nifty cashew-based grain-free waffles that I’m adapting to include veggies for my Healthy Breakfast eBook.

looks like whole wheat grain-free biscuits made with walnuts (4) (475x356)

What’s the Easiest Rookie Baby Step?

I prefer coconut flour for staring out over almond flour for a few reasons (although both make great end products):

  • Although both are expensive, you use far less coconut flour per recipe, stretching one bag quite far. It feels more frugal to start out with.
  • Coconut flour can also work for nut-free individuals, plus sometimes I feel like we might eat too many nuts as snacks between basic trail mix and my grain-free granola, which is all nut based.

This week I’ll be sharing a little bit about how to bake with coconut flour, my favorite basic recipe for grain-free muffins, and a comparison of how a few different brands of coconut flour stacked up in my humble test kitchen. UPDATE: Here is also my review of various brands of almond flour.

Some Grain-free Resources

Here are a few favorite grain-free “baking” recipes at KS:

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe

Grain-Free Quinoa Bars

apple flax muffins (1) (500x375)

Grain-Free Apple Flax Muffins

Not too long ago, I shared a grain-free resources and recipes round-up, and you can find links to other resources like favorite websites, e-cookbooks, and more recipes to get your creative juices flowing. Click here to view, and scroll down for the resources.

I also shared a list of 10 bread-free sandwich alternatives that might help you think outside the whole grain box if you happen to have a visitor who needs to be low-carb, gluten-free, or grain-free (or if your life just radically changed because you need to change your own diet in one of those ways).

Once the breakfast book comes out, you could use one of these wild St. Patty’s Day inspired grain-free waffles to make a delicious ham sandwich:

Spinach Garlic Grain-free Waffles (27) (475x317)

And last night’s recipe, the Caramelized Banana-Apple Dessert Topping, fits nicely with grain-free recipes. It’s not exactly low-carb because of the fruit, but it IS made without any grains and without any added sweeteners, and would be a fantastic topping for the grain-free muffins or filling for the grain-free crepes.

Is Grain-free a Deprived Diet?

Would you be sad to have this offered at a party?

Grain free strawberry birthday cupcakes (8) (317x475)

That’s my daughter’s last birthday party cake presentation. Mmmmm…

Am I stretching the idea of grain-free “baking” a bit by including things that don’t go in the oven? Maybe. But if you asked average Jane real food cook to make pancakes without using any grains, she might look at you sideways. It’s not on the list of normal recipes people have on hand. Besides that, I heard from a creative (efficient!) reader that you can pour the grain-free pumpkin pancake batter out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and BAKE it to make one big, huge, fluffy, grain-free pancake. Here’s the instructions.

Are you willing to take the plunge? Try one of the nut-based recipes or order a bag of coconut flour (typically least expensive at Tropical Traditions, and they usually offer free shipping once a month. Follow me on Facebook and I always share when those weekends happen).

How has expanding your horizons in the kitchen changed the way you cook or serve people with dietary restrictions?

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Tropical Traditions, Thrive Market and Honeyville Grain from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.

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9 Bites of Conversation So Far

    • says

      Well, the muffins are much prettier in pictures, but the crepes are so easy – 6 eggs, 1 Tbs. coconut flour, pinch of salt. Whisk and cook! (Blend and allow to rest for 2 hours if you’re really serious about thin crepes.) That’s all there is to it! 😉 Katie

  1. says

    I eat grain-free, but I do use seeds that are not in the grass family (pseudocereals). Namely, buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. I’ll use bean flours as well. I’m deathly allergic to almonds, and almost all of the coconut flour recipes rely on eggs, so those two flours are out for me!

  2. AshleyB says

    Ironic timing: I’ve begun to explore the possibility of a grain allergy in the last two weeks! I’ve eliminated almost all refined sugars and gone completely grain-free (at least for the time being) and have been exploring a host of new recipes to help curb those cravings. I’m feeling *much* better, and am eager to find recipes to keep my palette excited :)

  3. Phoebe says

    i live in the mid-east and they have something here called desiccated coconut. any idea what that is? it doesn’t quite look like flour – bigger particles than that. if it could be substituted for coconut flour that would be great! it is very difficult to find healthy foods or any slightly obscure ingredients (like quinoa, flax meal, etc). thanks!

  4. Karen says

    “Am I stretching the idea of grain-free “baking” a bit by including things that don’t go in the oven?”

    Not according to Food Network. Back when they had their very basic cooking show “How to Boil Water,” they differentiated between cooking and baking not by whether it went into the oven or not but by the chemical reactions taking place. Although bakers can be and often are artists just like cooks are, there is a certain science to baking and there are certain ratios that must be maintained for the right chemical reactions to occur. They classified pancakes as baking on the show for that reason. :)

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