Substituting coconut flour in recipes can be tricky! Learn how to bake with coconut flour and make the right coconut flour substitutions so you can make awesome coconut flour breads, coconut flour pancakes, and more!
This one is really a “how NOT to” post, which is of utmost importance when it comes to baking with coconut flour, my favorite grain-free flour to recommend as we explore elimination diet meal plans.
The NOT starts with a great foodie story: A real food success, followed by a sad, sad failure.
Some friends visited our house a while back and I served the family one of our favorite breakfasts, grain-free pumpkin pancakes. That recipe is so versatile that it works out great with whole wheat flour, sourdough, any gluten-free flour you want and even almond flour and coconut flour. I made it grain-free that day.
My friend reflected on breakfast later in the day, saying, “I usually eat so many pancakes that I feel awful afterward, and it’s really like I just can’t stop. That didn’t happen with the pancakes this morning…it’s not that they weren’t delicious, but maybe that I had more willpower.”
We discussed how that might lend some credence to reports of wheat (and sugar for that matter) having an addictive quality, and she wondered if she should experiment with a gluten-free or grain-free diet.
When they left to return home, I pushed a bag of coconut flour from my storage into her hands, telling her that it would be the easiest way to try a few grain-free recipes – like those pancakes.
An unfortunate number of days later when I finally got around to sending her some links to great grain-free recipes with coconut flour, she told me the sad ending: She had attempted to simply use coconut flour in an old favorite pancake recipe – regular, wheat-flour-based pancakes.
The four cups of flour that recipe required was nearly the entire bag of coconut flour, and if you know the price of a bag of coconut flour, you’ll know why I had to continue to remind myself that givers are no longer in charge of their gifts, that my generosity was not wasted in the eyes of God…but it sure felt that way!
Can I Substitute Coconut Flour for Wheat Flour?
No, no, no, my friend.
Coconut flour to wheat flour is NOT a one-to-one ratio.
This is very important to remember.
Coconut flour is incredibly absorbent, and most recipes using it have a very large number of eggs and a very small overall quantity of flour. Those who need to avoid eggs can rarely utilize coconut flour. See below for a few techniques to replace the eggs in coconut flour recipes.
Revamping an all-purpose flour or whole wheat recipe to use coconut flour is, I understand, possible. I’ve never been brave enough to try it!
In Baking with Coconut Flour, Starlene Stewart says to use 1/4 cup coconut flour for each full cup wheat flour and then add some eggs as well. The total number of eggs in the recipe should equal one egg for every ounce of coconut flour used. (If there are 2 eggs in the original recipe, those are for the first two ounces coconut flour.)
Starlene has many more tutorials and tips about how to measure the flour, other compensations to make when revamping recipes, and even some great ideas for saving failed experiments so you don’t have to waste expensive ingredients. In my friend’s case, her coconut-flour-laden pancake batter was so thick you could hardly get the spoon to move through it.
She saved it and still made pancakes by adding a lot of water and some conventional white flour pancake mix (insert collective groan here). I’m guessing Starlene would have had some different advice.
So in my book, if you want to bake with coconut flour, stick with a recipe that has already been created with coconut flour, rather than messing around trying to recreate a favorite recipe (which is basically starting over anyway!).
If you do want to try to adapt an old favorite recipe to be grain-free, try starting with a muffin or quick bread, since they really are the most forgiving, as I learned when I nailed the gluten-free pumpkin muffins. Make a half batch, and if they come out too dry, you know you had too much flour, too moist, and you need to add some or pack it more tightly in the cup.
You could also try almond flour for grain-free remakes, as it may sub 1:1 quite nicely for wheat flour. I’m going to try one of my old favorites, apple squares, with almond flour this week and hope to have a success story and recipe revision soon. It’s on the to do list (okay, twist my arm, it was actually on yesterday’s to-do list, but I’ll keep trying to get to it!). UPDATE: It took cutting the fat completely in half, but I nailed it! Recipe in The Healthy Breakfast Book.
I think that with coconut flour, it’s best on the whole to just follow an established recipe like this easy coconut flour muffin recipe.
Can I Substitute Wheat Flour for Coconut Flour?
I know it’s so easy to see a recipe on Pinterest that looks amazing and just WISH you could make it with what you have on hand.
But my friend…it’s just not worth it.
If you find a yummy recipe that uses coconut flour as its main flour, be patient until you get a bag delivered. Don’t bother trying to reverse engineer it to use white flour or whole wheat flour, because the chances you end up with a disaster are too great.
If you only have wheat flour, look for an equally delicious-looking recipe that doesn’t need any substitutions! There will be plenty.
Do not, I repeat, do not simply try to replace coconut flour with wheat flour (or gluten-free). Because coconut flour is so very absorbent, you’ll end up with a batter when you wanted a dough, and soup when you’re shooting for batter. Cookies will be pancakes leaving much to be desired and bread a grainy pudding — if you’re lucky.
There is no 1-to-1 substitute either direction for wheat flour and coconut flour. It takes a lot of math and ingredient substituting!
Just follow the directions, ok? 😉
Even so, you probably still have some questions about coconut flour if you’re a rookie, and not all recipes make things braindead simple. Here are the best tips and Q&A on baking with coconut flour!
Should Coconut Flour be Packed?
If you’re following a well-written recipe with coconut flour, the recipe should note “packed” or not. Starlene defaults to packed, so that is the most correct option, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows that!
If the recipe doesn’t note “packed”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the recipe author allowed their flour to “fall like snow” as we teach in our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse with grain-based flours.
Because you can usually add a bit more flour at the end, which is easier than taking it out or figuring out how to add more liquid (1/8 of an egg isn’t easy!), I would err on the side of not packing the flour, but be very intentional about examining your batter before cooking/baking and consider adding a bit more.
If you alter a recipe, be sure to make notes on it for the next time for yourself!
One technique that IS really important with some brands of coconut flour is to get the chunks out before measuring.
The more smooth and fine the coconut flour is, the more it will tend to clump up, and those clumps do NOT come out automatically in your batter. Best to take a minute and pinch the clumps with your fingers, toss your flour in a blender for a few seconds, or mash it about with a fork.
Does Coconut Flour Taste Like Coconut?
Coconut flour is made from…coconuts.
It’s literally dried coconut, pulverized.
That means it does taste a little like coconut, so whether you can taste it in the finished product or not really depends on a few things:
- what percentage of your recipe the coconut flour entails
- what other flavors there are in the recipe
- whether YOU like coconut or not – sensitive palates will notice it a lot more!
For example, in my pumpkin pancakes, the pumpkin pie spices override any hint of coconut, but in grain-free crepes, which are just eggs and a little bit of coconut flour, they taste slightly of coconut even though the percentage is small.
How to Store Coconut Flour Properly
Coconut flour is defatted, so it does not have to be stored in the freezer but will dry out as it ages on the shelf (changing the texture of your baked goods slightly).
Once your bag of coconut flour is opened, keep everything airtight.
I recommend putting any flour in a container, both to keep it safe from the dreaded pantry moths and to make it easier to access.
Save money by repurposing large jars like those nuts come in at Christmastime, Costco-sized nut or candy containers with screw-top lids, or plastic tubs like protein powder comes in.
For leftovers, seal up the bag as you would any other open food (I just use rubber bands).
Coconut flour will last quite a long time, so it’s a decent idea to keep a little extra around as part of your emergency food storage efforts.
How Coconut Flour Works: Thickening, Tenderness
Once you’ve used coconut flour a few times in different recipes, you’ll start to get an idea how well it absorbs and how the batter should probably look at the end.
Just remember that coconut flour is SO much thicker than regular wheat (or gluten-free) flours, so recipes will look very different from what you’re used to.
I haven’t found it to be great for thickening gravies or sauces, although it does very well for rolling out things like grain-free tortillas as long as you don’t mind tasting the coconut flavor in the finished product.
If you need just a little bit of tenderness in a grain-free baked good like biscuits or tortillas, try adding a tablespoon at a time of coconut flour and it will often help (as long as there’s enough liquid to absorb).
I learned that different brands really are quite different in their behavior!
Why are Coconut Flour Baked Goods so Gritty?
When folks first switch to coconut flour baking, I do hear complaints often that the resulting products, especially muffins and pancakes, are “gritty.”
When I tested 3 brands of coconut flour, it was easy to see and feel right away how different the texture can be.
Each of the 3 acted incredibly differently once mixed with eggs in a muffin recipe, and the resulting muffins had an obvious taste/texture variation.
You can see in photo and video in that post what I tested and how they’re different, and my best hunch on the “coconut flour gritty” issue is that you need a new brand.
To save the (expensive) gritty coconut flour you have, you can try blending it up, preferably in a high-speed blender, and that should help at least a little bit.
Can I Substitute Anything for the Eggs in Coconut Flour Baked Goods?
Coconut flour baking is really all about the eggs. If you have to try an elimination diet and also avoid eggs for a time, or if someone you’re trying to serve is egg allergic (like my youngest was for 3 years), coconut flour recipes become land mines.
The eggs play such a pivotal role with all that moisture and binding that it’s hard to imagine making the recipe without them.
When I’ve experimented with getting rid of the eggs in coconut flour baked goods, it never went well. I would NOT recommend trying the flax or chia egg substitute, as it tended to make a nice pudding rather than muffins or bars for me.
Note: Divona shared a tip on making seed-eggs work in the comments. It takes some time to rest, but it might be worth it! I’ll let you read it in her own words right here.
Helpful members of the KS community said that sometimes it’s worth trying:
- cream cheese
- mashed banana
If eggs seem to be the “main event” like they often are in coconut flour based muffins or pancakes, it’s going to be risky to attempt. If coconut flour is part of a medley with almond flour, arrowroot starch, or other thickening agents, and there are liquids other than egg in sufficient quantities, it may be worth a try!
Recipes for grain-free/keto tortillas, breaded meat/fish/veggies, and cookies will be more likely to use coconut flour but not eggs, so that you can search for some to try that someone else has perfected. I know it’s not always fun to experiment with your ingredients!
RELATED: My pizza keto tortilla recipe uses coconut flour and no eggs
Here are a few bloggers who have figured out egg-free coconut flour recipes:
- Egg-free Paleo Cake with coconut flour
- 3-Ingredient Egg-Free Coconut Flour Cookies
- No-Egg Coconut Flour Bread
Full disclosure that I haven’t tried those recipes, but they are proof that someone has achieved grain-free, egg-free baking with coconut flour! You will have good luck searching for coconut flour recipes without eggs by including the term AIP since that diet omits both grains and eggs.
On the other hand, you can also find tutorials like this one for vegan coconut flour baking which I’m pretty sure someone wrote without ever trying a single coconut flour vegan recipe. The author uses exactly the egg-free baking recommendations that anyone would use for normal, gluten-full flour, and she doesn’t share any examples of successes or failures on particular types of recipes.
I guarantee the flax-egg replacement won’t work in all cases, so stick with real people who are writing for real people, not hired writers trying to get Google searches.
Is Coconut Flour Safe to Eat Raw?
If you’re making a raw energy bite of some sort or a no-bake cookies, coconut flour is a great way to add a little thickener or binding. You won’t need much!
And no need to worry about any dangers of raw coconut flour. Since coconut flour is simply made from dehydrated coconut, it’s perfectly safe to eat raw.
Where to Buy Coconut Flour
We always advocate being a good steward with finances, so if you need or want to order online, check around and see who has the best prices and think about what else you need to reach various free shipping thresholds. 😉
- You can get Coconut Secret brand from Amazon
- Of course there’s always other brands at Amazon!
- One of my favorites is Wildly Organic
My Coconut Flour Recipes
- Cherry Almond coconut crepes
- Grain-free banana pancakes
- Grain-free pumpkin pancakes
- Coconut flour muffins – choose your own flavor!
- Super-Moist Blueberry Pancakes
- Other coconut flour and all my grain-free recipes, updated regularly
- Cheesy Biscuits in Better Than a Box
Other Advice on Baking with Coconut Flour
Plenty of other bloggers have weighed in on the subject before:
- Basic primer for baking with coconut flour
- Lots of revamping regular flour recipe advice and tons of tested recipes
- Great tips plus the nutritional benefits of coconut flour
- How to make coconut flour at home