When I started eating lectin-free (and gluten-free) in August 2017, I was overwhelmed by the multitude of alternative flours available on the market. I didn’t even know what the most basic ones – almond and coconut – were and how to use them. That’s why I decided to put together this guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours.
Since I’ve started my own lectin-free journey, I’ve created hundreds of recipes using all the lectin-free, gluten-free flours below. I wanted to share everything learned in a quick guide: what are these flours, where to find them and how to use them.
I won’t get too much into nutritional info as that’s a whole another subject, and it would make this guide too long and difficult to follow.
ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: while all the lectin-free flours are also gluten-free (gluten is a lectin), most commonly known and used gluten-free flours and mixes are actually heavy in lectins, such as oat flour, potato flour, rice flour, quinoa or chickpea flour. Even almond meal, which contains the peels of almonds, is heavy in lectins.
If you avoid gluten because of celiac disease, you can eat any of the below flours provided they are labeled ‘gluten-free’. Unfortunately, cross-contamination is still an issue and gluten-free products have to be processed in a certified gluten-free facility.
All the below flours are on the PLANT PARADOX YES LIST and a few of them are keto-friendly, so can be used in the Plant Paradox Keto Intensive Program. For more details please read: The Plant Paradox, by Dr. Steven Gundry.
Types of lectin-free, gluten-free flours
Depending on the type of plant they are made from, lectin-free, gluten-free flours can be split into a few categories.
- The root flours: cassava, tapioca, arrowroot, tigernut, sweet potato
- The banana/vegetable flours: green banana, green plantain, cauliflower
- The lectin-free grain flours: sorghum, millet, teff
- The nut flours: almond, hazelnut, chestnut, walnut, coconut, pecan
- The seed flours: hemp, psyllium, flaxseed meal, sesame
Where do you find lectin-free, gluten-free flours
I will link each of them to where you can buy them, online, in the US, since most of my audience is in the US.
The easiest flours to find in stores are cassava, tapioca, almond and coconut. You usually find them in most supermarkets, from Whole Foods, to Sprouts, to Walmart, to Costco. I personally found green plantain flour and walnut flour in Walmart.
The nut flours, except for maybe almond flour, can be easily made at home with a milling blade and a food processor. The same with millet flour, hemp and flaxseed powders. For milling seeds (and millet) you can use a Nutribullet with a milling blade or a coffee grinder.
The hardest flours to find in the US are chestnut, sweet potato flour and cauliflower flour, at least in my experience, but everything can be ordered online, from Amazon or Nuts.com. On my SHOP page you can find a category for flours and one for baking mixes, with links with where to get them from.
In other countries, most of these flours can be found online, in specialty stores or in gluten-free sections in supermarkets.
Are the lectin-free, gluten-free flours healthy?
There is not a black and white answer to this question, as it depends on so many things: on your current health status, on if you have or not diabetes or prediabetes or you are metabolically inflexible.
The quick and simple answer to this question is that the lectin-free, gluten-free flours do no harm if you eat them in the right amount, at the right time, in the right combination and you have no sensitivity or allergy to any of them.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes you will have to understand how any of these flours affect your blood sugar and insulin levels and take a personal decision based on that.
It’s quite fashionable now to look at the glycemic index of a type of flour and make a decision based on that, but that’s not exactly an accurate measurement. Firstly, it’s hard to determine the glycemic index of a type of flour as we can’t just eat the flour alone.
The flour is combined with other ingredients like eggs, oils, milk, and spices to create a product we eat, and usually, those combinations and the way we prepare them have an impact on the glycemic index. For example, sourdough preparation lowers the glycemic index of any flour, and adding fat to carbs slows the absorption of carbs.
This is one of the reasons I prefer to combine these flours instead of just using one type.
Guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours: root/starchy flours
Cassava flour is made of yuca root, also called cassava or manioc, a starchy root vegetable native to South America. The root is peeled, gound and sun-dried or slow-baked, to create the cassava flour. If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian restaurant or a churrascaria, you probably had the famous Brazilian cheese bread, Pao de Queijo as a starter. Those are made of cassava flour.
In general, cassava products have a medium to high glycemic index, so they are not indicated for people with diabetes. But, out of all types of flours made of the yuca root, cassava flour has the lowest glycemic index.
Cassava flour texture also differs from place to place. In Romania, I found two types of cassava flour, one called normal and one called ‘super fine’. It’s not as white and fine as Otto’s cassava flour for example (my favorite but only available in the US), but it does its job well. There are many varieties of yuca roots and the quality of the flour will depend on the variety used but also on the manufacturing process.
The most annoying part about these differences is that the quantity of flour or liquid required in a recipe might vary depending on the quality of the flour used. Some brands can be drier, hence absorbing more liquid.
When mixed with liquid, especially warm water, cassava flour makes an elastic dough that is very easy to work with. It’s perfect for making tortillas and different types of pizza dough and flatbread.
And of course, perfect to make Brazilian bread, with cheese or with sweet potato.
Tapioca and Arrowroot flours
These are the two other flours made of yuca root, but they are made of the starch extracted from the yuca root. That makes them a higher glycemic index and in general, a different way the body reacts to and processes them.
That’s why, although they can give beautiful results in baking, I only use them in small quantities, in lectin-free, gluten-free flour mixes, or as thickening agents for sauces.
However, as that name says it, arrowroot is traditionally made of a root called arrowroot, but these days the name arrowroot flour has become a conventional name for starch that can be made from a mix of tropical roots, including yuca/cassava root.
Confused much? I don’t blame you. Wait, there is more…
In some countries, cassava flour and tapioca flour names are used interchangeably, and that’s also very confusing. In general, you can tell the difference by how it looks. Arrowroot and tapioca look like a potato or corn starch, very fine, white powders, while cassava flour looks more like a finely ground root.
When added to baking mixes, they can make the final product fluffier, better looking in general. I still choose nutritional profile over looks, so you won’t see me using one cup of tapioca starch in a recipe.
Just adding a few tablespoons will improve texture and consistency to any lectin-free, gluten-free baking mixes. Don’t overdo it, especially if you want to keep it healthy.
Just remember, tapioca starch and cassava flour are not the same thing, even if both come from the same plant.
Tigernut flour (keto-friendly)
Despite the name, tigernuts are not actually nuts, but small tubers, obtained from a plant called yellow nutsedge. Tigernuts and tigernut flour are popular in Africa, Middle East, Southern Europe and India.
Nutritionally, tigernuts are considered a resistant starch and a superfood, as it is very rich in micronutrients. It can be used in baking and for making porridge. I also use it in a mix with other flours such as cassava and almond to make breading for schnitzels and chicken nuggets. Or add it as a binder in crab or fish cakes.
Tigernut flour is great for those allergic or sensitive to nut flours. It has a slight grit to it, and I heard some people don’t like that. I don’t mind it at all, knowing is one of the healthiest alternative flours. It can also be added to porridge, smoothies and can be eaten raw or cooked.
These are a few of my recipes using tigernut flour, but if you use the search bar, you will find more. I love the biscotti and the pancakes.
The sweet potato and konjac flours
While I did buy sweet potato flour several times, I never ended up publishing any recipes of what I made with it. What I do remember is that sweet potato flour worked really well as a breading for chicken, mixed with almond or cassava flour.
A lectin-free baking mix that contains dehydrated sweet potato powder aka sweet potato flour is California Country Gal Baking Mix (keto-friendly). All her mixes are made of the same ingredients, they are just branded differently with different recipes. You can make sandwich bread, rustic bread, hamburger buns and cinnamon rolls with the same mix, using different add-on ingredients.
Konjac flour is made of a type of yam, from the konjac plant. Is best known as being the magical zero-calorie, a very low-carb ingredient in konjac or shirataki noodles. At home, you can use it as a thickener or emulsifier.
I am personally a little bit skeptical about its benefits and I wouldn’t make it a central part of my diet. Careful with its use as it presents a choking hazard.
Guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours: the banana/vegetable flours
The green banana and green plantain flours
As resistant starches, they have a great nutritional profile, although there is still a lot of controversy over how they should be eaten: raw or cooked. While green banana flour is great to add to smoothies, make raw fat bombs or sweet treats, I wouldn’t eat green plantain flour uncooked.
I don’t use these two flours too much, but I have a few recipes using green banana flour. Dr. Steven Gundry (the founder of the lectin-free movement) has a Pancake Flour Mix that is made with green banana flour.
The cauliflower flour (keto-friendly)
To be honest I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s true, it’s a very low carb option, and for those on keto programs, it can be useful. It does lend a specific taste to baked goods though. I think the best way to use cauliflower flour is to make those low-carb pizza crusts.
If you want to try it out, I have a tortilla recipe using cauliflower flour in my cookbook. You will find it in some Whole Foods stores, is packaged under their own brand, 365.
Guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours: the grain flours
There are three ancient grains considered both lectin-free and gluten-free: sorghum, millet and teff. Although we don’t know them that well in the western world, they are common crops in Africa and Asia and staples for billions of people around the world.
Millets were also common in Europe until they were replaced by corn and wheat.
Sorghum flour is obtained from ground whole grain sorghum, also called jowar flour. Have you ever heard of jowar roti? Is a type of flatbread made in India that requires quite some skills, made with only hot water, sorghum flour and salt. I am perfecting the technique as I type this.
Sorghum flour is also very popular for lectin-free, gluten-free baking, especially for making sourdough starter and bread.
With a mild and slightly sweet and nutty taste, sorghum flour reminds me of graham and spelt flour, and I use it, in combination with a few other lectin-free flours, to make Lectin-Free ‘Graham’ Crackers / Digestive Biscuits.
Millets have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. They are still important crops in many countries in Asia and Africa. In Romania, my home country, millet was the staple grain before the introduction of wheat and corn and millet was an important ingredient for different types of bread and porridge in the Roman world. Millet is also very popular in Ukraine and Russia.
Out of all the flours listed here, store-bought millet flour is one of my least favorites. It has a bitter taste and I prefer using the whole grain to make porridge and polenta, for example.
What I discovered though, is that if I mill the grains myself, in a Nutribullet using a milling blade, the flour obtained is not bitter.
I find homemade millet flour a great replacement for cornmeal.
Teff has long been considered a gluten-free flour, but only recently has been added to the list of lectin-free flours by Dr. Steven Gundry. Same as the above cousins, this grain is a staple in many countries around the world, used to make flatbread, sourdough bread and porridge.
Teff flour is used to make the famous injera, the Ethiopian fermented flatbread, but if you eat injera in Ethiopian restaurants in the western world, ask the chef what they made it with, as they will mix teff with other flours, like buckwheat.
I like to add teff flour to porridge. I have a recipe using it in my book, The Living Well Without Lectins Cookbook. It’s a delicious vegan, lectin-free bread that reminds me of rye bread, only better tasting: Teff-Hazelnut Banana Bread, page 61.
Guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours: the nut flours
Chestnut flour is one of my favorite flours on this list, however not a keto friendly flour. I’ve always loved chestnuts and the flour tastes as good. My favorite way of using chestnut flour is to make lectin-free, gluten-free crepes. No other flour or recipe gave me the same results. The texture is perfect for crepes and its nutty, sweet, earthy taste makes the adding of any sweetener redundant.
Since chestnut flour tends to get clumpy when added to liquid, I recommend using a blender. I use chestnut flour for making sweet treats because it adds so much natural sweetness. More recipes using chestnut flour below:
The only downside of chestnut flour is that is relatively hard to find, especially in the US, and it’s more pricey. Other than the Amazon link above, also check Nuts.com, for when they have it in stock. In Europe, chestnut flour is quite common and easier to find in specialty stores or gluten-free sections in supermarkets, usually imported from Italy.
Coconut flour (keto friendly)
Coconut flour is made of dried coconut meat, and the very first lectin-free flour I ever tried to bake with. It is quite special because it’s very dense and absorbs a lot of liquid. That’s why you should never substitute with other flour 1:1. Coconut flour can absorb four times more liquid than other lectin-free, gluten-free flours.
While I rarely make anything using just coconut flour, it is part of most of my flour mixes, so many of the recipes on my website have coconut flour as an ingredient.
One of the best recipes I’ve ever made using just coconut flour and no eggs is the Keto Naan Bread from The Plant Paradox Family Cookbook, by Dr. Steven Gundry. It turns out that when mixed with hot water, coconut flour can make a sticky dough that can be used to make flatbread and doesn’t need eggs to bind.
Coconut flour, like all the nut flours, has a very low glycemic index, that’s why it’s very popular within the low-carb, keto community.
Almond flour (keto friendly)
Almond flour, made from blanched almonds, is one of the most common lectin-free, gluten-free flours for baking, and one of the most overused ingredients in grain-free diets. While almonds can be healthy for us, especially because they are low-carb, too much of them can lead to sensitivities.
One of the reasons why people develop reactions to almonds is that most of the non-organic almonds coming from California are treated with propylene oxide (PPO), a super-toxic chemical that is banned in organic agriculture. That’s why, whenever possible, I buy organic almond flour. Or you can look for disclaimers on labels that PPO is not used. And if it wasn’t enough of a concern, 85% of conventionally grown almonds are sprayed with glyphosate.
I personally prefer raw, organic almonds from Spain. And I try to use almond flour moderately. That being said, almond flour remains one of the best flours to bake fluffy cakes that you won’t even know are lectin-free.
Almond flour is not the same thing as almond meal, which is made with whole almonds, including the skins, which are full of lectins. When in doubt, look at the color. Almond meal will have brown speckles in it, while almond flour is white-ish.
My Happy Birthday Carrot Cake has a main ingredient almond flour (in combination with coconut flour), which makes this cake a keto-friendly cake.
A lot of my recipes include almond flour, but some have it as a main ingredient:
Hazelnut flour (keto friendly)
Hazelnut flour is made from ground hazelnuts. It can be bought or made at home, with a food processor and a milling blade. I’ve seen many types of hazelnut flour, from the very fine one, like in the picture below, to more coarse types. They are all great for baking and one of my favorite nut flours to use in baking.
Guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours: the seed flours (keto friendly)
Flaxseed meal, perfect for egg-free recipes
Flaxseed meal is ground flax seeds. Many people don’t know flaxseeds can’t be digested by humans, so for us to get the benefits of eating flaxseeds, they need to be ground.
Flaxseed meal is easy to find in stores, however, it easily goes rancid when ground. The best is to use a coffee grinder or a Nutribullet with a milling blade to grind them just before using.
They are a perfect substitute for eggs in vegan recipes. To make a flax egg, mix 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 2 1/2 tablespoons water and add to your baking mix.
Psyllium husk is a form of dietary fiber obtained from the husk of the seeds of the Plantago Ovata plant. They are well known for treating constipation, but in the food industry, they are used in making cereals and as food thickeners.
Psyllium husk is a great addition to a lectin-free, grain-free baking mix, especially when not using eggs.
I used both psyllium husk and flaxseed meal to make my Everyday Lectin-Free Bread.
Hemp powder is ground hemp seeds. You find hemp powder in stores but it’s very easy to make at home, in a blender with a milling blade.
Hemp powder is not really a binder, but a nutrient-dense addition to any flour mix, rich in protein and plant omegas. I use ground hemp in my Wholesome Rosemary Bread Rolls in my book – The Living Well Without Lectins Cookbook.
Sesame seed flour
I have never used sesame seed flour, but I would use it the same way I use hemp seeds: to add more nutrition to the final product. I would grind the seeds in my Nutribullet. Also, great alternative for people who can’t use nut flours and as an addition to keto friendly flour mixes.
DIY Mix: all-purpose lectin-free, gluten-free flours
To get good results when baking lectin-free and gluten-free food you need to create a mix with flours having different properties and nutritional profiles. The below mix is just an example of how I think when I combine flours.
The nutritional profile, texture and taste of the final product are the main criteria for choosing the flours I’ll use, but availability also plays an important role. Many of my recipes were created from trying to build something with a few ingredients I had available.
The mix will also depend on what your wet ingredients will be. If you don’t use eggs, you will have to use a binder such as flax egg (see above how to make it). Sweet potato puree can also make a great binder, and I used it a lot in my baking, both savory and sweet.
- Cassava flour – 1/2 cup – 118g – 4.1oz – 0.260lbs
- Tigernut flour – 1/2 cup – 74g – 2.5oz – 0.162lbs
- Almond flour – 1/4 cup (pressed down) – 49g – 1.7oz – 0.108lbs
- Coconut flour – 2 tablespoons – 25g – 0.8oz – 0.054lbs
- Arrowroot / Tapioca flour – 1 tablespoon – 21g – 0.070lbs
If you need a lower carb flour mix, add 1/2 cup almond flour and only 1/4 cup cassava flour. If you choose to completely remove cassava flour and replaced it with almond flour, you may increase the arrowroot/tapioca starch from 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons. In this case, you maybe want to mix the almond with hazelnut flour.
TIP: If you find a recipe that you really like, you can make the dry mix in advance; that will help so much with the preparation process. I did this for friends and family who were not familiar with lectin-free, gluten-free baking. And it was easy for them to just take the mix out and combine it with the wet ingredients.
What about substitutions
Substitutions are available most of the time, but when the recipe only uses one type of flour as the main ingredient – like my chestnut crepe recipe, or my cassava tortilla recipe – substitutes are not recommended.
Substitutions work best for flour mixes, where more types of flour are used in small quantities. However, as mentioned above in the text, be careful with coconut flour, and even with banana flour, as they tend to absorb a lot more liquid than the other flours.
When it comes to using flour as breading for chicken and vegetables, or as a binder in fish cakes, you can easily do swaps. For example, when I make breading for my chicken schnitzel, I go with what I have. Sometimes I use almond and cassava, sometimes tigernut and cassava, sometimes I add almond to the mix. I used sweet potato flour in the past for breading and it was great.
Same with fish cakes, or meatballs. You can use cassava, almond, tigernut, or even sweet potato flour, maybe a little bit of tapioca or arrowroot.
How to make baking powder at home
Since we are talking of flours and their use for baking, I would like to address the baking soda – baking powder topic. Some recipes are using only baking soda, but that requires an acid somewhere in the recipe, like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk or yogurt to activate the baking soda.
Store-bought baking powder is usually made with three ingredients: baking soda, cream of tartar and corn starch. To make baking powder at home, mix:
- two parts cream of tartar
- one part baking soda
- one part arrowroot starch
If you make it just before baking, there is no need to add the starch. Use the starch only if you make a bigger quantity in advance, to prevent clumping.
If a recipe requires 1 teaspoon baking powder, replace it with a mix of 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
Can you buy a lectin-free flour mix?
When you don’t feel like navigating your way through all these types of flour, can you buy a lectin-free flour mix? Fortunately, yes you can. Check out the below options in the US:
Outside the US, your best bet is to look for keto-paleo options, as these are most probable to contain the right ingredients.
How creative can you get while using these lectin-free, gluten-free flours?
At the end of this article, I wanted to share a little story with you. I’m thinking it would be useful, especially if you feel intimidated by all these new ingredients.
When I made the pictures for this article, I used about 2, 3 tablespoons of each of the flours I had in my pantry. After the job was done, I didn’t have the heart to waste them. So I gathered as much as I could from the board (it was previously cleaned), mixed it with some extra gound millet I had, and used this mix to bake the Lectin-Free ‘Cornbread’ with Millet and Walnuts.
I used all these flours, and the result was amazing, even though it was not what I had used in the original recipe.
This is an invitation to explore and work with these flours like an alchemist. In my experience, even a failed cake or bread can be repurposed.
I hope this guide to lectin-free, gluten-free flours was useful. If you have any questions or need more information, please leave a comment below.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have celiac disease or severe reactions to gluten, you will have to check with the company if they produce the flours in gluten-free facilities, to avoid cross-contamination.