HOW TO TURN ANY RECIPE INTO LOW CARB GLUTEN FREE
Have you ever looked at a recipe and thought That looks so good but has way too many carbs ? Do you have a favorite recipe that you think you can never eat again because the carb and sugars are way too high ? Before you throw that precious recipe aside check out these helpful tips that can help you turn any high carb baked good into a delicious low carb treat.
What Type of Flour
The first and probably most important element to figure out when trying to make a high carb baking recipe low carb is what type of flour to use for a substitute. Flour is what makes the taste and texture of a baked good. It can make the difference between a fluffy sweet treat and a crusty crumbly nightmare.
There are three main types of flour that I have found to have the best results :
- Nut or seed flour: Almond flour and pumpkin seed flours are my favorite
- Bean flour: Garbanzo (chickpea) flour is my top choice
- Coconut flour
I also like to trade a portion of my flour out for vital wheat gluten but it’s not a must. Many people have allergies or gluten sensitivity and can’t use vital wheat gluten. Don’t worry baked goods without gluten can still be just as tasty.
How To Substitute White or Wheat Flour With Low Carb Flour
Trading out low carb/ gluten free flour is not as simple as trading 1 cup of low carb flour for 1 cup of white or wheat flour. The ratio varies depending on what flour or flour blend is used.
Nut And Seed Flour
Almond flour and pumpkin seed flour can be substituted out one for one with white or wheat flour. If the original recipe calls for 2 cups of white or wheat flour 2 cups of almond or pumpkin seed flour can be used to replace the white or wheat flour. A combination of nut and seed flour can also be used. 1 cup of almond flour plus 1 cup of pumpkin seed flour can also be used to replace 2 cups of white or wheat flour. I prefer to combine flours this helps to neutralize the flavor so it tastes more like traditional flour.
When using garbanzo or any other bean flour do not use it on it’s own. Garbanzo flour has a very dominant flavor so always combine it with a more mild flour like almond flour. When garbanzo flour is combined with another flour it gives the baked good a mild flavor and creates a texture very similar to white or wheat flour.
To use garbanzo flour as a substitute for white or wheat flour trade it out for no more than half the amount of flour called for in the original recipe. Substitute the other half with another mild tasting low carb flour. If a recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups white or wheat flour substitute it out for 3/4 cup garbanzo flour + 3/4 cup almond or oat flour.
Coconut flour is one of the hardest low carb flours to on it’s own as a substitute for white or wheat flour. If the flour to liquid ratio isn’t just right the baked good will end up a dry dense mess that turns to paste in your mouth. We’ll talk about flour to liquid ratios in a bit. For now know that if using coconut flour as a substitute for white or wheat flour you only need one third the amount of flour the original recipe calls for. If the original recipe calls for 1 cup of white or wheat flour all that’s needed is 1/3 cup coconut flour. This may not seem like enough flour but when coconut flour comes in contact with liquid it absorbs the moisture and expands in bulk. We’ll talk about this more when we talk about the liquid flour ratios.
The Best Result
From my experience the easiest way to substitute white or wheat flour with a low carb flour is to substitute 1 cup white or wheat flour for 1 cup nut or seed flour. However, the best way to get the taste and texture of a baked good to resemble traditional flour is to use a combination of low carb flours. Using a combination of flours helps balance out the flavors of the low carb flours. Not only does it balance out the flavor but it’s also saves money. Almond flour can get spendy even if it’s made at home like mine is. Combining almond flour with less expensive low carb flour it makes the almond flour last longer and saves money in the long run.
My favorite combination is almond flour, pumpkin seed or oat flour and vital wheat gluten. If I’m making a gluten free recipe then instead of the vital wheat gluten I add a small amount of coconut flour. So, if the original recipe calls for 2 cups all purpose flour I would probably use 2/3 cup almond flour, 2/3 cup oat or seed flour and 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten. If I’m making a gluten free recipe I would use 4-5 tablespoons of coconut flour instead of vital wheat gluten.
After the task of finding the right flour or flour blend is done it’s time to figure out a binding agent. A binding agent is what holds all the ingredients in a recipe together. Without a binding agent baked goods would crumble and never hold their shape.
White and wheat flour both contain gluten. When gluten comes in contact with liquid it turns into a gummy texture that “glues” the ingredients together. Low carb flours do not contain gluten, therefore another agent has to be blended with the gluten free flours that will create that same gummy “glue” to hold the ingredients together.
Best Binding Agents For Low Carb Flour
My three favorite binding agents are xanthan gum, psyllium husk powder and vital wheat gluten. When these are individually combined with the liquid in a recipe they create the same gummy texture that the gluten in white and wheat flour create. As a result the baked good will come out light, fluffy and in one piece.
When using xanthan gum it’s important to remember a little goes a long way. If too much xanthan gum is used the baked goods will will end up a gooey gross mess. The basic rule is use 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 1 cup of gluten free flour. If a recipe contains yeast increase the xanthan gum to 1 teaspoon for every 1 cup of gluten free flour.
For example, if the original recipe calls for 1 cup white or wheat flour use 1 cup almond flour plus 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum. If the recipe has yeast increase the xanthan gum to 1 teaspoon. if a flour blend is preferred use 1/2 cup almond flour + 1/4 cup pumpkin or oat flour + 2 tablespoons coconut flour and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum for 1 cup white or wheat flour. Increase xanthan gum to 1 teaspoon if the recipe calls for yeast.
Psyllium Husk Powder
Psyllium husk powder is another binding agent that a little goes a long way and often requires more trial and error than other binding agents when first learning to use it. As a general rule use a 1/2 tablespoon of psyllium husk powder for every 1 cup of gluten free flour. If the recipe requires yeast increase the psyllium husk powder to 1 tablespoon for every one cup of gluten free flour.
For example, if the original recipe calls for 2 cups white or wheat flour use 2 cups almond flour + 1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder. Increase the psyllium husk powder to 2 tablespoons if the recipe contains yeast. If using a flour blend use 1 cup almond flour + 1/2 cup oat or seed flour + 4 tablespoon coconut flour and 1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder. Increase the psyllium husk powder to 2 tablespoons if the recipe requires yeast.
Vital Wheat Gluten
My absolute favorite binding agent is vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten is made from wheat flour soit acts just like white or wheat flour but without the extra carbs. Baked goods come out with a taste and texture so close to wheat flour most people can’t tell the difference. Of course if someone has wheat or gluten sensitivity this binding agent will not work but baked goods can still turn out just as good with other binding agents.
Since vital wheat gluten is made from wheat flour it should be treated like a flour. This means a lot more is going to be needed compared to other binding agents.
To use vital wheat gluten, substitute one third the amount of flour that is called for in the original recipe. Replace the other two thirds with other gluten free flours. If the recipe calls for 2 cups white or wheat flour then use 1 1/3 cup almond flour and 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten. If using a flour blend use, 2/3 cup almond flour, 2/3 cup oat or seed flour and 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten.
If more information about these binding agents is needed, such as exactly what they are and when it’s best to use them. Check out my blog on Secret of Baking With Low Carb Flours or check out my video Low Carb Diet: How To Bake With Low Carb Flours.
After the flour and binding agent have been successfully substituted it’s time to figure out the rising agent.
The gluten that is in the white and wheat flour not only helps with holding the baked goods together but also helps with the rising process. Gluten makes the dough stretchy so it’s able to rise better than dough without gluten.
Baking Soda or Baking Powder
Most traditional baked goods call for baking soda or baking powder to help with the rising process. When turning a high carb recipe into a low carb or gluten free recipe always choose double acting baking powder.
Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and acid agent (such as cream of tartar) that is used to activate the baking soda. Double acting baking soda acts in two stages. One is at room temperature while the batter is being stirred. The other is while it is cooking. The gases are released while the baked good is cooking giving the dough a little extra help in the rising process.
When using baking powder in a low carb or gluten free recipe multiply the amount of baking powder or baking soda called for in the original recipe by 25% (1.25) If the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking soda multiply 1 by 1.25 (which of course will be 1.25) and you’ll know 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder are needed for the low carb recipe.
Next is finding the right natural sweetener. When going low carb stay as far away from white sugar and artificial sweeteners as possible. Not just for the carbs but the chemicals in them are deadly.
When finding the right natural sweetener. Find a sweetener that tastes and acts like white sugar. The two best natural sweeteners that I have found to be the closest to white sugar, contain little to no carbs, and have no effect on blood sugar are erythritol and stevia. However they can not be swapped out one for one with sugar.
Stevia has been my go to sweetener for a long time. I used to by a baking blend that was stevia extract blended with organic tapioca for bulk. This could be substituted one for one with sugar. I have since stopped using that because the company started blending the stevia with maltodextrin which is a chemically made sweetener and can spike blood sugar. I still use stevia for recipes that require a sweet taste.
Stevia is very fine and is three hundred times sweeter to the taste than sugar. As a result all that’s needed is a tiny bit to get the same sweet taste as a large amount of sugar. For this reason stevia can not be used by itself for recipes that require sugar for bulk as well as sweetness. It can be used for recipes that just require sugar for sweetness.
When substituting stevia for a recipe that just needs to be sweet use 1/4 teaspoon stevia extract or 2 teaspoons liquid or powdered stevia for every 1 cup of sugar.
Erythritol is becoming one of the most popular natural sweeteners for baking low carb or gluten free. It has a firly mild taste and has enough bulk to be used in recipes that require sugar for bulk and sweetness.
Erythritol is slightly less sweet than sugar. As a result more will be needed. For every 1 cup of sugar use 1 13 cup of erythritol. For every 1 cup of brown sugar use 1 cup erythritol plus 3/4 teaspoon molasses. Brown Swerve is also a great replacement for brown sugar and can be substituted 1 for 1 with brown sugar. Confectioners Swerve can be used as a replacement for powdered sugar and can also be used 1 for 1.
Like stevia erythritol can have a bit of an aftertaste and create a cooling sensation in your mouth that bothers some people. The best way to get rid of the aftertaste and cooling effect is to combine erythritol with a small amount of powdered stevia or stevia extract. If the original recipe calls for 1 cup white sugar use 1 cup erythritol plus 1/4 tsp powdered stevia.
Flour to Liquid Ratio
When changing a recipe to low carb or gluten free flour it’s important to get the flour to liquid ratio right. Too much flour and the baked goods will turn out dry and dense. Too much liquid and the dough will turn into a soupy mess. There is no set ratio that will work for all low carb flours. Each one has to be looked at individually.
When almond or other nuts are ground into flour their oils are released. For this reason when almond flour is used as a substitute for white or wheat flour the liquid will need to be slightly decreased. Start by decreasing the liquid a few teaspoons at a time. Then when you’re done mixing the dough if it seems too wet let the batter set 2-3 minutes to absorb the moisture. If it still seems too wet add small amounts of flour until the dough is the desired texture. You will also need to add an extra egg for binding and lower the baking temperature by 25 degrees. You may also need to cook the baked good a little longer. If it seems like your baked good is browning too fast cover it with aluminum foil.
When using garbanzo flour as a substitute for white or wheat flour keep the liquid in the original recipe the same but let the batter rest 3-5 minutes before baking so the flour can absorb the liquid. Keep the baking temperature and time the same as the original recipe.
If using coconut flour as a substitute for white or wheat flour use 2 eggs for every 1/3 cup of coconut flour and the liquid amount needs to equal at least 1 cup. So, if the original recipe calls for 3 cups all purpose flour use 1 cup coconut flour, 6 eggs and 1 cup liquid. This might not seem like enough flour but as I stated before when the coconut flour comes in contact with the liquid it expands in bulk. Let the batter sit for at least 5 minutes so that the absorbing process can fully take place. Keep the baking temperature and time the same.
A Few Things To Remember
- If you choose to use a flour blend your liquids time and cooking temperature will most likely stay the same as in the original recipe.
- Low carb flour often needs to sit for 3-5 minutes before baking so the flour can absorb any extra moisture.
- Low carb flour usually needs to be beaten for at least 2-3 minutes in the final stage. This helps the binding and rising agents have time to become active.
- Low carb batter tends to be thicker than batter made with white or wheat flour. The baked good still comes out nice and fluffy but the batter will be thicker.
- If the dough seems too wet add small amounts of flour until it reached the desired texture. If the dough is too dry add small amounts of milk or water until the desired texture.
- If the original recipe calls for spices or extracts it’s a good idea to double them. This helps mask any dominant flavor some low carb flours have. So if the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in the low carb version.
In conclusion changing high carb recipes into low carb recipes does have its challenges and will require some trial and error. Be patient, keep trying and soon your baked goods will come out perfect every time. Hopefully this recipe will help eliminate some of those errors in your trials. Happy baking and keep cooking.