January 20, 2019
Types of Non-Wheat Flour

Types of Non-Wheat Flour

by Berkeley Wellness  

Non-wheat flour is a must for anyone allergic to gluten, but these flours can also add flavor and nutrition to many recipes for all of us. Here are some of the more common types of non-wheat flour.

Bean flours

Chickpea flour: This flour has a rich culinary tradition. In Indian cuisine, it’s known as besan or chana, and is used in pancakes, stews, and curries. In Italian cuisine, chickpea flour is known as farina di ceci, and is used to make pasta and a polenta-like dish. Chickpeas are also used in some blended flours, such as garfava flour, a combination of chickpeas and fava beans, and dhokra flour, a combination of rice, lentils, and chickpeas.

Lentil flour: Indians use a flour made from a certain type of lentil called urad dal to make the dough for a crispy, fried wafer called papadum.

Soy flour: Made from roasted soybeans that have been ground into a fine powder, soy flour is a rich source of protein, isoflavones, folate, iron, and magnesium. Soy flour contains almost three times the amount of protein as wheat flour. Soy flour may be used in a number of ways, including adding it to sauces and gravies as a thickener, or to pancake batter for a nutty flavor and protein boost. Though it can be used to enrich breads and other baked goods, it cannot completely replace wheat flour because it has no gluten. Soy flour is available in defatted, low-fat, and full-fat forms, with the full-fat flour containing natural soybean oils.

Grain flours

Amaranth flour: The seeds of the amaranth plant boast a higher percentage of protein than most other grains, and have more fiber than wheat and rice. They also contain the amino acids lysine and methionine,which make this flour a more complete protein than other grains. Amaranth flour has a slightly peppery taste. It can be used in savory quick breads and other baked goods. However, it can be expensive and is not widely available.

Barley flour: This mild-flavored flour made from barley grain contains some gluten, though not enough to use it on its own in baking.

Buckwheat flour: A common ingredient in pancake mixes, buckwheat flour is also used to make Japanese soba noodles. It is available in light, medium, and dark varieties, depending on the kind of buckwheat it is milled from. The dark flour boasts the strongest flavor. You can make your own buckwheat flour by processing whole buckwheat groats in a blender or food processor.

Corn flour: This flour is made from whole cornmeal—blue, white, or yellow—ground to a flour-like consistency. Blue corn flour made from roasted blue corn is called atole. You can make corn flour yourself by processing cornmeal in a blender or food processor.

Masa harina: Made from hominy (lime- or lye-treated corn), this flour is used to make corn tortillas. It is made with either yellow or white corn.

Millet flour: This yellow flour is high in protein and easy to digest. It is traditionally used to make the Indian flatbread called roti.

Oat flour: Milled from either the entire oat kernel or the endosperm only, oat flour is frequently used in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. You can make your own to use in baking by grinding rolled oats in a food processor or blender; 1 1/4 cups of rolled oats will yield 1 cup of oat flour.

Pumpernickel flour (dark rye meal flour): Made from the whole rye grain, including the bran, this flour is used for making pumpernickel bread.

Quinoa flour: Higher in fat than wheat flour, quinoa flour adds moistness to baked goods. You can make your own quinoa flour by processing whole quinoa in a blender. Stop before the flour is too fine—it should be slightly coarse, like cornmeal.

Rice flour: Both white and brown rice are used to make rice flour. White rice flour has a very fine texture as it is made from polished white rice, while brown rice flour contains the bran, giving it a coarser texture. Brown rice flour also provides more fiber than white.

Rye flour: Rye flour contains gluten, and is most commonly used in combination with wheat flour to make breads. You can buy light, medium, and dark rye flour, with dark having the strongest flavor. Light rye flour may be labeled “bolted,” which means the flour has been sifted to remove the bran and germ. Dark rye flours are often “unbolted,” and contain a good deal more fiber. When adding rye flour to bread recipes, use less of the dark flour than you would of the light rye flour, or the flavor will be too dominant.

Sorghum flour: Sorghum is a cereal grain that isn’t consumed much in this country, though it’s a staple grain elsewhere in the world. Sorghum flour works well in breads when combined with wheat flours.

Teff flour: Made from the ancient grain teff, this flour has a nutty flavor and can be used to make pancakes, waffles, and quick breads. Ethiopians use a fermented batter made with teff flour to make their staple pancake-like flatbread called injera.

Triticale flour: A hybrid of wheat and rye, triticale is higher in gluten than other non-wheat flours, but it still needs to be combined with a wheat flour to produce satisfying texture in baked goods. A close relative of wheat, it should not be eaten by people with gluten allergies.

Nut and seed flours

Nut flours are ground from the solids that remain after nuts have been pressed for oil. Seed flours are generally made by grinding the endosperm only, making a defatted or partially defatted flour. The flours can be used in baking, as well as for breading fish or chicken. Nut and seed flours include almond flour, hazelnut (filbert) flour, peanut flour, pistachio flour, pumpkin seed flour, sesame seed flour, sunflower seed flour, and walnut flour. There is also a flour made from chestnuts, but because it is naturally low in fat, chestnut flour is ground from the whole nut.

Nut and grain meals

Meals are flours with an exceptionally coarse grind. Many grains come in this coarse form.

Cornmeal: Ground from either yellow, blue, or white corn, cornmeal is often sold de-germed in order to extend its shelf life, but you can find “unbolted” cornmeal, which contains both the bran and the germ. Cornmeal is widely used in breads, pancakes, and muffins. More finely ground cornmeal becomes corn flour.

Millet meal: This is coarsely ground whole-grain millet and is used in breads and for cereal. You can purchase already ground millet meal or grind your own in a spice or coffee grinder.

Nut meals: These meals are ground from whole nuts, unlike nut flours, which are ground from defatted nut solids. As a result, nut meals are pastier and oilier than nut flours.


There are several high-starch plants and tubers that are used to make flour-like substances that are more often than not called “flour” instead of starch. These starches are generally used to coat foods for frying or for thickening liquids. In some cases, the vegetable itself is dried and ground to a powder. In other cases, starch is extracted from the plant.

Arrowroot flour: The rootstalks of a tropical plant are the source of this flour. Often used as a thickener for sauces and desserts, the finely powdered arrowroot turns completely clear when dissolved and gives sauce its gloss while adding no starchy flavor. Because arrowroot flour is easy to digest, it is also used as an ingredient in cookies intended for infants and young children.

Cornstarch: This silky ingredient is made from only the endosperm (starchy part) of the corn kernel. It is used to thicken sauces and to create baked goods with a particularly fine texture. In England, cornstarch is called corn flour.

Potato flour (potato starch): Steamed potatoes are dried and then ground to a powder to make this gluten-free flour, which is commonly used in baked goods for Passover when wheat flour may not be used. There are also pastas made from potato flour.

Tapioca flour (cassava, manioc): Milled from the dried starch of the cassava root, this flour thickens when heated with water and is often used to give body to puddings, fruit pie fillings, and soups. It can also be used in baking. Gari flour, made from fermented, roasted, and ground cassavas, is used in Nigerian cooking. It has a slightly sour flavor.

Water chestnut flour (water chestnut powder): This Asian ingredient is a fine, powdery starch that is used to thicken sauces and to coat foods before frying to give them a delicate, crisp coating. It can be substituted with corn starch.

White sweet potato flour: Made from steamed and dried (not roasted) white sweet potatoes, this flour can be used as a thickener, added to pancake and quick-bread batters, or for pasta.

How to choose the best non-wheat flour

If you can’t find these products in your supermarket, try a specialty food shop, a health-food store, or an Asian grocery store. They are also available through online vendors. Because flour can become rancid or buggy over time, it's best to shop for it in markets that do a brisk turnover.

How to store non-wheat flour

Low-fat flours like potato, arrowroot, tapioca, water chestnut, white rice, and cornstarch can be stored at room temperature for six to 12 months in a tightly covered container, because there’s no fat to go rancid. Whole-grain and nut flours, on the other hand, should be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.