I bought a grain grinder when I lived in Charleston. The ducks in our front pond (yes, our apartment complex had a duck pond) ate a lot of less-than-ideal loaves of bread. To this day I wonder how a loaf a bread can come out heavier than the combined weight of its ingredients.
I finally gave up and turned to different cooking endeavors. It wasn’t until I moved to Washington state I jumped back into cooking and baking. Should this situation arise now, I would simply research and find a substitute. Substitutes can be life-savers. Well, maybe meal-savers.
Even though I previously covered non-wheat flours; looking back, my research was not as thorough as I normally do. Aka- it was not the normal high quality I try to provide. I apologize for that. Thus this post is going to have both expanded definitions of non-wheat flours as well as what can be used for substitutions.
Barley flour: barley was the primary cereal grain of the ancient Middle East. Widespread use throughout history despite it now being a minor food in the Western world. Low in gluten, but does contain some, making it a useful alternative to wheat flour.
1 C.= 1 C. other non-wheat flours (oat, buckwheat, etc.)
Buckwheat flour: native to Siberia and despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. (Yes, I know, I’m shaking my head also). In fact, it’s not a cereal or grass; it’s a wild fruit related to wild rhubarb. High in fiber, protein, and other nutrients, and low in gluten (or sometimes gluten-free). Used to make a variety of baked goods and substituted for bread flour in recipe (but for no more than half of total flour content); also good in pastas and pancakes.
1 C.= 1 C. all-purpose flour
1 C.= 1 C. other non-wheat flours (barley, oat, etc.)
Chickpea flour (besan, gram flour): made from ground chickpeas (versions include using raw and roasted). Can be made at home by lightly roasting dried garbanzo beans, then grinding in blender until they have the consistency of flour. No gluten, higher protein than many other flours.
Substitute: same process as above but use dried yellow split peas
1 C.= 1 C. all-purpose flour (note: final product will have different flavor and consistency)
These can be a confusing issue due to international difference in word usage. In addition there are five basic types of corn.
• Corn flour (in the U.S.) is what it sounds: corn meal ground down to a flour texture. White corn flour can be blended with wheat flour to reduce gluten in various recipes. Can be made at home by using a blender to grind down corn meal until it reaches flour consistency.
Using a substitute depends upon the recipe you are using it for. If you are using corn flour for bread, feel free to substitute wheat or white flour. For breading, white flour.
• Corn meal (in the U.S.) is corn coarsely ground (down to .2 mm across), used to make a variety of things, including corn bread. Less coarse than grits, more coarse than corn flour.
1 C.= 1 C. polenta
1 C.= 1 C. corn flour (goods will be “lighter”)
for breading: can use finely crushed corn chips
• Masa: corn is milled, wet, after undergoing preliminary cooking. Stone ground to produce a dough-like material. Made into tortillas, tamales, and corn chips.
• Masa harina: flour made by flash-drying freshly made masa particles. Is used to make corn tortillas and tamales.
• Grits: corn coarsely ground (particles between .6 and 1.2 mm across). Coarser than corn meal.
• Blue cornmeal: ground from a variety of flint corn; ground from whole blue corn.
• White cornmeal: same as regular cornmeal but ground using white corn.
• Hominy: kernels of corn are soaked in alkaline solution; hull and germ falls off and grain doubles in size. Rinse away hull, germ, and solution, and you are left with hominy.
Note: Corn starch (in the U.S.) is a starch obtained from the endosperm of the corn. Often used as a thickening agent by cooks and bakers. In the U.K., it is called cornflour (one word), which I am including it in this post on flours. Corn meal goes by the name of maize flour overseas. Local usage will vary.
Millet flour: millet is name used for a number of different grains, their common trait being very small, round seeds. Ground into flour; has high protein content.
1 C.= 1 C. gluten-free flour that is “white” (quinoa, rice, sorghum)
Oat flour: Rolled oat can be ground into either a oat flour or a coarse meal. Can be made at home by grinding oatmeal in blender until it reaches consistency of flour (1 & 1/4 C. oats will produce approx. 1 C. oat flour).
1 C.= 1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C.= 1 C. other non-wheat flour (barley, buckwheat, etc.)
Potato flour: produced from cooked, dried, ground potatoes. Made using the entire potato. (Often confused with potato starch which is produced from starch part of potato only)
Hard to substitute for without taking into account dish. Best option is to substitute equal weight (not volume) of another gluten-free flour.
Quinoa flour: quinoa is a native of northern South America. Ground, it is made into a variety of flatbreads. Can be ground from milled or unmilled seed.
1 C. = ¾ C whole quinoa, ground in a blender until it has the texture of fine cornmeal.
1 C.= 1 C. brown rice flour
Rice flour: made from finely milled rice, either brown or white. Is unique in being almost 90% starch and smallest starch granules of major cereals. Thus it has a fine texture making it idea to make rice noodles and desserts, among other things. There are thought to be more than 100,000 distinct varieties of rice throughout the world (McGee, 2007).
1 C.= 1 C. cake flour, especially if rice flour is being used to “soften” the texture of a baked good.
1 C.= 1 C. barley, millet, or potato flour
1 C.= 1 C. pastry flour
1 C.= 1 C. spelt flour (will make baked goods heavier)
Rye: substitute doesn’t really exist, but buckwheat is probably the best choice.
• Light: white rye flour is made from grinding the center endosperm of the rye berry.
• Dark: flour made from grinding the outer endosperm of the rye berry, which contains more of the coloring pigment from the berries. (An unauthentic alternative that is also used is using white rye flour and adding molasses, cocoa, or instant coffee to darken it).
• Pumpernickel: flour made from coarsely grinding the entire rye berry.
(above info on rye is from “The Kitchn,” in an article in which they were explaining the different types of rye bread. Please visit them sometime! They have great stuff on their site.)
Sorghum flour: type of cereal that is tolerant of drought and heat, making it a staple in parts of the world.
Notes: This is widely used in India and Africa, especially by poor farmers who can’t afford wheat flour. It’s somewhat bland but very nutritious and gluten-free. You can sometimes find it in health foods stores, but you can get it for less in an Indian market.
1 C.= 1 C. rice or potato flour
Spelt flour: cereal grain that looks similar to wheat; also has tastes similar. Due to gluten content, good for substituting in place of wheat flour in recipes. Gluten is different though, and requires much less kneading/mixing.
Teff: tiny grain from Ethiopia region that has spread throughout world. Used both ground as flour and unground in other cooking. Can be made at home by grinding teff in a blender until it reaches consistency of flour.
1 C.= 1/2 C. wheat flour & 1/2 C. rye flour
*There are also a number of nut flour and meals in existence. I have never actually seen them used in a recipe, hence it is beyond the scope of this website. In a pinch, take the nut in question, toast them slightly. Then add a touch of sugar or flour (1 Tbsp. to 1 cup nuts; to help absorb the oil) and blend it & the nuts together until it reaches flour consistency.
Sources specifically referenced:
McGee, Harold. (2007). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Published by: Scribner.