Alternative Flour – made from grains other than wheat

Alternative and wheat-free flours were one of the top food trends of 2016 and it’s easy to see why.  Alternative flours- those made from grains other than wheat as well as non-grain sources such as legumes- tend to be higher in protein, fiber, and other nutrients than traditional wheat flour.  These flours have been garnering attention due to their health benefits and alignment with trendy diets of recent years, so the options available to consumers are always expanding.

In the past few years, the alternative flour industry has seen significant growth in bean and lentil flour sales, indicating consumer interest in high-protein plant-based options.  These fall under the category of “pulse flours”- high-protein flours made from dried beans, peas, chickpeas, and/or lentils.  When alternative flours first started to make their way into American grocery stores, grain and nut flours got most of the attention.  As consumers have slowly eliminated ingredients like gluten, carbs, and nuts out of their diets, flour producers have gotten a little more creative.

Other recent trends include banana flour, which is gluten-free and good for digestion, and coconut flour, which is high in fiber and protein.  The flour options these days for people who don’t consume traditional wheat flour are practically endless.  However, with great flour comes great responsibility- with so many options, how is one person to say which one is best?  Here are just a few that stand out on the shelf.

Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills offer a wide array of products including nut flours and other gluten-free options.  Traditional flour producer King Arthur Flour has also entered this market by offering gluten-free and other alternative flour options.  Grocery stores like Kroger have begun white labeling their own alternative flours as well, further expanding the boundaries of this market.

The rise in popularity of alternative flours has made way for the commercialization of a flour product that home brewers and craft breweries have known about for decades: spent grain!  Spent grain flour is made from grain that is separated from the mash during the first step of brewing or distilling.  Spent grain has relatively lower carbs and higher protein content than regular wheat flour.  It also offers a nutty, malty flavor without containing any alcohol because the grain is taken out prior to fermentation.  The flavor benefits of spent grain trace back to sake kasu, a sake byproduct that has been used in baking and cooking for centuries in Japan based on the ancient, mystical principle that alcohol tastes good.

What if the next trendy alternative flour was not only good for your body but also good for the planet?  Replacing a portion of your traditional flour consumption with BSG flour prevents spent grain from going to waste streams and reduces the amount of grain that needs to be grown for flour production.  This upcycled flour is not only a value-added functional food product but it also contributes to a lower carbon footprint and a more sustainable future.