Coconut Flour in Gluten-Free Baking: What You Should Know

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

I was browsing the bulk bin aisle at Whole Foods recently and something caught my eye: coconut flour. There are so many coconut products out there now that I tend to be a bit skeptical, but I picked some up to try at home. Here’s what I thought!

What Is Coconut Flour?

Coconut flour is simply dehydrated coconut meat that’s leftover from coconut milk production. The meat is ground up into a soft, flour-like consistency. It has an ivory color and smells faintly of toasted coconut. It is grain- and gluten-free, making it a popular choice for gluten-free baking.

Coconut flour can be found at health food stores, in the bulk area of well-stocked grocery stores, and even at Trader Joe’s.

Baking with Coconut Flour

To try it out, I made a batch of these chocolate chip cookies using this recipe:

Here’s what I learned about baking with coconut flour:

  • It’s not a one-for-one substitution for flour. You can’t just straight-up replace regular flour with coconut flour. A little coconut flour goes a long way. I used only 1/3 cup of coconut flour to make 10 cookies.
  • Lots of hydration is needed. Coconut flour absorbs lots of moisture, so you’ll need way more eggs or other forms of moisture than normal to hydrate coconut flour.
  • Coconut flour doesn’t spread. Once I scooped the cookie dough onto the baking sheet, I gently spread the mounds out into the thickness and size of the cookie I wanted since the mixture doesn’t spread during baking.
  • Thoroughly mix coconut flour. To make sure the end product is evenly textured, really hydrate and mix the coconut flour together well with the other ingredients. Since there’s no gluten, you don’t have to worry about the final product being tough.

How did the cookies turn out? They had a nice, soft texture and only a slight hint of coconut (for those who are worried about being overwhelmed by coconut flavor). They were easy to make since I could beat them by hand, but what I appreciated most was that I didn’t need to use any chemicals or stabilizers like xanthan or guar gum, which is often part of gluten-free baking.

I’ve also heard that people dredge foods in coconut flour for frying, which sounds delicious. I’m going to experiment with coconut pancakes next, and I can’t wait!

What do you make with coconut flour?