If you’re into eating a lower carb diet, as I am, be sure you check out the amazing low-carb baking substitutions we all have available! The advantages of eating lower carb, yet still healthy foods are many. I overcame a seizure condition by ditching all refined and added sugars, starchy and refined flours, and sugary processed food, but the benefits go beyond there. Lower carb lifestyles, when done the right way and not in extreme, can actually be helpful in regulating metabolism, fueling muscles and protein synthesis, managing your weight and best of all, preventing or treating Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. It can also be a great way to reduce your sugar cravings and lower your blood sugar. The trick is to do it the healthy way and not cut healthy carbs like veggies, gluten-free grains and starches like sweet potatoes. You also don’t have to give up your love for baked goods either! I love low-carb baking and it is a huge passion of mine, so read on to find my secrets about low-carb baking solutions so you can get in on the goodies too!
1. Coconut Flour
One of the best, and my personal favorite low-carb baking substitutions is coconut flour. Now, if you’re not a fan of coconut, hear me out here. Coconut flour tastes very different than flaked coconut. In fact, I think it actually tastes more like vanilla pound cake than anything! The best part is, it is completely sugar-free, rich in protein and extremely high in fiber. The high fiber content means three things. First, it fills you up fast, resulting in no overeating. Two, it keeps you regular due to the high fiber content, but won’t bloat you up like other fibers can. Three, it absorbs more liquid than any other low-carb baking flour, much like gluten does in wheat flour, but it is gluten-free so don’t worry! The unique properties of its high absorbing fibers make it absorb more liquid so you need less flour. You only need about 1/3 the amount of coconut flour that you do of other flours, including other low-carb flours. Per serving, it also has less fat than shredded coconut, with only 1.5 grams per serving and 6 grams of fiber with 3 grams of protein. I love making muffins, pancakes, quickbreads and cakes with it because it results in a very tender, bready crumb, just like cake. To read how to bake with coconut flour, check out Free Coconut Recipes for tips and tricks.
2. Almond Flour
One of the most popular low-carb baking substitutions is almond flour. Almond flour is higher in fat than coconut flour, but is another great way to get a moist, nutty and tender cake. Almond flour is made from ground almonds and the shells have been removed, so it is easier to digest and bake with. A great resource for baking with almond flour is at All Day I Dream about Food, where you’ll find everything you need to know on how to bake with this flour. Almond flour can be more expensive than coconut flour, so be aware of this when selecting low-carb baking recipes.
3. Protein Powder
I bet you had no idea that the protein powder you use for your morning shake can actually be a fantastic replacement for flour! In fact, you can use protein powder in a 1:1 ratio, just like you would flour. Protein powder usually contains an emulsifier that will absorb liquids just like flours will, and it also creates very cake-like baked goods that are tender, not tough. My favorite part is that I get a low-fat, protein rich and carb-free baked good with less calories. Be sure you buy low-carb proteins that are as natural and clean as possible. For tips on baking with protein powder, you can visit the fun blog Protein Pow(d)er.
4. Pumpkin Puree
One great low-carb baking substitution I like to use is pumpkin puree! It is low in sugar per serving and helps create moist baked goods. Pumpkin puree is also a great replacement for all the oil and butter in your recipe, or at least ½. If you have a recipe using bananas, sub in the same amount for pumpkin puree instead to cut back on the sugar content. Bananas aren’t unhealthy, but they are high in sugar if you’re following a lower carb plan. Canned pumpkin works great in pancakes, brownies, and when sweetened correctly with lower carb sweeteners, like stevia, then you won’t feel like you’re eating pumpkin pie, unless you want it to taste that way, of course! I love making lower carb pumpkin bread using coconut flour and canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin can also replace eggs in a recipe if you’re vegan.
Natural, unsweetened appleasauce is fairly low in sugar and a little goes a long way. You can use applesauce to replace the oil in recipes, but it also helps you to reduce the amount of sweetener that you need, along with half of the amount of eggs it calls for. Applesauce also helps create a wonderfully sweet crumb to baked goods and only has 4 grams of natural sugars per serving.
I’m in love with stevia. It is my go-to sweetener for everything. I love that it is all natural and incredibly stronger than sugar, so I need less. It also helps to reduce blood sugar levels, and has zero effect on the glycemic index. You can use liquid or powdered stevia, but check the labels of your store brands to make sure they don’t contain fillers from dextrose, which is a name for sugar in disguise. My favorite brand for the best taste is NuNaturals, and you can find out about how to bake with stevia on their website.
7. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
One amazing way to cut down on the sugar content but up the flavor of your low carb baked goods is to use unsweetened cocoa powder, which does two things. First, the acid in the cocoa powder helps baked goods to rise just like self-rising flour does. Secondly, cocoa powder lends this subtle sweetness and richness that helps you need less sweetener. It also adds depth to recipes that is just simply divine. Keep in mind that you can still use dark cocoa powder, also known as dutch-processed, but since most of the acid has been removed it will not rise the same. In my opinion, however, dutch process tastes better and less bitter, with more chocolate flavor that comes through. Be sure to buy unsweetened though. Cocoa powder can also replace half the flour called for in a recipe, and it is inexpensive. You can also use cacao powder, which is raw chocolate powder.
8. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are wonderful little babies to use in your low-carb baking. They help to soak up liquids, add filling fiber, add texture, and add Omega 3 fatty acids. I like the way they add a nice crunch to recipes too! You can buy chia seeds pre-ground, as chia flour, which you can use to replace about ½ the flour called for in a recipe, but you’ll need to implement another low-carb flour along with it for best results. You can also use chia seeds in place of pectin or gelatin when making fruit preserves or jam, such as no sugar added strawberry jam. Chia seeds gel up anything they are added to, helping to thicken up ingredients in recipes and serve as a binder like eggs do.
9. Flax Meal
Flax meal is another wonderful low-carb baking substitution. You can use flax meal, or ground flaxseeds, the same way you use flour, and in the same amounts. Yes, the fat will be higher, but they are healthy fats from Omega 3 fatty acids, and they are a rich source of fiber so they fill you up faster. A great trick is to make faux breadcrumbs for chicken, potato fries and other dishes by using ground flax, or you can make muffins with flax meal too! Just dip your food in some egg whites and then dip in the flax meal and bake as you normally would for a really tasty crust, just like breadcrumbs give you. You can even make pizza crust, and if you’re vegan, flaxseeds combined with 2 tbsp of water will make a nice egg substitute. Chia seeds can be used the same way as an egg substitute if you’re interested. You don’t’ need to go egg-free to eat low-carb, however, and I don’t recommend using this as a replacement unless you’re vegan for best results.
Low-carb baking can be extremely fun and such a creative process. Avoid sweeteners like honey, molasses and agave since they are still as high in calories and sugar as regular sugar, even though they are natural. Go with stevia, and you can also try erythritol or xylitol for sugar-free baking, which are natural sugar alcohols, yet not as sweet as stevia so you’ll need more. I recommend checking out the resources below for more tips on baking with low-carb substitutions, along with recipes. Have you ever tried your hand at baking low-carb goods?