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Everything You Need to Know About Coconut Flour

First it was coconut water, then coconut oil, coconut flakes—you name it, there's a coconut-version of it. But there might be one crucial kind of coconute missing from your kitchen: coconut flour. A by-product of coconut milk is coconut pulp, and this pulp is dried and ground into a fine powder a.k.a. coconut flour. With a mildly sweet scent and flavor, this flour works well in both sweet and savory baked goods. It is high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, and contains healthy fats in the form of medium chain triglycerides. It contains a significant amount of protein—as much as 6 grams in just one-fourth cup. While it is not a complete protein (those than contain all nine essential amino acids), coconut flour is a smart protein option if you're looking for gluten-free alternative. You can find it in the natural foods section on most grocery store shelves, and here's why you should put it in your cart next time.

First and foremost, it's gluten free.

Perhaps the best property of coconut flour is that it's gluten free, which is important for you if you have gluten intolerance or celiac's disease, an autoimmune disorder where gluten can cause damage to the small intestine, and must avoid gluten completely. While it's important to cut out gluten if you fall into this category, you should also know that gluten-free diets are not neccessary otherwise and may even counteract weight loss efforts. According to gastroenterologist Dr. James Kwiatt, many gluten-free foods are more calorie dense than their substitutes, so it's imperative that you visit your doctor for formal testing before you decide to try an exclusively gluten-free diet. That being said, many people do find that they feel better when they cut back on gluten, so whether you're cutting back for medical reasons or in the hopes of just feeling lighter and boosting energy, coconut flour is a great gluten-free food to work into your baking and cooking.

Its fiber does the body good

Coconut flour contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber in just one-fourth cup, making it the most fiber-dense of all flours, which is stellar because fiber improves digestion, helps regulate blood sugar, can protect against heart disease and cancer, and aids in weight loss. Plus, you're probably not getting enough of it. The average American consumes only 15 grams of fiber per day while the recommended intake is 25-38 grams.

Coconut flour not only ramps up the fiber, but it's also low in added startch compared to other flour blends which may have added wheat startch, says Kwiatt—an especially important consideration for people hwo Celiac's disease. "Using coconut flour in baked goods, in cooking to thicken sauces, or as a coating, is a way to add fiber and avoid excess starch," he says.

Great! So now what?

Cooking with coconut flour does have some quirks. Due to the high fiber content, it acts like a sponge, soaking up liquid, and requires an equal ratio of liquid to flour. Before experimenting on your own, you may want to find a recipe written specifically for coconut flour so you can better grasp the new measurements.

Ready to get started? There are two methods for using coconut flour in recipes. The first is to substitute about 20 percent of whatever flour is called for in a recipe without making additional alterations. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of white flour you would replace roughly one-half cup with coconut flour. The other is to make a total substitution (2 cups for 2 cups), adding 1 large egg for every ounce of coconut flour. On average, one-fourth cup of coconut flour is equal to 1 ounce, meaning you would use 2 eggs for every one-half cup of flour. Coconut flour can be used in savory dishes, too. Get started with the recipe for Coconut-Coated Chicken Tenders below.

All done? Store the flour in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness. Before baking or cooking, allow it to return to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Coated Chicken Tenders

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 4 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, cheese, and spices in shallow dish. Place whisked egg in a separate dish.
  2. Dredge chicken in egg, and then coat with flour mixture. Repeat that egg-flour process again.
  3. Place coated chicken on a wire rack on a baking sheet in the oven.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°, flipping halfway.
  5. Broil for and additional 1-2 minutes for more golden tenders.

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