Updated: November 12, 2018
Using high protein gluten free flour can make all the difference in the world in your gluten free baked goods, especially yeast breads. Gluten free flours that contain high protein include bean (fava, chickpea/garbanzo, garfava, and soy), pea, quinoa, sorghum, millet, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, potato flour, nut flours, chia (introduce into diet slowly), and flaxseed meal. It should also be noted that low protein flours are best used for cakes, muffins, and cookies. High protein gluten free flour creates a wonderful crust and chewiness in gluten free breads. Learn the characteristics and protein levels of high protein gluten free flour and how to use them in your gluten free baked goods. Then you’ll know which ones to use in your homemade gluten free mixes.
Learn about high protein gluten free flour below:
Some gluten free flour is higher in protein than others, such as bean flour. Bean flour usually tends to be stronger, even bitter, in flavor, especially garbanzo/chickpea and garfava flour. Therefore, use bean flours in very small amounts. Bean flours create more elasticity in dough, but because of the stronger flavors, they work best in savory baked goods such as pizza, flatbread, or sandwich bread. You can use them in other baked goods such as cake and muffins, but you need to add plenty of spices: cinnamon, cloves, etc.; chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, etc. to hide the bitter flavor. Bean flours are also a little gummy compared to many other gluten free flours. Also, be sure to introduce bean flour into your diet slowly, as it is hard on the digestive tract.
Fava bean flour, which is one of the mildest-flavored of the bean flours, contains 9 grams of protein per 1/4 cup. Garbanzo/chickpea flour contains 6 grams of protein per 1/4 cup. Garfava flour is a combination of garbanzo and fava bean flour, and sometimes romano bean flour. Protein levels may vary with each manufacturer.
Quinoa flour, pronounced (keen-wah), is also a bit bitter in flavor. Quinoa is easily digested and is chock-full of minerals and B vitamins. If you wish to increase the nutritional content of your gluten free baked goods, a little goes a long way, due to its bitterness. Therefore, use sparingly. Quinoa flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Pea flours tend to act much like bean flour but without the strong bitter flavor. It is milder in flavor. Pea flour still needs a few additional ingredients to hide its flavor. You may find them under the names pea or green pea flour. I enjoy almond extract in addition to vanilla when using pea flour in cake along with a rich chocolate frosting. Chocolate is an other terrifice flavor masker. Green pea flour may not be appropriate for all gluten free baked goods when it is green in color. If you’re not looking for green in your recipe, use it in dark chocolate recipes to hide the color, or for St. Patrick’s Day, or during the holidays and add a little red frosting to the decorations. Pea flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1-1/2 tablespoons. Note that pea protein is different than pea flour and can be extremely gummy.
Oat and brown rice flour are wonderful flours to bake with. You can substitute one for the other. The amount of protein in brown rice and oat flours is 3 grams per 1/4 cup. White rice flour only contains 2 grams per 1/4 cup. Note that brown rice protein is different than brown rice flour. The protein is much gummier.
There are new Montana oat flour brands on the market now, PrOatina and Gluten Free Prairie, which is a finer ground flour compared to the gluten free oat flour I had been using (Bob’s Red Mill). These oat flours have been known to be tolerated by those who are gluten and oat intolerant. (Update: These brands are no longer able to make this claim due to the lack of scientific evidence.) Studies are underway. In using these flours you’ll have to adjust your recipe, as it results in lighter and fluffy gluten free baked goods that can collapse easily. To adjust for these recipes add a stabilizer such as flaxseed meal or additional gum.
Other gluten free oat flour brands include Bob’s Red Mill (U.S.), Cream Hill Estates (Canada), and GF Harvest (certified gluten free) . Ensure your oat flour is labeled gluten-free, as others may contain gluten due to cross-contamination from nearby wheat fields, processing, and transportation vehicles.
Sorghum flour is a commonly used high protein gluten free flour because it tastes close to wheat flour. I really noticed it when using it in my gluten free graham cracker recipe where traditionally wheat flour is used. Sorghum flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup. Learn how to substitute sorghum flour for oat flour on the Gluten Free Substitutes page.
Millet flour works great in yeast-risen bread. It is light yellow in color and will show through in your gluten free baked goods like egg yollk. It is a little sweet and a little nutty in flavor. I like to use 1/4 cup in some of my gluten free breads. It also makes a good substitute for sorghum and rice flour, but is just a little heavier. Millet contains 3 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Amaranth flour has a strong earthy flavor compared to other gluten free flours. I like using it in recipes that do not brown easily. Amaranth increases the browning of gluten free baked goods (but not as much as tapioca flour). Using a couple of tablespoons works nicely, but if you are baking bread, 1/4 cup is not too much in a 3 cup flour recipe. Just note, it will impart its unique flavor. Amaranth flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Teff flour, also a little nutty in flavor and creates a little heavier baked goods compared to oat, rice, and sorghum. However, you can add teff flour to any of your gluten free baked goods. I have used up to 3/4 cup in a gluten free bread recipe which called for 3 cups of flour and starch. Teff flour can be found in its lighter color, ivory teff, but brown in non-ivory varieties. Teff flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Buckwheat flour is not a wheat flour, though, like sorghum flour, it tastes similar to wheat. Buckwheat, itself, is actually a fruit. It is not only high in protein but contains eight essential amino acids. Using 1 to 1-1/4 cups in a gluten-free bread is the most you will wish to use along with added starches. Use much less in cakes and muffins. Buckwheat flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Potato Flour is very chewy, and when using in gluten free baked goods, you’ll need to reduce the gum (xanthan or guar). Where do you want to add a chewy texture? Chewy textures are needed in bread, pizza dough, homemade pasta, pand flatbread. Potato flour also makes a wonderful thickener in savory sauces but is not smooth in texture. My favorite sauce to use potato flour is Mexican sauces such as burrito and taco sauce. Potato flour contains 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Nut flours are wonderful; however, they are not all high in protein. Almond meal/flour is the most easily obtained nut flour and works great when added to your gluten free baked goods in moderate quantities. However, chestnut flour is low in protein. Chestnut flour is much drier, much like a regular flour. You will notice the lack of oil. The nut flours that are high in protein not only increase the protein levels in your gluten free baked goods, giving it a higher rise, etc. but add moisture, as well. Per 1/4 cup of almond meal/flour contains 6 grams of protein.
Flaxseed Meal makes a wonderful addition to gluten free food, though there has been much discussion whether or not it is safe to use in gluten free baking. Many articles state that when heated, flax seed oil creates carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Whether or not flaxseed meal is right for you, you will have to determine. I believe that may be true when you heat flax seed oil to a smoking point, which should be avoided for all oils. However, I have never seen my bread smoke. Note that flax seeds must be ground into a meal in order to be digestible. Each 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal contains 6 grams of protein.
Chia flour, also known as salba, is gaining in popularity amongst gluten free bakers, not only for its protein content, but because it is known as a super food. Use it as you would flax seed meal, though chia seed does not need to be ground in order to be digested. You may use as much as 1/4 cup in a 3+ cup flour bread recipe. Introduce chia into your diet slowly, as it can be hard on the digestive tract. A 1/4 cup serving of chia seeds contains 8 grams of protein.
High protein gluten free flour is not the only ingredients to increase protein in your gluten free baked goods. Try adding egg and high protein milk (cow, nut milk, etc.).
Note: Ensure your flours are labeled gluten free, or check with the manufacturer.