I have heard the call: more and more of you have asked for alternatives for almond flour. Some recipes have simple substitutions, such as coconut flour or chickpea flour, but, alas, many do not. Each grain-free flour has unique (and finicky!) applications, so a straightforward swap is often unavailable.
A Nut-Free Alternative to Almond Flour
The many almond flour recipes on my site attest to how much I love the versatility of almond flour for making delicious, nutritious baked goods. It is equally delectable in sweet and savory recipes offers a laundry list of healthy highlights: grain-free, gluten-free, high in protein, low carb, rich in healthy fats, and friendly to vegan, keto and Paleo diets alike.
But almond flour has two major limitations:
- It cannot be used by anyone with nut allergies or nut sensitivities.
- It is expensive.
Sunflower seed flour solves both problems in one fell swoop!
What is Sunflower Seed Flour?
Sunflower seed flour is a fine-textured flour made with nothing more than raw sunflower seed kernels. Nut-free, gluten-free and grain-free, it has a faintly sweet and nutty, yet neutral, flavor that can be used in a wide range of recipes.
That’s changing (hurrah!). Multiple brands of sunflower seed flour have come to market in recent years, and sunflower seed flour is appearing in a growing number of recipes and healthy prepared foods.
The time for sunflower seed flour has arrived, and I am going to do my best to convince you of its awesomeness!
But forget about waiting for bags of it to show up in stores. You can make it with ease, and at a very low cost!
How to Make Your Own Sunflower Seed Flour
Making your own flour, of any kind, may sound daunting if it is new to you. While we are at it, let’s wash our clothes on rocks and cobble our own shoes, too! (I kid, I kid).
Fear not: making sunflower seed flour is a breeze, and fast too!
With the following items, you can make a batch in under 5 minutes from start to finish:
- Raw, hulled sunflower seeds
- One of the following options: food processor, high-speed blender, or coffee grinder
- A mesh sieve
Tip: If you have severe nut allergies, make sure that the sunflower seeds you purchases are processed in a nut-free facility.
Step 1: Place the sunflower seeds in a the blender, processor or coffee grinder
Place all of the seeds in the container if you are using a food processor or high-speed blender. If using a coffee grinder, you will need to work in batches. I recommend grinding 1/3 cup (about 41 grams) at a time.
Step 2: Process the seeds until finely ground
Let the grinding begin! For greater control, and to avoid making sunflower seed butter (delicious, but not the aim here :)), I recommend pulsing rather than letting it rip without pause.
Begin with 30 seconds of processing. Stop and scrape down the container. Process again, stopping intermittently, until the you have what looks like a fine flour, with a few larger pieces of seeds throughout.
If you are using a coffee grinder, I suggest shaking the grinder as you process (an old trick I learned from my days working in a coffee store). This keeps the seeds flowing freely without clumping. Music is optional!
Step 3: Sift the flour to remove the larger bits
Lastly, sift the flour through a fine mesh sieve to remove any large bits (you can reprocess the seeds until fine).
If you do not mind a few random bits of seeds, you can skip this step (especially for more rustic creations). But for all-purpose use, it is worth the extra minute or two it takes to sift.
A large sieve (you can pick one up at a dollar store if you do not have one) makes the task extra quick and easy.
You did it! You just made sunflower seed flour!
How to Use Sunflower Seed Flour
You can use your sunflower seed right away, or store it for future baking and cooking.
- In general, sunflower seed flour can be used as a 1:1 replacement for almond flour or almond meal. I strongly urge weighing the flour with a kitchen scale for an exact weight replacement (and, hence, the most accurate results).
- If you are new to baking with sunflower seeds, you may not (yet) know that ground sunflower seeds can cause baked goods to turn green. It is completely harmless! I’ll explain what causes it, as well as how to avoid it.
What Causes Sunflower Seed Baked Goods to Turn Green?
Part of what makes sunflower seeds so healthy—high levels of polyphenol antioxidants—is also what makes baked goods made from the ground seeds turn green.
The main polyphenol found in sunflower seeds is chlorogenic acid (“chloro” meaning green; not related to chlorine). When sunflower seeds are ground, the chlorogenic acid reacts with itself to form a green complex with proteins. This can lead to tiny green specks, or dramatic green streaks, in sunflower seeds bread, cakes and cookies.
Can I Prevent Sunflower Seed Baked Goods from Turning Green?
Yes! I recommend the following to prevent the greening effect:
- Use baking powder instead of baking soda
- Add a bit of acid (e.g., lemon juice or vinegar) to the recipe
Here’s why these steps work: the oxidation of chlorogenic acid is enhanced under alkaline conditions. The addition of baking soda (alkaline) to a recipe creates an ideal environment for the green complex to go wild (like a pub on St. Patrick’s Day). For example, a test batch of my sunflower seed bread, made with baking soda:
The bread was perfectly delicious and safe to eat. It would also be perfect for a Halloween party. But if green is not your thing. use baking powder instead of baking soda. A general rule of thumb for replacement is 3 times the amount of baking powder for 1 part baking soda (e.g., 3 teaspoons baking powder to replace 1 teaspoon baking soda).
Adding 1 to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice (or vinegar) for every cup of sunflower seed flour will further reduce the alkalinity of a given recipe. Case in point, the same sunflower seed bread recipe, made with baking powder and lemon juice:
If the recipe is for chocolate cookies or cake, the green will not be visible, so do not worry about adjusting or replacing the ingredients, simply swap the sunflower seed flour for the almond flour. Here are some great options to try: