Low-Carb Baking Essentials: Ingredients and Substitutes
12 - 14 MIN.
IN THIS ARTICLE
- Low-Carb Baking Essentials
- Low-Carb Baking FAQs
- What Kind of Flour Can You Use On A Low-Carb Diet?
- How Do You Convert Recipes With Flour To Coconut Flour & Almond Flour?
- What Are The Best Sugar Substitutes For Low-Carb Baking?
- What Else Do I Need For Low-Carb Baking?
- Best Low-Carb Baking Recipes
- No Bake Low-Carb Dessert Recipes
Low-Carb Baking INGREDIENTS List: Is Baking Powder Low-Carb Friendly?
If you thought being low-carb meant you’d completely have to give up baked goods or desserts, then think again! There are plenty of ways to make your favorite baked goods low-carb with a few simple ingredient swaps. You may have to restock your pantry, but you can still enjoy whipping up low-carb desserts!
There are different options for flour substitutes, sugar substitutes, and baking oils when following a low-carb diet, and some work better in certain recipes than others. Which option you choose may also just depend on personal preference. Either way, you’ll want to keep some staples on hand to keep your kitchen equipped for low-carb baking. Keep reading for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about low-carb baking, from the types of flour and sugar substitutes to use, to alternatives for other baking ingredients, and for low-carb dessert and baking recipes!
Low-Carb Baking FAQs
Is There A No-Carb Flour?
We all know true wheat-derived flour contains carbs, unfortunately there’s no perfect replacement flour that is free of carbs (although wouldn’t that be nice). The good news is that thankfully, there are now many low-carb flour options that can be used in your baking to help you keep your carb count down and stay true to your diet.
What Kind Of Flour Can You Use On A Low-Carb Diet?
Since any flour made from grains is off limits, you’ll want to equip your kitchen with low-carb alternatives which are typically made from nuts or seeds. There are different options depending on your dietary restrictions, the type of taste and texture you’re going for, and your personal preferences.
Almond flour is simply made with blanched ground almonds making it low in carbs and rich in healthy fats. It is the most popular and readily available option, and can be used to make cookies, cakes, and even some breads. It’s not a direct 1:1 substitute for regular flour, but it can be pretty close. When in doubt, there are plenty of recipes online that include almond flour as the main ingredient that you can use as a reference.
If you’re looking for an almond flour substitute, whether you’re allergic to nuts or just looking to vary your nutrients, coconut flour is another low- carb friendly flour option you can use for baking. It is made from ground, dried coconut meat, and it is useful in recipes where you want to obtain a moist consistency or fluffy texture, like cake or muffins. It has a low net-carb count, is high in fiber, and is a good source of fat. It is lower in calories than almond flour, but it can be a little more difficult to work with than almond flour since it tends to be drier. It also adds a little sweetness and coconut flavor to recipes.
Almond flour and coconut flour are the most common flours used in low-carb baking recipes, as they are the easiest to work with and contain the right macros. However, there are a few other options you can use as well.
Flaxseed meal, sometimes called linseed, is not only low-carb and high in fiber, but high in omega-3 fatty acids. For many low-carb baked goods, it may be hard to use on its own as flour (you might want to mix it with coconut or almond flour), but it can be mixed into batter and dough for foods like bread, muffins, pancakes, and cookies. You can also use it to make wraps and crackers.
Psyllium Husk Powder
Ground psyllium husk powder is less common than almond flour, coconut flour, and flaxseed meal, but it’s a high-fiber, low-carb option that can be used to make baked goods such as bread. It also acts like a binding agent, so it can be used as a replacement for xanthan gum or eggs. Because of its high-fiber content, it’s often used as a laxative, so be aware of that if you have a sensitive digestive system.
Lupin Bean Flour
Fairly new to the market, and a great alternative for low-carb baking recipes, lupin flour is made from the low-carb legume Sweet Lupin or Lupini bean. It is high in protein and dietary fiber, and is gluten free, but those with peanut or legume allergies should heed caution. Lupin flour is starting to show up in stores or you can easily buy it online.
How Do You Convert Recipes with Flour To Coconut Flour and Almond Flour?
Unfortunately, you can’t just take a recipe that includes regular flour and swap in either almond flour or coconut flour, since they differ in texture than regular wheat flour, and they don’t contain gluten. It’s always easiest to stick to recipes that begin with these flours, but if you do want to substitute them in existing flour recipes, follow the guidelines below.
Flour to Coconut Flour
Baking with coconut flour can be tricky, so it’s always best to stick to established recipes. However, if you do want to convert regular flour to coconut flour in a recipe, use about ¼ of the amount of regular flour suggested. It’s recommended to use one egg with coconut flour for moisture and structure, and you may need to increase the amount of liquid used in the recipe as well.
Flour to Almond Flour
When baking with almond flour, replace the same volume of flour in the recipe with the same volume of almond flour. However, you’ll want to adjust the rest of the recipe by using slightly more rising agent to compensate for the heavier weight of the almond flour.
Can You Substitute Coconut Flour For Almond Flour?
You can use coconut flour as a substitute for almond flour, but you will have to adjust your amounts. You typically need more almond flour than coconut flour in a recipe, so when making the swap, use ¼ cup of coconut flour for every cup of almond flour (and vice versa). When swapping almond flour for coconut flour, you also may need to adjust the amount of liquid and/or eggs (with coconut flour, you may need to add more liquid).
What Is A Low-Carb Substitute For Cornstarch?
In addition to flour, many baking recipes call for cornstarch which is used as a thickening agent. Sadly, corn starch is not low-carb friendly, as it is quite literally a starch derived from corn, making it very high in carbohydrates. When baking low-carb recipes, you’ll want to use an alternative thickening agent, such as the ones below.
This soluble fiber is taken from the konjac plant and is low in calories and carbs and high in fiber. When mixed with water, it forms a gel that can be used as a substitute for cornstarch.
It does get much thicker than cornstarch, so only use about ¼ teaspoon for every two teaspoons of cornstarch.
Almond flour can be used to mimic the texture and consistency of corn starch. It makes a great thickener, and you don’t have to use as large of a quantity as corn starch, meaning you can keep your carb count down.
Ground Chia Seeds
Although it’s harder to use chia seeds in their whole form, powdered chia seeds make for a great ingredient in low-carb baking recipes. Mixed with water, they form a gel-like substance, which makes them a useful thickener and cornstarch replacement.
Ground Flax Seeds
Like chia seeds, ground flax seeds can be used to thicken and bind baked goods. Use one tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with four tablespoons of water as a substitute for every two tablespoons of cornstarch.
What Are The Best Sugar Substitutes For Low-Carb Baking?
If you’re someone who likes to make dessert, you’ll want a way to add some sweetness to your baked creations without using sugar. There are a number of great tasting low-carb options to use in place of conventional sweeteners.
A natural, plant-based sweetener, stevia contains little-to-no calories or carbs. It is 150 times sweeter than its corresponding amount of sugar, so you only need to use a little in your low-carb baking. It does have a distinct flavor, but it can be mixed with other sweeteners to minimize the strong taste.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in fruits and from fermentation. It works well for baking, as it can add bulk to your baked goods, but it can be pretty dry, so feel free to mix it with a little bit of stevia in recipes that require some moisture.
Like stevia, monk-fruit is a plant-derived natural sweetener. A great zero carb option, monk fruit works well in low-carb baking recipes, especially since it does not spike your blood sugar. It is very sweet, so you only need to use about ⅓ cup of monk fruit for every cup of sugar.
The new kid on the block for natural sweeteners is allulose. It is a “low impact” sugar, meaning the body doesn’t recognize it as a carbohydrate and it is not metabolized for energy. Allulose is naturally present in small quantities in foods like figs and raisins. It is about 70% as sweet as table sugar and has a similar taste, texture and function, making it a great ingredient to use in recipes.
Are Baking Soda and Baking Powder Low-Carb Friendly?
Baking soda and baking powder are both common ingredients, so you might be wondering if you can use them as a part of your low-carb baking. Turns out, the answer is different for both. Baking soda doesn’t contain any carbs, so you’re free to use as much as you want. Baking powder, on the other hand, does contain carbs, since it often contains corn starch. But you don’t have to worry too much. Baking powder only contains about 1.3 grams of carbs per teaspoon, so as long as you’re not loading up your batter with spoonfuls of baking powder, it should be okay to use it in your baking.
What Can You Substitute For Eggs?
Eggs are totally fine to use in low-carb baking, but whether you have an allergy or you’re just trying to make something plant-based, you might be looking for an alternative ingredient. Here are some substitutes you can use in place of eggs if you so desire.
Mix 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons warm water for every egg needed. Let the mixture sit and thicken, and it’s ready to use when it creates a gummy texture.
The same method for flaxseed meal works with chia seeds — 1 tablespoon of chia plus 3 tablespoons of warm water for every 1 egg.
Greek yogurt makes a great egg substitute, as it can provide moisture and bind the ingredients together. Just make sure you pick a low-carb friendly brand. Use ¼ cup Greek yogurt for every egg needed.
What Else Do I Need For Low-Carb Baking?
Butter, Ghee & Coconut Oil
You won’t have to change much when it comes to using fats in your low-carb baking. You can stick to regular butter which is not only flavorful but high in fat and low in carbs. If you’re sensitive to dairy products, you can use ghee, a type of clarified butter where the milk solids have been removed, leaving behind just the liquid fat. If you’re vegan, coconut oil is a multipurpose oil that can be used in all types of baking and cooking.
Ground seeds are high in fiber and fat and low in carbs and are useful to keep on hand to help bind ingredients together. Flax seeds and chia seeds are both great options for low-carb baking, and they can work for both savory and sweet recipes. If you are unable to find ground flax or chia, you can always buy them whole and blend them at home using a coffee grinder or blender.
Since baking a low-carb recipe involves many substitutions, you’ll want to keep a few additional ingredients in your kitchen to make sure your food still has a rich flavor and texture. Cocoa powder is a great way to make a recipe chocolate-y without having to add sugar-laden chocolate chips, although you can easily find sugar-free chocolate chips. Coconut milk can be used as a creamy milk substitute, adding both flavor and fat to a baked good.
How Do You Satisfy A Sweet Tooth On A Low-Carb Diet?
When you’re low-carb and you have a sugar craving, you typically nibble on a few pieces of your favorite dessert or even grab your favorite fruit. But while watching your carbs, many of these sweet treats aren’t an option anymore. As far as fruits go, many are high-carb, so if you do want to satisfy your sweet tooth, you’ll have to do some portion control. You can grab something low-carb, like a handful of berries, a couple pieces of melon, or a few slices of peaches or plums.
Traditional desserts, on the other hand, are likely off limits due to their high carb and sugar content. However, this doesn’t mean you have to swear off sweet treats altogether. There are plenty of low-carb desserts you can make on a low-carb diet if you use the above ingredient swaps. Keep reading for some of our favorite low-carb baking recipes!
Best Low-Carb Baking Recipes
If you don’t have the time or energy for baking, HighKey has made it easy for you with a bunch of flavors of super yummy mini-cookies which will satisfy your sweet tooth! Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodle or Double-Chocolate Brownie, anyone? Or you can give some of these low-carb baking recipes a try:
- Fudgy Brownies
- Flourless Brownies
- Peanut Butter Brownies
- Chocolate Coconut Brownies
- Cheesecake Brownies
No-Bake Dessert Recipes
- No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
- Snickers Bar
- No-Bake Cookie Bars
- No-Bake Coconut Balls
- Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream
Learning how to bake while on a low-carb diet may be an adjustment, but once you realize what ingredients you can utilize, you can still enjoy treats like bread and brownies. Keeping the right items at home can make baking a breeze so you won’t have to miss out on creating some of your favorite sweet treats!
Carina Wolff is a health and wellness writer and food blogger based out of Los Angeles. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology. She writes for a number of websites, including Bustle, FabFitFun, Reader's Digest, and more. She also runs a healthy food blog called Kale Me Maybe, where she develops clean-eating recipes.