If you have a gluten allergy or are following a restricted diet, you may need to use flour substitutes when frying.
However, with an overwhelming number of alternatives on the market, it might be easy to get confused. Just know that the regular wheat flour we use for frying can be replaced with cornstarch, rice flour, quinoa flour, and then some!
Flour Substitutes for Frying
Whether you are running low on wheat flour or you are looking for gluten and wheat-free options, there are plenty of choices.
These 10 flour alternatives are all excellent for frying:
- Rice flour
- Quinoa flour
- Almond flour
- Egg wash and breadcrumbs
- Chickpea flour
- Coconut flour
- Tapioca flour
- Baking powder (not to be confused with baking soda)
- Potato starch
Cornstarch gives your fried goods a pleasant corn flavor and is widely used in East Asia as a frying medium. Some recipes swear by adding a little bit of cornstarch to regular flour when frying, saying that it makes the coating crunchier.
As a flour substitute, cornstarch makes for a very tangy and crispy coating. It pairs particularly well with meat.
You can swap a cup of regular flour with half a cup of cornstarch for frying. Dilute cornstarch with some water to form a batter and soak your meat or vegetables in this mixture.
Rice flour sounds bland, but it enhances whichever flavor it’s paired with. There are several kinds of rice flour, like brown rice, white rice flour, and even glutinous rice flour, which you can find in your local Asian market.
All of them can be used as flour substitutes, on their own or mixed together. Since rice flour has a finer grain, swapping a cup of regular flour with two cups of rice flour (so a ratio of 1:2) would give the best result when frying.
When compared to other flours, rice flour absorbs less oil in the frying process, which makes it a great alternative to wheat flour if your priority is to cut back on oil or reduce your caloric intake.
If you’re interested to learn more about these flours, check out our articles on rice flour and brown rice flour substitutes.
Quinoa has become all the rage these days, though the grain is actually one of the oldest grains known to South America. As a flour, it’s rich in fiber and protein and effortless to make at home if you have some quinoa on hand.
Roast your quinoa on a skillet on low heat and blend in a high-speed blender. Et voila! You can watch this video for a step-by-step guide on how to make your own quinoa flour at home!
When used in frying, quinoa flour gives your food a very earthy taste. Even though you can use it to fry pretty much anything, it pairs particularly well with chicken!
Use quinoa flour in a 1:1 ratio to regular flour when you are frying. Add lemon zest to your flour and lemon juice to your batter, and enjoy your healthy and gluten-free fried chicken.
Not to be confused with ground almonds, almond flour is made from blanched almonds. If you make your own almond milk, you are probably familiar with the “pulp” that is leftover after you strain drenched almonds. You can spread your pulp on a sheet and pop it into the oven over low heat to make your own flour!
Use a 1:1 ratio of almond to regular wheat flour when you want to use almond flour as a substitute while frying.
Egg Wash and Breadcrumbs
Flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs are what most cookbooks suggest when you are frying your food. But what if you just skipped the flour?
As sacrilegious as it sounds, you can skip the flour and directly coat your meat or vegetable with egg wash you can whisk up in minutes. Coating this concoction with breadcrumbs and then frying is one way you can replace flour.
Chickpea flour is fiber-rich, packed with protein, and super tasty. Just like how you would prepare almond flour, you can also easily DIY chickpea flour at home and customize it to your own taste.
Use chickpea flour in a 1:1 ratio for flour in frying. Here’s a video that shows how to make your own chickpea flour at home.
If you are curious about chickpea flour substitutes and would like to know more about chickpea flour, check out our article on the topic!
Coconut oil is a keto dieter’s best friend due to its high MCT oil content, which makes it great for ketosis, as MCT oils are small-molecule oils that your body easily turns into energy.
This flour pairs well with both sweet and savory foods and blends in a batter like a dream. You can swap 1 cup of regular flour for ⅓ cups of coconut flour when frying.
The sweet aftertaste of coconut can also enrich the flavor profile of your dish. Check out this video for a delicious coconut oil fried chicken recipe!
Tapioca is extracted from the cassava root, so tapioca flour is a plant-based flour. It has a similar texture to cornstarch and can replace it in recipes as well (just make sure you add twice as much tapioca flour instead of cornstarch).
Use tapioca flour in a 1:1 ratio for flour in frying and you can add a pinch of cornstarch to make your fried goods even crispier! It pairs particularly well with fish. Next time you are frying shrimp make sure to opt for tapioca flour; you will not be disappointed!
Baking Powder (Not to Be Confused with Baking Soda)
Baking powder is a combination of powders that help the cake batter rise. Even though it contains a small amount of baking soda, baking powder should not be confused with baking soda.
Baking powder is a mixture that contains baking soda, cornstarch, and cream of tartar, a mix that has the power to add a lot of extra crunch to your fried food. If you’re frying chicken, in particular, baking powder helps dry out the skin in the frying process and get it super-crispy.
You can swap 1 cup of regular flour with half a cup of baking powder when you are frying for the best results!
Not to be confused with potato flour, potato starch is another gluten-free alternative for frying your food. It doesn’t add any flavor; however, due to its density as a starch, it makes for a very thick batter.
Just like cornstarch, using potato starch in frying will give you a denser batter, which usually means you’ll have an easier time frying. Plus, the fried batter coating will be delicious. You can swap ¾ cup of potato starch with a cup of flour in your recipe.
Do you need more info about flour substitutes? Here is a list of questions you might be asking yourself.
Why Do We Need Flour for Frying?
You don’t actually need flour for frying. When you’re deep-frying, flour and flour substitutes form a crust that absorbs moisture and fat, giving you that crunchy and oily (and delicious) texture.
Wheat flour contains high amounts of gluten that gives fried food that chewy elasticity, but you can use flour substitutes for similar results.
When flour made from grinding grains such as rye, wheat, or barley is mixed with water, the two proteins combine to form gluten.
Recreating or imitating the gluten formation with other flour allows you to fry without trouble.
Why Not Use Wheat Flour for Frying?
There are many reasons why people may not want to use regular wheat flour. If you are intolerant or highly allergic to gluten, you have to avoid foods with wheat (or barley or rye) flour. All the flour alternatives we talk about in this article are gluten-free!
If you are on a strict keto diet, you need to avoid high-carb foods, which means wheat flour is a big no-no. In this case, you might be better off with protein and fiber-rich chickpea flour or almond flour, which will allow you to stay in ketosis. That is why it’s best to know options that work!
Can You Fry Without Flour?
Yes. You can use the egg wash and breadcrumb method. You can even take a less caloric route and try your hand at oven-frying and air frying, as both of those options can be flourless.
How Can You Find These Flours?
Most of these flours can be found at supermarkets and online markets. Check if the baking aisle has a listing for gluten-free flours.
You can also check out your local Asian market for flour substitutes such as rice flour or besan, a kind of chickpea flour.
You can also easily DIY some of these flour substitutes. The leftover pulp from almond milk or even some leftover rice is enough to make your own frying flour alternatives.
Do You Need Flour for Air Frying?
It’s entirely up to your preference. The air-fryer can work with or without flour. If you are using a flour substitute, make sure that the batter you’ve prepared isn’t very heavy and wet, as it might damage your fryer.
Do You Need Flour for Deep Frying?
Not necessarily. Using a mixture of cornstarch and baking powder will give you great results. Even though regular flour does contribute to the taste and texture of the dish, it’s not a prerequisite by any means.
You can use a simple egg wash and breadcrumb mixture to get a satisfactory and delicious result.
What Is the Best Flour Alternative?
The best flour alternative will depend on the recipe you need it for and your priorities. If your priority is crunch and added flavor, coating your food with cornstarch and rice flour for frying will give you the best results.
For added protein and fiber, opt for chickpea or quinoa flour. If you are following a keto diet, you may want to use coconut flour for the added MCT.