Almond flour is—to put it as simply as possible—ground almonds.
To be slightly more specific, however, almond flour is blanched, skinned, and ground almonds, which means it's pale in color and mild in flavor, with none of the bitterness that can come with skins. (That's also what differentiates almond flour from almond meal, which is ground raw almonds with their skins on.)
Making almond flour is a pretty straightforward process, so it's actually easy to do at home.
How to Make Almond Flour
Start with blanched, skinned almonds (often sold as slivered almonds) or blanch and skin whole raw almonds yourself. Every 1 ounce of whole almonds will yield about 1/4 cup almond flour. If you're starting with blanched and skinned almonds, skip ahead to step 5.
- To blanch and skin raw almonds, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the almonds.
- Boil for about 1 minute.
- Drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle. The skins will slip right off, so simply pull them off and discard.
- Lay the almonds on a clean kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels and let sit to dry thoroughly (at least several hours and up to overnight).
- Put the blanched, skinned, dry almonds in a food processor. Pulse until they're ground into a sand-like texture.
Note: Almond "flour" will never be as fine as wheat flour. The nuts will actually turn to almond butter instead of powder, so only grind it as fine as sand, and don't try to get it as fine as wheat flour.
What Does Almond Flour Taste Like?
Since the nuts are blanched before they're ground, the flour doesn't have a very strong, distinctive almond flavor, but it's not completely lacking in it, either. The best way to describe it may be to say that it adds a gentle, slightly nutty aroma to what you're making. When used as the main ingredient, an identifiable almond note will no doubt come through.
Unlike flour milled from grains, it's okay to eat almond flour raw, so go ahead and taste a bit of it if you're interested.
Cooking and Baking With Almond Flour
In recipes that don't depend on gluten to create structure (i.e. risen bread and other things made from yeasted doughs), you can often substitute almond flour one-for-one for wheat flour. It's particularly good for simple desserts such as cookies or bars. The texture of the final item will often be heavier and the batter may require extra liquid, but a bit of experimenting can often yield excellent results.
First-time testers can start by replacing 1/4 of the wheat flour with almond flour. It's great this way in pancakes, scones, muffins, cookies, and even puddings. Adding almond flour to brownies makes them extra fudgy as well.
Almond flour doesn't behave exactly like wheat flour and can't be used one-for-one in all recipes. For yeasted bread and other baked goods that depend on the structural integrity that gluten provides, almond flour can only be used to replace a small portion of wheat flour.
Almond flour works very well as a breading agent, like when coating chicken or pork cutlets to pan fry. It's also an excellent way to thicken soups or stews—simply sprinkle and stir in—or as a breadcrumb substitute in meatloaf and meatballs.
Why People Use Almond Flour
Almond flour is gluten-free, which makes it appealing if you have celiac disease. It also works for certain diets. Almond flour also tastes good and creates a distinctively chewy element to baked goods (like macarons!), which is why many cooks love to find ways to incorporate it into their repertoires.
The Limits of Almond Flour
Since almond flour is gluten-free, it can't be used as if it were wheat flour—gluten is the protein in wheat that creates structure in bread and the bread-like texture in other baked goods.
How to Store Almond Flour
Because almond flour is simply ground almonds, it can go rancid much faster than grain flours. Store it in the fridge, or even in the freezer, and use it within a few weeks.