All About Oat Flour

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Oats are a staple in many diets around the world. Not only can both be used in delicious treats and breakfast foods, but they can also be ground down into flour. Oat flour is not only as functional as white flour, but it has all of the same benefits as old-fashioned oats.

Whether you are looking for a way to upgrade your sweet treats or need gluten-free alternatives, oat flour is one of the best white flour substitutes you can get. You can purchase it at the store, or you can make your own. Either way, this flour is affordable, convenient, and extra tasty.

What Is Oat Flour?

Oat flour is a gluten-free, whole grain flour that is made from oats. It has a mildly nutty flavor and is perfect for making fluffy baked goods and delicious treats. You can purchase it at the store or you can make it at home.

This flour is made from whole grain, which means the flour has all the same benefits as eating whole-grain oatmeal. It includes protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it one of the healthiest flour substitutes around.

Its flavor is a lot more palatable than other flour replacements, too. Its slightly sweet and nutty flavor makes it perfect for a variety of recipes. It also has a one-to-one substitution ratio as traditional flour in weight, making it super easy to sub into your favorite recipes.

Is Oat Flour Just Ground Oats?

oats

In its most simple form, this flour is just ground oats, but it is made from a specific part of the oat. More specifically, it is made from whole oat groats. The groats are the edible kernels removed from the inedible hull of the grain.

If you go to the store, the groats that are turned into oat flour are old-fashioned or rolled oats. That being said, quick-cooking oats and steel-cut oats can be turned into flour as well. Because quick-cooking oats and steel-cut oats have slightly different densities, old-fashioned or rolled oats are the best choice for making oat flour.

What Is Oat Flour Used For?

Oat flour can technically be used in any recipe that calls for regular flour, but it is best for baked goods and sweets, including pancakes, muffins, breads, and even crumbles. That’s because its texture is slightly more crumbly than regular flour, and it has a sweeter flavor.

Since this flour is best for baked goods, you might want to opt for a different flour alternative for thickening purposes and savory meals. Bean flour, for instance, is a better alternative for these options due to its finer texture and earthier flavor.

When you decide to use this flour, you have to know how much to use. Unlike other flour alternatives, it can be used in a one-to-one ratio as flour, but only in weight, not volume. Oat flour is lighter than regular flour, which means recipes typically need about 42% more than traditional flour.

Luckily, it’s super easy to figure out how much you need to use. You just need equal weights. So, if the recipe calls for one cup of flour, just use one cup of oat flour. Easy peasy.

To ensure that you have the right quantities, you want to have a kitchen scale handy. This makes it easy to find out exactly how much flour you need and are using in your recipes.

Is Oat Flour Better than Regular Flour?

The answer to this question is a difficult one. While certainly a great flour alternative, there is a reason why white flour is the standard and oat flour is the substitute.

When it comes to versatility, regular flour reigns supreme. It has a more neutral flavor and a powderier consistency, which makes it suitable for a variety of dishes. You can use regular flour in savory dishes, sweet dishes, and even as a thickener in soups, dips, and stews.

Although oat flour certainly is versatile, it isn’t quite as versatile as regular flour. It makes a great substitute for sweets and baked goods, but it isn’t as ideal as a traditional thickener or in savory meals. You can certainly use it in this way, but you might be able to detect a difference in the flavor and texture of the food.

In contrast, oat flour is better than white flour when it comes to nutrients and health. Regular flour comes void of practically any nutritional benefits. It primarily serves the purpose of creating more texture in the foods you are making. Oat flour not only adds texture, but it is nutrient-dense as well.

For those with gluten sensitivities, oat flour wins again. Oats do not contain gluten, which makes its flour gluten-free. The same cannot be said of regular flour, which always includes gluten and is not suitable for those with gluten allergens and intolerance.

Is Oat Flour Healthier Than White Flour?

The biggest benefit is that it is incredibly healthy. It is much healthier than white flour. White flour is void of any true nutrients. Although it certainly makes treats tasty, it doesn’t add any vitamins, minerals, or proteins that nourish your body.

In contrast, oat flour is packed full of nutrients that not only taste yummy but keep your body in ideal condition. A 1/4 cup of this flour has 110 calories, 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and numerous vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin.

To put that in perspective, 1/3 cup of white flour has only 0.8 grams of fiber, 3.3 grams of protein, and trace amounts of vitamins. The only mineral in white flour is iron. It is free of practically any other vitamin and mineral that your body needs.

Plus, everyone can enjoy the health benefits of oat flour since it is gluten-free. Even if white flour had the same nutrients, which it doesn’t, a part of the population would not be able to eat these nutrients due to its gluten.

Is Oat Flour Gluten-Free?

gluten free oat flour

As we’ve already mentioned, one of the best features of this flour is that it is gluten-free. Oats do not naturally contain any type of gluten, which means its flour does not contain gluten either. Individuals with celiac or other forms of gluten intolerance can eat oat flour as a result.

Still, it is important to be meticulous when it comes to reading about possible gluten contamination with oat flour. Oats are often processed in the same factories as gluten-containing wheat. This means that certain oats can be contaminated with gluten.

If you are buying oat flour or oats to make oat flour, make sure that the oats you select are certified gluten-free. This means that efforts were made to ensure gluten contamination did not happen during the processing of the oats.

Is Oat Flour Good For Baking?

Oat flour is not only good for baking, but it is fantastic for it. It has a slightly crumbly texture that most individuals love in their desserts and treats. It also has a fantastic flavor that complements the flavor of sweets and other baked goods.

This flour can even be used in no-bake recipes. This is a major benefit that cannot be the same for white flour. If you have no-bake recipes you want to try out, oat flour is one of the best flours to select.

All the while, your oat flour will also make your baked goods and desserts at least a little bit healthier. This means that you can truly enjoy a guilt-free bite of your favorite baked goods and treats since you know that your body is also getting the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs from the flour.

History of Oat Flour

The history of oats and oat flours is a long one.

Ancient Times

Oats were native to the western Asian regions, and they were technically being cultivated in 12,000 BCE, but they weren’t as popular as wheat and barley farming. It wasn’t until about 2000 BCE that farmers saw the benefit of growing oats at high altitudes. It is during this time that oat flour was used for bread and even beer.

Middle Ages

As time progressed, a lot of individual farmers loved oats and oat flour. It was often used as flour for unleavened bread like matzo bread. Although the ancient Romans were not fans of oats, a lot of the Germanic tribes ate oats and oat flour in large quantities. By the Middle Ages, oats and oat flour were highly popular in what would become Britain, Scotland, and Ireland.

Modern Times

By the 1600s, oats were even popular in North America. 200 years later, the German immigrant Ferdinand Schumacher revolutionized the oat industry in the United States, which eventually led to the cereal industry in the States.

Although oats were popular in the United States by this point, the same cannot be said about oat flour. In the States, wheat flour still reigns supreme due to the amount of land dedicated to wheat farming.

Oat Flour Fun Facts

unleavened bread

Even though white flour has more significance on our day-to-day diet, oat flour potentially has biblical roots. For many Middle Eastern religions, unleavened bread was made. Unleavened bread does not include yeast, which means the bread does not rise.

Although typical unleavened bread today is made only with flour and water, there are some studies that suggest people of the past made unleavened bread from oat flour. In fact, many scholars believe that matzo bread was often made from oat flour.

How Is Oat Flour Made?

The process of making this flour is very simple. Although it can be made from quick oats or steel-cut oats, it is almost exclusively made from whole rolled or old-fashioned oats.

Before making this flour, the oat groats are separated from the inedible part of the plant. After that, they are steamed and rolled into flakes. This creates rolled oats, just like the oats you can buy at stores. This process allows the oats to stay fresh longer and cook faster by stabilizing the healthy oils within.

Once the rolled oats are dried out, they are then processed and turned into a fine powder. Large food processors typically do this. The mixture will often be put in a food processor multiple times to ensure that all of the flakes are evenly broken down to a powder form. The process also often includes shifting so that define powder is separated from oats that are not completely ground up yet.

How To Make Oat Flour At Home

Oat flour is one of the most popular flour substitutes because you can easily make it at home. All you need to make your own is old-fashioned or whole-rolled oats and a blender or food processor. A spice grinder or coffee grinder will work as well.

Simply head over to your local grocery store and pick up plain old-fashioned or whole-rolled oats. Bring the oats home and put them inside your blender or food processor. A food processor is superior to a blender because it will break the oats down to much smaller sizes.

After you have the oats in the processor for a couple of minutes, pour the contents of the processor into a sifter. This will separate the powdered flour from the oats that aren’t quite powder form yet. Put the contents caught by the sifter back into the processor to break them down further. Repeat this until all of your oats have been ground down into flour.

For storage, simply put the flour inside a mason jar or some other container and store it in a cool, dry place.

What Does Oat Flour Taste Like?

As you would expect, this flour takes on the taste of the oats. Oats have a slightly nutty flavor, but the flavor is far from being overpowering. The texture is also a slight crumble, making it slightly less powdery than white flour.

Because of how mild the flavor is, it’s very easy to mask the flavor with other ingredients in your recipes. The flavor naturally pairs well with sweets, but it can be masked by savory flavors as well.

What Does Oat Flour Smell Like?

Oat flour has a very mild smell. In fact, the smell is so faint that you might not smell anything until you get incredibly close to the flour itself. The flour is only slightly nutty smelling. Once paired with any other ingredient, the recipe will primarily smell of the other ingredient, not the flour.

If your flour has a very strong rancid smell, the flour is bad. Throw it out if you notice a strong smell coming from it.

Oat Flour Substitutions

Different types of flour in spoon

Even though oat flour is a favorite white flour substitute, you might not be a fan of its nutty flavor or you might want something more suited for savory meals. There are tons of substitutions to choose from, but these are our favorites.

Bean Flour

Bean flour can be made from a variety of beans. Bean flour is completely gluten-free, and it is packed full of protein, fiber, and nutrients. If you are looking for ways to sneak protein into your diet, bean flour is the way to go. Bean flour can be made from a variety of beans. So, carefully consider the bean that your flour is made from to ensure it matches your recipes and preferences.

Almond Flour

Almond flour is another great alternative. It is gluten-free and has a mild nutty flavor. In many respects, almond flour is a lot like oat flour. It doesn’t soak up a lot of moisture, has a nutty flavor, and is gluten-free. It doesn’t taste exactly the same as oat flour, though.

Whole Wheat Flour

If you are looking for an oat alternative that is easy to find, whole wheat flour may be the choice for you. Although it is not gluten-free, it has a lot of the same nutritional benefits as flour made from oats. It has a lot of fiber and minerals. Note that you will need another flour for binding purposes if you choose this type.

Quinoa Flour

Quinoa flour is great for baking as well. It comes packed full of nutrients and is gluten-free. The only downside of quinoa flour is that it is quite expensive.

Final Thoughts

Next time you make tasty baked goods, try oat flour instead of white flour. It has many of the same benefits as white flour, plus more. It is super healthy, tasty, and gluten-free. Just make sure that the oats you pick up are certified gluten-free to ensure no gluten contamination happened before the oats made it to your home.