Flour is usually made from plant-based sources like grains, nuts, and seeds. These plant-based foods also are sources of fiber, so it’s no surprise that the fiber content of flour can vary depending on its source and how it’s processed.
Some of the highest-fiber flours (per 1/4 cup) are coconut flour (12 grams), buckwheat flour (9 grams), fava bean flour (8 grams), whole wheat flour (7 grams), chestnut flour (6 grams), and chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour (5 grams). The lowest fiber flours are rice flour (0 grams), tapioca flour (0 grams), vital wheat gluten flour (0 grams), Tipo 00 flour (<1 gram), and cake flour (1 gram), among several other flours with 1 gram of fiber per 1/4 cup.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate (carbohydrates are one of the three main nutrients your body uses for energy). Fiber is found in plant-based foods and isn’t absorbed by your digestive system. Also called roughage, fiber is classified by two types – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel, while insoluble fiber doesn’t absorb water. Plant-based foods like grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables all have varying levels of fiber and differ in the type of fiber they contain. For example, oats are high in soluble fiber while whole wheat flour is high in insoluble fiber.
Fiber is beneficial for your health in many ways, from heart health to digestive health. Because fiber isn’t absorbed by your digestive system, it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels like starch and sugars (the other two types of carbs) do. The higher the fiber content of the food, the lower the net carbohydrate content is. (Net carbs are found by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total carbs.)
Low-carb diets, including the ketogenic diet, often reference net carbs to choose foods that will fit within these restrictive diets. For instance, if you’re allowed 50 grams of total carbs a day, a food with 15 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fiber will only contribute 8 grams of net carbs to your running total (15-7=8).
How does fiber in flour impact cooking & baking?
Since fiber can absorb water, higher-fiber flours can help retain moisture in baked goods. Retaining moisture helps achieve a softer texture, and it can also improve the shelf life of the baked goods because it won’t dry out as fast.
As we mentioned above, some people might choose higher-fiber flours to fit in with their health goals or dietary restrictions. Others might opt for a lower-fiber flour if they’re sensitive to fiber, such as with irritable bowel syndrome or certain types of inflammatory bowel disorders.
Five high-fiber flours
- Coconut flour – 12 grams per ¼ cup
Coconut flesh is very high in fiber, so it’s no surprise that coconut flour is high in fiber. Naturally gluten-free, coconut flour is a great option for gluten-free dieters as well as ketogenic dieters since it’s low in net carbs (6 grams of net carbs per ¼ cup).
Some of the best uses for coconut flour are making cookies, cakes, and muffins, among other baked goods. You can also use coconut flour to thicken sauces, soups, and gravies, especially for gluten-free recipes.
- Buckwheat flour – 9 grams per 1/4 cup
Buckwheat flour is made from buckwheat, which (ironically) is not derived from wheat or any other gluten-containing grains. Put differently, it’s naturally gluten-free in addition to being very high in fiber.
3. Fava bean flour – 8 grams per 1/4 cup
Made from fava beans (also called broad beans), fava bean flour is considered raw and needs to be cooked, so it’s not suitable for no-bake recipes. Not only is fava bean flour high in fiber, but it’s also rich in protein with 8 grams per ¼ cup.
4. Whole wheat flour – 7 grams per ¼ cup
Whole wheat flour contains all parts of the wheat kernel, including the high-fiber bran and germ which are normally removed when making all-purpose (refined) flour. Whole wheat flour is denser compared to all-purpose flour, so baked goods made with whole wheat flour might not rise as much in comparison.
5. Chestnut flour – 6 grams per ¼ cup
Naturally gluten-free, chestnut flour offers a sweet and slightly nutty flavor to baked goods like cakes, cookies, and sweet bread. One of the most popular baked goods using chestnut flour is castagnaccio, a dish popular in the fall that consists of chestnut flour, water, olive oil, pine nuts, and raisins.
Five low-fiber flours
- Rice flour – 0 grams per ¼ cup
Rice flour is a popular choice for coating foods (breading) for frying since it yields a crispy texture. It’s also a good choice for gluten-free pancakes, muffins, and bread, as well as thickening sauces and gravies.
- Tapioca flour – 0 grams per ¼ cup
Derived from the cassava root, tapioca flour is an excellent binder and is popular in gluten-free dishes. Gluten-free all-purpose flour blends often contain some tapioca flour due to its binding properties.
- Vital wheat gluten flour – 0 grams per ¼ cup
Vital wheat gluten is rich in protein due to its high gluten content. Gluten produces an elastic texture, which yields chewy breads, cookies, and other baked goods.
Vital wheat gluten isn’t usually used on its own (except for making seitan, a vegan protein source), but is added to recipes with other flour to boost the gluten content and increase the volume (the elastic gluten molecules trap gas and allow for more rising).
- Tipo 00 (Italian Double Zero) flour – <1 gram per ¼ cup
This flour is popular for making pizza crust, calzones, and focaccia bread since it promotes an airy and crispy crust. It’s made from wheat that is lower in gluten and is finely ground, which helps increase the crispiness.
- Cake flour – 1 gram per ¼ cup
Cake flour is made from wheat that is low in gluten, which yields a delicate texture perfect for cakes and other delicate baked goods. Because it’s low in gluten, cake flour doesn’t yield a chewy texture like higher gluten flours.
Other flours with 1 gram of fiber per ¼ cup:
- All-purpose flour
- Bread flour
- Brown rice flour
- Cricket flour
- Durum flour
- Millet flour
- Noodle flour
- Pastry flour
- Self-rising flour
- Semolina flour
Coconut flour contains the most fiber with 12 grams of fiber per ¼ cup. It’s even higher than whole-wheat flour, which contains 7 grams of fiber per ¼ cup.
Rice flour, tapioca flour, and vital wheat gluten flour all contain zero grams of fiber per ¼ cup, making them the lowest fiber flours.
It can vary by manufacturer, but all-purpose flour has 1 gram of fiber for each quarter cup. For comparison, whole wheat flour has 7 grams.