As strange as this may sound (especially coming from a food blogger), I don’t usually follow recipes.
I’ll change nuts and seeds, reduce the sugar and double the veggies any day of the week. My reasoning is simple: nutrition.
I’m always looking for ways to increase the nutrition of the meals I feed my family, and small substitutions like adding flax seeds to pancake batter or cottage cheese to smoothies can really boost those vitamins over the course of the day.
Hands down though, my all-time favorite nutritional swap that I’m SO glad I did on accident one day is using oat flour in place of all-purpose flour in baking recipes.
Not only does it boost nutrition, but oat flour gives baked goods a moist, slightly chewy texture and doesn’t require any recipe rocket science to pull off successfully. Plus since I tend to have rolled oats on hand most of the time, using oat flour doesn’t require any special ingredients that aren’t already in my grocery budget or a trip to a store not in my normal shopping routine.
Using Oat Flour in Recipes
Oat flour is the secret weapon in gluten-free families since oats are naturally gluten-free. While we’re not a gluten-free family, it’s important to know this so you know how oat flour will behave in recipes.
Essentially, since oat flour doesn’t have gluten, it won’t help with rise or elasticity in any recipe. This means that you can’t substitute it entirely in recipes that need a rise, like breads, biscuits or rolls. Those recipes require gluten in order to rise, and swapping out all the gluten flours for oat flour won’t result in bread… it’ll result in a brick of oatmeal.
However, you CAN substitute 1/2-1 cup of oat flour in those recipes and get that whole grain, chewy texture you enjoy in oat bread.
For cookie and brownie recipes, substitute up to half the flour with oat flour.
For cake or pastry recipes, substitute only 1/4 of the gluten flour for oat flour. Typically you’re looking for a fluffy rise in both of those instances too, and too much oat flour will either cause the batter to be too dense or fall flat after baking.
For all other recipes, start with 1/4-1/2 cup and see what happens! Just remember you can always add more the next time, but start out with too much and the mouths you feed might be leery of your trying it again.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes that we most often use oat flour in – all tried and true:
- Oatmeal Apple Bars
- Zucchini Bread with Carrots & Apples
- Vanishing Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Cinnamon Swirl Oat Bread
- Very Little Bother Oat Bread
- Maple Oatmeal Bread
- Cinnamon Oatmeal Blender Waffles
- 1/4 cup to any smoothie
There aren’t any nutrients hidden in oats. What manufacturers advertise on the label is pretty much what you get:
- Soluble Fiber – shortens time in intestinal tract to promote regularity, slows digestion to make you feel fuller longer, binds acids in the intestines to alleviate constipation, regulates blood sugar
- Protein – same high quality as meat, milk and eggs
- Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamin B, Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus – all help the immune system in addition to other bodily functions
What’s surprising about the nutrition is that you get ALL of this in just one ingredient.
Some foods are only high in protein. Others are just high in fiber. Oats have both, plus a laundry list of vitamins and minerals to go with.
There are only a handful “superfoods” thanks to the amazing combination of nutrients available, and oats are one of them! All the more reason to add them to cookies, don’t you think?
Different Types of Oats
Shopping for oats can be stressful and confusing if you’re not sure what to look for, especially since there are FIVE different types of oats on the typical supermarket shelf. Knowing which is which, and which is better, not only helps you make better food choices but helps to keep your budget in check too.
Here’s a list of the most common types of oats, with the least processed at the top and most processed at the bottom.
- Steel Cut Oats – When oat groats are harvested, they are put into a large machine that spins really fast, causing the oat groat to separate from its husk. In the process, many oat groats are broken into small pieces. These small pieces of oat groats are steel cut oats.
- Old Fashioned Oats – The steel cut oats are sifted so that only larger oat groats remain. These are rolled in between large pins and flattened into rolled oats. The result is considered old fashioned oats.
- Rolled Oats – Old fashioned oats are steamed and lightly toasted to aid in the cooking process at home. These are called rolled oats.
- Quick Cooking Oats – These oats are the result of oat grains that were first cut into smaller pieces before being rolled, steamed and toasted. This process is again to aid in the cooking process at home.
- Instant Oatmeal – This is the Quaker maple and brown sugar I grew up with. The oats are pre-cooked at the factory and then dried, usually with flavoring and sweetener added before packaging.
To increase nutrition and eat as much real food as possible, aim for old fashioned oats at minimum. Steel cut oats will have a higher level of nutrition because some of the bran (outer protective shell) will still be intact, but these are indeed more expensive.
You’ll have to decide what level of nutrition is best worth your dollar, but regardless of the type of oats you buy, homemade oat flour will always be more affordable than store-bought!
DIY: Homemade Oat Flour
Place oats in a blender or food processor. Blend, or process, on high until oats resemble a fine powder. One cup of oats yields approximately 1 cup of oat flour.
Additional Recipe Notes
One cycle on my Blendtec (about 50 seconds) gave me pretty decent oat flour. A second cycle gave me even finer powder, which is what I prefer to keep in my pantry for my baking needs.
If your blender or food processor tends to heat up with use, allow the machine to cool in between cycles in order to prevent the oats from sticking to each other and not grinding well enough.
Oat flour is NOT as fine as typical all-purpose flour. It will be slightly grainier, and more like coarse cornmeal.
10 pounds of rolled oats run less than $10 from Costco, putting the price point at just under $1/lb. Compared to most other brands on Amazon, you’re saving 50% right off the bat by making it yourself!
Although slightly higher in cost than Costco, Vitacost has old fashioned oats for a good price. You can also find steel-cut and gluten-free oats. (Although oatmeal in and of itself is gluten-free, some oats may contain gluten from cross contamination in processing.)
Using oat flour in some of our baked goods is just one way I boost the nutrition of our foods. But it also improves the texture and adds moisture to items like cookies and breads that tend to dry out in just a day or two. Homemade oat flour also improves the bottom line of our grocery budget too!