MORE De-Carbing Strategy #2 -- Substitution For High Carb Ingredients
What do I use in place of flour?
Geez, does that question need clarifying. What are you planning to use the flour for? Thickening? Baking? Coating something before frying? There are different answers to the question depending on what you were planning to do with the flour.
Thickening is easy. I trust you all have guar , xanthan, or glucomannan on hand? If you don't, you need to buy one of the three right now. I mean, click through to one of those links right now and go order some. Any one of the three. Doesn't matter much. I'll wait right here.
Okay, welcome back. Now, what are guar, xanthan and glucomannan, and what are you going to do with them? They're fibers. Specifically, they're flavorless, finely-milled soluble fibers. When they hit liquid, they absorb it, swell up, and thicken it. You've been eating guar and xanthan, at least, all of your life, since they're widely used as thickeners in processed foods. Glucomannan, coming from the Japanese konjac root, is newer to America, but is substantially similar. And if you've been eating shirataki noodles you've been eating glucomannan, since they're the fiber the noodles are made from.
Any of these three fibers can be used to thicken gravies, sauces, soups -- anything you previously thickened with flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot. The easiest way to use them, I've found, is to put your thickener in a spare salt or spice shaker and keep it by the stove. Then when your dish needs thickening, start stirring it with a whisk first (this prevents lumps), then while you stir, lightly sprinkle the fiber thickener of choice over your dish. Stop when it's a little less thick than you want it to be, as all of these thickeners will continue to thicken a bit on standing.
Since, unlike starchy thickeners, these work without heat, you can also use guar, xanthan, or glucomannan to thicken smoothies, salad dressings -- anything, really. You can even combine one of them with water and some red food coloring to make fake blood for Halloween, should you need some.
Be aware that all of these thickeners are far more powerful than flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot; you will need them in much smaller quantities -- hence the sprinkling with the shaker. (I find xanthan has the most thickening power, but use all three pretty much interchangeably.) Do not attempt to do a one-for-one substitution for a starchy thickener! The very first thing I ever tried with guar -- this would have been nearly 25 years ago -- was to use it in place of cornstarch in making chocolate pudding. I did a one-for-one swap for the cornstarch, and the mixture literally grabbed the spoon out of my hand. I could NOT pull it out of the thickened mixture. I could have used the stuff to surface roads. I had to fill the mixing bowl to the top with water and let it sit overnight. The mixture swelled to fill the whole bowl, but softened enough that I could pull my spoon out -- schloop! -- spoon the stuff into the john, and flush it away.
All of these fiber thickeners will keep forever so long as they don't get wet. That guar I used 25 years ago was part of a 1 pound bag. I moved the last bit of that bag of guar -- long since transferred to an old peanut butter jar -- to this house when I moved five years ago. It still worked fine. So go ahead and buy whatever quantity A) gets you the best price and B) you can store.
Tomorrow I'll talk about flour substitutes for baking. Right now I'd better go feed my dogs.