Monday Kitchen Tips: Bean Flour is Full of Beans

No Beans Allowed

Strolling around the farmer’s market recently, I counted four tables full of gluten-free baked goods. Three vendors used beany-weeny flour mixes. Guess where I didn’t buy a cookie?

Like the nutty notion of using avocado as a fat in baking, someone along the way deemed bean flour a great source of protein for the poor, sad nutritionally deprived gluten-free eaters (read: sarcasm). Apparently we cannot eat a balanced vitamin, mineral rich diet if we are gluten-free (so not true). Gluten-free does not automatically mean our diet is cereal-based or that we don’t eat eggs or other protein sources (for the most part, at least).

Another common debate is that beans are a good source of fiber. The argument assumes that when eating a gluten-free diet we don’t have a good intake of fiber which is also false if one eats a balanced diet (read: plenty of vegetables and whole grains).

Eating a gluten-free diet and feeling much better only to discover the baked goods you are buying might be causing more gastro grief? Read the ingredients label. Just because it doesn’t contain gluten doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain something annoying, like beans. For example, beans are legumes. Legumes are not necessarily friendly to the gut. Many of us cannot eat peanuts nor can we easily digest beans (think: leaky gut and fodmaps). Get the scoop on beans here.

Beans are not neutral  in flavor – at all. Most baked goods, really good baked goods rely on neutral flours. Neutral flours help promote the flavors we add (extracts, liquids, zests, etc.) to make a cake different from say, a cream puff, or a cookie different from a biscotti. Beans will overpower even the strongest cookie and all you will come away with is baked beans in the shape of a cookie.

Additionally, every baking recipe ratio would need to be reformulated to take into account the odd properties of various beans turned into flours. Otherwise you risk a whole host of baking disasters.

Bean flour as a baking flour can make pastry, cakes and cookies come out dense, oddly shaped, strangely flavored and colored, plus crumbly and dry. And bean flour should never be substituted at anything more than 10% to 15% of the total flour volume for the best outcome (if you really want to use the stuff and have the baked goods come out sort of normal). But aside from the disasters listed above, any inclusion of beans in baked goods impart a back note, front note, and sideways icky note of beany flavor no matter how they are disguised.

Of course if you want to consider healthier gluten-free flour choices than say, mixes heavy on the starches, then read last week’s kitchen post. There are healthy ways to make GF flour mixes aside from using legumes.

Still want a load of beans? Leave them out of the pastries, cookies, cakes, and brownies and save them for that spicy batch of chili, beany stew, hummus, soup, or even oven baked beans.


Cake Food Science

Bean Flour and Baking Properties

Bean Flour in GF Commercial Cake Production

FODMAP list from Stanford



  1. Cheering from the sidelines here, Lisa!!!! What a great post! Sometimes you just have to state the obvious (as in your title) and make it clear to folks. So, so many are trying and hating–or even worse, IMHO, eating things that they say are “not too bad” (why?!)–because of the ubiquitous bean flour. The Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose bean-based flour is everywhere and that’s what most go for. Even when they have a choice, they often choose the BRM bean-based flour because of price. So when folks try Cup4Cup or recipes made from non-bean-based flours used by America’s Test Kitchen, they think they have finally met the gf geniuses. Pffft. In reality, the great gf flour mixes–the ruby slippers in the gf world–have been there all along, perhaps not out in the front like the bean flours, but definitely available and certainly very easy to make at home from recipes like your non-bean flour mix. About the only thing I have ever enjoyed bean-based flour in is socca and that’s because it was savory (similar to your suggestion for the use of beans) and had delicious toppings on it.

    Going to share this one for sure! Thanks, dear!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Thanks, Shirley. I’m just guessing that folks don’t know they don’t have to have beans in their flour – or that the best amount is only about 10 to 15% total, not the largest ingredient in the mix. And yep – good GF flours have been around for a while.

  2. Sharon Knits says:

    The same can be said for “Besan Flour” which is just another name for Chick Pea Flour. My current store of that is now used to cook up for our chickens as the pea flavour is very strong and overpowers anything you bake.

  3. I tried some of these flours when I first went gluten free; my gosh, they are terrible for baking! I like beans, but not bean flour.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Lynda – agreed. baked beans? sure. bean flour in my cookies? not so much!