At first glance, you’re probably thinking what on earth is lupin flour? If you’ve never heard of lupin flour before, don’t worry—you’re with a lot of other people who haven’t. It’s a relatively ‘new’ member of the low-carb flour family that isn’t nearly as popular as things like monk fruit, stevia, coconut or almond flour, but is making its up to the top.
If you’ve never heard of it before and aren’t quite sure how to use lupin flour, we’re going to give you a rundown of what you need to know about it—what lupin flour is, how (and if) it fits into a ketogenic diet, and how it compares to other flours that are generally used in keto.
What is lupin flour?
Lupin flour is made from the lupin bean—a bean that’s relatively high protein, high fiber, gluten-free, and low in carbs. Lupin beans are closely related to peanuts and soy beans, but don’t come with the same risks in terms of allergies and hormonal effects.
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While they’re newer to the North American food scene, lupin beans have been a staple throughout the Mediterranean for ages. While there are several species of lupin beans, L. mutabilis, the Mediterranean Lupinus albus (white lupin), and Lupinus hirsutus are primarily consumed and are only edible after soaking for several days to reduce toxicity.
Lupin beans are typically pickled in brine, but are also ground to produce lupin flour that offers a potent flavor and creaminess to various products.
It’s important to keep in mind that when not prepared properly, lupin beans are actually quite toxic due to high levels of alkaloids that give the beans a characteristic bitter taste. So, if you aren’t familiar with lupin beans and the cooking process, opt to buy pre-soaked beans or lupin flour.
Is lupin flour keto?
In order to understand if lupins are keto-friendly, knowing what lupin beans are is important. Because lupin beans are legumes that are closely released to peanuts, they may cause cross-reactivity in people with peanut allergies, but for the most part, they are not as inflammatory as others; some people may find they have less tolerance for lupin beans than others.
But because lupin beans are devoid of starch but uniquely high in protein and fiber (we know it doesn’t really make sense to think about, but it’s true), they’ve earned a pretty well-deserved spot in the keto world and many keto recipes.
With that said, lupin flour can fit into a low-carb or keto diet no problem, but like anything else, it’s all about the quantity you eat.
Nutrition 101: lupin flour
The nutritional profile of lupin flour is making it a pretty standout competitor in the ever growing functional-foods market, and especially within the keto community.
Most flours derived form beans—lentils, chickpeas, soy, and pea—are relatively high in nutrients, but also come with fiber and a pricey carbohydrate tag, which means they don’t really fit into the macronutrient specifications of a keto diet.
Compared to other types of gluten-containing (or even non-glutinous) flours, lupin flour has a pretty unique macronutrient composition. Protein and fiber are considered two of the most satiating ingredients that can contribute to weight loss and improved health outcomes, but it’s difficult to combine the two in a flour because palatability is usually poor and high-protein foods are generally low in carbs and thus fiber.
That’s why lupin flour has sparked such a curiosity in the keto community. Lupin beans (Lupinus angustifolius) contain about 40% protein and 30% dietary fiber with negligible amounts of carbohydrates, making it a great choice for people on keto.
Here’s what you’re getting per ¼ cup of lupin flour:
- 120 calories
- 2g fat
- 12g total carbohydrates
- 10g dietary fiber
- 12g protein
See why it’s such a unique nutritional profile? It’s pretty much unlike any other flours you can find, why is why we make such a deal of it on keto.
In terms of protein ratio, lupin beans are comparable to that of soy and have an acceptable amino acid profile. The presence of prolamins and its low gluten content (and also low glycemic index score) make it suitable alternative for gluten-free foods, as well as a good substitute for people who are sensitive or intolerant to gluten.
Let’s explore the benefits a bit more.
Benefits of lupin flour
Perhaps one of the most interesting health benefits of lupin flour is its effect on metabolic activity. Studies show that lupi beans possess biological activity that potentiates insulin and metformin activity on cellular glucose consumption, thereby demonstrating the potential for lupin to act as a potent agent for glycemic control.
If that wasn’t enough, there are also animal studies showing that lupin beans exhibit a hypolipidemic, anti-atherosclerotic, and hypocholesterolemia effect, as well as increasing LDL receptor activity in HepG2 cells (liver cells).
Several human studies have also shown that just 25g of lupine protein incorporated into different foods may help to decrease total LDL and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and uric acid levels in people who struggle with high cholesterol.
But lupin beans and lupin flour have more than just positive benefits towards metabolic and cardiovascular health. Here are other reasons why lupin flour should be part of a keto diet:
- Lupin flour is a rich source of dietary fiber (41.5%), of which 11% is soluble fiber and 30.5% is insoluble fiber
- May improve intestinal and bowel function by promoting a healthy digestive system
- Lupin flour is a good source of minerals, especially calcium, phosphorus, and iron
- Contains amounts of beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and tocopherols (vitamin E)
How does lupin flour compare to other keto flours?
There are two “kinds” of flours that are mainly used on the keto diet: nut flours and coconut flour, in addition to things like psyllium and flaxseed that act as binders and thickeners. They’re low in carbs, high in nutrients, and work as perfect substitutions for their high carb counterparts. Here are the specs on keto flour alternatives:
Almond flour or almond meal (ground almonds)
Almond flour is probably one of the top two choices when it comes to keto flour options, with the other being coconut (we’ll talk about that next).
For ¼ cup of almond flour, you’re looking at 160 calories, 14g of fat, 6g of protein, and just 3g net carbs, making it one of the best keto flour alternatives. However, because almond flour has a relatively high fat content, binding can be an issue and you may need to add additional eggs, baking powder, xanthan gum, or other binders to give your food more structure and ensure it doesn’t fall apart (which is common with almond flour-based goods).
Almond flour comes in two kinds: blanched and unblanched. Blanched almond flour, which has the almond skins removed, is typically finer, smoother, and fluffier than unblanched almond flour, which tends to add a bit of sweetness and a moister texture to baked goods; it’s ideal for most sweets (cakes, cookies, breads, etc.).
Unblanched, on the other hand, has the skins blended in and typically makes for a coarser and heavier texture. The finer the texture, the easier it will be to bake with.
You can also purchase almond meal, which is made from milling the almonds with the skin intact; it’s generally less expensive and still good to bake with in recipes that don’t require a fine texture.
If you’re not sure where to start with almond flour, we have loads of delicious keto-friendly almond flour recipes on our blog, and we recently made these keto cheddar crackers that are literally out of this world. So, if you’re a fan of almond flour and happen to have some lying around, definitely try them out. You can thank us later.
Coconut flour is another staple used on keto to replace traditional high-carb flours. It’s produced from dehydrated coconut meat after most of the fat has been extracted from it to make coconut oil. For ¼ cup of coconut flour, there are about 120 calories, 3g of fat, 4g of protein, and 16g of carbohydrates, of which 10g is fiber to leave you with a net carb count of 6g.
Like lupin flour, coconut flour is typically higher in fiber than other nut flours, so it’s a good option for people looking to include more fiber in their diet and boost digestive health.
Like nut flours, there’s no direct 1:1 substitution for coconut flour into your favorite recipes. The one thing you have to be careful of with coconut flour is that it absorbs moisture like a sponge. Generally, you’ll use about 1/4-1/3 cup of coconut flour in place of 1 cup of all-purpose flour, but increase the amount of liquid and eggs.
If you’ve never baked with coconut flour before, we have loads of recipes on our blog using it, but we also have a post on everything you need to know about cooking with coconut flour and 12 of the best keto coconut flour recipes to go along with it.
Other nut flours
You can take almost any nut and grind it to a flour-like consistency for use as a replacement to traditional high-carb flours, but it can also be used to substitute recipes that call for almond flour if you prefer other options.
Other nuts options to experiment with are walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, or pistachios. They all give a unique flavor, some stronger than others, so choose your preferences based on the flavor you’re looking to achieve. It’s also more difficult to find some of these flours/meals, so you’re best to buy raw nuts and grind them yourself!
Flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
Ground flax (linseed) is another great option that’s often added to keto baking. It’s a super nutritious seed that’s loaded with B1, copper, ALA (plant omega-3), and lignans. Per 2 tablespoons, there’s only 70 calories, 5.5g of fat, 4g of total fat, 2.5g of protein, and because they contain 2.5g of fiber per serving, you’re looking at only 0.5g net carbs!
Flaxseed meal has a super earthy and nutty taste, so it makes a great sub into keto-friendly breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies. However, it’s generally not used as the main flour in baked goods (adding it in combination with lupin flour could be a great option!). And if you’re doing vegan keto or are sensitive to eggs, it can also work in place of eggs; “flax eggs” are a common option that are made by mixing water with ground flax to make a gel-like consistency that works great as an egg replacement.
Be mindful that the oils in flaxseeds are incredibly delicate and go rancid pretty quick, so it’s best to store them in the fridge or freezer and grind them just before you’re about to use them.
Sunflower or pumpkin seed meal (flour)
For people who struggle with nut allergies or sensitivities, pumpkin or sunflower seed flour are great keto alternatives. They’re a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, thiamine, selenium, copper, and phosphorus, but are also low in carbs so they fit well with a keto diet.
Like nut flours, the one downside is that pumpkin and sunflower seed flours can be a bit more expensive, but they offer a good nutrient profile so it may be worth it. They can typically sub 1 for 1 in recipes using almond flour.
The verdict on lupin flour
If you’re looking for flours to replace your usual wheat-based high-carb options, lupin flour definitely hits one of the top spots. It’s gluten-free, non-GMO, high protein, high fiber, contains minimal starch, and is loaded with all sorts of nutrients.
And like pumpkin and sunflower seed flour, lupin flour a great option for people who are sensitive to nuts. While it may not be a direct 1:1 sub for almond flour or other high-carb flours, it’s a good option if you’re looking for baked goods and want to still stick to keto. However, like any other keto flour alternatives, it’s going to take some baking experimentation with lupin flour to really nail it!
Have you ever tried baking or cooking with lupin flour? Drop a comment and let us know what you made with lupin flour and how it turned out! We’d love to hear!