Almond Meal vs. Almond Flour
Does It Matter?

Almond meal is actually the same thing as almond flour, and almond powder. It is essential to have on hand if you like traditional recipes, especially if you’re on a gluten free diet. Basically it’s nothing more than ground up almonds. It’s used in many traditional cake and cookie recipes, and can also be added to your favorite pancakes and breads.

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It also belongs in your pantry if you’re on a low carb diet or a grain free diet like the Paleo diet.

Some people use 2 classifications: calling it meal if it’s more coarsely ground (or if it's made from unblanched almonds), and almond flour if it’s blanched and finely ground. This could be helpful.

But most cooks and cookbooks don’t differentiate. Commercial brands don’t make a clear distinction either: the terms almond meal and almond flour are used interchangeably, even though brands differ greatly in particle size.

So the name doesn’t really matter since there are no reliable standards for naming, or for particle size distribution.


Regardless Of The Name,
Brands of Almond Meal Differ Greatly

I’ve discovered a huge difference in 2 brands, Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour and Honeyville Almond Flour. You can see the difference for yourself on this page. But what difference does it make in the recipe? And what can you do if you don’t have the kind recommended?

Coarse or Fine: Does It Matter In The Recipe?

Fine Blanched Almond Flour Particles Coarse Blanched Almond Flour Particles
Fine
Particles
Coarse
Particles

Particle size does matter. The images show the smallest and largest particle sizes I found in both Bob’s Red Mill and Honeyville almond flour.

Particle size determines the amount of surface area that is available to react with or stick to other ingredients, and to absorb moisture.

The smaller the particle size, the more surface area there is to work with the other ingredients. Baking success depends on this ratio.

If you reduce the amount of surface area by including almond meal with lots of large particles, you may leave a lot of other ingredients with nothing to interact with. The recipe may not cook right, often because there is too much moisture or fat that isn’t absorbed. A simpler way to look at it:

Using almond flour with large grains, such as Bob’s Red Mill, when a recipe calls for finely ground almond meal is sort of like replacing some of the flour with chopped nuts.

Normally when you add chopped nuts, you don’t use them to replace the flour–the nuts are in addition to the ingredients. This usually isn’t a problem with traditional almond flour recipes like you find on this site.

But if you are using coarsely ground almond flour in a recipe intended to be a delicate cake, or recipes in Elana Amsterdam’s fabulous cookbook, The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, you may end up with a soggy mess.

The solution? There are 2 Possibilities:

  • If all you have is coarse almond meal you can pulse it in your food processor or coffee mill, (don’t leave it running or you’ll get almond butter) or sift out the larger particles and crush them in a mortar and pestle.

  • But if you don’t want to take the time to grind the almond meal further, and don’t mind the extra nuttiness, try adding a bit of some other starch such as tapioca, corn starch, or arrowroot powder. This adds more surface area and absorption potential. If you like lots of nuts, in some cases using a bit more of the coarse almond meal may work.

    About ¼ C of starch (or other fine flour) per cup of Bob’s Red Mill almond meal will usually do it. Mix it with the dry ingredients because it will clump if you put it directly in the wet ingredients.

If the situation is the other way around and you have fine almond meal when you need coarse meal, substitute some ground almonds for a portion of the flour: buzz some almonds in your food processor, or get out the mortar and pestle or your knife and chopping block.

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