Ask the Nutritionist

Paleo or Keto? A Guide to Grain-Free Baking Mixes

Use this primer to learn the differences between popular quick-fix products to create yummy no-grain treats and baked goods.

Q: I eat a grain-free diet and occasionally like to indulge in pancakes, muffins, or cookies. I recently noticed there are grain-free baking mixes to help quickly prepare healthier versions of those foods but I really don’t know the differences between a Paleo, Keto, or low-carb baking mix. Can you explain how they differ?

A: At first glance, Paleo and Keto baking mixes seem similar, and it’s easy to get confused. The main ingredient in both is usually blanched almond flour, a low-carb, low-glycemic flour that has a great flavor. Beyond that, there are some important differences. For example, Paleo mixes don’t contain milk products, and keto mixes often do. Also, Paleo mixes typically are sweetened with coconut sugar, while keto mixes are sweetened with low-carb sweeteners.

The type of mix that’s best for you to use is an individual matter based on the type of diet you follow and your specific food sensitivities. Although not a comprehensive list, the following is a rundown of different types of mixes and common brands of each type.

Paleo Baking Mixes

Paleo mixes are designed for people who follow the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer diet, meaning these mixes have “cleaner” ingredients. They’re free of not only grains, but also dairy, legumes, and refined sugar. In addition to almond flour, ingredients usually include a grain-free starch such as arrowroot or cassava flour, and often coconut flour and coconut sugar. Some popular Paleo baking mixes:

Simple Mills—This company offers a range of easy-to-use baking mixes that are widely distributed throughout the country. Made with simple, real, nutrition-packed ingredients, its products include a Pancake & Waffle Mix, three flavors of Muffin & Bread Mix, a Brownie Mix, and Cupcake & Cake Mix in Vanilla and Chocolate. All are sweetened with coconut sugar. Simple Mills also produces an Artisan Bread Mix and a Pizza Dough Mix that have no sweetener added. Just add eggs, oil, and water or dairy or non-dairy milk. For artisan bread, add eggs, water, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. All products are Certified Gluten Free and produced with non-GMO ingredients.

Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix—This handy mix made with just seven ingredients—including almond flour, coconut flour, arrowroot, coconut sugar, and baking soda—takes the guesswork out of making fluffy, golden, grain-free pancakes and waffles. Simply add eggs, water, and coconut oil to whip up the batter. The mix is tested and confirmed gluten-free in Bob’s Red Mill’s dedicated facility.

Pamela’s Grain-Free Pancake Mix—Pamela’s Products, known for its packaged gourmet gluten-free cookies, produces a Grain-Free Pancake Mix that adds pecan flour and walnut flour to the standard almond flour/arrowroot/coconut flour blend. The mix is Non-GMO Project Verified and Certified Gluten-Free. It’s also notable because it contains no added sweetener. Just add an egg, unsweetened almond milk, and oil to make no-sugar-added pancakes that have a delicious, hearty flavor. Or for extra protein and pancakes with a cakier texture, follow the alternative recipe on the package and use less almond milk and an extra egg. You also can add your own sweetener and additional ingredients to the mix to prepare grain-free muffins.

Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mixes—Birch Benders makes a wide variety of pancake mixes. It has three Paleo products: a Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix; Banana Pancake & Waffle Mix; and Pumpkin Spice Paleo Mix. Unlike most other Paleo mixes, these mixes have cassava starch as the main ingredient and less almond flour. Each mix also includes eggs and leavening, so you only need to add water, mix, and cook. The products are Certified Gluten-Free and Certified Paleo.

Keto Baking Mixes

Keto mixes generally are higher in fats and lower in carbohydrates than Paleo mixes, although formulations vary. In addition to almond flour, they can have heartier, higher-fat ingredients such as almond butter; dairy products, such as butter, buttermilk, or whey/milk protein concentrate; protein from legumes; extra fiber; and, typically, a low-carb sweetener such as stevia, monk fruit extract, or erythritol. A few common Keto mixes:

Birch Benders Keto Pancake & Waffle Mixes—Birch Benders Keto Pancake & Waffle Mix is a combination of almond flour, eggs, root vegetable-based tigernut flour, organic coconut flour, cassava starch, buttermilk, and leavening and spices. The company also sells a Chocolate Chip Keto mix that has no-added-sugar dark chocolate chips. You need to add only water to make the batter. Both mixes are Certified Gluten Free.

Lakanto Keto Pancake & Baking Mix—Lakanto is an all-natural, zero-glycemic sweetener made from monk fruit and non-GMO erythritol. The company that produces Lakanto offers Keto and other types of baking mixes sweetened with this sweetener. Beware that not all of Lakanto’s mixes are Keto, and also be mindful that some of its Keto mixes contain grain products, such as oat fiber or degermed corn grits. However, its Keto Pancake & Baking Mix is Keto-friendly and grain-free. Just add coconut oil, eggs, and water to the mix to prepare pancake batter.

Other Keto Mixes—You may find other Keto baking mixes available for purchase in your area. Be aware that some are not completely grain-free. For example, Keto and Co sells ultra-low-carb mixes for ketogenic pancakes, brownies, vanilla cake, shortbread cookies, and more that contain small amounts of non-GMO corn fiber.

Also be aware that some Keto mixes, such as a few by Foodstirs, contain relatively new sugar substitutes such as allulose. This low-calorie sweetener has little to no effect on blood sugar, but may cause uncomfortable abdominal side effects in some people. As you try different products, pay attention to how you feel after eating them to determine if they work well for you.

Coconut Flour

Though not a premade mix, coconut flour is a naturally low-carb, low-glycemic, high-fiber, grain-free flour that is easy to use because it does not need to be combined with other flours. Add eggs and sweetener of your choice. Then, depending on the other ingredients you use, you can make either Paleo- or Keto-friendly pancakes, muffins, cookies, pie crusts, crumble toppings, and cakes.

Numerous companies produce and sell coconut flour.  Among them are Nutiva, Let’s Do Organic, Bob’s Red Mill, and Pamela’s Products.

No-Bake Mix

Creation Nation makes innovative no-bake, no-added-sugar bar and bite mixes with organic superfood ingredients. Depending on the ingredients you add, you can prepare Paleo, Keto, vegan, or gluten-free treats with unparalleled freshness and homemade taste in minutes.

For example, if you use Creation’s Cocoa for Coconuts Energy Bite Mix—a combination of organic shredded coconut, Brazil nut powder, cocoa powder, flaxseed meal, vanilla flavor, sea salt, and monk fruit – you can make a Paleo treat by adding mashed banana and mashed avocado to the mix. Or you can make it keto—and change it to a mocha flavor—by adding coffee and crunchy almond butter to the mix. Then roll into balls and serve.

All Creation Nation products are Certified Gluten-Free. Two of its products contain gluten-free oats, but the rest of its mixes are grain-free.

What You Should Know about Low-Carb Baking Mixes

If you follow a gluten-free and low-carb diet, you might think that a low-carb baking mix would be a good choice, but that’s often not the case. The main ingredient in many low-carb baking mixes is vital wheat gluten—basically, concentrated gluten. Eating this would be harmful if you have celiac disease or are gluten-sensitive. Another key ingredient can be soy flour, a common food allergen. So read ingredients carefully and beware.