If you follow a paleo or gluten-free diet, there's a good chance you've stumbled upon recipes that call for blanched almond flour, which is a common grain-free substitute for white flour. Blanched almond flour (which is made from ground blanched almonds) is frequently used in foods like gluten-free pancakes and vegan cheese, as well as numerous other baked goods. But what are blanched almonds, and why does it matter whether or not we use blanched almond flour? Regular almonds and almond flour can be used instead of blanched, but this will affect the aesthetics, taste, and nutrition of the dish you're making. If you only have regular almonds on hand, though, it's easy to make blanched almonds on your own.

What Are Blanched Almonds?

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Blanched almonds are almonds that have been briefly boiled in order to remove the skins. There's not much difference between blanched and unblanched almonds, so they can be substituted for each other in the same amounts. There are a few reasons to remove the skins, though.

First of all, there's aesthetics. Brown almond skins can affect the overall look of the dish. Flecks of almond skin in almond flour, for example, may not look nice when you want even-colored macaron shells. Plus, blanched almonds can add a pop of color to a vegetable dish.

The second reason is for taste. Almond skins contain tannins. Tannins are astringent compounds, meaning they cause a dry feeling in the mouth due to the way they react with proteins in saliva. These compounds are also responsible for the feeling of dryness in black tea and wine. By removing the skins, you can remove the astringency and bitterness from a dish, leading to a cleaner flavor and mouthfeel. 

Third, the skins of almonds have some effect on nutrition. As mentioned before, almond skins are a source of tannins, and tannins can affect nutrient absorption in the body. However, human bodies are perfectly capable of digesting almonds with skins, and there are no scientific studies to show that eating almond skins is particularly detrimental. 

How to Blanch Almonds

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Blanching almonds only takes a few minutes. In order to properly blanch almonds, boil a pot of water over high heat and measure out the amount of raw, unsalted almonds you want to blanch. Set aside a bowl of ice water large enough to submerge the almonds.

When the water comes to a boil, add the almonds and boil for exactly one minute. Do NOT leave the pot at this point. Overboiling your almonds will turn them rubbery and soft. As the almonds boil, the water will start to turn brown as the tannins in the skin leach out.

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Strain the almonds from the hot water and place them in the bowl of ice water. Wait a few moments for the almonds to be cool enough to handle. The skins should feel a little loose around the nut.

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Now is the fun part! To remove the skin, pinch an almond and squeeze it until the nut pops out from the skin. Make sure you don't squeeze too hard or else it'll go flying across the room. It might take a bit of scraping to remove stubborn skins. Set the peeled almond aside, and repeat this for each almond. 

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Once all the skins have been removed, spread your blanched almonds on a plate or a cookie sheet to dry. At this point I like to toast them just in case they've become a little rubbery.

#SpoonTip: To add flavor and crunch to almonds, toast them in a 350ºF oven on a ungreased, rimmed baking sheet for 5-10 minutes.

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Once dry, blanched almonds are ready to use in whatever recipe that calls for them. You can chop blanched almonds up, grind them in a food processor or blender to make almond flour, or eat them whole for snacking. Try using blanched almonds to infuse oil, make gluten-free pumpkin bread, garnish salads, or make a paleo breading for chicken. So now whenever you see blanched almonds or blanched almond flour in a recipe, you'll know exactly what to do.