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Learn About Different Types of Flour for Baking & More

There are many different kinds of flour and flour alternatives you can use in recipes.

It wasn’t that long ago that grocery stores only had one or two types of flour. Those days are now gone and forgotten. Today, even the smallest grocery store will have multiple shelves filled with various types of flour.

Wooden bowls of various flour and empty tags

While having so many options is great, it can also be a bit overwhelming. Which type of flour should you use for what purpose? Even more importantly, what is the most delicious item you can make with a specific kind of flour?

Additionally, different types of flour made from different grains have health benefits based on how they are produced and the ingredients used.

Given the amount of choice you have when selecting flour, it has never been more important to be informed about the different types of flour.

Types of Flour 

I’m here to help. In this article, I’ll explain the different types of flour and how you can use them in the kitchen.


All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose or AP flour is milled from a blend of different kinds of wheat.

The wheat used is typically hard wheat with high gluten content and soft wheat with low gluten content. This mixture of high and low gluten content makes this type of flour so versatile.

All-purpose flour is (you guessed it) highly versatile. You can use it for baking cakes, cookies, bread, and pastries. Additionally, you can thicken sauces and soups with AP flour. 

The main difference between all-purpose flour and other types of flour is the protein content. All-purpose flour has moderate protein, usually around 10-12%.

AP flour can be bleached and non-bleached. Unbleached flour has more natural wheat flavors, while bleached flour has a white color and less flavor.


Bread Flour

Bread flour is a type of wheat flour that is milled from hard wheat. This type of wheat has a high gluten content, which gives bread its chewy texture.

Bread flour is, as the name suggests, mainly used for baking bread. However, in a pinch, I like to use it for pizza dough, pie crusts, and pastries.

The high gluten content in bread flour causes baked bread to rise. The gluten is necessary for the yeast to activate entirely. For this reason, it is essential to use bread flour when a recipe calls for it.

The protein content in bread flour is higher than in all-purpose flour, usually around 12-14%.


Cake Flour

Cake flour is a type of wheat flour that is milled from soft wheat.

This type of wheat has a low gluten content, giving cakes light and fluffy texture. Unsurprisingly, you mainly use cake flour for baking cakes.

The low gluten content in cake flour prevents cakes from rising too much. For this reason, you cannot use cake flour when baking bread.

The protein content in cake flour is lower than in all-purpose flour, usually around 6-8%. It also has a higher starch content than other types of flour.

If a recipe calls for cake flour and you don’t have any, you can make your own. You can make cake flour by adding two tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 cup of all-purpose flour.

This substitution has saved me once or twice, and I can confirm that it works.

Check out our favorite cake flavors to make with cake flour!


Pastry Flour

Pastry flour is my favorite type because I love pastries so much.

It is a type of wheat flour that is milled from soft wheat. Pastry flour has a low gluten content, which gives pastries a flaky texture.

It has more gluten than cake flour but less than AP flour. Like cake flour, it has a lot of starch.

You primarily use pastry flour for baking pies, tarts, and other pastries. The protein content in pastry flour is lower than in all-purpose flour, usually around 8%.

If a recipe calls for pastry flour and you don’t have any, you can make a DIY version at home with two ingredients you probably have on hand.

To make pastry flour simply add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 cup of all-purpose flour.


Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour is a type of wheat flour that has been pre-mixed with baking powder and salt. It is mainly used for biscuits, scones, and cakes.

The advantage of self-rising flour is that you don’t have to measure the baking powder and salt. However, the disadvantage is that you can’t control the amount of baking powder and salt used.

It is easy to make your own self-rising flour. All you need to do is add one teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of all-purpose flour.

I highly recommend making your self-rising flour. You can control the amount of baking powder and salt you add to get the ratios right.

For example, scones should have more baking powder than biscuits. If you use store-bought self-rising flour, you may not be able to tell the difference between your scones and biscuits.


Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is a type of wheat flour that is milled from the entire wheat grain.

The total grain includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. Because whole wheat flour contains germ and bran, it has a higher fiber content than other types of flour.

Whole wheat flour can be used for bread, pizza dough, pie crusts, and pastries. However, because it has high fiber content, it can make baked goods dense.

For this reason, I usually use whole wheat flour when baking bread.

The protein content in whole wheat flour is higher than in all-purpose flour, usually around 14%. It also has a high starch content.

I prefer whole wheat flour to many other types of flour because of the health benefits. The fiber is good for you, but you also get more natural nutrients.


“00” Flour

“00” flour is Italian wheat flour milled from durum wheat.

This type of wheat has a high gluten content, making it perfect for pizza dough and other yeast-based recipes like homemade pasta.

I like “00” flour for pizza dough because it always turns out perfectly. The dough is stretchy and doesn’t tear easily. I also like using it for pasta because it gives it a nice, firm texture.

If you can’t find “00” flour, you can use all-purpose flour or bread flour. The dough won’t be as stretchy, but it will still work.


Gluten-Free Flour

Gluten-free flour is a broad category that describes any flour made from gluten-free grains.

Wheat, rye, barley, and other traditional grains all contain gluten. So gluten-free flour uses alternatives like rice, tapioca, garbanzo beans, and buckwheat.

There are many reasons why people use gluten-free flour. For some, it’s a medical necessity because they have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant. Others prefer the taste or texture of gluten-free baked goods.

I often use gluten-free flour baking for friends or family members who can’t eat gluten. I’ve found that many people can’t tell the difference between gluten-free and traditional flour.


White Whole Wheat Flour

White whole wheat flour is a type of wheat flour milled from white wheat.

White wheat is different from traditional red wheat because it has a lower gluten content and lighter color.

I like white whole wheat flour because it gives baked goods a light and fluffy texture. I often use it when baking muffins, pancakes, and waffles.

If you can’t find white whole wheat flour, all-purpose or regular whole wheat flour are suitable substitutes.

The texture will be slightly different, but the taste will be similar.


Almond Flour

Almond flour is a type of flour made from finely ground almonds.

It is often used in gluten-free and low-carb baking because it is naturally gluten-free and has a lower carb count than other types of flour.

I love almond flour because it gives baked goods fewer calories, a sweeter natural taste, and more healthy nutrients. I often use it in baking when I want to cut down on sugar or carbs.

If you can’t find almond flour, you can substitute it with other gluten-free flour like tapioca flour or coconut flour.

You can also make your own by blending almonds in a high-speed blender until it is powdery.


Instant Flour

Instant flour is a type of flour that has been pre-cooked and dried.

Since it is pre-cooked, it is quick and easy to use in recipes because you don’t have to cook it before adding it to other ingredients.

It is a low-protein flour blend of wheat and barley flour. It is not a good substitute for other types of flour because of its fine texture.

However, it does have its uses. I like making gravy and pan sauces with instant flour.

It won’t clump up like other types of flour, so you don’t want to worry about your sauce being lumpy.


Rye Flour

Rye flour is a type of wheat flour milled from rye berries. It has a darker color and more robust flavor than whole wheat flour.

Rye flour is best used for baking because it gives baked goods a slightly nutty flavor. I often use it in rye or sourdough bread.

You can also add it to crackers and pastries, depending on your desired taste/flavor.

If you can’t find rye flour, use all-purpose or whole wheat flour. The final product won’t have the nutty flavor of the rye flour, but the texture will be the same.


Semolina Flour

Semolina flour is a type of wheat flour milled from durum wheat. It has a high protein content and is often used for pasta or couscous.

I love using semolina flour for pasta because it produces a chewy and firm texture.

I also find that it holds shape better than other types of flour, so it’s excellent for cut-out pasta shapes.

If you don’t have semolina flour, don’t try and substitute it. All-purpose flour will give you the wrong texture, especially if you make pasta.


Spelt Flour

Spelt flour is a type of wheat flour milled from spelt berries. It has a nutty flavor that is similar in taste to rye flour.

I like spelt flour when I want a slightly nutty flavor in my baked goods. I often use it for muffins, quick breads, and pancakes.

Use whole wheat or rye flour if you can’t find spelt flour. Whole wheat or rye flour will give you a similar texture and taste.


Oat Flour 

Oat flour is a type of wheat flour milled from rolled oats.

Oats are naturally gluten-free, so oat flour is an excellent choice for gluten-free baking. It gives baked goods a nutty flavor.

I love using oat flour because it gives baked goods a chewy texture. I often use it for cookies, quick breads, and pancakes.

It is also nutrient-dense and has essential vitamins and minerals like manganese, biotin, vitamin B, and fiber.


Types of Flour 

  1. All-Purpose Flour
  2. Bread Flour
  3. Cake Flour
  4. Pastry Flour
  5. Self-Rising Flour
  6. Whole Wheat Flour
  7. “00” Flour
  8. Gluten-Free Flour
  9. White Whole Wheat Flour
  10. Almond Flour
  11. Instant Flour
  12. Rye Flour
  13. Semolina Flour
  14. Spelt Flour
  15. Oat Flour 

Final Thoughts

Various types of flour are available on the market, so it’s important to choose the right one for your recipe. I’ve outlined some of my favorite types of flour and how to use them.

Experiment with different types of flour to find the flavor and texture that you like best. There’s no wrong way to use flour, so have fun and be creative in the kitchen!

Check out types of sugar to use in your recipes!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.