Whole Wheat Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour: Which Flour is Healthier?

This article will compare and contrast Whole Wheat Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour.

Whole wheat flour is made from whole grains of wheat, ground into a powder that resembles white flour in both taste and texture. It has a nuttier flavor than white flour, but it can be used to make the same types of bread and pastries as all-purpose flour. The nutritional difference between the two is that whole wheat flour contains more fiber because it retains some of its natural bran (the outer layer) during processing. Ironically, this makes it harder to mix with other ingredients, so you may need to use more liquid when making dough or batters for baked goods like pancakes, muffins, or quickbreads. It usually has to be sifted before being used because it is very finely ground.

Which Whole Wheat Flour?

If you’re buying whole wheat flour for the first time, you may find that there are several different grades of flour available in your supermarket or health food store. The quality of the flour will determine how finely ground it is. The finest grind is labeled as “bread flour.” There are also various other whole-grain flours available, each one created from a specific grain or bean. All-purpose flour has been refined to remove the bran and germ, making it lighter in color than whole wheat flour.

All-Purpose Flour Vs. Whole Wheat Flour

All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat flour. Soft or high-gluten flours are made from the heart of the wheat berry, whereas hard or low-gluten flours are made from the endosperm – that’s where most of the starch is located. The low-gluten flours have a fine texture that’s ideal for delicate baked goods like cakes and pastries.

All-purpose flour can be made from soft wheat or hard wheat. The difference between the two is how finely they’ve been ground – all-purpose flour made from soft wheat has a more delicate taste and texture than the all-purpose flour made from hard wheat, which produces a tougher crumb. Because of its low gluten content, it’s not well suited to yeast bread that requires a stretchy, elastic dough. It’s also not good for making pizza dough where you want the crust to rise as high as possible because if there isn’t enough gluten in the mixture, moisture will escape rather than puff up during baking.

Trouble Mixing Whole Wheat Flour?

When mixing whole wheat flour into your favorite recipes, you may find that it’s more difficult to incorporate than all-purpose flour. This results from the whole wheat flour having a higher protein content than other flours, which means that the proteins will form gluten and make your baked goods tougher when mixed into the dough. You may need to use a bit more liquid to get around this problem – add water or milk – while mixing up your batter or dough mixture.

All-Purpose Flour Vs. Pastry Flour

Pastry flour is made from soft wheat and has about half the protein as all-purpose flour (8 percent versus 13 percent). That means it absorbs less moisture and produces tender baked goods such as biscuits, cakes, and pie crusts. The disadvantage of using pastry flour is that you may need to add more liquid to your recipe or the baked goods could turn out tough because it absorbs less moisture.  Pastry flour comes in a variety of grinds: fine, medium, and coarse. The finer the grind, the higher its protein content, so choose according to what kind of baked good you are baking – usually, products with a high butter or cream content such as cakes and muffins use a finer pastry flour White Lily’s Pop-Up box mix for cornbread.

Lighter Whole Wheat Flour

There is a lighter version of whole wheat called “white whole wheat.” Look for this if you want healthful baked goods but still desire a light color in your finished product. However, be aware that white whole wheat tends to be more crumbly than regular whole wheat flour. This results from the hard endosperm pearling during processing: the germ and bran are removed from the endosperm, which produces a brighter white color and reduces its nutritional value. It has a milder flavor than traditional whole wheat and may be used in any recipe that calls for all-purpose or pastry flour – you won’t taste a difference (I haven’t tried it, so I can’t speak for myself). White whole wheat flour is available at Whole Foods and online.

So what did you learn from this?

All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat flour. Soft or high-gluten flours are made from the heart of the wheat berry, whereas hard or low-gluten flours are made from the endosperm – that’s where most of the starch is located. The low-gluten flours have a fine texture that’s ideal for delicate baked goods like cakes and pastries.  

Whole wheat flour is made from the entire wheat berry, so it has all of its nutritional goodness: vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which makes it more nutritious for you.