Get to Know Different Flour Types and Their Purpose

Words: Katrina Rose Wind

When it comes to baking there really is no room for error. Unlike cooking, you have to follow the recipe and measurements to a tee to avoid disappointment. However, you can make substitutions when it comes to different flour types, just make sure you understand that not all flour is created equal.

One of the most important nutrients in flour is protein. The texture and moisture of baked goods are reliant on the protein content of the flour used. Confections made with a lower protein content (5-10 %)  tend to be softer, whereas ones made with a higher protein content (10-14 %) are more likely to be more dense and extensible. It’s true what they say, baking really is a science.

Different Flour Types



Self-raising flour is the one of most common flour types and is pretty much used for everything. It’s protein content ranges between 10 and 12 percent. Self-raising is perfect for baking muffins, bread, cookies, etc. If you only have cake flour in your pantry you don’t have to do much to substitute, just measure it gram by gram. If you want your baked goods to come out softer and lighter, you need to reduce the protein count — you can this by mixing different flours. If a recipe calls for self-raising flour and you don’t have, don’t fret – simply mix 1 cup of cake flour with 7.5 ml baking powder and 1.25 ml salt.

Whole Wheat

Whole wheat has more nutritional value compared to ordinary white flour. It does, however, make baked goods denser and a lot heavier. This is due to the high protein content (14 percent). If a recipe calls for self-raising, you can replace some but not all of it. Use 3/4 cup of whole wheat for every 1 cup of white flour that your recipe calls for. In order to ensure that your treats don’t come out too dry, add 1-2 teaspoons of water.


Spelt comes from the same family as barley and rye. Despite it being a whole grain, it does not produce heavy baked goods. It produces a light texture, making it easier to substitute. Spelt can be replaced using a 1:1 ratio — in other words, cup for cup. However, spelt does not soak up as much liquid as other grain flour types, so you might need to reduce the amount of liquid when mixing. This is done to avoid your treats from getting too sticky.


Bread flour has a high protein content of 13-15 percent, making it perfect for yeast bread. Even though it has a higher protein content than self-raising flour, it can be substituted with a 1:1 ratio. If you don’t have bread flour but want to make bread or pizza you still can, it might just be a little less chewy than usual. Vice versa, if you use bread flour when a recipe calls for self-raising it might make the dough a bit dry so you might need to add a tablespoon more of water.


Coconut flour does not contain any gluten, which makes it more likely to crumble easier. It has about 4-5 percent protein and is super absorbent. When used for baking, it normally requires more eggs to help the baking product rise. It also improves texture and moisture. And due to the lack of gluten, the eggs are needed to hold it together. You cannot replace it with a 1:1 ratio, as it is quite absorbent, so you will need less than a recipe calls for with regular flour. For every cup of grain flour, ¼ cup of coconut flour is required.


Almond flour is great for people who are trying to lead a no-carb lifestyle. It’s made from blanched almonds that are grounded into a fine powder. It has about 6-7 percent of protein content. Unlike coconut, almond flour can replace wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio. Since it lacks gluten (like coconut flour), baked goods made with it, tend to be a lot denser and flatter than those made with wheat products.

Cake Flour (Cake Wheat)

Cake flour is on the lower protein content side and has 6 – 8 percent protein. This tends to produce a more delicate, light, fine-crumbed texture to baked goods. However, some people prefer using it when making cookies for that extra crunch. Cake flour can be used to substitute other flour types. For every 1 cup of self-raising, you will need 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour. And, vice versa, for every 1 cup of cake flour, you will need to remove 2 tablespoons from 1 cup of self-raising.


Pastry and cake flour may be similar, but they aren’t the same. Pastry flour has a protein content of 8-9 percent which makes it a softer flour. It can also be swapped with self-raising, but you have to use the same rule as cake flour. The only difference is, if you are using self-raising when a recipe calls for pastry flour, make sure to remove those 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.


Rye has a high protein content around 11 percent. Rye has different gluten-forming properties than most flour types. In other words, it does not form as much gluten. This means that rye cannot be directly substituted for cake wheat or bread flour, but you can use other flours containing rye. Using 100% rye means your baked goods could end up bring dense and have a tangy flavour.


Buckwheat contains no gluten and is not a grain like rye, which makes it hard to substitute with other flour types for a gluten-free, dense baked good. However, you can substitute it (cup by cup) with bread or cake flour. Keep in mind, those flour types have gluten in them so your bakes will have a slightly crisper texture than the buckwheat version. If you are using buckwheat, remember that it absorbs lots of moisture (like coconut flour), so you will need to adjust accordingly when baking. This also means the batter may require extra liquid.

When you understand that baking is mostly about the protein content, you will get better at discerning whether the flour types you are using is too dry or too wet. Remember, if the dough or batter is too wet — add 1-2 teaspoons of flour and mix. Keep doing so until you get the desired texture. If the dough or batter is too dry, add a teaspoon of water, at a time and mix.

Not sure where to find some of these flour types? Check out Bread Emporium.

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