Different types of flour should be used for different purposes. Wheat-based bread flour is quite different than cake flour. Protein-rich gluten-free flour is different from protein-low gluten-free types of flour. Some types of flour are ideal for baking bread in a bread machine, others for baking cakes, yet others for thickening soups or offering a fiber rich diet. The 15 types of flour discussed in this article can be mixed to give you the best of both worlds. By educating yourself on the types of flour out there, you can then seek recipes that will incorporate the flour that best suits your health needs and culinary tastes
#1. All-Purpose Flour
Of the various wheat-based baking flours, all-purpose flour has a moderate amount of protein. Once mixed with liquids, the protein will turn to gluten that will yield a tougher dough. All-purpose flour has just enough protein to make it the right kind of flour for many types of cakes (especially layered cakes), cookies, pie-crusts, pancakes and many other baking purposes. Considered a refined flour, all-purpose flour has no wheat germ or bran to interfere with its softness. Stored away from light, all-purpose flour will remain fresh for one year. This is the flour most people use in their bread machine.
Our favorite is King Arthur All-Purpose Flour.
#2. Cake Flour
Though wheat-based also, cake flour has a very low protein content (and hence a low gluten content after baking). This yields soft, airy cakes. Cake flour should not be substituted with self-rising cake flour, which contains baking powder, as this will affect the recipe measurements. (Here’s how to substitute cake flour.) Like all-purpose flour, cake flour is refined of all wheat germ and bran. Stored in a dark place and an air-tight container, cake flour will last for up to a year.
Our favorite is King Arthur Cake Flour.
#3. White Bread Flour
This wheat-based flour is rich in protein. Once mixed with liquids, the protein will turn to gluten, which will thicken the dough. Since breads are meant to rise through the interaction of yeast, bread flour requires this additional support to keep the dough from collapsing. Like all-purpose flour and cake flour, white bread flour is refined, the wheat germ and bran having been removed. Stored in an air-tight container, white bread flour can last for about a year.
Our favorite is Great River Organic Milling Lily White Bread Flour.
#4. Whole Wheat Flour
Of the wheat-based flours, whole wheat flour is the roughest and is considered unrefined. Containing the entire wheat kernel, whole wheat flour is rich in fiber as well as important nutrients like potassium, magnesium and selenium. Whole wheat flour is typically used for breads, although refined versions may be used for muffins, scones, and other similar baked goods. Because of the oil content naturally present in bran and wheat germ, whole wheat flour will turn rancid unless kept in a fridge for up to a month, or frozen for up to a year.
Our favorite is King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour.
#5. Amaranth Flour
Made from the spinach-like plant found in the Far East, Amaranth Flour is a protein rich flour and yet it is gluten free. Amaranth is a leafy plant that produces grains, which are then ground into flour. Also known by the names African Spinach, Chinese Spinach, Indian Spinach and Elephant’s Ear, Amaranth Flour can be found in natural food stores or Indian grocery stores. Because of its high protein content, Amaranth Flour is excellent for baking. However, do not attempt to substitute all-purpose flour in your recipe with Amaranth Flour. Instead, look online for recipes especially devised for Amaranth Flour.
Our favorite is Bob’s Red Mill Grain Amaranth Flour.
#6. Barley Flour
Barley flour has a far lower gluten content than wheat and is, therefore, never used for breads (except unleavened breads). However, the nutty, rich flavor of Barley Flour makes it an excellent thickening agent for stews, sauces and soups. You can find recipes that mix Barley Flour with other Gluten Free flours for uniquely flavored cakes, biscuits and pastries which require low gluten flour.
Our favorite is Breadtopia Diastatic Barley Malt Powder.
#7. Buckwheat Flour
Despite its name, Buckwheat Flour has no gluten or wheat content. Made by grinding the small seeds of the Buckwheat plant, a close relative of rhubarb, Buckwheat Flour is very rich and nutty. Often mixed with other flours, Buckwheat can be used for making breads and muffins. Recipes that call for Buckwheat Flour alone are rare because of the powerful flavor of this flour and its slightly bitter aftertaste. Buckwheat Flour is at times referred to as Beech Wheat Flour, Kasha Flour, or Saracen Corn Flour.
Our favorite is Hodgson Mill Buckwheat Flour.
#8. White Rice Flour
Made by grinding rice that has been polished to remove the bran and germ, White Rice Flour is gluten free yet rich in protein. Often used to thicken soups, sauces and puddings, White Rice Flour is also commonly used in the preparation of Chinese Noodles, dumplings and cookies. For breads and other yeast-based baked goods, White Rice Flour must first be mixed with gluten-rich Wheat flour. Stored in a cool, dry place, White Rice Flour will never go bad, which makes it a very popular flour choice for people suffering from Celiac Disease, a condition that prevents the breaking up of gluten in the stomach.
Our favorite is Arrowhead Mills Organic Gluten-Free White Rice Flour.
#9. Brown Rice Flour
Like White Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour is gluten free. Made by milling unpolished brown rice which still contains both the bran and germ, Brown Rice Flour is richer but rougher than White Rice Flour, just as white wheat flour is more refined than whole wheat flour. You use a grain mill or food mill to achieve this. For this reason, Brown Rice Flour contains more nutrients and is rich in fiber. The rough texture of this flour can be a little grainy, which results in heavier baked goods with a delicate nutty aftertaste. Brown Rice Flour is often combined with other flours because of its heavy nature, and like whole wheat flour requires refrigeration or freezing to remain fresh.
Our favorite is Anthony’s Brown Rice Flour.
#10. Arrowroot Flour
Arrowroot flour is gluten free and unique. Made of ground roots, this flour has no taste or scent, which makes it the ideal choice for thickening cooked foods without affecting the aroma or flavor. In addition, arrowroot is finely ground, making it easy to distill in liquids, and when it is cooked it turns clear. You can find Arrowroot Flour in natural food supermarkets.
Our favorite is Feel Good Organics Arrowroot Powder/Flour.
#11. Potato Flour
Potato Flour should not be confused with Potato Starch Flour. Though both are made from potatoes, Potato Flour is made from potatoes that were cooked, dried and ground into flour. It is gluten free and, therefore, only used in bread recipes when mixed with wheat flour. Many yeast-free baking recipes (including Passover recipes) or gluten-free recipes will use potato flour exclusively. For thickening soups and sauces Potato Flour is not recommended, as it will acquire a slimy consistency when allowed to boil. You can find Potato Flour at natural food stores.
Our favorite is Bob’s Red Mill Potato Flour.
#12. Potato Starch Flour
More commonly available than Potato Flour, Potato Starch Flour (also known as Potato Starch) is made from the starch extracted from potatoes. It is denser and more white than Potato Flour and does not have a potato aftertaste. Potato Starch Flour has a neutral flavor and is often used in thickening sauces, soups and stews, as well as pie recipes. It is a gluten free flour and a favorite in Scandinavian recipes, as well as Passover dishes.
Our favorite is Anthony’s Organic Potato Starch.
#13. Almond Flour
Almond flour is made by grinding sweet almonds, with or without their skin. Blanched almonds, which have been peeled, form the basis for Almond Flour, while whole almonds are used to make Almond meal, which is darker. With a consistency similar to corn meal, Almond Flour and Almond Meal have a rich nutty taste ideal for pastries, tarts, pies and cakes. Both are also used in the preparation of marzipan and almond macrons. Frangipane, the French lining for tarts and pies, is made with Almond Flour. In addition, Almond Flour can be mixed with other flours to give low-carb dishes a nutty flavor. You can find Almond Flour in natural food stores.
Our favorite is
#14. Corn Flour
Corn Flour should not be confused with Corn Starch. While Corn Flour is made from the entire kernel, Corn Starch is extracted from the endosperm in the kernel. Coming in both a yellow and white version, Corn Flour is used in baking and cooking. Yellow Corn Flour, which is gluten free, is often mixed with wheat flour to reduce the overall gluten content for cakes, cookies, pastries and other baked goods that have no yeast content. White Corn Flour, which is also a gluten free flour, is often used to thicken recipes both baked and cooked. Tip: in Jewish or British recipes, cornflour is synonymous with Corn Starch.While for tortillas recipes, Masa Harina should be used, which is a special form of Corn Flour.
Our favorite is Wellbee’s Super Fine Almond Flour.
#15. Self-Rising Flour
The term Self-Rising Flour simply refers to a flour that was enriched with baking powder. Typically only low-protein, low gluten-flours will be phosphated by use of baking powder. Good for baking cookies, sweet breads, biscuits and scones, Self-Rising Flour should never be used for yeast recipes as the protein content is too low. You can mix your own self-rising flour by adding 1.5 tsp. of baking powder and 0.5 tsp. of salt for every cup of all-purpose flour.
Our favorite is Pillsbury Self Rising Flour.
More Baking Inspiration
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- Best Fruit Tart, Crust and Filling
- Bread Dinner Rolls Recipe
All of these work great when making your own bread. Be sure to check out our Best Bread Machine Reviews article!
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!