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Substituting Whole Wheat for White Flour

Q: I like baking muffins and cookies and prefer to use whole grains.  I'd like to understand when I can make substitutions for white flour. Also, I have a muffin recipe that calls for 1/2 cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup wheat germ.  What's the point in that?  Why not just 1 ¼ cup of whole wheat flour?

Generally, you can replace white flour with whole wheat flour of the same type (bread for bread, all purpose for all purpose), substituting one for one.  However, products made with whole wheat flour will usually be more dense.  This may be helped somewhat by sifting the flour one or two extra times to help incorporate more air.  Always remember when using any all purpose flour for items such as muffins and cookies to mix as little as possible to avoid forming glutens, which will toughen the final result.

For cakes and pastry, it is possible to buy whole wheat pastry flour made from finely ground soft wheat, such as that made by Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods (note that I have not personally tried this product).  If you can't find whole wheat pastry flour, use equal parts of whole wheat flour and regular cake and pastry flour.

Because less of the proteins in whole wheat flour are gluten-forming compared to white flour, bread made with whole wheat flour will be more dense.  According to Corriher (CookWise) whole wheat flour that is not finely ground may also have sharp edges on the bran that can cut gluten strands while kneading.

As for your muffin recipe that calls for ½ cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, and ¼ cup wheat germ, using a combination of regular and whole wheat flour will produce a lighter result.  Using wheat germ slightly increases the amount of protein and fat in the product, by 5 grams for protein and 3 grams for fat over using whole wheat, and decreases carbohydrates by 7 grams, for the amounts in your recipe.  Assuming your recipe makes 12 muffins, that would mean about ½ gram less carbs per muffin, if you are counting them.

Also, some wheat germ is fortified with additional Vitamin E and folic acid.  Wheat germ may contribute a slightly more nutty flavor.

All of that said, you could substitute 1 ¼ cups of whole wheat flour in the muffin recipe and get good results, noting the precautions above.  You may need to slightly adjust the amount of wet ingredients, however.


Whenever I try to go healthier I do it gradually, i.e. 1/4 of the healthier version with 3/4 of the less healthy. Then I slowly increase the healthier version until I am all the way there. Can I do this with wheat and white flour?


No reason why not. Dave

I always use whole wheat flour instead. It does take some getting use to for sure. It changes the taste and the texture. For example pancakes with whole wheat are less fluffy, and they are alot heavier. It works out ok though, and is definately worth the health benefits.

My family and I are trying a whole wheat diet and I am trying to find ways to substitute whole wheat for flour. I recently tried making cookies and it was a complete failure. It turned out more like the consistency of bread dough instead of cookie dough. I was just wondering if anyone had some ideas that have worked before.

When it comes to how much liquid for pancakes, its best to try 2 smaller pancakes in your fry pan first and see how they cook for you. If they are too thin add more flour, If they are too thick and lumpy add some water.Give those pancakes out as a pre-breakfast treat as "testers".

You all are so smart! Thanks for all the good info. I'm really trying to make the switch without the fam noticing and any advice is appreciated!!

I have found I need to add more liquid to recipes substituted with whole wheat. With something that needs to be more liquid, like pancake batter, I let it rest for 5 minutes before adjusting the moisture level to bring it back to the desired thickness. I assume this is the bran fraction of the whole grain soaking up the water.

I use 100% whole wheat flour on my site. Check out recipes here:

I am trying to bake healthier and see from other comments that you can use 1 for 1 on whole wheat instead of white flour. But can you really substitute whole wheat in gravy and if so then is water or milk added. Thank you!

I put my rolled oats into my coffee grinder (the one that's similar to a blender) and grind it into flour. I use it 1/2 and 1/2 with white flour in pancakes, pie crusts, bread, gravy, etc. Wonderful flavor. I use whole oats in pies for the thickener instead of white flour or cornstarch (same amount of rolled oats as white flour). My favorite pie is grape juice pie with the crust made with oat flour(all butter) and rolled oats as the thickener in with the juice. Makes for a very healthy dessert.

I would like a good recipe for all whole wheat biscuit

I would like to use oat bran flour instead of white flour. Is it possible to use this as a complete substitution, or must I blend the oat flour with something else? I would be using it for baking quick breads, cookies, & bars.

I cook almost strictly with whole wheat flour. I've found that adding a little fresh squeezed lemon juice to my leavened products (not yeast leavened, however) seems to encourage the whole wheat versions to rise a bit better.

I am trying to make popovers. I have used unbleached white flour in the past, and the popovers really rose with a big open center. I have since switched to whole wheat flour, and the popovers rise very little, if at all. Is there something I can do different to have the whole wheat popovers rise like the white flour ones?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

This is really cool! I knew that whole wheat was better that white flour, but I didn't know that it made it more dense and other things like that!My dad uses whole wheat. I don't know why, but he never uses white flour anymore... oh well, he's the best cook I know! ^^ I'll be sure to tell my dad the info on here, thank you!


it's good to experiment.. but make sure that your substitutes are nearly the same as the one you are replacing with.

If I want to begin using whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour in my recipes, can I just substitute the whole wheat flour and not change the measurement at all?--------------------------------

Start by substituting one for one. As noted in the article, most foods will end up denser because of differences between whole wheat and regular all-purpose. As you try recipes, you may find that you want add or take away a bit of the flour or change some of the other ingredients slightly to improve results.Dave

I am just curious how to "slightly adjust the amount of wet ingredients" mentioned above. Am I to add slightly more, or slightly less of the wet ingredients? Or is it different for each wet ingredient? Basically, I would like to make pancakes and only use whole wheat flour. ----------- Reply -----------

Chances are that a pancake batter made only whole wheat flour will be a bit wetter than one made with white flour if the ingredient proportions are the same. To counter this, I would use less milk, perhaps a tablespoon or so per cup of milk called for in the recipe. I would start from there and add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until I get the consistency I want. If the batter is too thin, you can always add a bit more flour.Thin pancake batters will spread too much, more like a crepe, while ones that are too thick will not rise well and may end up tasting pasty.Because flours vary in their composition from region to region, it is hard to be exact about the amounts. You will need to experiment until you are happy with the results, but remember to keep track of the final proportions for future reference.Dave

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