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Why White Whole Wheat Flour Will Change Your Baking Game—& How to Use It

It's a little sweet and a little nutty.

May 16, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

I began baking as a young adult in Germany where whole grain traditions go back centuries. But it was only after moving to the US years ago that I stumbled upon white whole wheat flour in a health food store. Ever so slightly nutty-sweet, with just a hint of texture, it soon became my go-to flour.

White and whole wheat? Isn’t this a contradiction? Not at all. White whole wheat is a true whole grain, but milled from a different wheat variety that’s lighter in color than regular whole wheat flour—hence the term white.

While white whole wheat is not as fluffy as all-purpose flour, it has a lot going for it. Because it doesn’t have the bitter tannins found in the bran of regular whole wheat, cookies, muffins, and scones made with white whole wheat flour reveal an appealing, mild natural sweetness. They also emerge from the oven with a beautiful golden color—rather than the darker brown hues you might know from using regular whole wheat flour.

This means you get delicious baked goods, with the benefits of 100% whole grain flour—fiber and protein plus minerals and vitamins such as iron, potassium, and magnesium. (Who doesn’t want a bit more of a good thing when enjoying cookies and cakes, crackers and bread?)

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Thankfully, white whole wheat flour has become much easier to find across the country in the past decade or so. Both King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill have it in their line-up. About two years ago, Bob’s renamed theirs “ivory wheat” to make it clear that it is not another white flour.

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Top Comment:
“I really like KAF’s white whole wheat. I’ve made bread with it. I followed KAF’s direction to add extra liquid, let it rest and the bread came out soft and tasty. I’ll sometimes add some to my muffin batters to replace some all purpose flour. ”
— XenaB
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An easy way to start incorporating white whole wheat flour into your baking is to replace up to half of the all-purpose flour in your favorite recipes (ideally by weight, using a scale). It works especially well in simple stir-together breakfast goods where hungry eaters likely won’t notice a thing—from muffins and quick breads, to pancakes and waffles.

If you want to go all the way and use only white whole wheat flour in a recipe, you need to make a few adjustments. One, add a bit more liquid to avoid too dense a crumb (King Arthur Flour suggests 2 teaspoons liquid per cup of flour). And two, let the dough rest after mixing for 20 minutes or so—allowing the bran to absorb the extra liquid to avoid grittiness. This is the time to clean up the clutter and bowls on the counter while your oven preheats. Then sit back and wait for golden treats with just a tad more texture and sweet flavor to delight in.


recipes to try with white whole wheat flour

Muffins are a great way to try out swapping in some white whole wheat flour. Blueberry, lemon poppy seed, and other fruity options are a good place to start, but corn and bran would be great too.

White whole wheat flour lends a little extra nuttiness to your favorite quick bread, like banana walnut or carrot raisin.

For pancakes that still have a little fluff to them but have a little extra flavor, too, swap in half white whole wheat flour.

Same goes for waffles! If you want your final product to be crispy and nice and fluffy, keep your white whole wheat portion to half.

Have you ever used white whole wheat flour? What do you bake with it?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Madelaine Leahey
    Madelaine Leahey
  • Dianne Dawson Martin
    Dianne Dawson Martin
  • CalamityintheKitchen
    CalamityintheKitchen
  • Liz D
    Liz D
  • Abby
    Abby
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Maria Speck is the author of Simply Ancient Grains and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (both by Ten Speed Press). Her work has received multiple awards, including a Julia Child and an M.F.K. Fisher cookbook award. Raised in Germany and Greece, Maria is a veteran journalist and food writer with a lifelong passion for whole grains.

12 Comments

Madelaine L. May 18, 2019
I have been using White Whole Wheat flour for a few years and love it. Recipes are adjusted as needed to accomodate the flour, usually a bit more liquid. My favorite is the Wegman's brand. This is the comment I made on a Food52 article about whole wheat pasta in April and bears repeating here: I make homemade pasta with WHITE Whole Wheat Flour. Everyone is shocked when they learn it is whole wheat as it tastes like regular white pasta. The difference is the wheat itself. Here in the US, Red whole wheat is predominant. Originally grown in Australia, White whole wheat is making inroads here in the US. It is equal to Red whole wheat in nutrition values. I also use it for baking. This link tells the whole story: https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain-refined-grain/whole-white-wheat-faq
 
Author Comment
MariaSpeck May 18, 2019
Wonderful, Madeleine -- thank you for sharing this. Nice to hear about your pasta with while whole wheat. I have yet to try the Wegman brand and will now look for it.
 
Dianne D. May 17, 2019
Being a G.R.I.T.S. (for you non-southerns...girl raised in the south) I grew up eating homemade biscuits. My daughter introduced me to white soft (and hard) whole wheat flour. Converting my biscuits to soft white whole wheat took some trial and error but oh was it worth the work! I also cook cinnamon rolls using my biscuit recipe and they are always a hit.
 
Author Comment
MariaSpeck May 17, 2019
As someone who loves a bowl of grits, learning about G.R.I.T.S is great — thank you, Dianne! And wonderful to read that you were able to take your biscuits to a whole new level with soft white whole wheat flour.
 
Important to know though that there are different types of white wheat.... Whole wheat pastry flour, the most common use for white wheat, is made from a "soft" (meaning low-gluten) white wheat, is very finely ground, and probably what this article refers to. It is truly a revolution in the kitchen! But there is hard white wheat too, which has a high gluten content, and is usually relatively coarse compared to pastry flour (comparable to regular wheat flour). It makes great yeasted doughs when you don't want a dominant "wheaty" flavor and color, but wouldn't make great quick-rising baked goodies because of the coarseness and gluten content.
Knowing your flours really does make the difference! Only caveat is the annoyance of now having to stock so many different kinds!
 
Author Comment
MariaSpeck June 6, 2019
Indeed, there are different types of white wheat, @CalamityintheKitchen. Apologies for the delay. The widely available white whole wheat flours from Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur Flour are milled from hard white wheat, with a protein content of about 13%. Regular whole wheat is typically milled from hard red wheat. Whole wheat pastry flour is milled using soft whole wheat berries (both red or white)—this flour has a lower protein content and is great for baking cakes for example. If you love to bake with whole wheat flours, a small grain mill can be useful. It allows you to grind only the grains you need (no need to worry about good flour staling or going rancid). I hope this helps.
 
Liz D. May 17, 2019
I use KAF white whole wheat for almost everything: pancakes, waffles, homemade wheat bread, cinnamon-raisin bread, all kinds of cookies. I can tell the difference between that & white flour, but barely. I do need to use a little extra liquid, or a little less flour. I like that it doesn't have the strong taste most whole wheat products have.
 
Author Comment
MariaSpeck May 17, 2019
Well said, Liz. Unless you do a serious sit-down-test, most people will happily devour all kinds of baked goods made with white whole wheat flour. Happy to hear that you enjoy baking with it.
 
Abby May 16, 2019
I make blueberry oat muffins, zucchini bread and chocolate chip cookies. I always use half white and half white whole white. My family can’t tell the difference
 
Author Comment
MariaSpeck May 16, 2019
Wonderful, Abby! That's one of the reasons I love this flour so much.
 
XenaB May 16, 2019
I really like KAF’s white whole wheat. I’ve made bread with it. I followed KAF’s direction to add extra liquid, let it rest and the bread came out soft and tasty. I’ll sometimes add some to my muffin batters to replace some all purpose flour.
 
Author Comment
MariaSpeck May 16, 2019
I'm so happy to hear this, Xena -- thanks for dropping a note!