What are the different kinds of flour and when are they used?

Flour is a pantry staple and a key ingredient in a whole host of recipes. Our easy guide to flour will explain the different options and alternatives.

White flour
White flour (or plain flour) is the most commonly used form of flour because of its great versatility. It’s perfect for baking, sauces, breads and pasta. It also helps to thicken sauces like in this delicious Chicken and Leek Pie which is perfect for a wintry weekday family meal. You can also turn white flour into self-raising flour by adding baking powder — 1 cup flour to 1 teaspoon of baking powder should do the trick.   

For dessert, this Mandarin Syrup Cake is sure to be a winner and a great recipe to add to your baking repertoire.      

Self-raising flour
Basically, this is white flour with baking powder (and sometimes salt) already added. This flour is great for puddings, baking and yeast-free breads.  Use self-raising flour to make Muffin Pizza Slices — a great crowd-pleaser or kid’s lunchbox treat — use the self-raising flour to make the base and finish it with your favourite toppings. One thing to remember with self-raising flour — it doesn’t keep for as long as other kinds of flour because of the baking powder in it — this absorbs moisture from the air lessening its ability to rise.      

Wholemeal flour
Wholemeal flour is known for its slightly chewy and dense flavour. It works especially well for pastry bases, some baking and soda breads. A good wholemeal muffin or scone is just delicious! Wholemeal flour is considered healthier than other wheat flour alternatives — it has a higher fibre content, essential for a healthy diet.  

There is also a great range of gluten-free flour options available, and there are a number of alternatives to wheat flour. You can view a range of flour options online here.

Cornmeal is great for baking and non-yeast breads and a tasty alternative to wheat flour. Cornmeal is perfect for everything from muffins to cornbread.

Almond meal
Almond meal is often used in pastries and confectionery and works well when baking cakes or muffins. It can be used by people looking for lower carbs than flour.

Coconut flour
Coconut flour is also a good alternative. While both almond and coconut flours are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, coconut flour is generally more affordable than almond flour. It’s also worth remembering that not all flours can be easily substituted for others, so check the recipe carefully first.

…and the others

Rice flour is also an alternative to wheat flour that you might want to consider. It can also be used for cakes and biscuits as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour — but remember, because it is gluten free, it can’t be used to make yeasted loaves of bread in the same way as wheat flour.

A final word
Be aware — some of these alternatives to wheat flour are moisture absorbent — e.g. coconut flour — so if exchanging for a different type of flour be sure to use less or your baking will be dry. Another egg added to baking or non-yeast breads does the trick also.