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An Overview of Flour Types that are used in Cooking

In modern diets, flour is a staple of just about every kitchen. It is a versatile food staple that is used in breads, rolls, cakes, cookies, as a coating, and in many other ways when cooking. Most cooks keep various types of flours in their pantries.

Not all flours can or should be used interchangeably. What flour you should use for cooking, primarily baking, will depend upon the recipe and what it is you want to bake.

Here is an overview of some of the most commonly used flours:

All-purpose flour

All-purpose flour, probably the most used of all flours, is just what the name implies, it can be used for numerous purposes in cooking. Whether baking, making gravy, thickening soups or coating meats, this flour is suitable for all of these purposes. Also known as white flour.

During the processing many nutrients can be lost and producers typically add them back in after refining and before it goes to market. In recent years, whole grains become more popular on the market as there are some perceived negative effects with eating white and/or bleached flours.

Whole wheat flour

Whole wheat flour, unlike refined (“white”) flour, is darker in color than all-purpose flour and is derived from the complete wheat kernel. It is nuttier in flavor and texture, it can successfully be used in baking. Many people prefer to cut this flour with refined (“white”) flour so it is less “rich” with its heavy wheat flavor and texture.

Whole white wheat flour

A cousin of whole wheat flour, white wheat flour is lighter in color and milder in flavor. According to the Whole Grains Council, whole white wheat flour was developed through cross-breeding strains of red wheat. This type of flour is becoming popular due to its lighter taste and feel, yet retention of the whole grain.

Potato flour

Often used by those who have an intolerance to gluten. Made from peeled, dried potatoes, this flour can be used in many ways as a substitute for “regular” flour.


A flour that is in the wheat family, it is an “ancient ancestor” of what is modern day wheat, according to Reader’s Digest. This type of flour has less gluten and contains a higher level of B vitamins and iron than regular wheat flour

These are some of the basic flours, however there are other specialty types that can also be used in cooking, such as self-rising flour. There are also other flours made from different types of grains, such as barley and rye.

Other flours are branded “stoneground” which implies the flour was made the same way it has been for thousands of years. USA TODAY shares information to consumers that “stoneground” may not be what the name implies.

In cooking there are many different types of flours that can be used. While some flours are interchangeable in recipes, others do not work so well. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to get the right taste and texture you want.