One of the most important ingredients used in baking is flour. While many recipes call for all-purpose flour, there are a host of different types of flour that are used specifically for certain kinds of baked items.
Many of these kinds of flours you are probably already familiar with, but there are some you might have never even heard of.
The following is a list of different types of flour for baking. They are listed in alphabetical order and the uses of each flour in baking is shown as well.
Types and Uses of Flours for Baking
1 – All-Purpose Flour
Background: All-purpose is probably the go-to flour of all the types that are available. It is created using a combination of soft wheat and hard wheat so it has a protein level from 8 to 11 percent. It has a higher starch content because the germ and bran have been removed.
The FDA requires white flour to contain iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, and niacin. If the all-purpose flour is bleached, it was lightened with a type of peroxide.
Most used for: This flour is used for a variety of baking items, such as cakes and cookies, biscuits and pizza dough, and it is used in many cooking recipes to make sauces and gravies. It is also used as a thickener.
Storage info: It is suggested to put a new bag of flour just purchased at the grocery store in the freezer for 48 hours to kill any eggs from insects that could be unseen.
It can then be transferred to a glass or plastic container and it will last for a year or more. It can also be left in the freezer and does not have to be defrosted in order to use it.
2 – Almond Flour
Background: Made from ground almonds, this type of flour has gained popularity in recent years because of its many health benefits. Almond flour is gluten-free, low in carbs, and contains fiber and fats that are healthy.
It offers a lower glycemic index so it will not cause your sugar to spike and because it is made of almonds it has been credited with helping lower cholesterol levels.
Most used for: Almond flour is used more and more to replace regular wheat flours in recipes used by those on specific diets. While it can be used in baking in the same proportions as regular wheat flours, the baked goods end up being more dense and much flatter.
Storage info: Almond flour will last 9 months in a plastic or glass container in the freezer or refrigerator.
3 – Amaranth Flour
Background: Made from grinding seeds produced by the amaranth plant, this flour was popular by the Incas and Aztecs in ancient times. It is popular again because it is packed with protein and is gluten-free.
Grinding the seeds results in a type of flour that is highly regarded because it contains the amino acids methionine and lysine. It was also tested and shown to have antioxidant qualities.
Most used for: This type of flour is used in addition to all-purpose flour to boost its gluten-free and other healthy properties.
A major flour company tested amaranth flour in proportions ranging from 25% to 50% added to all-purpose flour. The proportions that they found successful were 50% for pancakes and banana bread, and 25% for scones, cinnamon bread, and muffins.
Storage info: Amaranth flour will last for six months in a tightly closed container in the freezer.
4 – Barley Flour
Background: Derived from a mixture of ground and dried barley, this type of flour can be used on its own for specific baking items, but also makes a useful addition to whole wheat and/or all-purpose flour for specific recipes.
Each cup of barley flour has 7 grams of fiber but it does contain gluten so it is not for those on a celiac diet. It can be kept stored for one year so it has a long shelf life.
Most used for: You can create a simple barley bread using this flour as well as barley chocolate chip cookies. You can find a number of recipes using barley flour online including a vegan zucchini bread.
Storage info: Barley flour will last about three months if stored in an airtight container in the freezer.
5 – Bread Flour
Background: If you have been using regular all-purpose flour when making bread don’t worry, you are not doing anything wrong. Using either type of flour will yield a great loaf of bread.
So what are the pros and cons of bread flour over all-purpose flour? Bread flour was created specifically for baking loaves of bread that require yeast.
Bread flour has gluten in it and has between 12%% to 14% protein, which is higher than the 8% to 11% usually found in all-purpose flour. With a higher gluten content, bread flour will make a lighter and more elastic bread dough. This will result in an airy, chewy slice of bread.
Most used for: Besides white bread and sourdough, you can use bread flour to make dinner rolls, bagels, cinnamon rolls, and even pretzels. While you can use all-purpose flour to make bread, it does not work the same if you substitute pastry flour or cake flour.
Storage info: Bread flour will last a year in the freezer in an airtight container.
6 – Buckwheat Flour
Background: Even though this flour has wheat in its name, it is not made of wheat but rather comes from the seeds of a plant and is most associated with wild rhubarb and sorrel.
It is gluten-free and can replace white or wheat flour in many recipes. It is low in fat, has almost 4 grams of protein per serving, and is brimming with vitamins and minerals. Each serving has 10% thiamin, 12 % niacin, and 14% of the vitamin B-6.
Most used for: It can be used as a replacement for recipes that call for whole wheat or white flour. Buckwheat flour can be used to make breads, muffins, and cookies.
Storage info: This flour can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 months, in the freezer, in an airtight container for 6 months, and a year if kept in a dark cool area in an airtight container.
7 – Cake Flour
Background: You have probably always used all-purpose flour whenever you made a cake, so do you really need cake flour? The difference between the two types of flour lies in the fact that cake flour is lower in protein, softer, and lighter than all-purpose.
Avid bakers do prefer the difference cake flour makes in their recipes. If you would like to see for yourself, just remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour from your cake recipe per cup and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Most used for: Most commonly used for making cakes, but you can also use it for making pancakes, muffins, and breads.
Storage info: Cake flour will last for up to eight months when stored in a sealed glass or plastic container. It will last indefinitely if kept sealed in your freezer.
8 – Oat Flour
Background: Oat flour has become more popular since people began avoiding gluten. Oat flour is made by grinding oats into a powder form and because it is not made from wheat it is gluten-free.
You can use it in place of white or whole-wheat flour and while it adds a fuller flavor to baked goods, it does leave the texture on the chewy side.
You can take 1 1/4 cups of rolled oats and grind it up in a blender to make your own oat flour or you can purchase it online or at most grocery stores.
Most used for: There are special recipes that are specifically adapted to oat flour so you can still make muffins, breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, and cakes.
If you are trying to adapt it on your own, you can exchange up to 30% of the flour you are using for oat flour to reduce the amount of gluten in the recipe.
Storage info: If you keep your oat flour in a sealed container in a place that is dry and cool, it will last up to a year.
9 – Pastry Flour
Background: If you are into baking, you already are aware of pastry flour. This flour is specifically for making pastry items and differs from both all-purpose flour and cake flour in the amount of protein it contains.
While all-purpose has about 11 percent and cake flour has about 8 percent, pastry flour lands right in the middle with 9 percent protein.
Substitutions: You can use pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour on a one to one basis. If you need pastry flour but don’t have any, you can remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons cornstarch.
If you don’t have any pastry flour but you do have cake flour just add 2 tablespoons of cake flour to complete the recipe.
Most used for: Besides the obvious, pastry flour is the flour of choice for making cookies, cakes, and muffins. It is not a good choice for making bread.
Storage info: In a cool but dry place your pastry flour will last from 1 to 2 years.
10 – Rice Flour
Background: Rice flour originated in China, Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia where 90 percent of the rice is from. Rice flour was introduced to our culture in the 1980s and it became popular for use in baking.
Rice flour is created when kernels of rice are ground and milled into a powder form. The kind of rice depends on the type of rice that is ground, how the rice becomes milled, and the content of the starch of the finished flour.
There are two kinds of rice flour – white and brown. Both are used to make breads that are gluten-free. White flour has very little flavor while brown rice has a subtle sweet and nutty taste.
While they are almost equal in calories, brown rice four has more protein, more fiber, and more folate than white flour.
Most used for: When using rice flour you must use recipes that call for this type of flour as you cannot substitute rice flour for any other flours. There are recipes you can find to make muffins, cakes, and sweet baked goods using rice flour.
Storage info: Both types of rice flour have a shelf life of 6 months to a year if stored in an airtight container and kept in your freezer.
11 – Self-Rising Flour
Background: Self-rising flour begins with a cup of all-purpose flour and is combined with one-quarter teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
You can buy self-rising flour already prepared or make your own if it is not a type of flour you will use on a regular basis.
Most used for: Self-rising flour is used to make biscuits, pizza crusts, sugar cookies, different kinds of pancakes, and dumplings.
Storage info: Because of the inclusion of the baking powder in this type of flour, the shelf life is only about 4 to 6 months. Baking powder on its own loses effectiveness after a short period of time so it’s always good to make sure it is fresh when called for in a recipe.
12 – White-Wheat Flour and Whole-Wheat Flour
Background: Both white-wheat and whole wheat flour are considered whole wheat. White whole wheat flour comes from winter wheat or hard spring wheat.
Whole wheat flour is identical nutritionally but is lighter in color and has a milder taste. Ether of these types of flour can be substituted for the other.
Most used for: When baking with white-wheat flour and whole-wheat flour you will find your baked goods come out with a better color and a more nutty flavor. They work well in recipes for pancakes, banana bread, waffles, and muffins.
Storage info: Both types of wheat flour will last up to three months in a cool dry place while stored in an airtight container. If you want a longer shelf life you can put the container in the freezer and it will last up to a year.
How Should You Store Your Flour?
Whether you are keeping your flour in your refrigerator or your freezer, you will want to put it in an airtight glass or plastic container.
You can also keep your flour in a zip-lock type plastic storage bag specifically for the freezer. You should mark the date on the bag or place a sticker with the date on it on the airtight container.
What is the Most Accurate Way to Measure Flour?
If you are an at-home baker cooking for friends and family, using a good set of measuring cups will work just fine. Spoon out the flour and use the flat edge of a butter knife to level off the flour at the top of the measuring cup.
If you are a more serious baking enthusiast, you might want to consider getting a small baking scale. One cup of flour equals 120 grams and weighs in at 4 1/4 ounces. This type of measuring produces precise and consistent amounts for your recipes every time.
It’s always best to use the correct type of flour called for in your recipe, but if you have to make a substitution, you may find there is not that big of a difference.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.