Types of Flour and Their Uses

Thursday, November 8, 2012

With so many types of flour available in stores, how do you know which type is the best one to use for your recipe (other than the called for “all-purpose” flour)? Names vary among countries, and uses vary among recipes. It is what holds body and structure to baked goods, thickens sauces and creams, and even helps prevent batter and dough from sticking to surfaces. But how do you know what type of flour to use for your bread and which kind to use for your pastry?


The first difference between the flour types is the nature of the product they are milled from. All flours are derived from grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, or nuts. These are then milled differently to a fine powder, known as flour. A second difference is the protein present in each flour. For example – cake flour has the smallest amount of protein content (5-7%) whereas bread flour has the highest protein content (12-14%). Flours with high protein content are best used for bread making due to the large amount of gluten content, which helps to trap in carbon dioxide that is released by the yeast fermentation process that results in a stronger rise of the dough while still holding its shape. Flours with low protein content are best used for cakes and pastries since the low protein content produces tender and fine crumbs. For regular day to day baking, and to avoid purchasing different types of flour, stick to the all-purpose flour which has an “in-between” protein content of 7 to 12%.

Below I have compiled easy reference guides, one of the common flour types and one comprising the rest of the flour types, along with their uses. Hope you find this useful, and don't forget to print it off (at the bottom of the page) for your recipe needs!

Common Flour Types
Flour Type
Protein Content
Common Uses
100% Whole Wheat Flour
13 to 14 All baking purposes. Can be used to substitute all-purpose flour. Due to the content of the outer skins of the wheat grains, the colour of the end-product will have a brown colour.
Bread Flour
12 to 14 Bread, pizza crust, and doughs/pastries that contain yeast as an ingredient.
All-Purpose Flour
8 to 11 Cookies, cakes, quick breads, pastries, noodles.
Pastry Flour
7 to 9 Pie crusts, delicate pastries, biscuits, cookies, some cakes.
Cake Flour
5 to 7 Angel food cake, chiffon cake, some muffins and cookies, other tender, sponge or foam cakes.

Other Flour Types
Flour Type
Common Uses
Almond Flour
Made of ground almonds. It is gluten free, low in carbohydrates, and best used in baking. It has a consistency of corn meal, and with a nutty flavour it is perfect for pastries, pies and cakes.
Arrowroot Flour
Texture is similar to that of corn starch. Provides no flavouring to foods. Best used as a thickener and can be substituted for corn starch to avoid the carbs.
Barley Flour
This flour is ground from barley grains. Because barley flour has a low gluten content, it should never be used for breads. Due to its nutty rich flavour, it is ideal to use it for cakes, bisquits and pastries, and to thicken sauces and stews.
Buckwheat Flour
Gluten and wheat free, since buckwheat is a seed and not a grain. Use it in multi-grain breads, pancakes, muffins.
Corn Flour
A gluten free flour made from ground yellow corn. Use it in cakes, cookies, pastries and other baked goods having no yeast content.
Oat Flour
A fine flour ground from dried oats. It is low in gluten, but is not gluten free. Use it in combination with wheat flour for making breads, muffins, and cookies.
Potato Flour
A gluten free flour made from cooked, dried and ground potatoes. It is used as a thickening agent for stews, sooups and sauces.
Rice Flour
A gluten free flour. It can be made from either white or brown rice. Commonly used for noodles, dumplings, cookies, breads, delicately textured cakes, pancakes. Note that brown rice flour is high nutrients and fibre than white rice flour, but should be stored in the refrigerator to remain fresh.
Self-Rising Flour
Contains salt and a leavening agent (usually baking powder). Good for using in cookies, sweet breads, biscuits, scones, pancakes, waffles, light pastries.
Spelt Flour
Has a nutty and slightly sweet taste similar to that of whole wheat flour. Spelt flour contains gluten. It can be substituted for whole wheat flour in recipes - breads, cakes, muffins, pancakes, cookies, pastries.
Tapioca Flour
Extracted from the root of the cassava plant. It is used as a thickener for fruit fillings, cobblers, crisps, stews, sauces, soups.

Is there any flour type that was not included? What type of flour do you commonly use?


  1. Oh my gosh! I love these Cooking 101's! Amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! I try to add new info whenever I can :)

  2. you forgot teff flour, high in nutrients & gluten free


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