Types of Flour – Understanding Different Wheat Flours

So exactly what is the difference between “all purpose” and “whole wheat” flour?  Lets see if we can can provide some guidance on the different types.

Types of Flour

It turns out that the United States is unique in that it produces several hundred varieties of wheat.  Most countries who produce wheat grow just a few varieties.


There are a total of 6 classes of wheat:

  • Hard Red Winter (dominant class)
  • Hard Red Spring (highest protein)
  • Soft Red Winter
  • Durum (used for making pasta)
  • Hard White Wheat  (newest class)
  • Soft White Wheat

From these “classes,” all of the types of flour (wheat) that we consume is produced.  When wheat is harvested, a “berry” or “kernel” is separated from the wheat stalk.  These berries are then ground up for flour.  You can also buy bags of wheat berries to grind your own flour.


All Purpose Flour

This is the flour that we are all probably MOST familiar with.  It is usually made up of a combination of hard and soft wheat grains.  All purpose flour is your basic white flour aka refined flour.  It is usually enriched – meaning that vitamins have been added back in.  And can come in bleached or unbleached varieties.

The wheat berry has three parts: the germ, the endosperm and the bran.

  • The endosperm makes up a large portion of the interior space of the wheat berry.  This is the part of the wheat berry that makes up white/all purpose flour.
  • The bran is the exterior portion/lining of the wheat berry.
  • The germ is the embryo or section of the berry that will sprout if planted.

As mentioned above, all purpose flour is made up entirely of the endosperm section of the wheat berry.  The bran and germ have been stripped away and separated to make white flour.

Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour contains the germ and the bran, in addition to the endosperm.  Nothing is separated out when milled.  It is higher in fiber and nutritionally superior to all-purpose/white flour.  Note that “wheat flour” is NOT the same as whole wheat flour.  Wheat flour is just white flour.  If you are looking for whole grain products, it must say WHOLE WHEAT not just WHEAT.

White Whole Wheat

White whole wheat in a separate category from just whole wheat.  White whole wheat IS the SAME as whole wheat, as far as nutrition but is simply milled from a different wheat berry.

Traditional whole wheat flour is usually milled from a hard red winter wheat, whereas white whole wheat is milled from a hard white wheat berry.  It is sometimes also referred to as an “albino wheat.”  The bran, germ and endosperm are all there.  The color is just lighter.

The nice thing about white whole wheat is that it can help with picky eaters who are opposed to the color of traditional whole wheat bread or bread products.  It also has a slightly milder taste.

The King Arthur Company makes a wonderful white whole wheat – King Arthur Flour that you can check out.


Other Types of Flour:

Here are just a couple others you might run across:

  • Pastry Flour – King Arthur Flour Perfect Pastry Flour – generally made from soft wheat berries
  • Bread Flour – high gluten content flour
  • Cake Flour – also made from soft wheat and has a lower gluten content