Follow our handy, detailed guide to flour types, as well as storing and sifting.


All-purpose flour works well for all types of baking.

When referring to flour, most people mean wheat flour unless they say otherwise. Flours made from other foods include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, and triticale.

Wheat flours are classified by the amount of protein they contain. Wheat flours made from soft wheats are relatively low in protein and generally are used for making cakes, cookies, pastries, and crackers. Those flours made from hard wheats are high in protein and generally are used for quick and yeast breads.

Market forms:

  • All-purpose: A white flour that generally is a combination of soft and hard wheats, or medium-protein wheats. It works well for all types of home-baked products, including yeast breads, cakes, and quick breads.
  • Bread: Made entirely from hard wheat. With its high gluten strength, bread flour is well-suited for making yeast breads.
  • Cake: A soft wheat blend. Its low protein and gluten content makes it especially suitable for baking fine-textured cakes.
  • Instant: A patented process used to produce a quick-mixing flour for use in thickening gravies and sauces.
  • Self-Rising: An all-purpose flour with salt and a leavener such as baking powder added. It is used for baking non-yeast products.
  • Whole Wheat: A coarse-textured flour ground from the entire wheat kernel. Whole wheat flour, also called graham flour, is good in breads and some cookies, but generally is not the best choice for pastry or other delicate baked goods.

Can whole wheat flour be used interchangeably with all-purpose flour?

You can replace part of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Use proportions of half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour in most baked goods. The end product will not look the same and may have less volume and a coarser texture.


Store all-purpose flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for 10 to 15 months; store whole grain flours for up to 5 months. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze the flour in a moisture- and vaporproof container. Before using a refrigerated flour in yeast breads, bring it to room temperature so it does not slow the rising of the bread.

To Sift or Not to Sift:

You usually can skip the sifting of all-purpose flour. Even though most all-purpose flour is presifted, the flour settles in the bag during shipping. So, it's a good idea to stir through the flour in the bag or canister before measuring to make it lighter. Then gently spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level it off with a spatula.

You will need to sift cake flour before measuring it.


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