All-Purpose Flour vs. Bread Flour: Can You Use Either One for Baking?

Take the mystery out of baking bread with our breakdown of the differences between all-purpose and bread flour—and what to expect if you sub one for the other.

Prepping, proofing, and baking. The process of making bread from scratch can be a long one, but is one of the most satisfying ways to pass the time (in my opinion, at least). In the past year, Americans seem to agree with me, as 80% of home bakers enjoyed the chewy, delicious results of freshly-baked bread due to spending more time at home. With baking therapy becoming a part of people's normal routines, there's a chance you've wondered if you can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour (and vice versa). So if you run out or there's no bread flour left at the store, read on to learn the difference between the two types of flour. Then you'll know exactly what will happen if you substitute one for the other in your baking.

Measuring flour in cup
Kritsada Panichgul

Bread Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour

Both flours are made from wheat and literally sit next to each other in the baking aisle of the grocery store. So what's the difference between all-purpose flour and bread flour, anyway? The short answer: protein and gluten content. According to the pros at Bob's Red Mill, bread flour has approximately 13% more protein than all-purpose flour. This produces a higher amount of gluten, allowing for a higher rise and the chewy, light texture you expect from a loaf of bread. And as the name implies, all-purpose flour is really for all types of baking purposes (i.e. cakes, cookies, and quick breads). The lower protein amount, however, allows for the same firm texture and structure of bread, but with less rise.

Can I Substitute Bread Flour for All-Purpose Flour?

After testing a simple white bread recipe with both bread flour and all-purpose flour, the hotline bakers at King Arthur Flour assure concerned home bakers that yes, you can use either flour in place of the other in a pinch. Other than the all-purpose loaf being slightly more tender, there were few differences between the two loaves of bread.

Of course, King Arthur Flour still recommends using the bread called-for in the recipe, but at least you can rest easy knowing you can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour (and the other way around) without needing to run to the store. So go ahead and try a new delicious bread recipe today. If you already know you need a good bread recipe that doesn't require bread flour, try starting with our easy everyday bread.

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