Ingredient Intelligence

Out of All-Purpose Flour? Here’s What to Use Instead.

updated Apr 28, 2020
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Flour in plastic container with bag in the background, measuring cup, stand mixer
Credit: Joe Lingeman

All-purpose flour is the most commonly called-for flour in baking and cooking. Made from a combination of hard and soft wheats, it’s sturdy but tender and suitable for most recipes. But there’s a downside to its flexibility: Because we use it so frequently, all-purpose flour is often the pantry staple we run out of first. Right now, all-purpose flour can be harder to find in grocery stores.

If you’re out of all-purpose flour, but have other flours in your pantry, you’re in luck. Whether you have bread flour or whole-wheat flour, or even a stash of cake flour, this guide will walk you through how to substitute other flours for all-purpose flour and provide tips for using alternative flours like oat and almond flour.

Here are the best substitutes for all-purpose flour, and how to put them to use.

Credit: Maria Midoes

How to Substitute Bread Flour for All-Purpose Flour

Like all-purpose flour, bread flour is made from wheat, but a harder wheat berry gives this flour a lot more protein and gluten. That’s why

bread flour is sometimes called high-protein or high-gluten flour

You can substitute all or half of the flour in any baking recipe with bread flour, but don’t over-mix when it comes to cake or pancake batter or you’ll have springy results.
Credit: Kelli Foster

How to Substitute Cake Flour for All-Purpose Flour

Cake flour, which is made from softer wheat, is specifically designed for baking up tender and light cakes, and the same goes for pastry flour. Either cake flour or pastry flour can be used as a 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour in most baking recipes. Steer away from cake flour for chewy bread baking, though, and opt instead for bread or whole-wheat flour for your no-knead and sourdough loaves.

By the way, if you need cake flour, but only have all-purpose flour, you can make cake flour with all-purpose flour and cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Just measure one cup of all-purpose flour, subtract 2 tablespoons of the flour, and add back 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot powder for each cup of cake flour you need.

How to Substitute Whole-Wheat Flour for All-Purpose Flour

Whole-wheat flour is made from the complete kernel of wheat, which includes the rich but fibrous bran. This hearty grain ends up being a bit more thirsty (i.e., it will hog more liquid in a recipe) so most pro-bakers recommend using a 50/50 mix of whole-wheat and white flour (all-purpose, bread, or cake depending on the recipe) when baking bread. Quick breads and cookies are more forgiving, but using 7/8 cup of whole-wheat flour in place of 1 cup of all-purpose flour will give you better, tastier results. Also, give your whole-wheat batters a rest before baking for better hydration.

How to Substitute Alternative Flours for All-Purpose Flour

Outside of traditional wheat flours, there’s a whole world of alternative flours that are increasing common in grocery stores and home pantries. As a general rule, you’ll always get the best results if you choose a recipe suited to these flours rather than using them as a replacement in your favorite recipe. For example, this Paleo gluten-free cookie recipe, which calls specifically for almond flour, will turn out much better than if you try to make your grandmother’s cookie recipe with almond flour. Plus, many alternative flours — especially those that are gluten-free — require additional ingredients to make them work in traditional recipes, such as xantham gum.

Swaps and Substitutions

Even the most well-stocked kitchens run out of pantry staples from time to time. Whether you’re trying to limit your grocery shopping or you need to make a last-minute ingredient swap, we’ve got you covered. This series will walk you through the best substitutions and replacements for common cooking and baking ingredients.