A Substitute for Bread Flour

Flour on Wooden Table

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If you're working on a recipe that calls for bread flour and you don't have any on hand, save yourself a trip to the store, and a few bucks, by using this common pantry ingredient as a substitute. Understandably, people are often hesitant to make substitutions, fearful that the end result won't be the same, but this is one time when you can be confident that things will come out exactly as they should. So, why spend money on a "special" ingredient if you don't have to?

What You'll Need 

This bread flour substitute doesn't require a big time investment. In fact, it literally takes no additional time to make. And there's no cooking involved, at least not to convert the flour. 

As for ingredients, all you'll need is some all-purpose flour. Simply replace the bread flour called for in your recipe with an equal amount of all-purpose flour, and proceed as usual. Yes, it's really that easy!

The Difference Between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour

Of course, it begs asking. If you can use all-purpose flour in place of bread flour, why make the distinction at all? Why do recipes even bother specifying bread flour?

It's all about the protein. All-purpose flour has between 8 and 11 percent protein, while bread flour contains between 12 to 14 percent. That extra protein in bread flour results in a slightly higher rise, but you'll still get a good rise with all-purpose flour. Bread flour also produces more gluten. This makes bread just a bit denser and chewier.

If you're trying a recipe for the first time, and you don't have the bread flour that's called for, save some money by making the recipe with all-purpose flour. If you decide that the recipe is a keeper, ​then you can decide if it's worth investing in some bread flour for future batches. Who knows? You might just decide that you’re perfectly happy with the way the recipe turns out with the all-purpose flour. Some brands of bread flour can cost a dollar or more than all-purpose flour, so if you think you can get by without it, you may just want to skip it and save some money.

Easy flour substitution
The Spruce / Maritsa Patrinos

For a fair side-by-side comparison of bread flour and all-purpose flour, be sure to measure your flour properly. If you measure your flour the wrong way (as many people do), you could end up adding significantly more flour to the recipe that the author intended, and that'll give you dense, dry baked goods, no matter what type of flour you use.

Substitutes for Other Specialty Flours

Here are some substitutes for specialty flours that you might not have in your pantry (or that you may not be able to buy in your country):

Don’t feel that you have to go to the trouble, and expense, of stocking 10 different types of flour just because you like to bake. If a recipe calls for a type of flour that you don’t have in your pantry, there’s probably a substitute for it. Die-hard bakers and professionals will probably tell you there’s absolutely no substitute for the particular type of flour called for in a recipe, but in reality, the difference between one type of flour and another is so subtle, most people can't even tell the difference. So, just use what you have, and enjoy the tasty results. You'll save yourself some pantry space, and the hassle of trying to use up all of those extra bags of flour before they go rancid or attract bugs.

Make sure you're storing your flour the right way, so you get maximum shelf life out of the flours that you do decide to buy (specialty or otherwise).