What Is Semolina Flour?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Close-up of semolina flour in bowl

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Semolina is a high-gluten flour made from hard durum wheat. It has a rather coarse texture, yellow color, and is high in gluten protein. The high gluten content means the flour is especially well suited for making pasta, but this flour is also a common ingredient in bread and baked goods as well as couscous. Semolina is available throughout the world but is most popular in Italy.

Fast Facts

  • Fiber and Protein: Significantly more than all-purpose
  • Common Use: Homemade pasta
  • Grocery Aisle: Baking

Varieties

Semolina flour can be purchased in coarse, medium, and fine textures. The most common is medium grind, meaning the coarse and fine textures may be more difficult to find in stores. The fine grind is similar in texture to all-purpose flour.

Semolina Uses

One of the most common uses for semolina flour is making pasta from scratch. It is an ideal flour because of the gluten content, which creates a less sticky dough and is much more elastic than other flours. This helps the pasta hold its shape when cooking, whether that shape is a long spaghetti noodle or an elbow.

Semolina is also used to make couscous, which is simply moistened semolina that is mixed until little balls form. In addition, this flour is good for making bread, cakes, and pizza, as well as porridge and pudding. In Morocco, semolina flour (called smida) is the key ingredient in khobz, an oven-baked round flatbread, and it finds its way into cakes in countries like Greece and Turkey. In India, where it is referred to as rawa or sooji, semolina is cooked into a porridge. It is used for sweet puddings in Europe and is a staple ingredient in Nigeria, where it's boiled with water and eaten with stews and soups. Semolina is also commonly sprinkled onto pizza pans before baking pizza crusts.

How to Cook With Semolina

When incorporating semolina flour into homemade pasta and baked goods recipes, it is used similarly to any other type of flour, where it is combined with wet and sometimes other dry ingredients. It is also added to gravies, soups, and stews as a thickener, and can be used to prevent sticking when baking with dough. To create a filling breakfast porridge, boil semolina along with milk until thickened. Semolina can also be replaced for some or all of the flour in baking recipes, including cookies, where it imparts a crisp, crumbly texture.

As with any type of flour, it should be scooped into the measuring cups rather than the cups being dipped into the flour bag. Dipping can add extra flour to the recipe, which will make the pasta dough drier and harder to work with.

What Does It Taste Like?

Semolina has a sweet, nutty flavor and earthy aroma. It also contributes that signature yellow color to the pasta.

Substitutes for semolina flour
The Spruce / Brianna Gilmartin 

Semolina Substitute

Although semolina is the ideal flour for making homemade pasta, other types of flours can be used in its place. Replace the semolina flour called for in the recipe with an equal amount of all-purpose flour, bread flour, or whole-wheat flour. Bread flour or whole-wheat flour will work best; they have a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. (Semolina, bread, and whole-wheat flours have 13 percent or more gluten, while all-purpose contains 8 to 11 percent.) If using all-purpose flour, the pasta won't come out quite as firm but will still taste delicious. Keep in mind that homemade pasta made with all-purpose flour will not dry or freeze well, as the pasta won't retain its shape.

Cakes and cookies that call for semolina will work fine when other flours are used but won't have the same flavor, color, or texture. Cornmeal can be used in place of semolina for dusting surfaces or pans.

Semolina Recipes

Any type of fresh pasta is preferably made with semolina flour, and there are many African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern dessert and bread recipes that call for semolina.

Where to Buy Semolina

Semolina flour is available at most major supermarkets in the baking supplies aisle, often next to the all-purpose flour. It can also be found at specialty Italian food markets and online. Be sure the packaging reads "semolina flour" and is made with durum wheat. Do not buy corn semolina or rice semolina, as they aren't actually semolina at all but called semolina for their coarse texture.

Storage

Because of its high protein content, semolina has a relatively short storage life compared to other flours. If stored in a cool, dark place, semolina will last for up to a year. To prolong its shelf life, keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Make sure the package is well sealed.

Nutrition and Benefits

When compared to all-purpose flour, semolina is more nutritious. It has double the amount of fiber and significantly more protein (1 cup of all-purpose flour has 13 grams, while semolina contains 21 grams). Semolina, however, does have more calories than all-purpose flour. This flour also boasts high concentrations of certain minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, and phosphorous, as well as certain B vitamins.

Foods rich in fiber and protein promote a feeling of fullness and may assist in weight loss. Fiber is also beneficial to the digestive tract and helps maintain regularity. When paired with the high concentrations of folate and magnesium, it assists in protecting the heart and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

During semolina processing, nutrients are stripped from the durum wheat grain; manufacturers add back those lost nutrients, enriching the flour. Enriched semolina will contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals than unenriched varieties. It is important to keep in mind that semolina flour is much higher in gluten than all-purpose flour.

Article Sources
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