What Is Spelt Flour?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Spelt flour

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Spelt flour is a flour made from a species of wheat with a nutty, slightly tangy flavor. Since it's a form of wheat, it does contain gluten. It can be used for making cookies, breads, muffins and other applications where you'd use wheat flour.

Fast Facts

  • Contains gluten
  • 12 to 15 percent protein content
  • Good for breads, cookies and more
  • A whole grain flour

What Is Spelt Flour?

Spelt is a species of wheat, Triticum spelta, that is believed to have been cultivated for thousands of years, and is sometimes considered a subspecies of ordinary wheat rather than a separate species. There are two types of spelt flour, white and whole grain.

To make whole grain spelt flour, the entire spelt grain is processed, including the bran, endosperm and germ. The white version is made from the endosperm only, which is only the starchy part of the grain.

Spelt flour has a nutty, slightly tangy flavor, a coarse texture and has visible brown flecks mixed in with the white. Its texture and density are comparable to wheat flour, which means the whole grain version is comparable to whole-grain bread flour, and its relatively high protein content makes it suitable for making hearty breads, muffins and the like. It's also sometimes used for making pasta.

The white version of spelt flour is similar to ordinary bread flour. Both types of spelt flour can develop a very strong gluten network, which will in turn give your baked goods additional structure and volume. On the other hand, this gluten network can be short lived if the dough is over-mixed. 

How to Cook With Spelt Flour

The big difference in working with spelt flour as opposed to conventional wheat flour is that although spelt does have a high gluten content, it has a higher proportion of gliadin to glutenin (the two proteins that make up gluten), which causes the gluten strands to be less resilient than ordinary wheat. With conventional wheat flour, you can knead the dough for quite a long time, and the glutens will continue to develop, and the chains of proteins will get longer and longer, making the dough more elastic.

With spelt, the strands of gluten will actually start to break if the dough is kneaded for too long, giving the final bread a crumbly rather than chew texture. The key, then, when working with spelt flour is to avoid over-mixing it.

Also, when baking with spelt flour, many bakers find that it's best to start by substituting spelt flour for anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the flour of the recipe. This is both because the flavor can be strong, with a slightly acidic flavor, as well as to minimize the problem of over-mixing. 

Something else to note is that spelt flour doesn't absorb water as well as conventional wheat flour, so you might find that working with spelt flour yields a stickier dough than you're used to. You can deal with this by using slightly less liquid or more flour. But note that this adjustment can itself alter the final texture of what you're making, which is another reason bakers opt to use spelt in combination with conventional wheat flour rather than baking with 100 percent spelt.

Spelt flour, bread, grain

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Spelt flour

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Spelt flour bread

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Spelt flour and bread

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What Does It Taste Like?

Spelt flour isn't something you'd eat on its own, and like all flours, the baked goods prepared from it will derive most of their flavor from the other ingredients, the yeast, sugar, salt, fats and so on, that it's combined with, as well as from the caramelization of starches that takes place when the dough or batter is cooked. However, baked goods made from spelt flour have a nutty, slightly tangy, slightly mineral flavor, as compared with the same things baked from ordinary wheat flour.  

Spelt Flour Substitute

Since spelt is a type of wheat, ordinary wheat flour would be the best substitute for spelt flour. If substituting for whole grain spelt flour, try whole grain bread flour. For white spelt flour, try regular white bread flour. 

Spelt Flour Recipes

Here are a few recipes that use spelt flour. 

Where to Buy Spelt Flour

Spelt flour can be found a many of the larger supermarket chains, usually in the health food or alternative baking aisles. You can also find it online.

Storage

Spelt flour can be stored in a cool, dry place, like a pantry, for up to 6 months, as long as the package is kept tightly closed. The ideal humidity for spelt flour is around 60 percent. You can also store it in the fridge or freezer, in a vapor-proof bag, which will extend its shelf life to around 12 months. This is also a good idea if you live in a warm, humid climate. Note that because of its higher fat content, the whole grain variety will go rancid faster than the white.