What's the Difference Between Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour?
Baking 101 on April 28, 2017 by

What’s the Difference Between Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour?

Flour is one of the most popularly used baking ingredients out there! While it may not seem like there’s much to it, the variety of baking flours can lead to confusion and wrongly mixed recipes. By understanding the differences between the two most common flours: bread flour vs. all purpose flour you'll be able to determine which is best to use in your next recipe!

What Is Flour?

person kneading dough with flour

 

Flour is typically made by finely grinding a grain into a powder, which can then be used in recipes to create a variety of baked goods. It is used to make cakes, cookies, muffins, tortillas, and bread amongst many other things. While flour is a common ingredient, not all flours are alike. In fact, some flours don’t come from grains at all and can derive from different vegetables, nuts, and seeds. For example, coconut flour, which comes from the dried, ground coconut meat. Not to mention that there are also cake flours, pastry flours, and more.

Although there are numerous different kinds of flour, the two most common baking flours that often get confused are all purpose flour and bread flour. While very similar, there are a few distinct differences between the two that it's important to take note of. Although mixing up the two flours won’t ruin your baked goods entirely, it can affect your recipes slightly.

What Is Bread Flour?

When originally created, bread flour was designed to be paired with yeast in order to produce the perfect baked good (usually breads). The amount of protein found in bread flour is higher, in order to contain and produce more gluten and achieve the desired rise in bread. Because of this higher protein level, bread flour is able to absorb more liquid, allowing it to hold its shape and rise upward instead of outward. All of these elements create an incredibly sturdy flour that works wonders when used to bake a variety of different kinds of bread. The high amount of gluten in bread flour also creates a more elastic dough, which produces a lighter and chewier bread, as opposed to a bread that is more dense and crumbly.

What Is All Purpose Flour?

All purpose flour was designed with one thing in mind: to be all purpose. It works for just about every flour-demanding recipe, including bread, cookies, and cakes. While bread flour holds a higher protein content than that of all purpose flour, all purpose flour does contain quite a bit of protein. This allows the flour to remain firm and hold its structure, while still providing the perfect texture for cakes. Whether you prefer organic all purpose flour or regular, all purpose flour was designed to be the go-to flour when baking and it does a pretty good job of it. While specialty flours such as cake flour and bread flour may deliver a better result than all purpose flour, the differences are subtle and hardly noticeable by those enjoying the baked goods!

flour and rolling pin

What’s the Difference Between Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour?

The main differences between bread flour vs. all purpose flour are the protein content and gluten content. Bread flour has a higher amount of protein and higher amount of gluten which is why it’s good for an airy, chewy bread that needs time to rise. All purpose flour has a lower protein content which makes it good for cookies and cakes that don’t need to rise. Here’s a brief rundown of the key differences between bread flour vs. all purpose flour:

  • Bread flour has a higher protein content (around 13% more), which leads to more stability, form and rise in the dough, allowing it to lift and hold shape
  • All purpose flour has a lower protein content, resulting in lighter, shorter breads, which makes it an ideal flour for cookies, cakes and more
  • All purpose flour contains less gluten than bread flour
  • The higher content of gluten in bread flour makes it ideal for airy, chewy bread, rather than dense bread

Is Bread Flour More Expensive than All Purpose Flour?

Bread flour is typically more expensive than all purpose flour. Bread flour typically tends to have better baking qualities that make it favorable for those that love baking fresh bread at home. If you love your bread to be airy and chewy, bread flour is worth the extra splurge for better bread results.

Can You Substitute Bread Flour and All Purpose Flour?

The answer is yes! If you’re wondering if you can use all purpose flour in place of bread flour or vice versa, you can! While the results may not be exactly the same, it will not ruin your baked goods entirely, and you’ll still end up with a great result.

Whether you are making pancakes, muffins, bread, or cookies, it depends on the results you want from your baked goods. While it is possible to substitute the two, it’s important to note that the flour called for in the recipe will almost always provide better results. Based on ingredients, cook times, and other variables, certain recipes were created with a specific flour in mind. Because of this, the flour called for tends to work best during the baking process. However, if you’ve already started whipping up a batch of your favorite whole wheat banana bread and suddenly realize you’re out of all purpose flour, using bread flour in its place will work as a suitable replacement!

For a gluten free bread flour option, try out Bob’s Red Mill Homemade Wonderful Buns and Rolls or Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free French Bread!


63 Comments

  1. Sharon carter
    Sharon carter
    I love all your products. When will there start to be Bobs Red Mill bakeries? I can t wait. I would be sooo glad to open one here in kansas city. Give me a franchise. ..pleeeeeze
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      We have one here in Milwaukie, OR! Come visit us some time.
      Reply
  2. Carole Hopwood
    Carole Hopwood
    Do you have any flour made from sprouted wheat, or wheat Berries?
    Thank you for your assistance.
    Carole
    Reply
  3. Linda
    Can you substitute Coconut flour for Almond flour?
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      No, it's not a one to one exchange with those two ingredients.
      Reply
  4. Lilja
    Can you substitute whole wheat flour with all purpose flour
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      You can, but the end result will not be as light and fluffy. You may want to try out our Ivory flour at first and then start to use half of that along with half whole wheat flour.
      Reply
  5. cecil kennedy
    what kind of flour should be used for baking soda bread?
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      All Purpose flour works perfectly in soda bread.
      Reply
  6. Karen Ozycz
    Most Dutch oven bread recipes call for all purpose flour. Will bread flour work and if so how will end product differ? Thanks.
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      Yes, bread flour will work. There is a higher protein content in bread flour so you will get a sturdier loaf of bread than with all purpose flour.
      Reply
  7. David Sandberg
    Great products Bob!
    Reply
  8. debra chohamin
    I can only get all purpose flour here in Costa Rica,,,I had to order bread flour. I want to make my next batch of bagels with the bread flour...will I 'see' difference?
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      Hi Debra, yes, you should see a differnce. Bread flour will lend a sturdier product that's perfect for that bagel texture.
      Reply
  9. Sylvia Bunn
    I am allergic to wheat, gluten and almonds. Are any gluten-free flours interchangeable with all-purpose flour in recipes? Do I need to look specifically for gluten-free recipes that utilize flours which I am able to tolerate?
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      Hi Sylvia, thank you for reaching out to us. We have so many varieties of flours and recipes you can choose from. Our gluten free 1 to 1 flour is a great place to start for quickbreads, cookies and cakes. We recommend you do a search on our site for recipes and if you have specific questions about recipes, we have a recipe specialist on site that can help you with those. You can reach her at 800-349-2173. Thank you for trusting us with your health!
      Reply
  10. Ignasi Sans
    Great explanation!
    Reply
  11. Michele
    Although I have not yet tried any of your products, I came across your website in a search and am so glad I did. The information, alone, is invaluable. Thank you so much. I will be back.
    Reply
  12. Doug Myhre
    Which is better for thin crust pizza- all purpose or bread flour ?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Doug! I'd recommend Bread Flour. Enjoy!
      Reply
  13. Andrea Anderson
    I absolutely love your products!
    Reply
  14. Terri Ann
    I am new to making homemade bread. I am trying to make an airier, fluffier everyday bread and while searching for recipes, I came across this site. I have zero idea what you mean when you speak of 'sturdier' in regards to flour and bread. I am new to baking so please be nice :-D. What does sturdier mean?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Terri Ann - in this context, you'll often see flour referred to as "sturdy" or "strong." These two descriptors are synonymous with high protein flours, like our Artisan Bread Flour. The higher the protein content, the sturdier the resulting bread. Think of high protein (sturdy/strong) flour like a super chewy French baguette that requires a lot of chewing. On the other hand, low protein (soft/cake) flour would result in tender yellow cake.
      Reply
  15. Sheila B. Chappell
    Sheila B. Chappell
    I have recently acquired a bread machine. Do I have to use bread flour or bread machine flour? I have hopes to make my own bread that is better for me than store bought at a cheaper cost. If I have to use the expensive flour it won't be a cost effective prospect. Can't I use all-purpose (which is cheaper) instead?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Sheila, you can definitely use All Purpose Flour to make loaves in your bread machine. Bread Flour has a higher protein percentage and will yield a chewier loaf, so it depends on what you're going for. Bread Flour would create something like a chewy baguette, while a low protein flour, like Cake Flour, will produce the pillowy crumb of a cake.
      Reply
  16. Roger Spruill
    During this time of Corona crisis I am unable to find bread flour. I can source some wheat gluten. If I add wheat gluten to all purpose flour, can I expect similar results to bread flour? If so, how much gluten per cup of flour should be added?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Roger! We suggest adding 1-2 Tbsp to each cup of flour for improved texture. Enjoy!
      Reply
  17. Russ
    I have a list of ingredients for a cookie recipe that calls for: all-purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda. I don’t have nearly enough all-purpose flour for the recipe. However, I have plenty of (what I think is bread) flour on hand. Do I need to adjust or eliminate the baking powder and/or baking soda? If so, how?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Russ - No, there is no need to adjust/eliminate baking powder or baking soda. Both are responsible for leavening (creating lift/rise) in the cookie, which will still be necessary. The switch to Artisan Bread Flour from All Purpose Flour will affect the chewiness and texture of the cookie. Artisan Bread Flour has a higher protein content which will give your cookie a slightly chewier texture. Happy baking!
      Reply
  18. Vanessa
    I am trying to make homemade bread and bought bread flour. I can’t find dry yeast anywhere. Is there anything I can substitute for it?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Vanessa - you could look for breads leavened with baking soda or baking powder. To get a result similar to yeast, I'd recommend starting a sourdough starter.

      Bob's Red Mill: Sourdough
      Reply
  19. Robert
    Will sifting All Purpose flour provide a texture like Bread Flour. Also, if I'm a cup short on my Bread Flour would it be better to sift a cup of All Purpose to add to the Bread Flour rather than unsifted? Thank you!!
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Robert - Sifting won't make a difference here as the main difference between the two flours is the protein content. Artisan Bread Flour has a higher protein content which makes for a chewier loaf of bread. You can substitute in AP Flour, the texture just might be a touch more tender. Happy baking!
      Reply
  20. Inge Goolkasian
    Inge Goolkasian
    For a yeast cake how much more yeast do I need compared with All Purpose Flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Inge, you would use the same amount of yeast in that instance.
      Reply
  21. Erin
    Thank you for this site. I have found the information I was looking for...plus other information I had wondered about in the past. I really like the Bob's Mill products and plan on browsing your site more.
    Reply
  22. Joanne
    When substituting bread flour for all purpose flour, will the measurements be the same?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Joanne - Yes, the volume measurement will be the same.
      Reply
  23. Betsy McDonald
    Thank you for this detailed explanation! I'm off to use my new-to-me bread machine now! I really appreciate it!
    Reply
  24. Christina
    Can you use bread flour to make pasta?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Christina - Yes, you can. The texture may be a bit stiffer as the protein percentage is higher.
      Reply
  25. Judy Reddekopp
    Judy Reddekopp
    I have a bread recipe using 5 grain hot cereal, but I have not been able to find it due to covid19 I assume. Would it be okay to sub muesli and if so should I increase liquid or make any other adjustments?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Judy - that would be a lovely substitution. Both are made from rolled grains and very similar in texture. With muesli (depending on the flavor) you'll have some added flavor from nuts and berries. No need to adjust the recipe further. Happy baking!
      Reply
  26. Eva
    Hi,
    How is bread and all purpose flour processed? Are they two different processes that leads to higher protein content in one?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Eva, both flours are milled from whole wheat berries. After milling, most of the germ and bran are removed, leaving just the endosperm. In comparison, for whole wheat flour, the germ and bran are left in, keeping it whole. The wheat berries used for our Artisan Bread Flour have a higher protein content which translates into a higher protein flour.
      Reply
  27. Anna
    Hello! Due to the Corona Virus, I am unable to purchase bread flour. I do however, have Self-rising flour and All Purpose flour. The recipe I have requires bread flour. Could I substitute it with one of the flours I have?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Anna! The results will not be the same, you can generally substitute All Purpose Flour (NOT self-rising flour) for Artisan Bread Flour and still make something tasty. The main difference is that All Purpose Flour has a lower protein content in comparison to bread flour. In your recipe, this might result in loose, slack dough that is not easy to knead/shape, a shorter rise, or a bread that crumbles apart rather than having a hearty chewiness. The higher protein content means more potential for gluten development. More gluten equals more elasticity and extensibility.
      Reply
  28. Judy
    Used your bread flour first time to make no-knead bread. Came out better than all purpose. Tasted like old fashioned corn (rye) . course. I added caraway and everything Bagel seasoning. Delicious. Thanks for your products.
    Reply
  29. Afua
    Which is the best for making baguettes?Bread flour or all purpose flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Artisan Bread Flour would be best for baguettes. Enjoy!
      Reply
  30. Jasminne Omalza
    Hi can I use bread flour for oatmeal raisin cookies? Or can I mix bread flour and all purpose flour for the cookies? Which is the best used for the oatmeal cookies? Thanks
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Jasminne - We typically use All Purpose Flour for cookies, but Artisan Bread Flour will work as well. Bread flour will create a chewier cookie in comparison.
      Reply
  31. Cynthia Oliver
    I have bread flour and A.P. flour in unlabeled containers. How can I tell the difference?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Cynthia - that's a tricky one. Our Test Kitchen Chef suggests making two small amounts of dough from each flour and water. Whichever creates more gluten (feels more sticky/stretchy) is the bread flour. The other option is to make a 50/50 blend to use in general baking.
      Reply
  32. diane
    If I want bread to be fluffy as opposed to chewy, do I use bread flour or all purpose flour?
    Thank you
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      Bread flour is ideal, but really both will produce a nice fluffy bread.
      Reply
  33. Sherry
    Which type of flour CV is best to make focaccia or pizza? Bread or all purpose? Which is less fattening?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Sherry - Artisan Bread Flour has a higher protein content and would create a chewier crust. It's perfect for pizza. Neither flour contains fat.
      Reply
  34. Carol Ashworth
    If using all purpose flour in the bread machine is there a difference in rise time etc.. i have to a machine that has 3 programs to enter cycles. I have no idea what times I need for all purpose flour! Can you give any ideas for a cycle?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Carol - it's difficult to say not knowing the cycle times on your bread machine. I'd recommend starting with the basic setting and adjusting from there based on your results. The manufacturer of your bread machine may be able to give more specific direction. Happy baking!
      Reply
  35. Patricia mabs
    Hi.. can i combine all purpose flour and bread flour in making donuts?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Patricia - Sure! If you're looking for more structure/chew in your yeast donuts, add in some Artisan Bread Flour to boost the protein.
      Reply

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