What Is Semolina: Uses, Substitutes & More | Bob's Red Mill
What Is Semolina?
Baking 101, Learning Center on February 18, 2018 by

What Is Semolina?

Semolina is one of those words that sounds a lot fancier than it actually is, like “taupe” or “hors d'oeuvres.” Trust us, start throwing around the word semolina, and everyone in your circles will think you are a professional baker. But first, what exactly is semolina flour? It turns out that semolina is actually a pretty common ingredient, but if you have not heard of it before, do not fret! We have compiled all the information you need to know about semolina: what it is, when to use it, and even how to substitute it if you need! Keep reading to learn all about semolina and our favorite tips and tricks for incorporating it into your daily baking.

 

So, What Is Semolina Flour?

Semolina is actually just a type of flour made from durum wheat. You are, of course, familiar with flour, but there are a lot of different types of flour, which is actually just a generic term used to refer to ground up . . . well, ground up anything, really. Your general baking flours are made from what is known as common wheat, which makes up around 80% or more of the entire world’s wheat harvest. Semolina, on the other hand, is made from a species of wheat called “durum” wheat, which also has a few other names, including pasta wheat and macaroni wheat. Durum wheat grows predominantly in the middle east and makes up about 5-8% of the entire world’s cultivated wheat population. You will probably be able to find semolina in your regular grocery store, right next to the all purpose flour. The main difference you may be able to see is that semolina is a good bit coarser than traditional flour, and may be darker and more golden in color (but this will depend on the specific varieties). Semolina can have a more earthy aroma than common wheat flours as well, but you likely will not notice that until after you get home!

what is semolina infographic

What Is Semolina Used for and What Are Common Semolina Recipes?

With such a unique name, it may not surprise you that semolina is most commonly used in Italy. This is why people refer to it as pasta or macaroni wheat, because semolina’s number one use is in the making of pasta or couscous. The main reason people prefer semolina for pasta-making is that it is extremely high in gluten, which helps keep the shape of pasta during cooking. This is how pasta can come in all different shapes and sizes without risk of falling apart or becoming a giant blob while it is boiling. Semolina is a staple food in Nigeria, where it is mixed with water and boiled to eat with soups or stews. Couscous, made with semolina, is a common food in other parts of Africa as well as the rest of the world. In European countries, semolina is also used for sweet puddings and it can form a type of porridge when boiled. However, the number one use for semolina is in pasta, so it follows that it is most common in Italy and surrounding areas. If you have ever asked yourself why pasta is typically yellow, that is because semolina is typically more golden than all purpose flour. You may see semolina in other recipes, however, such as cakes, breads, or pies--we hear it helps make a tasty crust for bread! With its high gluten and protein content, it is a good candidate for certain desired textures, so check out all of our favorite semolina recipes and let us know which ones you loved!

Other Types of Semolina

There is a slight confusion over exactly what is included in the semolina category. One thing that you may see on shelves while looking for semolina is a myriad of other products that claim to be semolina. They might say, for instance, “corn semolina” or “rice semolina.” In fact, these grains are not officially semolina at all. The reason they would be labeled as such is likely because they are coarse-grained flours as opposed to finely grained flours. However, you should avoid these if semolina is actually what you need, though coarse grains have certain properties in baking, the true power of semolina over other flours is its high gluten and protein content. Stick to durum semolina only, and you will be good to go!

what is semolina used for and other types of semolina infographic

Health Benefits and Risks with Semolina

As with all new foods, you should examine any health risks before switching over to semolina. You likely have been eating semolina in your diet already, even if you did not know it, but if it turns out this is your first experience with it (or you are hoping to significantly increase your intake), then we always recommend taking it slow with new additions to your diet. Pay attention to your body to make sure there are no unexpected changes. The biggest health concern with semolina is simply that it is extremely glutinous. This is great for pasta, but not so great if you cannot eat gluten. The most common issue with gluten is a sensitivity or intolerance, which many people face and can cause discomfort or bloating when consuming gluten. You could also have what is called celiac disease, which is an extreme intolerance to gluten, or a wheat allergy, which is slightly different from a specific gluten intolerance.

risks with semolina infographic

If you do not have a sensitivity to wheat or gluten, then you are likely okay to consume semolina--in moderation, of course. There are actually several health benefits to eating semolina that you probably do not know about. The first is that semolina is high in protein, with almost 6 grams per serving! It is also rich in B vitamins, including folate and thiamine, which help create energy and support brain function. Selenium is another benefit to semolina, one that serves as an antioxidant to help prevent heart disease! Semolina is a little high in carbohydrates, though, so if you are watching your carb intake then you should only indulge periodically! In moderation, however, semolina should be fine to consume for anyone who does not have a wheat sensitivity!

Semolina Flour Substitute

Semolina flour substitutes are not easy to find, and that is because there is not really a cut and dried way to substitute for semolina in your recipes. We will break down the following semolina flour substitutes, but ultimately we recommend waiting until you have semolina flour on hand:

  • All Purpose Flour: If you do not have semolina, and only have all purpose flour, then you can absolutely still complete your recipe, but your results, while delicious, may just turn out slightly less-than-perfect in texture. The higher protein content the better when substituting for semolina. Semolina has about 13% or more protein content, as compared to all purpose flour with around 8-11%.
  • Bread Flour or Whole Wheat Flour: Lower protein flours, like cake flour for instance, probably will not yield similar results, but if you have bread flour or whole wheat flour, which both have a higher protein content, then your results will be more similar to what you are used to!
  • Cornmeal or Corn Flour: If you are using it to top your bread or keep your pizza dough from sticking to the pan, a finely ground cornmeal or corn flour will work well to replicate the texture.

If you are planning to dry your pasta or freeze your end product for some time, then it is recommended to go ahead and wait until you have semolina on hand, as this will help your goods retain their shape over longer periods of time! Semolina does have a slightly sandy texture, which means it’s hard to replace in recipes. 

semolina benefits and semolina flour substitutes infographic

Are you feeling a little less threatened by semolina now? It turns out, semolina is just like any other flour that you may already be using or have used in the past! It simply provides a higher gluten and protein content for that perfect al dente noodle to share with your significant other, Lady and the Tramp style if you are lucky! No matter how you like to use yours--for pasta, bread, couscous, or any other use--semolina is a delicious flour that you will love working with!


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53 Comments

  1. Lynn Davis
    Read your article on Semolina - I never heard of it before, and the article gave me all the information that I needed and more!! Thank you.
    Reply
    1. Anna Sile
      Semolina can be used in varius deserts too and makes a great porridge if you boil it with milk and is a good food for babies. If you boil it with berries and/or fruits and mix in some air you can make a really awesome dessert. If you want the recipe just ask in a comment and i can share it with you all.
      Reply
  2. […] with semolina is a dessert that is loved by the Greek […]
    Reply
    1. Sheila
      Can you please share that dessert recipe. Thank you.
      Reply
  3. Teresa
    Great article, thanks. I am a beginner pasta maker.
    Reply
  4. John Grieken
    Just a question: is there also a 'wholemeal' semolina?
    Very interesting article. Thanks, John.
    Reply
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      We aren't sure John. That's a great question. No, semolina is a durum flour that has had the germ and bran removed.
      Reply
    2. Tom Reisz
      The Indian atta flour used to make roti and other breads is a whole-wheat semolina flour.
      Reply
    3. Redha
      John T today I made a bread called Khobz ftir (Algerian) made with only fine semolina (sometimes they add a bit of white flour) olive oil, water and salt.
      Mostly baked on a wide flat cast iron with two hands or you can use a pan ( I do too) or a clay pan. You can google the word ' khobz ftir' (mostly the websites are in French or go to youtube for videos. I think this is the best way to make a perfect semolina breads.
      Reply
    4. Redha
      Yes, there is a whole wheat semolina, I buy it from supermarket in bulk or in 2lbs package bag. I prefer to make couscous and bread with it than refined semolina.
      Reply
  5. Paul Sorensen
    Massive Amounts of Durum are grown in the Golden Triangle of NE Montana and NW North Dakota. This Durum is the highest quality in the world.
    Reply
  6. Norman Goldstein
    Norman Goldstein
    I have seen the ingredient, "Whole grain semolina", in some commercial products. This sounds like a contradiction in terms, as "semolina" refers to the midlings of the durum kernel. What do manufacturers mean by, "Whole grain semolina"?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Norman, I'm not sure what other manufacturers mean by that term. It seems like a contradiction to me as well - perhaps they're referring instead to a whole wheat durum flour? Our Semolina Flour is made from just the endosperm of durum wheat, the bran and germ have been removed and it is not whole grain.
      Reply
  7. Selina Vazquez
    My daughter needed this very ingredient for baking. Could not gind it anywhere. Thanks for the tip.
    Reply
  8. Kathy Day
    What gives the Italian pizzeria restaurant pizza that good taste, it is different than other pizza in restaurants?? Is it the seminola flour? If Seminole flour is more course is it what’s used for Italian pizza??
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Kathy, that taste is dependent on a lot of factors and would vary from restaurant to restaurant. It could be the addition of semolina flour or another flour. It could also be the amount of time and temperature of how the dough is fermented, whether or not a starter or biga is used, or the temperature and method of baking. Semolina flour is a good place to start though, it definitely adds a great flavor!
      Reply
  9. Judy Hageman
    I had heard that one of the pluses of durum wheat semolina pastas is that this type of wheat contains very few digestible carbs, making it desirable in various recipes for those with Type 2 diabetes. Can you tell me if this is a fact?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Judy, we're not sure about that. For questions concerning specific health needs we would recommend speaking with your nutritionist or general practitioner.
      Reply
  10. JEFFREY HEFFNER
    JEFFREY HEFFNER
    So, I have been playing with recipes for semolina bread. I was looking to replicate the "old style" semolina that was sold here in NJ, (Paterson) in the Italian bakeries. It used to have such an amazing taste, but now it seems like they cut it with bread flour and add yellow food coloring. I am very close to getting the taste I am seeking for eons gone by. My next trick will be 100% Durum, with no semolina. I will conquer this beast yet!
    Reply
  11. Dan Haggarty
    'Semolina' is a word with two different but related meanings. Within a milling context, semolina is a coarse intermediate product of the milling process also known as middlings, regardless of the grain being milled. The middlings of corn (aka corn semolina) are used to make grits in the United States and polenta in Italy.

    The middlings of durum wheat (aka durum semolina) are used to make pasta and this use of durum semolina is so common that durum semolina is often know as simply 'semolina'. This is the second meaning of the word and the one commonly used by the general population.

    In Italy, durum wheat that is milled into a fine flour is known as 'semola di grano duro rimacinata' (remilled durum wheat semolina) and this is the flour used to make the famous Pane tipo di Altamura from the Apulia region of south-east Italy. If you want to make bread with durum flour, don't use (durum) semolina; it won't work properly. Use fine durum flour or look for the words 'semola di grano duro rimacinata' on a bag of Italian flour.
    Reply
    1. John T
      That's the missing piece. I just made bread using 1/2 bread flour and 1/2 durum semolina. I was trying for a chewier texture. It was tasty but the coarse semolina did not blend with the other flour. I'll try again with fine Semolina. Thank you
      Reply
    2. Redha
      John T today I made a bread called Khobz ftir (Algerian) made with only fine semolina (sometimes they add a bit of white flour) olive oil, water and salt.
      Mostly baked on a wide flat cast iron with two hands or you can use a pan ( I do too) or a clay pan. You can google the word ' khobz ftir' (mostly the websites are in French or go to youtube for videos. I think this is the best way to make a perfect semolina breads.
      Reply
    3. Redha
      There is a bread made with fine or medium semolina (not durum wheat flour).It is called "Khobz Ftir" made only with fine semolina, oil, water and salt. It is baked on cast iron wide flat pan with two hands, You can find it on youtube.
      Reply
  12. von walker loop
    von walker loop
    I,ve been having diareha for two months, even meta mucel was not that effective. by pure luck and my lord watching over me, I found a 3 lb. box of elbos on sale at walmarts. Yesterday I Cooked 2 cups and added pasta sauce. This a.m. I had the first , full bowel movement in two months. I couldn,t figure out why Semolina worked better than whole wheat. Now I know. The answer is SEMOLINA IS NON SOLUABLE. It cleans out your entire intestinal system. Whole wheat is soluable. Net result. FORGET WHOLE WHEAT, EAT ONLY SEMOLINA to better health. p.s. I,m 83 years old and V.A. says i,m in perfect health. Forget meta mucel. Eat SEMOLINA..YEA! Walker
    Reply
  13. Gregory Overcashier
    Gregory Overcashier
    Is this commonly used as a first food for infants?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Gregory - Unfortunately we don't have that information. If you're seeking advice/guidance about what to feed an infant, we recommend speaking with your doctor or pediatrician.
      Reply
  14. Redha
    Informative article. The article mentionned that semolina is more popolar in Italy. Actually, semolina have been used in North African countries for more than 3000 years ago, before the pasta was brought by Marco Polo from China. In North Africa ( Morocco, Tunisia and mostly Algeria, they use semolina (coarse meal) in the famous Couscous dish. They make different type of breads (especially the Berbers) made only with semolina, oil, water and baked on cast iron flat pan or potery ones. in which these breads are dated around 3000 years ago.
    Reply
  15. BENJAMIN ZUCKERMAN
    BENJAMIN ZUCKERMAN
    Doesn't the coarseness of semolina effect the final product? Such as for making pasta: wouldn't it be better to use a finely ground durum flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Benjamin, there are definitely variances in the texture/coarseness of Semolina Flour but ours is ground to a texture perfect for making pasta. You can find the product and recipes below.

      Bob's Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour
      Reply
  16. Lola popoola
    Informative details
    Reply
  17. Nikki Flynn
    In England's infant schools semolina was a staple pudding item back in the 70's when I was at school and probably long before that. It was very very cheap and extremely nutritious for us growing kids, it was cooked with milk and sugar (you can use water but the result is not the same) until thick then served with a dollop of jam in the middle, all the kids loved it and it was especially good in winter as it was a thick gooey wrm bowl of sweetness.
    Reply
  18. Brian marriott
    I didn’t know that Semolina was a type of flour
    We used to get it in a bowl cooked like portage
    With a blob of strawberry jam on back in the 60s
    Reply
  19. Ebenezer Sam
    Why is that Samolina is high in protein and vitamins but aids weight loss..please,i want to be clarified and also wants to know if it can help in weight gain
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Ebenezer, unfortunately we don't have information about weight loss/gain concerning our products. If you're seeking medical advice we suggest speaking with a medical practitioner.
      Reply
  20. JoAnn
    Found a recipe for pizza that used semolina. When you made your pizza Dough and before you roll it out you rolled it in smolina and then rolled it.. then roll out pizza dough while stone is heating in oven, when your stone is heated roll out the pizza dough and put on all your ingredients and stick it back in the oven on your stone. Going to try it. Shaped dough on stone Will have to be quite careful though since it came out of an oven of 450 to 500.
    Reply
  21. John
    So, durum wheat flour and semolina flour is one and the same thing?
    Reply
  22. Jeffrey
    I've used Bob's Red Mill semolina mixed in with regular flour when making pizza dough. I use a half cup with about 7 cups of regular flour to make two batches of dough for a large pizza pan. The crust come out with a bit more crispness.
    Reply
  23. Rachael Turner
    Rachael Turner
    I have seen on other baking blogs, people substituting in 1 Tbsp of vital wheat gluten for each cup of all purpose flour when bread flour is not on hand. Could this combination offer a texture that is good for holding pasta shape in place of Semolina?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Rachael - Yes, it won't be exactly the same but the addition of Vital Wheat Gluten will improve the elasticity of the dough.
      Reply
  24. Isadora
    The link for the semolina recipes does not lead to any recipes, just a blank search page. I came here looking for how to use semolina in place of bread flour. Do you have to combine it with all-purpose? Can you use it one-to-one instead of bread flour? Will the texture come out the same?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Isadora, you can find our recipe linked on the product page. Scroll down to click on "Recipes"

      Bob's Red Mill: Semolina Pasta Flour

      Semolina is ground finer than whole wheat flour but coarser than all purpose. It has approximately 12% protein.
      Reply
  25. Dani
    Hi,
    I‘m from Austria and I’m looking for a semolina for a breakfast dish (maybe translated to cream of wheat). In Austria the semolina I get is coarser then the one I find here and it is made of wheat not durum wheat. Do you have a product like that?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Dani - Our Organic Wheat Farina might be the most similar option. Here's a link: Organic Wheat Farina
      Reply
  26. Heather Rawcliffe
    Heather Rawcliffe
    I used to have a handwritten recipe which I used over the years very successfully but now I have lost the recipe but would like to find it again. My memory is of a tart covered in flaked almonds with a combination of ground almonds and semolina as part of the fillingI know this is similar to a recipe for bake well tart but would love to resurrect my original recipe with a clue of amounts of contents involved
    Reply
  27. Janie Norton
    What is the protein content in your semolina flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Janie - the protein content of our Semolina Flour is 12%.
      Reply
  28. Robert
    Bob:
    We buy your millet at Cub Foods on Amazon and authored the following through trial and error:
    1-1/2 cups brown Asian rice
    1/2 cup millet
    3 cups of water
    Simmer covered like rice for 20 minutes. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Top with fruit and honey for a great breakfast.

    Our question today: Can we make our own finer grind of coarse durham semolina in a food processor? If so, will the end product still have the same properties making polenta, pasta and bread?

    Happy New Year!

    Robert
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Robert - sounds delicious!

      Yes, you can take our Semolina Flour and grind it finer in a food processor or high speed blender. We haven't tested this in recipes, so your results may vary. If you try it, we'd love to hear how it goes!
      Reply
  29. Babs
    I’m making semolina bread and began with a poolish (equal weights semolina flour and water with 1/8 tsp active yeast).
    Should I use bread flour to finish or can I use only semolina? I’ve tried 650 gma bread flour to 550 gma semolina but want a stronger semolina flavor.
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Babs, I'd suggest upping your percentages to 75% Semolina Flour and 25% Artisan Bread Flour. A higher percentage of Semolina will help get the flavor you're after and the Artisan Bread Flour will help maintain the structure and texture. Happy baking!
      Reply
  30. Heather
    Can you tell me if your Semolina flour is produced on a dedicated peanut and nut free line? Thanks!
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Heather - Our Semolina Flour is processed in our Conventional Facility which processes almonds, coconut, walnuts, soy, wheat, corn, milk, oats, eggs (whites and yolks), and sesame seeds. It is a peanut free facility.

      Each manufacturing facility follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and follows allergen control strategies to minimize the potential cross contact of food allergens. These practices include, but are not limited to: HACCP training, separation of like materials, and sanitation. Despite these precautions, we are unable to guarantee that cross-contact has not occurred because of airborne and proximity issues and because our products run on shared production lines. If you have more questions, please contact us at [email protected]
      Reply
  31. Chris Dann
    Semolina pudding
    1 pint/ 20 fl oz milk
    2 oz semolina
    Heat the milk, I do it in the microwave, for about 3 minutes, then sprinkle in the semolina and beat well to remove any lumps.
    Return to the microwave and heat on high for another 3-4 minutes, stirring well every minute, until thickened. Add about 1 oz sugar to taste, optional vanilla essence and half oz butter, Beat well again and give it another 30 seconds in microwave. Serve with black current jam or black cherry.

    I was amused to see how many people were completely ignorant about semolina, something that I thought everyone was familiar with. Maybe it is just a British thing, but we love it.

    You can also stir in about 2 tbsps of cocoa powder, (not hot chocolate), with the semolina, to make chocolate semolina. Yummy!,,,
    Reply

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