What Is Self Rising Flour & When to Use It | Bob's Red Mill
What Is Self Rising Flour?

What Is Self Rising Flour?

Self rising flour is a mixture made up of regular flour, baking powder and salt. You can make your own by combining 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt. The leavening power of the baking powder is mixed evenly throughout the flour, so you will automatically get that nice rise out of your baked goods every time you use self rising flour.

Flour is a pretty basic term that we have all heard of, but there are actually hundreds of varieties of flour out there. Self rising flour is one of the more interesting types of flour. It's no longer as popular as it was a hundred years ago, but many old recipes still call for it, and you may stumble upon it in current recipes (especially Southern recipes) here and there. We have all the information you need to know about self rising flour and how to best utilize this amazing resource below! Keep reading to learn all about baking with self rising flour.

History of Self Rising Flour

Where did self rising flour come from? It actually has an interesting past. Self rising flour was invented in England in the 1800s, as a way for sailors to create better baked goods while on board. In a way, it's kind of a cheat product, as it is simply a mixture of other already-existing ingredients, but either way, it worked for the English baker who sold a ton of it on British ships! In 1849, he patented the “invention” in the United States, which eventually led to the creation of mass-market baking mixes.

What Does It Mean to “Rise”?

This is an important clarification before we get into the weeds, or should I say grains? With self rising flour. Rising is a vital part of the baking process when you are working with batter or dough, and it is key to get it right for your recipe. There are a few different ways that you can leaven or raise your breads and pastries to get the fluffy, chewy, airy, or flaky texture that you want, depending on the recipe. Leavening agents include yeast, of course, in addition to some chemical agents like baking soda and baking powder. These two are important in the context of self rising flour. Baking soda is a very basic source, and it combines with the acid in other ingredients (lemon juice, buttermilk, etc.) to give off gases that create little pockets in your dough. Once the dough is baked, the gases dissipate in the hot temperatures and leave behind the structure created by those little gas bubbles. This entire process is called leavening and is a key step in the baking process. Baking powder, on the other hand, is baking soda that has already been mixed with an acidic ingredient and fillers or starches. You can typically use a baking powder right out of the carton, and there are two varieties made for different types of recipes. Keep this in mind as we delve deeper into what self rising flour is and its purpose in baking.

What Is the Benefit of Self Rising Flour?

If you use self rising flour in your baked goods recipes that call for this product, you will see that your cakes and breads always rise perfectly, and more importantly, that you get a consistent rise every time. These recipes do not even call for a leavening agent in addition to the self rising flour. However, only some recipes call for self rising flour, such as pancakes, some breads, biscuits and a few others.

bag of self rising flour

How and When to Use Self Rising Flour

Outside of those pre-made mixes, however, self rising flour definitely has its own uses as well. Self rising flour is perfect for things like those products mentioned above, including quick breads and pancakes. Southerners in the United States love to use self rising flour, as it is perfect for that flaky golden biscuit. You will sometimes see recipes for cakes or cupcakes that require self rising flour as well!

When Not to Use Self Rising Flour

Self rising flour should only be used for its specific purpose, however. The leavening agents in self rising flour are only right in specific recipes with specific ingredients combinations. Baking is all about the interactions of the ingredients, so substituting the wrong type of flour can be a hindrance to your final desired result.

  • Do not use self rising flour with yeast-raised breads or sourdough.
  • As a general rule, you probably do not want to use self rising flour if there is another leavening agent called for in the recipe, such as yeast or baking soda. The leavening in the self rising flour should be enough.
  • Do not substitute self rising flour in your recipes without paying close attention to the rest of the recipe. Typically you will want to use the ingredients listed in the recipe or follow careful instructions when substituting an ingredient as important as flour.

How to Make Your Own Self Rising Flour

Perhaps the best part of self rising flour is that you can actually make it at home yourself. As we mentioned before, the self rising flour mixture is often somewhere around:

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fine Salt

If you have a recipe calling for self rising flour and you do not have any in the pantry, just pull out the ingredients that you most likely already have. We do not recommend testing with other flours besides all purpose, but you can make tons of recipes this way! On the other hand, if your recipe calls for these three ingredients and you have self rising flour but may be out of baking powder, for instance, you can actually use self rising flour as a substitute, just pay attention to your proportions! If you are making your own self rising flour, use a whisk to mix the ingredients as evenly as possible. This is a great trick for when you are on vacation or are trying self rising flour for the first time!

Keep in mind that most store-bought self rising flours will contain a “softer” or lower protein content flour than your typical all purpose flour. This means that your end result, should you use all purpose flour to make your self rising flour, will be slightly less tender, although it will no doubt be just as yummy!

Storing Self Rising Flour

basket of baked bread made with self rising flour

Because of the baking powder, self rising flour has a shorter shelf life than other flours. We recommend making it in smaller batches or purchasing small bags unless you use it quite often. Then, as we always do, label it with the date you made or purchased it so you can tell when to use it by! Most flours will last longer, but try to use your self rising flour within a year of creation, to maximize the effects of the leavening agent. Store your self rising flour in an airtight container and put the container in a cool, dark place. The back of the pantry or your refrigerator even works well. The most important thing is keeping water out of your flour, because water will cause mold and bacteria growth.

What Are Cake Flours?

Cake flours are light, airy flours that have lower protein content and tend to create delicious cakes and lighter pastries. These self rising flours contain a protein content of about 8.5%, which is slightly lower than the 10-12% found in all purpose flour. This means that you will get a tender, flakier end result with these flours, and basically makes them similar to a cake flour, but with the added bonus of the leavening agent. These flours may be too light to use in biscuits, so you should use them exclusively for cake flours and substitute them with cake flour instead of all purpose flour if making your own!

No matter whether you are from the South or not, your Southern-style biscuits will be the talk of the town if you decide to use self rising flour! You can make your own or buy it straight off the shelf. Self rising flour is perfect for pancakes and cornbread too. In fact, bless their little hearts, the Southerners practically could not get by without it! As long as you follow your recipe and pay attention to your flour substitutions, your self rising flour experience will be top-notch. Try out some of these tips and let us know what you think in the comments below!


26 Comments

  1. James Finlay
    Very helpful, thank you.
    Now; why does my recipe for English scones call specifically for self rising flour AND baking powder?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi James, I'm not sure about your specific recipe but my guess is that it requires an extra boost of leavening in the oven to get the preferred consistency. Enjoy!
      Reply
    2. Alice O'Geary
      Thanks for the great explanation re self-rising flour. Another thank-you is for your wonderful whole grain, extra thick oatmeal...have been using it ONLY for many years. Ditto for the cornmeals.
      Reply
  2. stephen j Earnshaw
    stephen j Earnshaw
    Thanks Bob

    I am making blueberry muffins the recipe for which calls for plain flour bicarb and baking powder. Why not just use self raising flour ? Is there an advantage or disadvantage?

    stephen
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Stephen - The only downside is that you don't know the specific amounts/percentages of baking soda or baking powder that is within the flour mixture. In a forgiving recipe like muffins it shouldn't matter too much :) Enjoy!
      Reply
  3. jim kendall
    here in Australia and also the UK self raising flour is very popular and is sold in all the supermarkets. All recipes state plain ( all purpose in USA ) or self raising flour.
    Reply
  4. julia
    very educating
    Reply
  5. Telma Nucci
    Can I use GF All Purpose Baking Flour, if I use xanthan gum, to make self rising flour>
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Telma! We haven't tried that specifically, but yes - that should work.
      Reply
  6. Maria
    Do you sell self rising cake flour?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Maria - We do not sell self-rising cake flour. However, you can make your own with this formula: 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt.
      Reply
  7. DeShawn
    Now I understand why I have not liked self-raising flour. Kosher recipes for Passover are even more important:American biscuits are the only thing I miss.
    Reply
  8. BJ Kaminsky
    I only use Almond milk. Can you use it with self rising flour or do i have to use only regular milk ?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi BJ, you can likely substitute almond milk but it would also depend on what type of recipe you're making.
      Reply
  9. James Hutton
    can I use self-raising for my sally lund bread recipe
    Reply
  10. Leah McGrew
    Does the baking powder in your flour have corn starch or some other thing. I'm asking because of my severe corn protein allergy.
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Leah - our flours do not contain baking powder. Some of our baking mixes do. Baking powder (and its ingredients) will be included on each product's ingredient list. Our Baking Powder does contain cornstarch.
      Reply
  11. Sashieka
    Why is self rising flour not widely used in baking..?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Sashieka - Among different brands of self rising flour the amount of leavening agents (baking powder, baking soda) can be very different. Brands also don't typically publish the specific ratios, meaning that your baked goods could turn out wildly different brand to brand. I'd say most home bakers want the ability to accurately measure these ingredients to fit each specific recipe they make. Using self rising flour rather than adding your own flour, leavening and salt, could be a real "wild card" in baking.
      Reply
  12. Cole
    If self-rising flour haas less protein than all-purpose, could I make my own self-rising flour with cake flour, baking powder, and salt to replicate the tenderness?
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Cole - Yes, this would likely be similar. However, as we don't make self-rising flour ourselves, we're not sure what protein percentage other brands use. There might be some trial and error (possibly blending cake flour and All Purpose Flour) needed to replicate the texture you're used to.
      Reply
  13. Rosanne Ziering
    Rosanne Ziering
    Why are my baked muffins suddenly tasting soapy? Could adding buckwheat flour to a recipe be the cause? I know if you use baking soda without an acid this can happen but my recipe has vinegar in it so I don’t know what it could be. I’ve baked these gluten free muffins many times before without this issue.
    Reply
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Rosanne, it may be the buckwheat flour. I do not find it to have a soapy taste, but some perceive it as having a more floral or grassy flavor in comparison to regular wheat flour.
      Reply
  14. Steve
    I made a loaf of bread today in an automatic breadmaker. The recipe called for two cups of flour. I had only about one and a quarter cups of all purpose flour, so used about 3/4's cup of self rising flour. The recipe called for yeast, which I used. The resulting loaf looks fine, though is not as tall as most I bake. Any observations on this result? I've not eaten any yet, but it seems to be o.k.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  15. Derek
    I tried making Cinnamon Buns (kinda like Cinnabons) with your 1:1 product substituting for flour....it didn't rise. I noticed your website recommends Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix. I haven't found it in Australia but will your self-raising flour work as a substitute (if I don't use the yeast called for in the recipe)?
    Reply
  16. H. Rutan
    Regarding the use of almond milk instead of regular:

    Since I cannot tolerate dairy derived from cow milk, I make extensive use of plant based milks and have tried a variety. Almond milk will work, but I've found that the majority of plant based milks lead to a less satisfactory product. They are often too thin or too low in fat to give the best results in baking. The one that I have found that works every time is a mixture of Cashew, Almond, and Pea proteins. You want to be sure that it is neither vanilla flavored, nor unsweet - just the plain, "original" flavor (whatever that means). I've no idea what brands are available where you are, but that should give a good starting point to search for the best plant based milk substitute available in your area.
    Reply

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