One of the most difficult aspects of learning to bake is learning about the different types of flour. Nowadays you can even find flour made from almonds, how crazy is that? However, not all of these types of flour will work for the same recipes or in the same way.
When you get started baking, two of the most common flours that you’ll hear about are whole wheat flour and oat flour.
Whole wheat flour is made from ground up grains of wheat. It is one of the most versatile flours and can be used for everything from pasta to bread to cake. Oat flour is made by grinding up whole oats and it can be used for all baked goods that don’t contain yeast. It is also gluten-free making it a great versatile option.
Whole Wheat Flour vs. Oat Flour
When you go to the flour section of your grocery store, sometimes things can get a little confusing. After all, nowadays there’s a seemingly endless array of flours to choose from. You can find gluten-free flours made with everything from almonds to arrowroot from a plant in South America.
Amongst the regular flours, you can find flours that are specially made for baking pastries, baking bread, pre-mixed flours, cake mixes, and almost anything else you could possibly imagine.
One of the most common gluten-free flour available is oat flour. This type of flour is made by grinding up oats until they have a flour-like consistency. This allows the oats to be used for baking, much like regular flours, without having to worry about gluten for people with allergies or intolerances.
Even with all of these specialty flours available nowadays, two flours are still the most popular and can be found in almost any store, whole wheat flour and white flour.
Both of these flours are typically considered general-use flours. This means that they can be used for everything from baking bread to cookies. This makes them very versatile and they’re good for the amateur baker who doesn’t want to have a separate type of flour for everything they cook.
The main difference between these two is how they are processed. Whole wheat flour contains, you guessed it, whole wheat. This means that the grains are not refined before they are processed into flour. This results in a product that has some color variation and it also contains much more nutrients from the shell of the grain.
In contrast, white flour has the grain removed which causes it to appear white and provides a more neutral flavor. This is the type of flour most commonly used for baking since it provides the least amount of flavor to impact the other ingredients you’re adding.
Cooking With Whole Wheat Flour
When you are cooking with whole wheat flour, you can use it in the same way you would any other type of flour. You won’t have to worry about making extra considerations the same way you must with certain types of gluten-free flour.
When you cook with whole wheat flour, you will get the same results that you would with other flour, just heartier. This means that you’ll stay full longer and won’t experience the same blood sugar spike that you normally would with something like white flour.
The one difference that you may detect when using whole wheat flour is the texture. Since whole wheat flour contains all of the proteins that other flours frequently remove, it can be chewier than normal. This is because the gluten in the flour binds together more strongly.
This is what makes whole wheat flour so good for baking things like sandwich bread. You won’t have the same issues with the bread crumbly apart as you would with gluten-free flour or white flour.
Baking With Oat Flour
If you are looking to reduce or completely remove gluten from your diet, baking with oat flour instead of whole wheat flour can be a great way to do that.
Oat flour is made from whole oats that have been ground up into a fine powder. Overall, its texture is very similar to that of whole wheat flour which is part of what makes it such a good choice for baking. You won’t have the same level of issues that you might have with almond flour which has a very different texture.
As a matter of fact, gluten-free bakers aren’t the only people to use oat flour. Since it gives baked goods such a light and fluffy texture, some bakers choose to use it in all of their recipes. Unlike other gluten-free flours, it has a light and fluffy texture making it ideal for baking cakes or making light bread.
For most recipes, you will be able to substitute oat flour for whole wheat flour with no issues. It makes great cookies, brownies, and cakes. Basically, anything that is baked immediately after mixing will work with oat flour.
The one instance where you shouldn’t use oat flour is if you’re making bread that needs yeast to rise over time. In regular bread, the yeast will feed on the gluten in the bread to cause it to rise. Since oat flour has no gluten, this will not work and your bread won’t rise.
Nutritional Content Comparison
Something that a lot of people are curious about when looking at products like whole wheat flour and oat flour is how they compare nutritionally.
Overall, whole wheat flour has a lower glycemic index than oat flour. This means that when you eat a product made with whole wheat flour, your blood sugar will spike less than if you ate the same amount of oat flour.
For most people, this isn’t a concern and all desserts can be enjoyed in moderation. However, if someone has diabetes then this can be useful information so they can decide which products can be consumed safely.
Another category to compare is their caloric content. Overall, oats have significantly more calories than whole wheat. For the same amount of product, oats have almost 400 calories whereas whole wheat has closer to 130.
Oats also have more net carbs than whole wheat at around 55 compared to only 23.3 grams in whole wheat.
Overall, the fat content of these two products is very similar on a dry matter basis. The difference between the two is only a matter of grams.
Out of the two products, oats have quite a bit more protein per serving compared to wheat. This means that if you are looking to up your protein intake, you should probably go with oats that have 16 grams compared to only 5 grams of protein.
Oats also contain more fiber, making them a great choice if you are looking to up your fiber intake. However, this will also depend on the individual products that you buy. If you purchase minimally processed whole wheat, it may have a higher fiber content than heavily processed oats.
Which one is healthier?
Overall, both of these products are very healthy when consumed in moderation, and generally speaking, one isn’t healthier than the other. The product you end up choosing will depend on your individual goals and dietary requirements.
If you are sensitive or allergic to gluten, it would make sense to pick oat flour. As long as the brand that you pick is certified to be gluten-free, you shouldn’t have any issues with oat flour causing a reaction.
If you are looking to up your protein intake, you could go with oat flour. However, keep in mind that it is also higher in calories so you should weigh the positives and negatives before making a decision.
No matter which product you pick, you are sure to make a healthy choice with both whole wheat flour and oat flour.
The biggest difference between the two that you should consider is the presence of gluten in one. If you have sensitivities got gluten, you will likely not be able to use whole wheat flour in any of your baked goods.
Oat flour is great for this reason because it doesn’t contain any gluten, but still gives your baked goods a light and fluffy texture that is often missing from gluten-free bread.
The one instance where they can’t be substituted for each other is in yeast bread. The yeast requires gluten to make the bread rise. Since the yeast can’t feed on gluten in oat flour, the dough would never rise. For that reason, oat flour is best reserved for cakes and cookies.
Tiffany McCauley is a celebrated food and travel journalist and cookbook author known for her engaging stories on culinary adventures and cultural insights. With a background featuring collaborations with notable brands and publications, Tiffany brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to Fanatically Food, where she champions taste, sustainability, and the art of cooking. Read More Here