Coconut flour and whole wheat flour are both popular baking flours, but how do they really compare?
Wheat-based flours like whole wheat are the most commonly used, but those looking for an alternative based on taste or dietary needs have a LOT of choice (see our guide to 50+ different types of flour!).
Coconut flour has become increasingly popular not just because it’s gluten-free and high in fiber, but also because of its unique, slightly sweet taste. And, I mean, it’s made from ground-up dried coconut meat – how cool is that?!
Read on as we explore the key baking considerations and differences between coconut flour and whole wheat flour…
Comparing coconut flour vs whole wheat flour
|Whole Wheat Flour||Coconut flour||All-purpose flour|
|Allergens||Wheat, gluten||Coconut (tree nuts)||Wheat, gluten|
|Liquid absorbency||Medium (slightly higher than all-purpose)||High||Medium|
|Pantry shelf life (unopened/sealed)||3 months||Up to 2 years||6-8 months|
|Best for baking||Most breads, both sweet and savory, pizza dough, muffins, dense, moist cakes like carrot cake.||Most desserts – especially cakes, cookies, pie crusts, muffins, and dense breads.||non-yeast recipes (think cookies, biscuits, and some breads)|
*You can substitute whole wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio with all-purpose flour, but there are a few things to note. Whole wheat flour absorbs a bit more water than all-purpose and does so at a slower rate. So, in the case of making something like pancakes with whole wheat flour, let the batter sit for 30 minutes or so to ensure the water absorbs. For more info on when to use whole wheat vs all-purpose, check out our guide!
Differences between whole wheat flour and coconut flour
Coconut flour and whole wheat flour may look pretty similar on the shelf, but they couldn’t be more different! Coconut flour is derived from dried coconut meat, while whole wheat flour is milled from hard red winter wheat berries.
When it comes to the nutritional value of the two flours, coconut flour boasts a high amount of dietary fiber with fewer carbohydrates, making it a healthier alternative for those watching their carb intake. Whole wheat flour is not gluten-free, paleo-friendly, or keto-friendly at all, so if you are on one of those diets, coconut flour wins.
That said, coconut flour has a few drawbacks: it is often more expensive than traditional whole-wheat options, and its texture can feel gritty in baked goods. Whole-wheat flour is a more economical choice that has a finer consistency.
Baking with whole wheat flour vs coconut flour
Baked goods made with coconut flour will have a slightly denser texture than those made with traditional flours. This can be easily remedied by adding an extra egg or two and increasing the amount of liquid used in the recipe.
While some recipes may require some tweaking to get the desired results when using coconut flour instead of regular wheat flour, many recipes work perfectly when substituting one for the other at the correct substitution ratio. Coconut also has a natural sweetness about it which makes baked goods more flavorful, especially if you use coconut milk to bake with too, and so it pairs well with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
Depending on your personal preference, you can substitute part whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. The more whole wheat flour you decide to use, the darker and grainier your baked goods will be. Is that a good thing? It depends on your tastebuds, but I prefer a grittier, more flavorful mouthfeel over the light, fluffy sweetness that usually comes with 100% all-purpose flour.
Ingredients in whole wheat flour vs coconut flour
As always, check the label! Good coconut flour should be 100% dried and ground coconut flesh, and whole wheat flour should be 100% ground from hard red wheat. The benefit of this compared to all-purpose flour is that it comes with its bran and germ, making it a much more nutritious option.
Whole wheat flour + coconut flour nutritional facts
|Per ¼ Cup Serving||Whole wheat flour||Coconut flour||All-purpose flour|
|Glycemic index score||65||45||85|
Coconut flour and whole wheat flour both have their nutritional benefits, but they differ in several ways. Coconut flour is considerably higher in fiber than whole wheat flour, making it an excellent choice for digestive support. It also has a lower glycemic index and is rich in medium-chain fatty acids.
Whole wheat flour has a higher glycemic index due to its higher starch content, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Whole wheat flour vs coconut flour storage
It is important to store both flours correctly, so they remain fresh and retain their nutritional value and flavor profiles. Because whole wheat flour comes milled with bran and germ, it tends to have a shorter shelf life than all-purpose flour and can taste a little funky if you don’t keep it in a cool and dry place.
Coconut flour should always be stored in an airtight container away from heat, light, and moisture. It should also be kept away from strong odors as coconut flour can easily absorb them. Once opened, coconut flour should be used within three months of opening to ensure optimal flavor and nutrition.
When storing for long periods, it’s best to keep your flour containers in the refrigerator or freezer for maximum shelf life. When freezing, ensure the container is completely dry before sealing tightly to prevent moisture from entering and damaging the product.
Investing in an air-tight storage container can also help keep your flour fresher for longer. In addition, measuring out smaller portions for storage helps maintain optimal freshness too; this way, you can use what you need without compromising quality.
Whole wheat vs coconut flour: The ultimate verdict
For baking sweet things, I’m going with coconut flour. You just can’t beat the added depth of flavor and hint of sweetness it provides. For bread and pizza doughs, though, I’m going with whole wheat. It lends itself well to savory dishes. Obviously, if I were avoiding wheat and gluten or on a paleo diet, then I wouldn’t use whole wheat flour at all.
The important thing to remember….either one will be better for you than bleached white flour any day!
The difference is in the name. Whole wheat flour comes with all the components of the wheat grain: bran, germ, and endosperm. Regular wheat or all-purpose flour has been stripped down to just the endosperm and therefore contains a lower nutritional profile.
All-purpose flour is a refined carbohydrate, whereas whole wheat flour is a whole grain. Overall it is better for keeping your blood sugar balanced and regulating your cholesterol levels.