When it comes to baking, choosing the right flour can make all the difference. But with so many options available, it can be tough to decide which one to use. On one hand, we have versatile all-purpose flour, beloved by bakers everywhere. And on the other, we have the underdog, rice flour, a gluten-free alternative that’s often overlooked. So, which flour will come out on top? Let’s take a closer look at each flour to find out…
Comparing rice flour vs all-purpose flour
|Rice flour||All-purpose flour|
|Substitution ratio (vs all-purpose flour)||7:8||N/A|
|Common Allergens||None||Wheat, gluten|
|Pantry shelf life||3-6 months||6-8 months|
|Best for||Cookies, cakes, muffins, brownies, breads, and pancakes (Also used to thicken soups or sauces and cook many Asian dishes like noodles, crepes, dumplings, etc.)||Non-yeast recipes, cookies, biscuits, and some breads|
A friend of mine has a gluten intolerance, and her son has a tree nut allergy. This makes baking…really tricky. Because many of the most popular gluten-free flours (almond flour, coconut flour, cashew flour) all contain tree nuts! That’s one of the things I love best about rice flour. You know what’s gluten-free and not a common allergen? Rice. That’s one of the reasons rice flour has earned a spot on The Coconut Mama’s list of best flours for allergies. (That same flexibility is also one of the reasons we think brown rice flour specifically is one of the best gluten-free flours, too.)
Unfortunately, neither rice flour nor all-purpose is friendly to Paleo or Keto diets – rice flour in particular has a LOT of net carbs (by virtue of having many carbs and very little fiber), so it’s earned the dubious distinction of being one of the WORST Keto flours.
Two types of rice flour: white rice flour and brown rice flour
It’s important to keep in mind that there are two main types of rice flour: white rice flour and brown rice flour. The difference between them is pretty self-explanatory – white rice flour is made from white rice grains, whereas brown rice flour is made from whole-grain rice.
In this article, we’ll be referring to white rice flour – this is the one that’s most similar to all-purpose flour. They are more processed compared to their whole grain/wheat counterparts: brown rice flour and whole wheat flour. What’s left behind is the starchy part that can be used in both baking and cooking.
Like all-purpose flour, rice flour is a good thickener for sauces and gravies, creating a smooth and velvety texture, and it can also used to create a crispy coating on fried foods.
Differences between rice flour and all-purpose flour
The main difference between rice flour and all-purpose flour is that rice flour is gluten-free and allergen-free, while all-purpose flour contains gluten, giving baked goods their structure and elasticity.
Because rice flour doesn’t contain gluten, it’s not suitable for making bread or other baked goods that require gluten to rise. However, rice flour is a good choice for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Rice flour is finer than all-purpose flour, so baked goods made with rice flour tend to be more delicate and have a finer texture – perfect for cakes and pastries. All-purpose flour, on the other hand, is a versatile flour that can be used for a wide range of baked goods, and is ideal for bread or other baked goods that require more structure.
If you’re a fan of mochi or rice cakes, you’re likely familiar with the taste of rice flour. It definitely has more of a taste than all-purpose flour, but it’s subtle. I would say it has a slightly nutty flavor.
Baking with rice flour vs all-purpose flour
When it comes to baking with rice flour versus all-purpose flour, there are some key differences to keep in mind.
Since rice flour can absorb more liquid than all-purpose flour, it’s important to adjust the liquid content in your recipe to compensate for its higher absorbency. If you use the same amount of liquid as you would with all-purpose flour, the resulting dough or batter may be too dry and crumbly.
Additionally, because rice flour lacks gluten, baked goods made with rice flour may have a different texture and consistency than those made with all-purpose flour. For example, bread made with rice flour will not rise in the same way as bread made with all-purpose flour, since gluten is needed for the dough to stretch and expand during the rising process.
Ingredients in rice flour vs all-purpose flour
Rice flour is made from milled rice, which means it only contains one ingredient: rice. This makes it a very clean and simple ingredient, with no added chemicals or preservatives. However, some brands may use rice that has been treated with pesticides, so it’s important to choose a reputable brand that sources high-quality rice.
All-purpose flour, on the other hand, is made from a blend of wheat flours, which can vary in their level of refinement. Some all-purpose flours may contain additional additives, such as bleaching agents or preservatives, to improve their shelf life or texture. However, many brands offer all-purpose flours made from simple, unbleached wheat flour without any additives. I suggest going with one of those!
Rice flour and all-purpose flour nutritional facts
|Per ¼ cup serving||Rice flour||All-purpose flour|
|Glycemic index score||88-95||85|
Rice flour and all-purpose flour are sometimes considered “empty carbs” because they contain a lot of carbohydrates but lack some of the essential nutrients found in whole grains due to their processing. For example – neither of them has a whole lot of fiber.
While both rice flour and all-purpose flour can be used as part of a balanced diet in moderation, they are not as nutrient-dense as whole grain flours or other plant-based flours. To increase the nutrient content of baked goods, try substituting some of the all-purpose flour or rice flour with something like coconut flour, which is very nutrient-dense.
Rice flour vs all-purpose flour storage
Since rice flour tends to absorb moisture more easily than all-purpose flour, if it’s not stored properly, it can lead to clumping and spoilage. Moisture can also cause the growth of bacteria and mold, which can further shorten its shelf life. It can last a few months or much longer depending on storage conditions.
All-purpose flour, on the other hand, can last for up to a 6-8 months when stored properly. Like rice flour, it’s best to store all-purpose flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. I also recommend storing each flour in the refrigerator or freezer to extend its shelf life.
Rice flour vs all-purpose flour: Which is better?
You made it to the end! So, which flour is better?
Neither flour is something to write home about in terms of nutrition….so it really comes down to your dietary needs and what you’re making. If you need to avoid gluten, rice flour is a good choice. However, if you want a more versatile flour that can be used in a wide range of recipes, all-purpose flour is the way to go!
I have to say, rice flour is an excellent “all-purpose” gluten-free baking flour, but all-purpose wheat flour is clearly better when it comes to bread-making.
It depends on the recipe and what you are making. Rice flour and all-purpose flour have different properties, so substituting one for the other may require adjustments to the recipe. In general, you can substitute rice flour for all-purpose flour, but add a little less flour to start (around a 7:8 ratio) and adjust the amount of liquid.
It depends on your dietary needs and the recipe you are making. Rice flour is gluten-free and a good option for those who need to avoid gluten, but all-purpose flour is more versatile and can be used in a wider range of recipes.
Rice flour is good for baking gluten-free cakes, cookies, and other pastries. It can also be used to make gluten-free bread and pizza crusts.