When looking at the number of flours available, it’s easy to get confused. Especially when two flours kind of seem exactly the same but with different names. Such as the two we will be looking at today, whole wheat flour and red wheat flour. Are they the same thing? Almost!
Red wheat flour is also just known as whole wheat flour. You can also call it red whole wheat flour. Then, there is another variety of whole wheat flour, which you can also call whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour. And, to make things even more confusing, depending on the recipe or website you are looking at, they can be referred to as any of these variables.
So, let’s talk about their differences and how they are classified, and hopefully, make your flour shopping a little less bamboozling.
How is wheat classified?
In this case, the terms red and white identify the color of the wheat kernel. Red whole wheat has a bit of a reddish tone, whereas white whole wheat is a sandy beige. When these kernels are milled into flour, they end up being almost the same color.
Both red whole wheat and white whole wheat are the same wheat species, with red wheat having a slightly higher amount of protein. Both the color and the protein content are what classify them differently.
Is red wheat the same thing as whole wheat?
Okay, so let’s think of whole wheat flour as an umbrella term that encompasses any wheat that is milled into a flour using the entire grain, rather than being refined. So red wheat is a whole wheat, and white wheat is also a whole wheat.
White whole wheat is made from hard white wheat, and red whole wheat is made from hard red wheat. The red version has a heartier and nuttier flavor profile that some describe as pleasantly bitter, and the white is slightly milder.
This would all be a lot simpler if everywhere just decided to add the classifying color before the term whole wheat, but alas, I’ve not found that to be the case.
Comparing white whole wheat flour vs red whole wheat flour
|Red whole wheat Flour||White whole wheat flour||All-purpose flour|
|Allergens||Wheat, gluten||Wheat, gluten||Wheat, gluten|
|Pantry shelf life (unopened/sealed)||1-3 months||1-3 months||6-8 months|
|Best for baking||Rustic, hard bread loaves and rolls.||Softer loaves such as pan loaves and dinner rolls.||Non-yeast recipes (think cookies, biscuits, and some breads)|
Differences between red whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour
In most recipes, you can swap white whole wheat for red whole wheat with a difference in flavor being about all you will notice. If you are substituting with all-purpose, you can switch them 1:1, and your recipe will work, but it’s better to swap out half the all-purpose for a whole wheat variety (probably white whole wheat as the flavor is not as intense).
Baking with white whole wheat flour vs red whole wheat flour
The higher protein content in red wheat is better for harder loaves. It gives a more rustic, home-baked vibe. White whole wheat has a little less protein, so the bake comes out a bit softer. Great for some soft, white whole wheat rolls.
Ingredients in red whole wheat vs white whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour is milled with the entire grain, the bran, endosperm, and germ. When buying whole wheat flour, a lot of brands might not even differentiate if it came from red wheat or white wheat. If the flavor profile is important to you, look for a brand that specifies which kind of whole wheat it is (Bob’s Red Mill is a great one).
Red whole wheat flour vs white whole wheat flour storage
Whole grain flours tend to spoil faster than the refined, all-purpose flour, so its shelf life will be around 1-3 months. It is best to keep it in the fridge or the freezer, if you can, to stretch that time out.
No, whole wheat flour is not gluten-free; both the red and the white varieties contain gluten. While some people report finding whole wheat flour to be easier to digest, it should be avoided by people with coeliac or wheat sensitivities or allergies. In those cases, coconut flour might be a better option.
While you can use them interchangeably in recipes, there are some slight differences between whole wheat flour vs. wholemeal flour. Wholemeal is sometimes ground, and then some of the bran is removed or re-added for varying flavor profiles, so it isn’t always the whole grain you end up with. Wholemeal may also have a mix of different bread grains incorporated into it, not just red wheat or white wheat.
Compared to refined flour and all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour has a much better nutritional profile and is OK to eat in moderation, provided you are on a diet that allows grains, wheat, and gluten. I wouldn’t say it is a super healthy thing to have, but it beats the bleached white stuff. You can check out our guide to 50+ types of flour to figure out a healthy flour alternative.