With a better understanding each day of gluten allergies, the impact of refined flours on our health, and the benefits that come from utilizing ancient grains like spelt in our food, the demand for alternative flour options grows. If you're looking for a spelt flour substitute in particular, then you've come to the right place. We're also covering gluten-free spelt flour versions and offering up recipes to try. Take a look at our top seven spelt flour substitutes!
What Is Spelt Flour?
Spelt is an ancient grain, closely related to durum wheat and becoming more popular each day thanks to foods like sprouted bread. It has a nutritional profile that far outshines that of standard wheat flour, and it has a slightly sweet flavor that makes it perfect for dessert recipes. It doesn't take any special expertise to work with, and as a bonus, some who have a sensitivity to standard wheat products may find spelt easier to digest.
However, spelt is not gluten-free. So if for whatever reason spelt flour doesn't agree with you, or you find access to it difficult at your local grocery store, here are some other healthy flours that can function as a spelt flour substitute.
The Top 7 Spelt Flour Substitutes
While it would be nice if any flour could stand in perfectly for any other, the workability of specific flours can get pretty unique. Here is a guide to substituting flours in place of spelt, including any changes in absorbency, texture, and flavor you deserve to be aware of before you buy and try.
1. Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
We begin with the easiest to access in a pinch: standard all-purpose flour, but unbleached so it doesn't add undesirable chemicals to your food.
Wheat grain seeds have three distinct parts: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. When wheat flour is processed into all-purpose white flour, the bran and the germ are refined away, leaving only the pale endosperm. Manufacturers refine white flour to extend shelf life beyond that of whole wheat flour. The refining process creates a flour that is largely flavorless and won't overwhelm the taste of other recipe ingredients.
The upside of all-purpose flour is the convenience: all-purpose flour can be used to make just about anything from bread to cookies to pie dough. The downside is that, unlike spelt, all-purpose flour lacks the nutrient profile that comes from the bran and germ of wheat, specifically fiber and protein content, and all-purpose flour is also very high in gluten and as such does not belong in a gluten-free recipe.
2. Whole Wheat Flour
In comparison to all-purpose white flour, whole wheat flour is processed with the whole wheat grain: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. It contains more dietary fiber and the rich, nutty flavor you may have noticed when eating darker brown whole wheat bread.
Whole wheat flour has more protein content and is also lower in gluten than is white flour. This flour provides a denser final product because of its nutritional profile and has a gentler impact on your blood sugar levels due to fiber content.
Whole wheat flour can easily sub in for spelt flour and would be especially useful for denser final products like spongier loaves of bread or springy, filling muffins.
3. Rye Flour
Rye is a non-wheat grain and as a flour produces results that are rather gummy, with a flavor that some describe as tangy. This may mean that it's not appropriate for particularly delicate recipes, in texture or in flavor, but it's very low in gluten and more varied in its nutritional profile, as rye flour retains quite a bit of bran in the final product.
Perhaps best for use in a bread recipe, rye flour takes up less space than wheat flour does—with such a distinct taste, a little goes a very long way! It pairs well with strong flavors like chocolate that can hold their own against the taste of rye, and of course, it is a classic sandwich bread beloved by many.
4. Pastry Flour
When a recipe calls for pastry flour, you'll be hard pressed to find an adequate substitute, but thankfully, it subs in quite fine for spelt. Pastry flour is a finer wheat flour with even less protein (but also less gluten) than regular flour. It's useful in recipes that require a lighter texture, like crepes, fluffy pancakes, or birthday cakes. In fact, pastry flour is often referred to as cake flour for this very reason. It's also specially designed to work well with leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda.
Pastry flour is best used in recipes for quick breads (as opposed to yeast breads). Be aware, however, that the lack of protein makes this flour less elastic. The final product of a cookie recipe, for example, might tend towards softer and more crumbly.
5. Buckwheat Flour
Despite having "wheat" in its name, buckwheat flour is not at all a type of wheat flour. As such, it has no gluten content and is ideal in gluten-free recipes. If you or someone you're baking for has celiac disease, the previous options on this list would not be appropriate, as low-gluten flour is not the same as gluten-free flour. Those with a sensitivity to gluten may find something like spelt tolerable, but when it comes to alternative flours for someone with a serious medical allergy to gluten, any amount of gluten is too much.
Buckwheat flour is used to make soba noodles and has a nearly-blue hue when you're kneading it. Nutritionally dense, buckwheat flour actually contains some portion of all the essential amino acids often found in animal products, making it an incredibly valuable vegan food ingredient. Good for making denser foods like noodles, crackers, and heavy cakes, buckwheat is a standout spelt flour substitute for pie crusts and banana breads but may not work so well with delicate foods like cupcakes.
Keep in mind that buckwheat absorbs quite a bit more water than other flours on this list do thanks to its water-soluble fiber content. This will make it quite filling and a great boon to the good bacteria in your digestive tract, but it will also alter the amount of liquid in your recipe, so just be prepared to add more.
6. Oat Flour
Oat flour is created by simply grinding up oats. So easy to create that you could even make it yourself at home if you wanted to. It can be ground quite fine in texture and produce chewier end products (like oatmeal cookies, of course). It has more flavor than all-purpose flour and yet it, too, is actually gluten-free just like buckwheat flour. So long as the oat flour you buy isn't processed in the same factory as wheat products (look for a certified gluten-free oats label on the packaging), you're good to go.
Easy to use in the same variety of recipes as regular wheat flour, you can also combine oat and wheat flour together to make a well-rounded classic loaf of whole wheat bread.
7. Amaranth Flour
Just like buckwheat, quinoa, and spelt, amaranth is an ancient pseudocereal grain whose flour has an earthy flavor. And it's also completely gluten-free.
That being said, amaranth works best when combined with other flours during baking, though on its own it can be useful for making pie crusts and tortillas.
Full of protein, fiber, and minerals including iron, phosphorus, and selenium, amaranth is another great spelt flour alternative you can choose.
While spelt is a great substitute for regular flour, those with wheat allergies may still need another alternative. Spelt might not be ideal for the flavor profile of certain recipes, while another flour on this list could serve perfectly. There are even more flour alternatives out there you can explore, including millet flour, green banana flour, and rice flour, so if you don't find your favorite flour alternative here, keep searching! Maybe you'll find you enjoy a bouquet of flours, one for every baking need.