Tips For Giving Your Favorite Recipes A Whole Grain Makeover

Cooking and baking with whole grain flour adds fiber to our diet - so important for stabilizing glucose levels - and it adds nutritional value to our foods.

Edibles made with whole grain flour are also good for our blood pressure, and heart health. Whole grains aid digestion, elimination, help us feel full longer, and facilitate weight loss.

Unlike refined flours, such as all-purpose flour, whole grain varieties are milled with the kernel’s bran, germ, and endosperm intact and in their natural proportions. This is what gives whole grain flours their exceptional dietary value, rich texture, and distinctive nutty flavor. It also means that substituting whole grain flour for all-purpose flour might require some simple recipe tweaking.

Tips For Going Whole Grain

To convert your recipe favorites to whole grain, try these seven tips offered by flour expert and cookbook author P.J. Hamel:


  1. You can substitute whole grain flour for all-purpose flour one-to-one, without making any other changes, when baking scones, cookies, pancakes, quick breads, and muffins.
  2. Banana breads, muffins, chocolate, or spice cakes, and any baked goods that “aren’t stark white” work especially well for whole grain substitution.
  3. For a lighter color and milder flavor, consider using white whole wheat flour. It contains the whole kernel, just like regular whole wheat flour, but is made from white wheat instead of the more familiar red variety. It’s an excellent choice for breads, pastries, or any other baked treat.
  4. For yeast breads that have to rise, simply substitute half the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour; no other recipe alterations are required. However, if switching to 100 percent whole wheat, it’s important to add an extra 2 teaspoons liquid per cup of whole wheat flour since whole grains soak up moisture. Also, allow the dough to rest 25 minutes before kneading.
  5. When switching to whole grains, you might replace 2 to 3 tablespoons of liquid with orange juice to get a sweeter taste.
  6. Go slowly when first changing a familiar recipe over to whole grain. Everyone should start substituting “by 50 percent [whole grain] and feel their way through,” suggests Hamel. “Once they are comfortable, they can work their way up to a greater proportion of whole grains.”
  7. Since whole wheat flour slowly oxidizes, keep flour supplies fresh. Your baked goods will be sweeter, and more delicious.

You can also use recipes created specifically for the texture and flavor of whole grain flours. An Internet search for “whole grain cookie recipes” will, for instance, yield dozens upon dozens of ideas.


Or, since sugar content is an important issue for those with diabetes, you might refine your Internet search to something like “cookie recipes with stevia* and whole grain flour.” There are many well-tested recipes available that combine the goodness of whole grains with the benefits of low-glycemic stevia.

Sources: Whole Grains Council; Web MD; Hamel’s Whole Grain Cookbook/King Arthur Flour
Photo credit: Richard Gillin

* Stevia is a natural sweetener that does not affect glucose levels, and has practically no calories.


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