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Feb 11, 2010 10:07 AM

An alternative to white flour

Hello Hounds,

Reading Michael Pollan's excellent new book convinces me, as if I needed convincing, that I have to stop using as much white flour as I do. As he says, our bodies regard white flour as no different than sugar.

In our house, white flour means various pies and tarts in any given week, and pancakes for breakfast twice a week.

Pancakes first. They have to be light and fluffy for my fussy eaters, so what alternative to white flour do I have, that won't turn my pancakes into lumps of edible lead?!

Next, pate brisee. Whether for pies or tarts, my pastry involves white flour. With pastry I am less nervous about going over to wholewheat flour, but I would welcome any advice on types, varieties, etc.

Thank you!


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  1. I make whole wheat pancakes all the time -- I actually prefer them to ones made with white flour! Way more flavor. I use flour milled in my kitchen that is VERY fine, but you can use white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour. Before I used freshly-milled flour I just got ordinary whole wheat or buckwheat flour and was satisfied with the results. You might bump up the leavening by 20% or so when using whole wheat, or you can beat the egg whites separately and fold them in. Honestly though, I find whole wheat pancakes to be heartier, tastier, and much more adaptable to add-ins. Shredded apples and toasted walnuts are my favorite additions.

    There are SO many more options these days with whole wheat flour. I'm guessing that in your situation, white whole wheat (which is made with "soft white wheat" rather than "hard red winter wheat") and whole wheat pastry flour are going to be your best friends.

    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: LauraGrace

      Thank you Laura. I have both in my pantry now, and will start with the pancakes first thing in the morning.

      I am impressed, by the way, by your home-milled flour! Now that is walkin' the walk!


      1. re: LauraGrace

        Use applesauce in place of some or all of the milk in your flapjack batter. It makes them light and tender. I use white whole wheat flour in place of AP flour in just about everything.

      2. Whole wheat pastry flour is a good alternative when you want lightness. For heartier baked goods, I use half white whole wheat and half unbleached white flour. It still tastes really good and I believe moderation in food is good. You should watch the video of Michael Pollan on the Colbert Report talking about how he was buying cocoa puffs for his son at a Berkeley co-op and the looks he got for it. We don't need to cut out everything, just have it in smaller amounts.

        Oh, and rather than converting traditional recipes to whole grain ones, I get much better results using recipes that originally call for ww. I highly recommend the King Arthur whole grain cookbook. The brownies in it are the fudgiest brownies I've ever made.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          "rather than converting traditional recipes to whole grain ones, I get much better results using recipes that originally call for ww"

          Agreed. My "More With Less" (mennonite) cookbook is full of WW-based recipes for everything, and I always have good outcomes with them.

          1. re: LauraGrace

            Agreed on More with Less. Several recipes for ww bread, plus ww cookies, muffins, and pancakes (haven't tried the pancakes, b/c I typically only eat them when I go out).

            BTW, the "sister" book (Extending the Table) is one of my desert island cookbooks, mostly for the spirit in which it was written. Very beautiful, very moving (and this is coming from an agnostic!)

            1. re: nofunlatte

              Of all the cookbooks I own, MWL and Extending the Table are the ones I recommend most, both for the recipes and for, as you said, the "spirit" behind them. Beautiful philosophy of food as a gift, a blessing, a joy to be shared.

              Do try the pancakes though, they're so delicious! :)

        2. I'd consider using whole wheat pastry flour as other posters have mentioned. You can also substitute some almond flour/meal for the flour as well. Google how to adjust recipes for it's inclusion because of the lack of gluten when you make your baked goods.

          1 Reply
          1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

            If you find that your results using whole wheat pastry flour are still too heavy for your family's taste, try spinning the flour for about 30 seconds in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. It will lighten it considerably. I always do that for cakes and even pie crusts.

          2. I'd suggest that you start your transformation gradually, making things like pancakes with part whole wheat flour and part white. Maybe 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour the first few times, then graduallly increase the amount as you and your familly become more accustomed to the difference.

            1. I agree with the others who have recommended whole wheat pastry flour. I have been surprised with how well it works in most recipes.

              The only thing I want to add is, make sure it's fresh, because whole wheat flour spoils much more rapidly than white. Your best bet would be to buy it from a place that sells bulk and does a brisk turnover. And keep it in the fridge or freezer once you get it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: visciole

                That is great advice, thank you.

                We have a new Wholefoods across the Park from us on Columbus, and they sell bulk flour. I go through a pound or more a week, so keeping it fresh is not a problem.


                1. re: aguy239

                  I'm a big fan of hi-maize-- you sub 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour with it, and you can get the fiber without the taste and texture of whole wheat. For muffins and quickbreads and such, the final product is almost the same-- I think it would be with pancakes too. I haven't tried pie crust because I can't get them right anyway and don't want to make it any harder.