Decoding the Differences: Spelt Flour vs. White Flour

Spelt Flour vs. White Flour: Understanding the Differences

Flour is a staple ingredient in many kitchens, and with the increasing variety of flours on the market, it can be overwhelming to understand the differences between them. One such comparison is spelt flour versus white flour. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two types of flour, including their production processes, nutritional profiles, and best uses.

Understanding flour production

To understand the differences between spelt flour and white flour, it is important to have a basic understanding of how flour is made. A grain kernel is made up of three main components: bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran, found on the outer skin of the kernel, contains antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. The germ, which contains most of the kernel’s nutrients, is the next layer. Finally, the endosperm, rich in carbohydrates and protein but low in vitamins and minerals, is the part used to make flour.

Spelt Flour: An Ancient Grain

Spelt flour is derived from an ancient grain that dates back to 3000-1700 B.C. While its exact origin is still debated, it is believed to have originated in Europe or Asia. Spelt flour has gained popularity in recent years due to the growing demand for environmentally conscious and alternative food products.
Spelt grain grows in conditions similar to wheat, but is more resilient. Unlike wheat, spelt grains are harvested in the husk. The outer layer is then removed and the remaining grain is sent to a flour mill. The spelt grains undergo a process called stone milling, where millstones repeatedly grind the grain until it is transformed into flour. Because spelt is milled as a whole grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm, it does not require fortification. In addition, spelt flour is rarely bleached, as its naturally darker color and nutritional value are part of its appeal.

White flour: the all-purpose option

White flour, also known as all-purpose flour or plain flour, is a versatile type of flour commonly found in kitchen cupboards. The process of making white flour involves harvesting grains, inspecting and sorting them according to specific criteria such as moisture content or variety, and removing the hull and bran from the grain. The remaining endosperm is then milled and refined into a fine-textured flour. The refining process removes the bran and germ, resulting in white flour with minimal nutrients. Most all-purpose flours are bleached to achieve a smooth texture and pure white appearance, although this process can affect the taste and nutritional profile of the flour.

Compare nutrient profiles

When comparing the nutritional profiles of spelt and white flour, spelt emerges as the more nutritious option. Spelt flour has a higher protein content, between 12-15%. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals due to the inclusion of the bran and germ in the milling process. White flour, on the other hand, has a lower protein content, typically between 10-12%, and lacks significant nutrients unless fortified. In addition, the bleaching process used for white flour removes even more nutrients, further reducing its nutritional value.

Best uses for spelt and white flour

Understanding the best uses for spelt and white flour is essential in determining which flour to use for specific recipes. Spelt flour, with its higher protein content and unique gluten structure, is suitable for making breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. However, care must be taken when using spelt flour for bread, as overworking the dough can result in a lack of elasticity and structure.
White flour, with its lower protein content, is not ideal for making bread. Instead, it is better suited for baked goods such as pastries, cookies, and cakes. When white flour is used for cakes, it is often combined with a leavening agent such as baking powder. Self-raising flour, which is a combination of all-purpose flour and a leavening agent, is also commonly used in baking.

Advantages and disadvantages of spelt and white flour

To summarize the advantages and disadvantages of spelt flour and white flour, we can refer to the following lists:
Spelt Flour:

  • High nutritional value with vitamins and minerals
  • Unbleached and free of harmful chemicals
  • Unique nutty, slightly sweet flavor
  • Suitable for those with mild gluten intolerance


  • Unsuitable for making bread with proper gluten structure
  • Lower water capacity, requiring adjustments in recipes
  • Lower loaf volume and less elasticity in bread doughs
  • Not gluten-free, poses a risk to people with celiac disease

White flour:

  • Affordable and widely available
  • Versatile and easy to substitute in different recipes
  • Available in a variety of grades (e.g., all-purpose, cake, bread)
  • Produces light and fluffy baked goods
  • Easily combined with other ingredients and leavening agents for specific baking purposes


  • Lacks significant nutrients unless fortified
  • Bleached versions may contain chemicals banned in some regions
  • Not suitable for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
  • May cause blood sugar spikes due to high carbohydrate content


In summary, spelt flour and white flour have distinct differences in their production processes, nutritional profiles, and best uses. Spelt flour, derived from an ancient grain, offers higher nutritional value and is suitable for a variety of baked goods. White flour, on the other hand, is a versatile, all-purpose option that is widely available but lacks significant nutritional value unless fortified.
When choosing between spelt and white flour, it is important to consider specific recipe requirements, personal dietary needs and preferences. Experimenting with different flours can add variety and unique flavors to your culinary creations. Whether you choose the nutty richness of spelt or the versatility of white flour, understanding the differences will help you make informed decisions in the kitchen.


What is the main difference between spelt flour and white flour?

The main difference lies in the type of grain used and the production process. Spelt flour is made from an ancient grain that contains the bran, germ, and endosperm, while white flour is refined and stripped of the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm.

Is spelt flour more nutritious than white flour?

Yes, spelt flour is generally more nutritious than white flour. It contains more protein, vitamins and minerals due to the inclusion of the bran and germ during the milling process.

Can spelt flour be used to replace white flour in recipes?

Yes, spelt flour can be used to replace white flour in various recipes. However, it is important to note that spelt flour has a different gluten structure, so adjustments in hydration and mixing techniques may be necessary.

Which flour is better for baking bread, spelt or white?

While both flours can be used to make bread, white flour is generally considered better for bread making due to its higher gluten content. Spelt flour can result in bread with less texture and elasticity if not handled carefully.

Is spelt flour gluten free?

No, spelt flour is not gluten-free. It does contain gluten, a type of protein that gives dough its elasticity. People with gluten intolerance or celiac disease should avoid spelt flour and opt for gluten-free alternatives.

Are there any potential risks or considerations when using spelt or white flour?

Some people may have allergies or sensitivities to certain grains, including spelt. It is always important to consider personal dietary needs and to consult a healthcare professional if you have specific concerns or conditions related to flour consumption.