How to Substitute Bread Flour for All-Purpose Flour

“I want to make a bread recipe that calls for all-purpose flour, and all I have on my shelf right now is bread flour. Is it okay to substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour?”

There are countless reasons you may end up with a distinctive blue bag of King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour on your pantry shelf. Maybe someone else did the grocery shopping and didn’t know there was a difference between bread flour and all-purpose. Or perhaps there’s a big snowstorm coming, and bread flour was all that was left in the supermarket.

Or maybe there was just something enticing about the blue bag that called to you, promising you lofty loaves of homemade bread.

Regardless of how it gets there, once bread flour is in your pantry you might wonder about its potential – what can you actually do with bread flour? How can you substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour?

You can always check the back of the bag, where you’ll find the number to our Baker’s Hotline, 855-371-BAKE(2253). We’re here whenever you find yourself stumped in the kitchen. Like when you only have bread flour in the house, but the recipe you’ve been dying to make calls for all-purpose flour. Can you reach for the blue bag? Give us a call! We’re happy to help.

And while we love hearing your baking conundrums on the hotline, we also want to give you the tools you need to make informed decisions on your own. That way when there’s a sudden need for fresh bread (which happens often in my family), you’ll be ready to go – no need to pick up the phone.

Bread flour via @kingarthurflour

“How is bread flour different from all-purpose flour?”

It’s a question we hear almost every day on the hotline.

One answer is protein content.

Bread flour is milled from hard spring wheat, which has a higher protein content than the hard winter wheat used in all-purpose flour. Protein adds strength to dough and enables loaves of bread to rise high. Our bread flour checks in at 12.7% protein, while our all-purpose flour is at 11.7%.

“So can I use bread flour in a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour?”

That’s the next logical question eager callers ask.

Before responding with a resounding “Yes,” a few of us hotline bakers thought some testing was in order. So I headed to the test kitchen to see exactly what would happen when I substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour in some of our favorite bread recipes.

Sandwich bread

There’s no better place to start than our Classic Sandwich Bread. It’s the kind of bread that makes your toes curl under (in a good way!) when you butter up a slice.

This buxom loaf calls for all-purpose flour. But say you’ve got half a bag of bread flour to use up. (Plus, you might want a little more chew to make those BLTs you’ve been dreaming about.)

I tried the recipe with both all-purpose and bread flour to see what would happen.

Bread Flour via @kingarthurflour

Our Classic Sandwich Bread recipe made with all-purpose flour on the left; the same recipe made with bread flour on the right.

These two beautiful loaves came out of the oven. They rose about the same amount, but you can see the all-purpose version mushroomed a bit over the sides of the pan.

The bread flour loaf, on the other hand, held its shape. This is because dough made with bread flour absorbs slightly more liquid (due to the flour’s higher protein level), so it’s stiffer; the resulting loaf rises upwards rather than outwards.

Don’t worry, the difference in absorption isn’t enough to cause textural problems or hinder the rise of your loaf. As you can see, both of these loaves are worthy of making a perfect BLT.

Now you might be wondering if there were any surprises inside of these loaves…

Classic Sandwich Bread via @kingarthurflour

…but nope, no surprises!

If you look closely at the crumb (the small holes that create the structure of the bread), you might see that the bread flour loaf on the right has slightly smaller holes, or what we call a “tighter crumb.” Granted, the difference was quite small.

Both versions were perfect candidates for thick slices of toast slathered with butter and jam. So go ahead and use bread flour in the recipe, same amount as all-purpose. (Remember to fluff and sprinkle your flour or use a scale to measure by weight.) 

Whole wheat bread

Oftentimes bread flour or all-purpose flour is substituted for some of the whole wheat flour to help give whole grain loaves a boost. The bran in whole wheat flour impairs the gluten, so using a flour with more gluten can benefit the loaf’s structure and rise.

We wanted to see if there was a difference between using bread flour and all-purpose flour to strengthen the rise in a whole wheat loaf. So we decided to test it in our Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread, using 50/50 whole wheat and all-purpose flour in one loaf, and 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour in the other.

We wondered if the slight difference we saw in the two sandwich loaves would be more pronounced when the flour was given the task of improving the performance of whole grains.

Classic Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread via @kingarthurflour

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread made with half all-purpose flour on the left and half bread flour on the right.

The result? The all-purpose loaf was wider across the top (more “mushroomed”) than the bread flour loaf, just like we saw with the Classic Sandwich Bread recipe. But other than the all-purpose loaf being slightly more tender, there was little difference between the two.

Bread Flour-11

Half all-purpose flour version on the left, half bread flour on the right. Slicing into the loaves revealed insides that were almost identical.

Rise, structure, crust, crumb? Very similar.

So, can you substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour? The answer is –

We answer with a confident “Yes” when callers ask if they can use bread flour in place of all-purpose (or vice versa) in their bread recipes – in a pinch.

For the very best loaf, we always advise bakers to use the type of flour called for in the recipe: bread, or all-purpose. After all, if a flour is specified, the recipe was developed to provide optimum results when you use the designated flour. These recipes carefully match the flour’s protein level to the amount of liquid called for, creating the ideal hydration – and a perfectly risen loaf.

But in a pinch, it’s totally OK to substitute. The consistency of the dough and the structure of the bread may vary, but you’ll still be rewarded with a wonderful homemade loaf regardless of whether you use bread flour or all-purpose flour.

So go forth, and bake! That old recipe of Grandma’s you’ve been too nervous to try because it calls for simply “flour” is waiting for you – give it a shot! Use bread flour if you want a tighter crumb and a loaf that holds its shape, or choose all-purpose if you’re looking for a slightly more open texture and a bit more tenderness.

I like to remind the people I chat with on the hotline that yeast dough is a living, breathing thing, and it’s your job as the baker to give it what it needs.You don’t want a stiff dough, nor a slack dough, but something that feels perfectly right.

Add a little water if the dough seems dry, or a sprinkle of flour if it feels too wet. Visualize the adhesive strip on a sticky note – that slightly tacky feeling is what you’re shooting for.

Classic Sandwich Bread via @kingarthurflour

Once you’ve got that blue bag of bread flour in your pantry, the possibilities are endless. Substitute it into a favorite recipe to see how it lifts your loaf, or use it in a recipe calling for bread flour to really see what it can do.

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls, Oatmeal Toasting & Sandwich Bread, Soft Cinnamon Rolls, and 12-Grain Cinnamon Bread are just a few of the tempting recipes that await. I promise they’ll make you thankful you picked up a bag of bread flour.

Note: The information in this post pertains to King Arthur Flours only. Other national brands tend to mill lower-protein wheat, and produce lower-protein flour. So substituting, say, our King Arthur Bread Flour for another company’s all-purpose flour may mean a protein swing of 2 to 3 points – which could create a significant difference in your bread’s rise and texture.

If you love using bread flour and have favorite ways to use it, we hope you’ll share your experiences in the comments, below.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Engagement Team.

comments

  1. Christine Nelson

    I use nothing but KA fours for all of my baking. I bake for my own family, for friends, neighbors and relatives. I would probably average about 25 loaves of bread per week. I bake 14 different breads and the results are always consistent when using KA flours. A neighboring Mennonite store orders all of my KA flour needs for me in 50 pound bags, and it does not last long. They have now started stocking 50 pound bags of the AP, because of my usage, but also because I have sent many people to their store to buy KA flours. They still however special order the KA bread flour for me. I also buy all of my other baking needs there, so they take pretty good care of me. Gotta love it.

    Reply
  2. Lorena

    And what about for croissants? I’ve been searching and there are all types of recipes there. So which flour would you recommend me to use for really good homemade French croissants? Thank you!!!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Lorena, I’ve worked with pastry chefs who mix their own bread and pastry flours to hit just the protein level they want; in our baker here at King Arthur we use our All-Purpose flour. You need a flour with some strength to it to develop enough gluten to hold the butter in place through all of the folds and turns. Susan

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad you asked, Lorena. While some bakers recommend a higher protein flour like bread flour, we’ve found that King Arthur All-Purpose Flour is strong enough with its 11.7% protein level to give croissants just the right amount of strength that they need. If you bake with this flour, your croissants will be tender like a well-made pastry while also having enough structure to rise high. Try using our recipe for Baker’s Croissants if you’re feeling like giving it a try. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. Jim

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to know’
    Mahalo Nui/Thanks So Much!!
    Aloha!
    Jim – South Kona, Da Big Island, Hawai’i

    Reply
  4. Manny Soto

    Hello, I have been baking bread off and on for almost a year. My families favorite is the no kneed, Baguettes and artisan style breads. I just purchased KA Bread flour and I am curious to know if I can use it just like the all purpose flour. I have been using the 6-1/2, 3, 1,1 ratio. Could I use this ratio with KA bread flour?

    Reply
    1. Annabelle Nicholson

      Absolutely, Manny. The main thing you’ll notice is that Bread Flour will absorb extra liquid, so drizzle in a little extra water if the dough seems dry. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Like we tried to emphasize in this post, bread flour has more gluten-forming protein than all-purpose flour does. If you choose to use it in recipes, your final product will be chewier and crispier rather than soft and tender. Typically, bakers want their quick breads and muffins to be delicate and moist, so bread flour isn’t the best choice in these cases. However, if you’re in a pinch it will probably turn out just fine if you’re careful not to mix the batter too much. Kye@KAF

  5. Erica myers

    How will bread flour work for cookie recipes in place of all purpose? Say chocolate chip cookies? I have two bags of bread flour and I’m out of all purpose at the moment.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Erica, given the higher protein content, you can expect that bread flour will make for a somewhat chewier cookie. Generally you can get away with it in drop cookies like chocolate chip, but we’d steer away from using it in more delicate cookies like our Holiday Butter Cookies. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  6. Manda

    Hi,
    So I have a recipe that calls for whole wheat flour and gluten flour. Can I use Whole wheat bread flour and forgo the gluten flour since bread flour has more gluten then plain whole wheat flour?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Manda, we’re not quite sure what you’re referring to when you say ‘gluten flour.’ Is this High-Gluten Flour, by chance? If so, you could use whole wheat flour and bread flour together and get comparable results. High-Gluten Flour gives baked goods like pretzels, bagels, and pizza crust their signature chewy texture, so expect more of a sandwich-bread texture with the adjustment we’ve outlined here. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  7. KJR

    Hi again, KAF! I accidentally bought pastry flour (or something very close to it, from the research I did on it – it has a protein content of 8-8.5%, so somewhere between pastry and bread flour…I think!). Someone told me they thought it was unbleached, so I picked up 3 bags. When I tried my tried-and-true sourdough recipe, it was extremely dense. I’ll know not to get this kind next time. I’m thinking of holding it back for cookies and quick breads and such, but do you guys have any ideas on using it in yeast/sourdough breads? I also bought a bag of the all-purpose I’ve been buying, so I may try half-and-half AP and pastry, but I don’t want to ruin another batch. Any thoughts? And do you think it would be okay to feed to the starter?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, fellow baker! We recommend using higher protein flours like our All-Purpose Flour (11.7%) or Bread Flour (12.7%) to make yeasted baked goods. Pastry flour, or any flour with that low of a protein content, is on the opposite end of the protein spectrum, and as you mentioned should be best reserved for use in recipes that don’t require much gluten development. We wouldn’t recommend using it in any kind of yeasted recipe or to feed your starter. Even when combined with all-purpose flour, it will only weaken the structure of your loaves. Mollie@KAF

  8. Craig Whitley

    I must live in opposite-ville

    Been using a no-knead Peasant Bread recipe with very high hydration.

    Baked 4 loafs 3 days apart 2 loafs with KAF-AP and the 2nd 2 loafs with KAF Bread Flour

    The AP dough was slack but quite close to what the video for the recipe showed.

    The Bread Flour dough was very, very, very slack and I could barely pick it up using the bowl scraper I used on the AP loafs.

    The holes in the AP were tighter than the Bread Flour. Again opposite.

    Both tasted great but again opposite of what I have read here on how the 2 flours absorb water and their crumb development.

    Could it be because I am left handed and everything is opposite.

    I see KAF’s conversion of 1 cup of flour = 120 grams while the USDA show 1 cup = 125 and GM, which I do not use, flour 1 cup = 130 [quite a large difference]

    512 grams of flour [original called for AP flour] I always weigh the flour.
    2 cups water
    2 tsb sugar
    2 tsp Kosher Salt
    2 tsb yeast. SAF-Red

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Craig, despite being left-handed, we’d assume that your results would reflect the fact that bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour. The higher protein content means that bread flour will absorb more water and the dough should feel tighter. It might be worth trying the experiment again, being sure to measure carefully and keep track of the dough batches of dough. As for your note about the flour weight, the difference is strictly in how different people measure flour by volume; some pack it into the cup, some sprinkle it in gently. We measure our flour by fluffing and sprinkling it into the cup like this, which yields a lighter cup that weighs 120 grams. For all our recipes, you should use this amount. We hope that helps clarify. Kye@KAF

  9. Kulin

    In India majority of the breads consumed are made from All Purpose Flour. We do not get the variety of flours for bread baking as available in the US. Pity i don’t get King Arthur’s flour in my city in India. Since i prefer home made breads as a healthy option, i grind wheat at home and use Whole Wheat Flour only. i have never come across the concept of Bread Flour in India. i follow Paul Hollywood’s recipe and the only change i make is the replacement of all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. The bread turns out to be real soft, yet, the only hitch, as mentioned by Craig above, it becomes too dense. Probably, because of the usage of Olive Oil and the higher protein contents in the whole wheat flour. How can i make it less dense inspite of using whole wheat flour? i do not wish to make use of All Purpose Flour. i use scale for measuring the flour. Am also planning to experiment with Josey Baker and James Morton’s recipes and would be replacing the APF with WWF. i might face the same problem. Kindly advice. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kulin, baking with whole wheat flour almost always means the final product will be slightly more dense, especially if it is used 100% to replace the all-purpose flour. If you’re not willing to use some white flour to lighten up your bread, the best things you can do is add sufficient liquid to properly hydrate the flour, and to let the flour and water sit for about 15-20 minutes before you begin kneading. This will help hydrate the grains and soften the bran, which can otherwise shred the gluten that helps the bread stay light and risen. Keep working with your recipes and flour, trying different ratios until you find the right one, knowing all the while that whole wheat bread will be a bit dense. But it still tastes delicious and is packed with whole grains! Kye@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *