Whole wheat flours are having a bit of a moment these days, and spelt flour is one of them. Spelt is an ancient grain that is becoming popular as a wheat replacement. Spelt flour is a whole wheat flour, which means that it is made by grinding up the entire grain kernel, while white flours strip the outer kernels first.
Spelt flour is popular because it is fresher and has a more robust, acidic flavor than white flour, but is not as overpowering as other whole wheat flours. You can use it in all baking recipes, although it does have less gluten than traditional all-purpose flour, which could affect the rise of bread.
Although spelt flour is becoming more popular, it can still be difficult to find. If you can’t find spelt flour or just ran out, here are a few substitutions to keep in mind.
1. All-Purpose Flour
Sometimes, the traditional ingredients are popular for a reason. Also known as wheat flour, all-purpose flour is the backbone of most baking recipes. All-purpose flour is made from soft wheat varieties without their hard outer kernel. It is versatile and you can use it as a thickener and in all baking recipes.
You can replace spelt flour with all-purpose flour, usually using a one-to-one ratio. The texture will come out the same. In fact, all-purpose flour may even yield better breads, rolls, and buns because it works better with recipes that require more of a rise. However, all-purpose flour lacks spelt’s assertive taste and contains a lower fiber content. You can always use this substitution, but it may feel a bit boring if you were looking to challenge yourself in the kitchen.
2. Einkorn Flour
Einkorn flour is another ancient grain that is seeing a resurgence as people are looking to move beyond wheat. Einkorn was actually the oldest cultivated variety of wheat. Like spelt, it has a much lower gluten content than all-purpose flour, more nutrients, and a more robust flavor profile.
Due to their similarities, einkorn flour is an easy substitute for spelt flour in most recipes, including cakes, cookies, and more. You can make a simple 1:1 substitution. However, einkorn flour absorbs less liquid than spelt so you will need to reduce the liquid ingredients in your recipe by about one-third.
3. Amaranth Flour
Amaranth flour was a staple for the ancient Incas that is seeing a resurgence in the present day. It is not an ancient grain because it technically is not a grain at all—it is made by grinding up the seeds of a perennial plant called the amaranth.
Amaranth flour works well as a substitute for spelt flour as a thickener and in some baking recipes due to their similar nutty flavor and nutritional benefits.
Amaranth flour has a bit of an advantage because it is entirely gluten-free, while spelt still has small amounts of gluten. However, amaranth flour is not robust enough for most baked goods, so you need to mix it with another flour. It is also more bitter than spelt so expect to increase your sugar content.
4. Rice Flour
If you are looking for a more accessible alternative to spelt flour, rice flour can be your ingredient of choice. Rice flour is made by grinding up rice into a fine powder and is a staple of cooking and baking in East Asia. It comes in brown and white varieties. Although brown rice flour has a higher nutrient content, and white rice flour is a better substitute for spelt because of its texture.
Rice flour is robust enough to make baked goods even though it is gluten-free, so it is an excellent substitute for spelt flour. It is also much easier to find and you can get it in regular supermarkets, Asian markets, and health food stores. However, it does not have as robust a taste so you may need to add sweeteners or nut powders to mimic the acidity in spelt flour. It is also denser, so you will need to reduce the flour content.
Whether you are looking to try something new, searching for a healthier alternative to all-purpose flour, or want to manage a gluten sensitivity without cutting out gluten completely, spelt flour is an excellent choice.