Flour is one of the most common ingredients in baking and cooking. However, not all flours are the same. Different types of flour vary in their processing, colour, texture, and nutritional value. One of the main distinctions is between bleached vs unbleached flour. Here are some of the differences and similarities between these two types of flour. In this article, we will explore the differences between bleached vs unbleached flour, considering factors such as nutritional content, flavor, texture, baking applications, shelf life, environmental impact, and more. 


Processing makes bleached and unbleached flour different. Bleached flour has no bran and germ of the wheat kernel, only the endosperm. This reduces the nutritional value of the flour, as well as its flavour and colour. Chemical agents like benzoyl peroxide or chlorine dioxide age and whiten bleached flour and make it softer.

Unbleached flour may or may not have the bran and germ of the wheat kernel. It is either refined or whole wheat. It is not chemically treated, but oxygen in the air bleaches it naturally over time. This makes it denser and tougher than bleached flour, but also more flavorful and nutritious.


As the name suggests, bleached flour has a whiter colour than unbleached flour. Chemical agents bleach the flour and take away some of the pigments and carotenoids that make wheat yellowish.

Unbleached flour has a creamier or ivory colour than bleached flour. This is because it retains some of the natural pigments and carotenoids that give wheat its colour. Some people prefer the creamier colour of unbleached flour for its rustic appearance, especially for bread and pies.


Bleached and unbleached flour also differ in their texture and grain size. Bleached flour has a finer grain and a softer texture than unbleached flour. This is because the chemical agents used to bleach the flour break down some of the gluten-forming proteins and starch granules in the wheat. This makes bleached flour easier to work with and more suitable for delicate baked goods like cakes, cookies, and biscuits.

Unbleached flour has a coarser grain and a tougher texture than bleached flour. This is because it retains more of the gluten-forming proteins and starch granules in the wheat. This makes unbleached flour more elastic and stronger than bleached flour, and more suitable for chewy baked goods like breads, pizza dough, and pastries.


Some people may be concerned about the safety of bleaching agents used in bleached flour. The FDA says these agents are safe at low levels. They regulate and list them in food products. Baking or cooking removes or deactivates most of these agents.

All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is the most widely used type of flour in baking. It is a blend of hard and soft wheat flour that has a moderate protein content of about 10-12%. It can be bleached or unbleached, depending on your preference. All-purpose flour is suitable for most types of baked goods, such as muffins, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, scones, cakes, cookies, brownies, and pie crusts. However, it may not produce the best results for bread and pastries that require a higher or lower protein content.

Cake Flour

Cake flour is a type of bleached flour that has a low protein content of about 6-8%. It has a fine and soft texture that produces light and tender cakes and cupcakes. You can make sponge cakes, angel food cakes, chiffon cakes, and other delicate baked goods with cake flour. Denser or chewier baked goods might need more structure and strength, so you might not want to use them for them.

Pastry Flour

Pastry flour is a type of unbleached flour that has a low to medium protein content of about 8-10%. It has a slightly coarser and stronger texture than cake flour but still produces flaky and tender pastries. However, it may not be suitable for cakes or bread that require more or less protein.

Bread Flour

Bread flour is a type of unbleached flour that has a high protein content of about 12-14%. It has a coarse and strong texture that produces chewy and elastic bread. Bread flour is perfect for making yeast bread, pizza dough, bagels, pretzels, and other bread products. However, it may not be suitable for cakes or pastries that require less protein and more tenderness.

Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is a type of unbleached flour that contains the entire wheat kernel, including the bran and germ. It has a high protein content of about 14%, as well as more fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than refined flour. Whole wheat flour has a nutty flavour and a dark colour that adds richness and depth to baked goods. You can use whole wheat flour to make hearty bread, muffins, cookies, bars, and other baked goods.