Gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley (1).

It improves the texture, flavor, and moistness of many baked goods, including bagels, breads, pastries, and noodles. The more gluten in a particular flour, the more structure or shape it gives to the resulting baked good (1, 2).

This article explains what high gluten flour is, plus its nutrients, uses, and potential substitutes.

Gluten is the main protein found in wheat flour. The more gluten a flour has, the higher its protein content.

Thus, high gluten flour — also called hard wheat — is a high protein flour (2).

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), high gluten flour contains the highest amount of protein among wheat flours, at 12.5–14.5% — compared with 12–14% in bread flour 8.7–11.8% in all-purpose flour (3).

Some types of high gluten flour, such as hard red spring, have even higher protein contents up to 16% (4).

Flours with a lower protein content, such as cake flour (6.3–10%), are referred to as soft wheat (3).

Gluten absorbs water and gives shape and a chewy texture to baked goods (1, 2, 5, 6, 7).

As such, high gluten flour has a greater capacity to retain moisture and help baked goods hold together. It’s used for products like artisan breads, pizza crusts, and pretzels (7).

Summary

High gluten flour is high in protein and often used to retain moisture and provide shape to baked goods like artisan breads, pizza crusts, and pretzels.

Gluten isn’t found in every part of the wheat grain. Rather, it’s limited to the starchy endosperm (2).

This means that wheat can be milled to exclude or reduce its gluten content.

Yet, high gluten flour is milled using the entire wheat grain to retain its gluten content. Some products may be a blend of varying types of hard wheat or high gluten flours and can be purchased ready-made.

Hard red winter and hard red spring are two high protein wheat varieties that are used to improve flour blends. They contain 10–13% and 13–16% protein, respectively (4, 8).

Alternatively, you can make high gluten flour at home by fortifying wheat flour with a concentrated wheat product like vital wheat gluten — which is also the main ingredient in the vegan meat substitute seitan.

Gluten protein is extracted by gently washing flour dough to remove the starches, leaving behind a rubbery, protein-rich material comprising 75–80% protein (2).

Vital wheat gluten packs 19 grams of protein in just 1/4 cup (25 grams) and can significantly increase the protein content of your wheat flour (9).

Summary

You can purchase store-bought high gluten flour or made your by fortifying wheat flour with vital wheat gluten.

One cup (192 grams) of hard red spring wheat flour, a type of high gluten flour, contains (10):

  • Calories: 632
  • Carbs: 131 grams
  • Protein: 29.6 grams
  • Fat: 3.7 grams
  • Fiber: 84% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Selenium: 247% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 57% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 51% of the DV
  • Folate: 21% of the DV
  • Potassium: 14% of the DV

This high gluten flour is rich in protein, carbs, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals, including selenium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Summary

High gluten flour is rich in protein, carbs, fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals.

High gluten flour helps baked goods retain moisture and shape. It’s ideal for (7):

  • bagels
  • pizza crusts
  • pretzels
  • artisanal, flat, and pan breads
  • pasta
  • noodles

The gluten in the flour absorbs water, creating mesh structures that allows the bread to rise and maintain its shape (1, 2, 5, 6, 7).

Since high gluten flour and all-purpose flour have the same moisture content, you may be able to substitute them in a 1:1 ratio — in other words, 1 cup (120 grams) of high gluten flour for the same amount of all-purpose (3).

You can also mix and match by replacing one-fourth to one-half of the all-purpose flour in a recipe with high gluten flour for a flour blend that’s higher in protein.

Summary

High gluten flour is used in pizza crusts, bagels, pretzels, pasta, noodles, artisanal breads, and other similar wheat products.

Although the terms “high gluten flour” and “bread flour” are used interchangeably, there are minor differences.

Notably, bread flour is a type of high gluten flour that has a higher protein than most other wheat flours, but high gluten flour may be used to create products other than bread — such as noodles — and has the highest protein content.

Per 1/2 cup (100 grams) unbleached, here is how high gluten flour compares to other wheat flours (3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14):

High gluten flour is richest in protein, fiber, and the minerals selenium and magnesium.

Summary

Compared with other wheat flours, high gluten flour is richest in protein, fiber, and minerals like selenium and magnesium.

If you don’t have high gluten flour on hand, here are other wheat flours that you can use in its place in a 1:1 ratio (3):

  • bread flour
  • whole wheat flour
  • 100% white whole wheat flour

The protein contents of these flours are slightly lower, but the final baked good will have a comparable structure and density.

Alternatively, add vital wheat gluten — in the ratios recommended on the package — to all-purpose flour to increase its protein content and improve moisture and texture.

Gluten-free options

Gluten triggers inflammation and digestive issues like malabsorption and stomach aches in people with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders (15, 16, 17).

If you follow a gluten-free diet, you may be able to replace high gluten flour with naturally gluten-free flours like (7, 18, 19, 20, 21):

If you have a gluten-related disorder, it’s important to discuss wheat substitutes with your doctor to prevent nutrient deficiencies and assess your tolerance to other flours.

Summary

Bread flour, whole wheat flour, and 100% white whole wheat flour make good substitutes for high gluten flour. If you avoid gluten, you may be able to use millet, sorghum, rice flour, cornmeal, high protein rice flour, or nut-based flours.

High gluten flour is a protein dense flour made with hard wheat like red winter or red spring. You can also make it by fortifying all-purpose flour with vital gluten wheat.

It retains moisture and is responsible for the shape of pizza crusts, bagels, pretzels, and some noodles, as well as artisan, flat, and pan breads.

If you have celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders, you can try gluten-free nut-based flours, millet, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, cornmeal or rice flour in its place.

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