Everything You Need to Know About Using Alternative Flours for Pancakes

There's a world of flavor beyond all-purpose flour, which is why we asked two pancake experts which alternative options work best—and the right way to use them.

almond flour pancakes served with fresh strawberries
Photo: Photographer Bryan Gardner; Food Stylist Laura Rege; Prop Stylist Paige Hicks

We're enthusiastically team made-from-scratch pancakes. Whipping up a fresh stack is well worth the extra few minutes in the kitchen—and you can have fun with the base ingredients to add more flavor, boost protein or fiber, or mix in some extras to create your perfect flapjack.

We urge you to get creative with your flour choice, too, since the type you use can impact your pancake's fluffiness, pliability, and overall taste. After all, all-purpose flour isn't your only option; whole wheat and other alternatives unlock a whole new level of flavor and texture.

All-Purpose Flour Pancakes

"Here in the U.S., pancakes are typically prepared using all-purpose flour," says Frank Tegethoff, who leads innovation at King Arthur Baking. "This yields pancakes that are fluffy and tender."

This fluffy tenderness, which so often defines the diner flapjacks you crave, is the result of all-purpose flour's protein content (roughly 11 to 12%). "This is what determines the strength of the flour, which determines how easily it will develop structure," says John Adler, vice president of culinary at meal kit company Blue Apron. "A well-structured batter holds air, which means it will yield a fluffier pancake."

Alternative Pancake Flours

So, what happens when you skip all-purpose iterations and use alternative options, instead? Replacing the former with a softer choice, like pastry flour, will yield a thinner, less tender pancake. Bread flour, on the other hand, will deliver a fluffy, but chewier result.

If you step into the world of higher-protein whole-grain flours, such as rye, spelt, and farro (or heirloom varieties like Ölands or Red Fife), you get less gluten development, which creates denser, but more flavorful pancakes, explains Adler. "Whole-wheat flours will require more water, since they tend to be thirstier than white flours," he says.

Experimenting With Alternative Flours

If you want to make pancakes with a whole-grain flour, start with spelt—Adler likes its nuttiness. When making pancakes, though, he doesn't swap all the all-purpose flour for the alternative; instead, he makes a mixed batter.

3:1 Ratio

Try a ratio of 3:1—use 3 parts all-purpose flour to 1 part wholegrain flour. According to Adler, this will produce fluffy, pliable pancakes with intriguing flavors.

Remember that you'll need to add more liquid to the batter when you use alternative flour. "With this ratio, add about 2 to 3 more tablespoons of water to achieve an even consistency," Adler says.


When incorporating whole-grain flours into your pancakes, the batter will likely be darker. Try cooking the pancakes over medium heat (as opposed to medium-high) so they don't get too dark before they are cooked through.

Tips for Making Pancakes With Alternative Flours

The rules for making pancakes with regular and alternative flours are (mostly) the same.

Measure Carefully

It's critical to measure all ingredients carefully, notes Tegethoff. "A small error in the baking powder measurement can have a significant impact," he says.

Don't Overmix

"Don't overmix," says Adler. "Some lumps are good." If you whisk the batter until smooth, you will inevitably end up with a tougher, more dense pancake no matter what type of flour you are using.

Monitor Rest Time

"The key is to let pancake batter sit for 5 to 10 minutes, so the flour can hydrate," says Adler. If your batter seems dry after resting, add a splash of water, milk, or buttermilk to reach the desired consistency. Adjust your alternative flour batter's rest time if needed; it may benefit from a slightly longer or shorter rest than your go-to recipe specifies.


Above all, enjoy! Pancakes are supposed to be fun. Play with different flours for the batter and also with your toppings; try warm maple syrup (15 to 20 seconds in the microwave should do it), a pat of room-temperature butter, fresh fruit, or jam.

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