All-Purpose Flour

See also flour.

As the name suggests, all-purpose is a type of flour that is suitable for all kinds of recipes. Also known as “plain,” “general purpose” or “family” flour, this kitchen cupboard staple is the main ingredient in our favorite baked goods such as cakes, breads and rolls.  It’s also great for thickening sauces, gravies and puddings or deliciously dredging meats and vegetables prior to frying or sautéing.

All-Purpose vs. Bread, Cake and Other Types of Flour

Flour is milled from different varieties of wheat containing different amounts of protein. And it’s the different levels of protein that give each type its own unique qualities.

In general, flour made from harder wheat (like bread flour) is higher in protein and gluten, making it ideal for crusty breads and yeast-risen products. Flour made from softer wheat (like cake flour) contains less protein and gluten, making it more appropriate for lighter, more tender goods like cakes and biscuits.

A combination of hard and soft wheat is milled to produce all-purpose flour. The resulting medium protein content (between 9% and 12%) offers just the right balance of strength and tenderness for the everyday baker to make chewy breads, delicate tarts and everything in between.


All-purpose flour is available bleached or unbleached. Bleached flour has been treated with bleaching chemicals (likely benzoyl peroxide or chlorine dioxide) after milling to make it whiter. Your supermarket may also carry organic varieties that are produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

Buying Tips

To choose the right package size for your needs, keep in mind there are about 3½ cups of flour per pound, so a five-pound bag contains approximately 17½ cups.

Storage Tips

Room temperature: Store in an airtight container for up to a year. White flour never really spoils, but the longer it sits, the more susceptible it is to kitchen pests. Try putting a few bay leaves in the container to keep them away.

Refrigerator or Freezer: Can be stored indefinitely packed in airtight containers or freezer bags. The flour will not freeze solid, but plan to take it out a few hours before using to bring it down to room temperature.

Measuring Tips

Unless your recipe calls for it, no sifting is required. Just fluff the flour in the container with a metal spoon and lightly sprinkle into a dry-ingredient measuring cup. Without tapping or shaking the cup, scrape off the excess with a straight-edge spatula or knife. Measuring this way should yield a cup of flour that weighs about four ounces.

Substitution Tips

If a recipe calls for a certain type of flour and you only have all-purpose on hand:

  • Use one tablespoon more per cup when making breads.
  • Use one tablespoon less per cup when making cookies