How to Substitute Whole Wheat Flour in Cookie Recipes

Who doesn’t want a little more whole grains in their diet? Whole grains are high in nutrients and fiber, can help reduce the risk of heart disease, support better digestion, and reduce inflammation. I’ve talked about adding whole grains to pizza dough, but what about baked goods such as cookies? Adding more whole grains into your baking is a simple and easy but there are a couple things to watch out for when you bake with whole grains.

The first thing to know is that doing a simple 1:1 swap with all-purpose flour is not the best way to start. The more whole wheat flour you substitute, the more you will both see and taste the effect. I recommend starting with a low percentage and slowly increasing until you find a balance that you enjoy in the final product.

Start by substituting just 25% whole wheat and you probably won’t even notice a real difference in the flavor or final texture of the cookie.


What is White Whole Wheat Flour?
White whole wheat flour is milled from a lighter, milder variety of wheat and will be much less noticeable in your baked goods than traditional red whole wheat flour. Substituting white whole wheat flour is a great way to experiment and get started with whole grains in your baking.


Quick nerd note: for best results, substitute whole wheat for white flour by volume, not by weight. I know this goes against just about everything you know about measuring while baking but whole wheat flour weighs less than white flour and absorbs more liquid. So by using the same volume amount of whole wheat flour, you can compensate for AP flour’s heavier per-cup weight and offset whole wheat’s higher liquid absorption.

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For cookies, my personal preference is to substitute 50% of the flour with whole wheat. Any higher and the whole wheat’s hearty, grainier texture starts to come through the baked goods.

If you want to push the percentage higher, one hack to improve and soften that texture is to let the dough refrigerate overnight and soften the whole wheat’s tougher texture.

If you do plan to refrigerate overnight, or even let the dough chill for less time, you may need to increase the liquid when substituting at 50% or more. This is where being familiar with you recipe’s dough can help. Add 2 teaspoons water (or other liquid) per cup of whole wheat flour.

Getting more whole wheat and whole grains in baked goods isn’t difficult and shouldn’t be intimidating. Go slow and start substituting. Most of the time you won’t even notice the difference. And neither will your kids!