In this answer:

What can I use in place of Quinoa flour?

regarding substituting for quinoa flour, the answered alleges that another so-called "medium" flour can be substituted.

When I googled, I found that so-called "light flours" were alleged to be high in starch; rice flour or glutinous rice flour was the usual example. I found far less consistency—and no definition based on an objective criteria—for medium and heavy flours, although nut flours usually seemed to be grouped as a heavy flour. Almost all references to these terms were from the gluten free community.

Is there an actual objective criterion for these categories of light, medium, and heavy flours? If so, what is it, and what does it mean for their baking characteristics? Is it just a cultural thing in the gluten free community to group together empirical experiences?

  • Often grouping together based on empirical observation means there's an objective criterion underneath anyway. You just might get it in the wrong order.
    – Cascabel
    Apr 5, 2013 at 23:08
  • I don't do a lot of gluten-free baking; I only think I've seen these terms once or twice before. But from searching, it seems that "light" and "heavy" refer to something approximating density (the likely property). Arrowroot, potato starch, etc. tend to be listed as "light," and my experience is that they are relatively less dense than most flour-like substances. Similarly, nut flours, cornmeal, etc. would be more dense, and thus "heavy." Personally, I would think you'd need more info to make a blend (like starch content, water absorption), but I don't have much experience with gluten-free.
    – Athanasius
    Apr 9, 2013 at 20:38
  • 3
    I found this list that lists them. It seems like they could be in order of starch or protein content (light = high starch/low protein, heavy = low starch/high protein), but they could also be by milling (the starchier flours are frequently milled much finer than the "heavier" nut flours).
    – SourDoh
    Jul 18, 2013 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


The blog sourd'oh referenced is the best I've seen up to this point: http://www.myrealfoodlife.com/understanding-gluten-free-flours/

Basically, My Real Food Life breaks it down into the following categories:

  • Heavy: Give structure and binding, have lower rising capacity.
  • Medium: Lighten heavy flours, even out stronger tastes, soften the crumb and texture.
  • Light: Needed for binding, adding lightness, and sometimes crispiness. Neutralize the taste of stronger flours.

If you're looking to use a wheat-based flour, this seems to correlate to the flour's milling and the type of wheat used (hard seems to correlate with heavy and soft seems to correlate with light).

  • Heavy: Whole wheat flour, bread flour
  • Medium: All purpose flour
  • Light: Cake flour

For additional information on the composition of wheat-based flours, see the following Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_flour

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