Wheat germ is the byproduct of milling whole wheat from the extraction of wheat grain kernels or seeds. When ground and processed, it becomes wheat flour, bran, or germ.
However, if you’re looking for gluten-free options, wheat germ may not be the best choice, and looking for alternatives may be the best move for you. Listed below are the best wheat germ substitutes for baking:
- Wheat Flour
- Oat Bran
- Rice Bran
- Wheat Bran
- Ground Seeds
- Bread Crumbs
- Whole Wheat & Honey
- Almond Meal
Due to its nutritional benefits such as protein, vitamins, and minerals, wheat germ is also used in numerous healthy dishes to provide the nutrition missing from refined flour.
Without further ado, lets look are some of the best alternatives you can consider for your baking recipes.
9 Best Substitute For Wheat Germ
Generally speaking, wheat flour is the best substitute for wheat germ. Since it already has wheat germ as one of its components, grind the kernel of the whole wheat flour to obtain an easy and natural replacement.
Wheat flour also contains the same nutrients as wheat germs, such as fiber, proteins, and minerals. Hence, wheat flour is a suitable choice for baking goods like cookies and muffins to replace wheat germ.
You can also use wheat flour for coating and frying chicken. Sift the flour before using it to shake out the clumps. Avoid using wheat flour for smoothies and yogurt, as wheat flour is not the best for those recipes.
Since there are varieties of wheat flour, ranging from the color and parts of the grain used, you can go to your local grocery stores to buy the one that will be most suitable for your recipe. And since wheat flour doesn’t necessarily follow strict storage rules, keep in mind to check its moisture to prevent it from spoiling quickly.
Flaxseed is the second-best substitute for wheat germ. Its dark color and nutty flavor give the recipe a chewier and more interesting texture, making flaxseed beneficial to baked goods such as muffin crumbs.
When turned into a flax meal, it offers a similar consistency as wheat germ.
The only difference is that a flax meal may be less sweet than wheat germ, and may offer a savory taste as it quickly absorbs water. Hence if you’re making cakes or other baked goods, try adding more sugar to add more sweetness that cakes offer.
Moreover, since it contains more nutrients like folic acid, fiber, calcium, iron, and less fat than wheat germ, flaxseed is also considered the healthiest alternative to wheat germ.
Flaxseed also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can help the cardiovascular health and overall bodily function of individuals. Its gluten-free property also makes it suitable for people who observe the paleo and keto diets.
To substitute flaxseed for wheat germ, use the 1:1 ratio, which means that you should use 1 cup of flaxseed for every cup of wheat germ. To prevent flaxseed oils from quickly spoiling, store them in an opaque container and put them in the freezer.
Generally, you can buy bran in your local grocery stores either as wheat, rice, or oat. Based on its name, wheat bran tastes like wheat germ.
However, if you’re on a wheat-free diet, you can try rice bran or oat bran, as both can still provide a soft texture while maintaining a solid crumb structure.
For granola-based dishes, the texture is a crucial component of the recipe. Hence, oat bran can be used as its nutty flavor and texture also contains more nutrients such as proteins, dietary fiber that can go up to 15 percent, low-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), iron, fatty acids such as omega-3, B vitamins, and calcium than wheat germ, which can help reduce cholesterol in the blood.
Its similar texture to wheat germ makes oat bran a good substitute for baking. Oat bran also provides a feeling of satiety even with less food consumed.
To substitute wheat germ with oat bran, use a 1:1 substitution ratio for your recipe, which means that you should use a cup of oat bran for every cup of wheat germ required. Oat bran doesn’t also have a distinct flavor.
Hence, you should try putting fruit extracts for a sweeter taste without increasing the amount of fat or sugar content.
Another type of bran that can be substituted for wheat germ is rice bran, technically from a rice plant’s outer grain and is used as oil in medicine.
This would provide your recipe with a lighter, crispier texture than using oatmeal bran and wheat germ in general. Since it is gluten-free, rice bran can also be used in baking non-gluten bread and cookies.
A 1:1 ratio is also used for substituting wheat germ with rice bran, which means that you should use 1 cup of rice bran for every cup of wheat germ. Rice bran also has a very light color.
So for a darker color and caramelization, you could use honey or agave sweetener during baking.
Remember that rice bran tends to spoil faster if stored in an open-air area. Hence, refrigerate the rice brain in an air-tight container to prevent it from getting rancid.
The other bran that can be replaced with wheat germ is wheat bran. This could also work if you’re not on a gluten-free diet.
Wheat bran’s high dietary fiber of 43 grams makes it a more nutritious alternative to every 100-gram serving of wheat germ, which then makes up an individual’s daily recommended intake of 60 percent.
However, regardless of its health benefits, bran, specifically wheat, is considerably dryer and has less flavor than oat bran. Another downside is that it lacks wheat germ binding components in recipes that require baking.
Sesame or sunflower seeds can be put in a food processor to become ground seeds and create a flour that offers many nutritional benefits.
These include essential vitamins and minerals, which make the source one of nature’s powerhouses since it comes from plants that provide numerous dietary benefits.
Sunflower seeds that are ground also function the same way as wheat germ due to their similar texture, especially for baked goods such as bread.
Since sunflower seeds also contain more fiber, less carbohydrate, and equal value of protein as wheat germ, it may affect the baking process since the consistency of the dough will be different.[Source]
Nevertheless, the main nutritional benefit is that sunflower seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fat, good for the heart.
Keep in mind not to over-grind sunflower seeds, or you will end up with tahini by accident.
If you are not on a gluten-free diet, bread crumbs may be the best replacement as their properties can tolerate cooking oil without losing their structure.
Moreover, bread crumbs are also suitable for savory recipes as using them will have a similar taste to wheat germ.
However, using bread crumbs may not work for sweet dishes since its inflexible components may not be suitable for cake-like recipes.
Whole Wheat & Honey
Honey can be included in the list of whole wheat substitutes for baking goods such as bar cookie and muffin recipes. Use a cup of whole wheat flour with a half teaspoon of honey for every cup of all-purpose flour and a tablespoon of wheat germ.
For instance, for recipes that need the bar cookie base to be baked first, whole wheat and honey help the dish to adapt well in replacement of wheat germ.
This is usually seen in date bars, and other layered-bar cookies as dates, coconut flakes, and nuts can be added in layers on top of the cookie base.
This means that wheat germ is the least observable ingredient in a rich mixture such as whole wheat and honey.
For a gluten-free substitute, an almond meal would be the best choice as replacement for wheat germ. Although it doesn’t contain the nutritional benefit of wheat germ, almond meal is still rich in fiber, proteins, vitamin C, and magnesium.
Remember that almond meal has a coarser grind from unpeeled almonds than almond flour since the two are often interchanged mistakenly.
In comparison, almond flour has a more delicate texture and is made from peeled almonds.
To substitute wheat germ with an almond meal usually only requires ⅔ of the almond for most baking recipes.
Wheat Germ Substitute Related FAQs
What are the nutritional benefits of wheat germ?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, wheat germ provides numerous nutritional benefits. It is rich in calories, protein, and B vitamins like vitamin B6 and contains high amounts of fiber, around 15 grams per 100 grams.
Wheat germ also contains minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, and manganese.
Wheat germ is rarely eaten on its own. However, due to its vast range of similar cooking properties, it’s easy to find a substitute for wheat germ if you’re on a gluten-free diet.
Reasons for replacing wheat germ
- You are going gluten-free. Since it contains large amounts of gluten, wheat germ may not be the best option as some people are dieting or are allergic to gluten.
- You want various taste/texture options. Wheat germ sometimes has a bitter aftertaste. Although this could be suitable for baking recipes such as muffins and cookies, you might want to opt for a sweeter taste in your dishes. Hence, many substitutes that are crunchier, fluffier, and sweeter are provided in the list above.
- Preserving is a problem. In your local grocery stores, wheat germ is commonly sold in bulk and can go rancid rapidly. So if you don’t have the means to toast or store wheat germ in vacuum-sealed containers, using a wheat germ substitute is the best option.
- You are seeking variety in recipes. Even though wheat germ provides various food options, looking for variations and experimenting with different recipes brings fun to your cooking. You might even be surprised by the results once you try out fresh new ingredients that are even more nutritious than wheat germ itself.