Is wheat germ listed in the new recipe you're trying out, but you haven't used this ingredient before, so you don't have it at home? Maybe you ran out of it or found out that you have a guest on a strict gluten free diet, but you really want to serve a baked goodie or dish that requires wheat germ?
Don't start stressing yourself out by thinking about what food to prepare instead of what's already at hand. My list will help you find a perfect wheat germ substitute for baking, cooking, or both.
3 Best Wheat Germ Substitutes
I won't lie; it's quite challenging to find the best substitutes for wheat germ, but here are three ingredients that worked well with my recipes:
1. Whole Wheat Flour and Honey
Whole wheat flour is made from the wheat grain, including the germ itself. Thus, its flavor resembles that of wheat germ.
However, the texture is different. Wheat germ is light and fluffy, while whole wheat flour is dense and clumpy.
What I do to solve this issue is I sift the flour using my fine mesh colander. Then, I measure the same amount of sifted whole wheat flour as what the recipe calls for wheat germ when using it as a breading and thickening agent.
While it's an extra step in the cooking process, it will only take a few seconds or a minute, depending on how much whole wheat flour you need to sift.
Its thick, syrupy consistency will help bind the other ingredients better than when using whole wheat flour on its own. Honey also adds sweetness to your baked goods, so it will replace the sugar present in your recipe.
I also want to note that this combination will only work for baking recipes with flour and wheat germ listed in their ingredients.
So, how do you use whole wheat flour and honey? In this case, use one-fourth of the amount of what the recipe calls for wheat germ. For instance, replace one cup of wheat germ with ¼ cup of sifted whole wheat flour.
For the honey, add half the amount of the sugar required in your recipe. As such, replace one teaspoon of sugar with ½ teaspoon of honey.
Best for just about anything.
2. Wheat Bran
The bran is another part of the wheat plant where wheat germ comes from, so it has the same nutrients, flavor, and aroma. However, both the aroma and flavor are more subtle than wheat germ.
Still, you should follow a 1:1 ratio when you replace wheat germ with wheat bran. What I usually do is slightly increase the amount of the other ingredients listed in my recipe. Doing so helps enhance the overall flavor of the food.
What I love most about wheat bran is it gives some of my baked goodies their much-needed "crumbly on the outside, but soft on the inside" characteristic that most of my loved ones look forward to.
Best for casseroles, baked goods, pancakes, and smoothies.
3. Bread Crumbs
I'm sure most of you already have bread crumbs in your kitchen pantries, so it's the easiest substitute for wheat germ that you can find.
However, only use bread crumbs as your last option, like when you're short of time. Apparently, it also won't work for most recipes requiring wheat germ.
That said, bread crumbs are excellent when it comes to giving your dish a good amount of crunch. This kitchen staple is also one of the best binding agents when mixed with other ingredients like grind meat.
But what I love most about bread crumbs is I can easily prepare them at home when I don't have one in my pantry or want to use a particular kind of bread. In this case, I always try to make crumbs out of wheat bread to have an almost similar flavor profile to wheat germ.
Making my own bread crumb also allows me to add more flavor and nutrients to it.
So how do you prepare bread crumbs? It's as simple as making your coffee in the morning!
- Tear a few pieces of bread.
- Place them in your food processor.
- Gently pulse until you have crumbs.
That's it! But if you want to make your crumbs crispier and drier, you can do so with the help of your oven.
- Preheat your oven to 300F or about 149C. You can do this before tearing the pieces of bread.
- Place parchment on a baking pan and spread your crumbs on it.
- Once the oven is ready, put the baking pan inside and leave it for 15 minutes.
- Once done, remove the baking pan from your oven and allow to cool. You can also add other herbs like parsley if you want to.
Once ready, replace wheat germ with the same amount of bread crumbs.
Best for breaded savory dishes and meatball recipes.
5 Best Gluten Free Wheat Germ Substitutes
Now, if you're looking for gluten free alternatives, here are five of my favorite ingredients that surely won't disappoint you:
1. Sunflower Seeds (or Ground Sunflower Seeds)
Sunflower seeds don't just have a similar nutty flavor and protein content as wheat germ; they also have lower amounts of carbohydrates.
You can use sunflower seeds to replace raw wheat germ in your smoothies, yogurt, and pancake and waffle toppings. Otherwise, you can grind them using your mortar and pestle or spice grinder to replace wheat germ powder or flour in your recipes.
Whether you need to use whole sunflower seeds or ground sunflower seeds, you should follow a 1:1 ratio to ensure you give your dish the right flavor, aroma, and texture.
I want you to note that sunflower seeds contain more healthy fats than wheat germ. While this is great news, especially for those on a keto diet, too much fat can affect your bread's final texture.
But don't worry; like most ingredient substitutes where I face minor problems, I have a solution to this!
When using ground sunflower seeds as a gluten free substitute in my bread recipes, I lower the amount of oil or any fat used. I usually only add half the amount.
Best for just about anything.
2. Oat Bran
Oat bran comes from the same plant as the oats you love to eat in the morning, so it has a nutty flavor that most palates are familiar with. It's a wheat germ substitute in baking and making snacks that has an almost similar nutritional profile.
Oat bran is rich in dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and iron. I also love that substituting wheat germ with oat bran doesn't require any computations. Simply replace the wheat germ in your recipe with the same amount of oat bran.
Another thing I love most about oat bran is it gives some of my baked goods the crumby exterior and soft interior they need, like what wheat bran does.
The only issue I want is it's denser than wheat germ, so oat bran will absorb more liquid. It's why you need to make sure your dough has the right consistency before baking it. Simply add more water gradually if your dough seems to be too dry.
Best for just baked goods and granola.
3. Rice Bran
Do you want a baked goodie with a crumbly exterior and soft interior, but you don't have wheat germ and oat bran available? You can replace your wheat germ in your baking recipes with an equal amount of rice bran!
While it has a milder flavor than wheat germ, rice bran has several nutritional benefits because it's rich in B vitamins and iron. Plus, its nutty taste isn't too subtle, so it will still give your baked goodies a good amount of flavor.
Rice bran will also produce goodies with a lighter color when compared to those made with wheat germ. And yes, I do have a trick if you think your goodie's color can affect your food presentation.
You can replace any sweetener in your baking recipes with molasses, honey, or agave sweetener. These ingredients will caramelize once exposed to heat, giving your baked treats the darker color they need.
Best for cookies and bread.
4. Flax Meal or Ground Flax Seeds
If you're looking for a low-fat, low-carb, gluten free substitute for wheat germ in baking, flax meal should be on top of your list. It also has greater nutritional value than wheat germ.
Flax meal also has the same nutty flavor, aroma, consistency, and dark color as wheat germ, so you surely have almost everything you need.
One difference is that flax meal is less sweet than wheat germ. That's why you must adjust the amount of any sweetener in your recipe to add more sweetness and balance the flavor. This is especially important if you're using it as a wheat germ substitute for baking cakes or cake like recipes.
I highly recommend adding ⅛ teaspoon more to a teaspoon of the sweetener listed in your recipe.
To use ground flaxseeds in your recipes, add the same amount as your recipe requires for wheat germ.
Best for baked goods.
5. Almond Meal
Almond meal is another ingredient to consider if you need a gluten free option that's also keto-friendly. Unlike almond flour that's commonly used in keto meals, it's made from unpeeled almonds rather than peeled almonds, so it has a coarser grind.
This texture and its nutty taste and aroma make it a great wheat germ substitute in baking. However, make sure that none of your guests have almond allergies before using almond meal in your recipes.
Now, if you can use it to substitute wheat germ, you need to add half the amount of what the recipe calls for wheat germ.
Best for cookie, bread, and muffin recipes.
Successfully Substituting Wheat Germ
With a good list of the best substitutes for wheat germ, you can check your pantry, local grocery stores, and even your health food stores to see what's available for you. As always, choose the substitute for wheat germ that will work perfectly for your specific recipe.
Best Substitutes for Wheat Germ
Option 1: Whole Wheat Flour and Honey
- When baking non gluten bread and other goodies requiring 2c wheat germ and ½c sugar, add ½c sifted whole wheat flour and ¼c honey.
Option 2: Ground Sunflower Seeds
- Replace 1c of wheat germ with 1c ground sunflower seeds when you're baking for individuals following a gluten free (even keto-friendly) diet.
You can find the video in the post above. If you don't see a video, please check your browser settings.