Wheat germ is the nutrient core of the wheat kernel. It contains everything the wheat berry needs to grow into a new plant, even though it only makes up about 3% of the wheat berry itself. When wheat is refined, you get white flour, bran, and the germ.
Wheat germ is loaded with nutritional benefits, including minerals like zinc, phosphorus, and manganese. A single serving of wheat germ also delivers tons of calories, protein, fiber, and vitamin B6. Wheat germ is rarely eaten on its own but rather prepared as part of other recipes.
What is the best substitute for wheat germ? Wheat flour is the best substitute for wheat germ. They come from the same source and have similar nutrient profiles. Additionally, wheat flour is excellent for baking bread which is one of the most popular uses for wheat germ.
Wheat flour is, however, different from wheat germ in texture. While wheat germ is light and fluffy, wheat flour tends to be dense and clumpy. You can eliminate the clumps by sifting flour before baking.
An Overview of Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is a large part of whole-grain foods since it contains both the endosperm and the bran. It is a great source of fiber, often delivering as much as 3.7 grams per ounce. The food is highly versatile and has been added to several recipes to enhance their nutritional value. Some popular ones include protein shakes, muffins, casseroles, cereals, yogurt, and even smoothies.
Wheat germ can be tricky to store because it goes rancid without adequate refrigeration and avoidance of sunlight. Many commercial distributors avoid this problem by keeping it in vacuum-sealed containers.
You can find wheat germ in the cereal aisle of most supermarkets. It is usually available in bulk, and you may need a vacuum-sealed container to store it. Toasting the wheat germ can also extend its lifespan because the toasting removes much of the rancid-prone oil.
Why Replace Wheat Germ?
- You want gluten-free options: As nutritious as wheat germ is, it is very high in gluten. If you’re dieting or are allergic to gluten, it’s not the best option for you. Luckily, there are gluten-free alternatives that are just as nutritious.
- You want a different taste/texture: What germ has an indistinct and sometimes bitter taste. While this often goes well with baked goods like muffins and cookies, you may need substitutes for other recipes. Many suitable wheat germ substitutes are crunchy, fluffy, and even sweet-tasting.
- You’re having trouble preserving it: Wheat germ is mostly sold in bulk. And because it goes rancid quickly, preservation can become a problem. If you don’t have the luxury of toasting or storing in vacuum-sealed containers, seeking alternatives is a great solution.
- You want to vary your recipes: Wheat germ is a highly diverse food, and you can make several recipes with it. But variety is the spice of life, and trying out fresh ingredients for your recipes may just give you unexpected results, especially if they are as nutritious as wheat germ.
Best Substitutes for Wheat Germ
Best Overall Substitute for Wheat Germ: Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is an excellent substitute for wheat germ. It is obtained by grinding the entire kernel, wheat germ included, and thus, contains many of the same nutrients, including fiber and proteins and minerals.
Wheat flour is suitable for baking recipes like cookies and muffins. It can also be used to coat fried chicken or cutlets. Unfortunately, wheat flour is not an adequate substitute for smoothies and yogurt.
There are different types of wheat flour, based on color and the parts of the grain used. You can find most of the variations at grocery stores. Unlike wheat germ, wheat flour doesn’t have strict storage requirements. As long as you keep it from moisture, you’re good to go.
Best Substitute for Avoiding Gluten: Almond Meal
Almond meal is great for people on a diet or with gluten allergies. It doesn’t quite have the nutrient content of wheat germ, but it is rich in fiber, proteins, vitamin C, and magnesium.
The term ‘almond meal’ is often used interchangeably with ‘almond flour’, although they are two different things. Almond meal is a more coarse grind made from unpeeled almonds, and you can make it at home. Almond flour, on the other hand, has a fine texture and is made from peeled almonds. Most wheat germ baking recipes only require ⅔ of the almond meal quantity.
Best Substitute for a Chewy Texture: Flaxseed
If you’re looking for substitutes with a chewy and engaging texture, flaxseed is your best bet. Flaxseed has a similar nutrient profile to wheat germ with two additional benefits. Firstly, it is gluten-free, which makes it suitable for diets like paleo and keto.
Secondly, it is packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are both essential for cardiovascular health and overall body function. Flaxseed is savory to consume as it absorbs water while still retaining its origins taste.
Best Substitute for a Crispy Texture: Rice Bran
Rice bran is another suitable substitute for wheat germ, and its crispiness can be a welcome break from wheat germ. Rice bran is also gluten-free and is used for baking non-gluten bread and cookies.
Rice bran is gotten from the rice plant’s outer grain, and its oil is widely used in medicine. Like wheat germ, rice bran tends to go rancid if stored in the open air. Be sure to refrigerate it in an air-tight container to preserve its longevity.
Best Substitute for Granola: Oatmeal and Oat Bran
Oatmeal and oat bran are both excellent substitutes for recipes like granola, where texture is everything. Oatmeal is rich in vitamins, minerals and is an excellent source of Low-Density-Lipoproteins. It also has a rich nutty taste that can transform your granola recipes.
Oat bran is quite similar to oatmeal, howbeit more nutritious. It has a higher protein, fiber, and sugar content. Additionally, it can promote feelings of satiety, making you feel full with less food.