5 Best Wheat Germ Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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There are quite a few wheat germ substitutes, and given the rise of gluten-free diets, understanding these alternatives is more important than ever.

Wheat germ is the extracted inner core of a wheat grain seed. It is normally removed, along with the fibrous husk, when wheat is processed to become refined flour. It is used in many healthy recipes to add back some of the missing nutrition of refined flour. Since wheat germ is from the inner portion of the seed, it is full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, which are all stored to help the tiny seed germinate.

Wheat Germ Substitutes

Wheat germ is also full of carbohydrates and is therefore not appropriate for low-carb diets. It is also high in gluten and has consequently become a bit harder to find in health food stores. Regardless of the reason you need a substitution, there are several easy ingredients such as flaxseed, wheat flour, bread crumbs, bran, and ground seeds that will do the trick. 

A bowl filled with breadcrumbs

You can use breadcrumbs to top your casseroles, stuff poultry, thicken stews, and add bulk to soups. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Flax Seed

Flax meal, made of ground flax seeds, is a great substitute for those looking to make their recipes healthier. Flax seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamins, and minerals. Flax meal will give your recipes a chewy crumb, so it’s particularly good in batch recipes like muffins. 

Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is made by grinding the whole kernel, including the wheat germ, so it’s an easy, natural substitute. Wheat germ tends to be light and fluffy, and whole wheat flour can be dense and clumpy. Sift the flour before using, however, to shake out clumps. 

Bread Crumbs

Sometimes wheat germ is used in breading, which can be a particularly hard substitute. If you are not avoiding gluten, simple breadcrumbs can be the best replacement here, as the breadcrumbs can stand up to cooking oil without losing their structure. The taste will be similar as well. This substitution will only work in savory recipes; do not use this alternative in sweet dishes.


Bran is usually sold as wheat, rice, or oat. Wheat bran, not surprisingly, tastes very similar to wheat germ. If you’re looking to avoid wheat altogether, try rice bran or oat bran. Both will give your baking a soft texture with strong crumbiness.

Ground Seeds

Sesame, sunflower or something else entirely, pick your favorite seed and simply grind it in a food processor to create a flour that instantly contains many essential vitamins and minerals. Seeds are nature’s powerhouses and bump up the nutritional value of any recipe. Be careful not to over-grind oily seeds like sesame, or you might accidentally end up with tahini.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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