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All About Semolina Flour – Differences Between Semolina and Farina

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Semolina flour is the gritty, coarse particles of durum wheat that are milled down after extracting finer flour. It is used to make couscous, upma, idli, knafeh, and countless other porridge and dessert recipes around the globe.

Semolina flour and Cream of Wheat are made using the same process, but they are not the same – and they are not interchangeable. The former is made from durum wheat, while the latter is made from other wheat varieties.

semolina flour pouring out of a spoon into a bowl

What is Semolina Flour?

It is a flour ground from middlings of durum wheat, a hard wheat variety. (Durum is the Latin word for hard.) The finer flour from durum wheat is used to make semolina pasta flour and “00” flour (doppio zero flour), an ingredient in pizzas and pastas. The endosperm that’s left after milling the fine flour is then ground up and sold as semolina flour.

Depending on the variety of hard wheat used, the resulting semolina can be different in terms of protein and starch content. Regardless, you shouldn’t substitute it for all-purpose flour in your baking.

Semolina is also called rava or sooji. This is made of refined, granulated whole wheat. It is generally made of a type of wheat called mottai godumai, and it’s ground finely for batters and coarsely when used as the main ingredient. The Spruce Eats has a lot more information if you’re interested in cooking Indian recipes that use semolina.

Confusion surrounds the term semolina because some use it to refer to coarse-grained flour made from any type of grain. Be sure that you know what you’re getting when you purchase it.

My advice is to always buy exactly the type of flour that your recipe requires!

Semolina from Durum Wheat

Semolina from durum wheat or similar hard wheat is usually yellow in color. This is what you should use to make savory dishes or desserts. It is a finer grain that still produces a gritty end product with an almost cornbread-like texture.

Semolina flour as sold by milling companies almost always refers to that made from durum wheat.

Semolina from Soft Wheat

When it’s made from softer types of wheat, it tends to be almost white in color; this is called farina in the United States. It may also include some of the bran and germ of the wheat. This type of semolina may already be in your house – it’s Cream of Wheat.

Important: Even though Cream of Wheat is made with the same process, it is not a good substitute for semolina flour. They are generally not interchangeable in recipes! Hard and soft wheats have different properties.

Blogger Paved with Good Intentions tried making a homemade pasta by substituting Cream of Wheat for the semolina. She ended up with a bizarre Cream of Wheat carbonara.

Patricia Conant Webb, who wrote the no longer extant The Epicurean Table, explained why it is so easy for people to be confused and to choose the wrong product. In Europe, this breakfast cereal is sold in small packages and called semolina in the UK, semolino in Spain and Italy, Grießmehl in Germany, and semoule in France. I could easily see myself picking up a package and assuming that it would work as semolina flour.

Where Can You Buy Semolina Flour?

First try your local grocery store and look for the flour produced by Bob’s Red Mill or even a local milling company. Make sure that it’s made from durum wheat!


If you can’t find it there, your next best bet would be an Italian market or an Indian or Pakistani market (where it will be called sooji or rawa).

You can always buy semolina flour online if local availability is an issue.

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16 comments:

  1. rspsays:

    appreciate this explanation. Semolina was always available in my local (around-the-corner) market, but the market is now under new ownership and semolina is no more on their shelves. Also appreciate directing us to on-line sources. But, please, please give sources other than Amazon! Bob’s Red Mill sells directly, as does King ARthur flour. Some folks won’t/don’t ever use Amazon (lots of reasons, but this site isn’t the place to list them.) Suffice it to say that when other sources are available please help the smaller businesses by providing those sources. Thanks again though for the helpful information. I’m tempted to substitute the farina for semolina in a cake recipe., even though I realize the difference.

    • Stefsays:

      Thanks! I’m all for supporting smaller businesses. The reason I link to Amazon, is that I get a commission from all sales there. So, for example, if you click over to Amazon to shop for the flour and end up being a laptop, I get a commission on that for sending you there. Cupcake Project is my main income source and those extra dollars from Amazon help me. If, for example, Bob’s Red Mill, offered me the same deal as Amazon, I would link to them. Hope that makes sense.

  2. Bryan Ssays:

    Still don’t know if semolina is the same as semolina flour. Is it the fineness that is different or the fact that semolina is not always fro duram wheat.

    • Stefsays:

      It totally depends on the brand and the type of wheat that they use. Unfortunately, it isn’t more straightforward to know.

  3. Cheryl Wheelersays:

    Just came across this while looking for recipes for rava cheela and upma. Rava and sooji are typically the coarse variety, so it would be helpful to mention that here. I cook a lot of Indian food and have never seen it sold as a finely milled flour. And not to confuse people, but I certainly substitute cream of wheat for semolina when making cheela (for example, this recipe works with either product https://hebbarskitchen.com/rava-chilla-recipe-suji-ka-cheela/)

    • Stefsays:

      Thanks for that information. I’ve updated the post to discuss rava and sooji based on what I’ve researched and learned! It sounds like the safest bet (i.e. the least confusing option) is to buy exactly the type of flour that one’s recipe requires.

  4. veccasays:

    thanks so much! that’s just the explanation I was searching for on google just now. I’m in New Zealand and have a package of semolina and wondered if it was the flour for pasta, but it’s not. great info. :)

  5. Raesays:

    semolina flour is often found in health food stores.

  6. Stefsays:

    I posted it a few days ago. Good luck!

  7. susansays:

    well it took awhile but i am ready to go!
    got my cardomon pods, check
    got my cinnamon sticks, check
    got my semolina FLOUR, check
    and lots of honey, check!!
    ok, wheres the recipe??? i hope its something i will like! hehe

  8. Stefsays:

    Marc – Life without wikipedia??? I choose not to think about it.

    Susan – No worries if you can’t get the pods. You should be just fine if you leave them out.

  9. susansays:

    ok i got semolina FLOUR today but no luck on the pods or sticks
    the store i went to wanted 9.99 for pods! yikes, no thank you. i am running to world market tomorrow so i should be ready to go by the time this recipe makes an appearance!

  10. Marc @ norecipessays:

    Good to know, thanks for the info. What did we all do before Wikipedia!

  11. susansays:

    ok, im making a list, as i am going shopping tomorrow!! im glad you told me about the cardamom pods, because the stores around here would be super expensive to buy those! i am pretty sure i still have lots of honey left!! since you like honey so much, maybe i should give you my recipe for bran muffins with honey butter, yum!!

  12. Stefsays:

    Good timing! Glad I told you that key ingredient in advance. :) While you’re shopping, you might also want to make sure you have some cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods and you already know you need lots of honey!

  13. susansays:

    wow, i didnt know any of that! that was very interesting, so now i have to go hunt down semolina flour for your cupcakes??? lucky for you i will be near an italian store tomorrow!!! cant wait for the recipe

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