What is flour in Japanese? All the different names (komugiko, chûrikiko, hakurikiko) explained
Flour or Komugiko 小麦粉 is just as important in Japanese culinary tradition as it is in the West.
But, there are many types of flour in Japan, and they each have a different name. Japan has many more flour varieties, some of which are made of wheat and many which are made of alternative ingredients like soba, rice, etc.
Komugiko is the general Japanese term for wheat flour. However, there are two common types of wheat flour: soft cake flour (hakurikiko) and hard bread flour (kyorikiko).
It’s time to examine all of these different flours and discuss the way they are manufactured and used for baking and cooking.
Wheat flour is just one of the many types of Japanese flour and in this article, I’m discussing all the different types you can buy from the Japanese grocery store.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Is wheat flour available in Japan?
- 2 The different types of Japanese flour
- 2.1 Hakurikiko (薄力粉）– Weak flour/Soft flour (Cake flour)
- 2.2 Kyorikiko (強力粉）– Strong flour (Bread flour)
- 2.3 Panyô zenryûhun (パン用全粒粉）- Whole wheat bread flour
- 2.4 Chûrikiko (中力粉）- All-purpose flour
- 2.5 Zenryûhun (全粒分) – Whole-wheat flour
- 2.6 Sobako (そば粉) – Soba buckwheat flour
- 2.7 Okashiyô no komugiko (お菓子の小麦粉) – Pastry flour
- 2.8 Okashiyô zenryûhun (お菓子用全粒粉）- Whole wheat pastry flour
- 2.9 Gurahamuko (グラハム粉）– Graham flour
- 2.10 Rai mugiko (ライ麦粉) – Rye flour
- 2.11 Komeko (米粉) – Rice flour
- 2.12 Mochiko (もち粉) – Glutinous rice flour
- 2.13 Cornmeal flour（コーンミール）
- 2.14 Violet flour (日清 バイオレット薄力小麦粉 )
- 2.15 Mixed flours for special dishes
- 3 Best Japanese flour brands
- 4 Japanese flours FAQ
- 5 Takeaway
Is wheat flour available in Japan?
Of course, it is because it is the basis of many recipes. The regular wheat flour with 8-10% gluten content is called Komugiko, and it is the equivalent of Western white flour. It is not whole wheat, and it doesn’t contain any rice or soba.
But, wheat flour comes in several varieties in Japan.
Cake flour is commonly used to make baked goods and bread flour is used for making bread. Then, there are special pastry flours and all kinds of non-wheat options.
The different types of Japanese flour
The general term for flour in Japanese is komugiko (小麦粉). But you must know that this refers to wheat flours, not other types like soba or rice.
Then, within the komugiko wheat flour, there are two main categories of Japanese flour:
- cake flour
- bread flour
These two are the most common kinds. They are categorized based on what they’re used for.
But, there are other options too, so check out the list.
Hakurikiko (薄力粉）– Weak flour/Soft flour (Cake flour)
You might’ve heard about Japanese cake flour and you’re wondering, what is it?
Here are the main characteristics:
- made of wheat
- low viscosity
- light and powdery texture
- used for baking cakes, biscuits, and other sweet pastries
- has a low gluten content (8.5% or less)
Cake flour is extremely popular and common and the easiest to find in Japanese stores. Since cake flour has a low gluten content, is not very viscous but rather powdery, light, and fluffy.
This type of flour is commonly used to make cakes, cookies, and other baked goods like Japanese pancakes. It gives the baked goods a very tender texture.
Kyorikiko (強力粉）– Strong flour (Bread flour)
- made of wheat
- known as bread flour and it is made for bread-making specifically
- high gluten content (12% or more)
With a higher gluten content of about 12-14%, the strong bread flour is the second most popular because the Japanese love their dense bread.
This flour is very viscous so the baked goods and bread are dense and weigh more than if you use all-purpose flour. Kyorikiko is also the best flour to use with yeast because it rises well.
You can easily find bread flour at the grocery store but it’s slightly more expensive.
Panyô zenryûhun (パン用全粒粉）- Whole wheat bread flour
Since whole wheat is healthier than regular wheat, many bread makers prefer to use Japanese whole wheat bread flour.
It has a high gluten content of 13% but it is made of whole grains.
Chûrikiko (中力粉）- All-purpose flour
Many people in the West are used to using all-purpose flour because you can pretty much use it for everything.
But, you’re likely wondering what is Japanese all-purpose flour?
Chuurikiko is Japan’s alternative to Western all-purpose flour. It is a medium-strength flour and it has between 8-11% gluten content which is medium so that’s why some people refer to it as medium flour.
Compared to other flours, this one is sometimes harder to find but most large Japanese grocery stores stock it.
Zenryûhun (全粒分) – Whole-wheat flour
Health-conscious consumers are buying more whole wheat flour because it’s a better choice than white or bleached flour due to its higher fiber and whole grain content.
It weighs more than white wheat flour and many people like to combine whole-wheat and white flour for better baking results.
Sobako (そば粉) – Soba buckwheat flour
Buckwheat flour is extremely popular in Japan. It is a great gluten-free flour variety made of ground buckwheat.
It is most commonly used to make soba noodles and oyaki.
Okashiyô no komugiko (お菓子の小麦粉) – Pastry flour
The pastry flour is similar to cake flour because it’s considered a “soft” flour.
It has low gluten content but a relatively high starch content which makes pastries soft and tender compared to other flours.
Okashiyô zenryûhun (お菓子用全粒粉）- Whole wheat pastry flour
This flour is similar to the regular pastry flour except it has a lower gluten content of approximately 10%. It is made with whole grains which make the flour softer.
Gurahamuko (グラハム粉）– Graham flour
Graham flour is considered a kind of whole-wheat flour that is very coarsely ground and named after the man who invented it, Sylvester Graham.
This flour is only sold in refrigerators and freezers because it doesn’t have a long shelf life.
Rai mugiko (ライ麦粉) – Rye flour
Rye flour is made of ryegrass berries. This flour contains wheat gluten but in a lower quantity than other wheat varieties.
Komeko (米粉) – Rice flour
Rice flour is a very popular gluten-free variety. It has a fine and powdery soft texture and it’s used for baking.
Rice flour is a common substitute for wheat flour for those who can’t eat gluten but it gives your dough a gummy texture.
Mochiko (もち粉) – Glutinous rice flour
This is a special kind of flour and it is used to make desserts like mochi and danger.
Mochiko is not your typical flour because it has a very high starch content that helps the mochi balls stick.
The texture is powdery and fine, perfect for mixing with liquids. This flour is gluten-free.
Because it’s made of corn, this is gluten-free flour. There are two kinds: corn meal and corn grit flour. Both of these are common in Japan.
The cornmeal flour has a fine texture whereas the corn grit is coarse.
Violet flour (日清 バイオレット薄力小麦粉 )
The Nisshin Violet flour is a different kind of specialty or gourmet flour. It is milled into a super-fine texture which is of the highest quality. There’s a lot of technology and research that goes into making this special violet flour.
When using it in your baked goods, it makes them fluffy and light texture which is almost airy and spongey.
Mixed flours for special dishes
There are many specialty Japanese dishes like their fluffy pancakes. These are commonly sold as pre-packaged mixes. You can also find flour made explicitly for these dishes at the grocery store.
- Okonomiyakiko – flour mix for okonomiyaki
- Takoyakiko – flour mix for takoyaki
- Hotcake mix – flour mix for making pancakes
- Tempurako – flour mix for making tempura
Best Japanese flour brands
- Nisshin is one of Japan’s most popular brands and their wheat flour is commonly used to bake, make bread. It is available in all grocery stores and on Amazon.
- Tehmag, Japan Eagle Bread Flour is popular bread flour, and people like it because it’s unbleached.
- Awajiya/Homemade Cake makes a variety of baking flours for different baked goods, pastries, and bread.
- My Kitchen/Watashi no Daidokoro is another supermarket flour brand with wheat, whole wheat, and other types of flour.
- Otafuku Takoyaki flour is a special flour mix for making Japanese octopus balls. The flour is mixed with other ingredients like bonito and kombu dashi flavorings.
- Tomizawa and Alishan are also large flour brands you can buy in supermarkets and gourmet shops.
Japanese flours FAQ
What is the difference between Japanese bread flour and regular flour?
The Japanese bread flour has a higher gluten content of about 12 to 14 % compared to 8 to 10% of regular flour.
But, another notable difference is that Japanese bread flour has a high protein content. It can absorb more water and is extra stable. This type of high gluten flour makes for dense bread and it has a soft and fine texture.
Is Japanese flour different?
Japanese flour is different in the sense that there is soft, hard, and all-purpose flour which are used for different baking and cooking needs.
Compared to Western types, Japanese wheat flour has more protein and sometimes a higher gluten content.
But, their rice, corn, or mixed flours are even more different from the classic white flour you buy in North America and Europe.
Is Japanese flour healthy?
If you think Japanese flour is healthier, I’d say you might be right. Although the white flour is the same as the white flour in the West, soba (buckwheat flour) is much healthier because it contains prebiotics that aid digestion.
How much does flour cost in Japan?
As of 2021, the price of flour in Japan is approximately around 2 USD per 1 kg.
This is more expensive than in the USA where the average price is around 1 USD per 1kg.
Groceries and pantry staples are generally more expensive in Japan and people don’t use as much flour at home.
Is flour in Japan bleached?
No, most of the flour sold in Japan is not bleached.
But, it depends where the wheat is imported from as many American wheat flours are bleached.
Japanese bakers prefer unbleached flour because it has more protein and gluten so it’s more elastic with a chewier texture. Therefore, the bread and baked goods are soft and tender.
Does bleached flour taste different?
The average person might not be able to tell a taste difference between bleached and unbleached flour. The bleached flour has a bit more of a bitter flavor compared to unbleached.
Also, the bleached variety is whiter, softer in texture, and has a very fine grain. Unbleached flour has more of a dense grain and a bit coarser or rougher texture.
But, you’ll usually never find Japanese people reach for the bleached flour first.
Is there self-raising flour in Japan?
Unfortunately, they don’t sell self-raising flour in Japan. If you’re used to using this type of flour for baking, you’ll be disappointed if the recipe doesn’t turn out the same without this kind of flour.
The good news is you can make self-raising flour at home. What you have to do is mix 1 cup of weak flour ( Hakurikiko) with 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
So, for each 200 ml cup of flour, you add 1 tsp of baking powder and if you want it to taste just like in America, then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt too.
European and British self-raising flour doesn’t contain salt, so you can skip it if you just want the self-raising properties, not the exact taste.
The main thing you need to know is that komugiko refers to Japanese wheat flour and there are actually two types: cake flour and bread flour which are usually sold at all supermarkets.
But, the Japanese population doesn’t only use wheat flour and there are many other types, such as rice, buckwheat, rye, and more!
It all depends on what you are baking or cooking. According to Japanese chefs and bakers, it’s always best to use cake flour or all-purpose flour for baking, and bread flour for making bread only.
If you use the flour for the purpose it’s made for, you’ll notice that your baked goods actually taste much better than if you use any random flour.
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.