What are the Differences Between Durum Wheat and Whole Wheat?

Wheat is a type of grain that widely consumed globally.

This isn’t surprising considering that this unique member of the Triticum family has adapted with ease to various environments, grows in many species, and can be cultivated all year round.

Durum wheat and whole wheat are well-known species of wheat. They are used in making bread, noodles, pasta, baked goods, and couscous.

But what are their differences, you may wonder.

This article gives a detailed review of the differences between durum wheat and whole wheat, as well as their similarities.

What is durum wheat?

Durum wheat is known scientifically as Triticum turgidum. It comes second only to bread wheat as the most cultivated species of wheat. Bread wheat is also known as Triticum aestivum.

Durum wheat is cultivated in the spring. Harvesting is done in the fall. This species of wheat adapts well to the dry and hot conditions that is typical of the Mediterranean sea (1).

Semolina is made from grains of durum wheat. Semolina is used in pasta (2).

They can also be used to produce puddings, breakfast cereals, or bulgur. You may also grind it into a fine flour to make pizza dough or unleavened bread (34).

What is whole wheat?

Whole wheat means an intact wheat grain. It contains the following parts (56):

  • Bran: it is the external layer of the grain. It is usually hard, but rich in antioxidants, minerals, and fiber.
  • Endosperm: It is the largest part of the grain, and is rich in protein and carbs.
  • Germ: it is the core of the grain, and rich in nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and beneficial phytocompounds, plus small amounts of protein, fat, and carbs.

When wheat is refined, the bran and germ, together with their nutrients are removed. What is left is the endosperm. This explains why whole wheat is richer than refined wheat (7).

The terms whole wheat and Triticum aestivum are sometimes used interchangeably. It is worth noting that there are refined and whole varieties of both durum wheat and bread wheat (8).

What are their differences and similarities?

Durum wheat and whole wheat have a close relationship. This explains why their nutritional profiles are similar.

Whole durum wheat and bread wheat are rich in B vitamins, fiber, zinc, copper, iron, and magnesium. They are also rich in beneficial phytocompounds and antioxidants (910).

Although they are the same botanical species, the hardness of durum wheat exceeds that of bread wheat. So, to produce flour from durum wheat, more grinding needs to be done, and this may damage some of its starch content.

This perhaps is the reason why durum wheat flour is not so good for bread making. Dough made with flour whose starch content has been damaged has a lesser ability to ferment and rise (4).

Also, durum wheat does not contain the D genome. D genome is a set of DNA that is present in bread wheat – and it affects the dough’s properties (4).

For example, doughs that are produced from durum wheat are more extensible. What this means is that they can easily be stretched into long pieces without breaking. Therefore, they’re good for making pasta.

However, doughs produced from bread wheat have more elasticity. This enables them to bounce back during kneading. That’s why bread wheat is better for making bread (4).

In conclusion

Durum wheat and whole wheat are very common ingredients used for the production of foods like noodles, pasta, couscous, bread, and baked goods.

Both grains are closely related with almost the same nutritional profiles. However, their genetic makeup is slightly different, and this influences the extensibility, fermentability, and elasticity of their doughs. So, both grains suit different culinary purposes.