Wheat germ is a product of milling whole wheat. It is a nutritious and crunchy addition to baked foods that adds a nutty taste. But if you need a substitute for wheat germ, there are plenty of other options.
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You'll often find wheat germ on the ingredients list for savory recipes like meatloaf, meatballs and casseroles, as well as sweeter recipes such as muffins, cakes, cookies and bread. It's a versatile ingredient, but if you're avoiding gluten or you simply don't have any on hand, check out this list of the foods you can substitute for wheat germ.
1. Oat Bran
Oat bran comes from the same grain as oatmeal — the oat groat. Oatmeal comes from the inner part of the groat while oat bran is the outer layer. Oat bran has a similar nutty taste when compared to wheat germ, and it offers a slight crunch that works well alongside flour or breadcrumbs in baking recipes.
Oat bran is nutritionally similar to wheat germ, too. One cup of oat bran has 15 grams of fiber, and it's rich in iron, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, according to the USDA. Oat bran boasts other important nutrients such as calcium and impressive amounts of B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and folate. Plus, it's gluten-free, so if you're sensitive or allergic to the wheat protein, this ingredient is a great wheat germ substitute.
For baking, simply substitute an equal amount for the wheat germ specified in your recipe.
2. Rice Bran
Rice bran is popular for baking gluten-free breads and cookies. It imparts a light, crispy texture to your baked goods which makes it a great substitute for wheat germ in recipes.
Rice bran, like wheat germ, is high in iron and B vitamins, per the USDA. It has a very light color when compared to wheat germ, but you can add a bit of honey or agave sweetener to your recipe, which will caramelize and give a browner color to your baked goods.
Use an equal amount of rice bran when you substitute for wheat germ.
Make sure to store your rice bran in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent it from turning rancid.
3. Ground Flaxseeds (Flax Meal)
Ground flaxseeds, also called flax meal, makes the perfect substitute for wheat germ: it has a dark color, a nutty flavor and a similar consistency. Plus, it's gluten-free.
Flax meal has more fiber, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids than wheat germ, but it has about the same amount of iron, according to the USDA. Nutritionally speaking, this makes flax meal an excellent alternative to wheat germ.
You may find flax meal to be way less sweet than wheat germ. If you're making cakes or similar recipes, try adding a sweetener of your choice to balance out the taste. You can substitute an equal amount of ground flax meal for wheat germ in your baking recipes.
As with rice bran, store ground flax in an opaque container or bag in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent it from spoiling.
4. Ground Sunflower Seeds
Similar to ground flaxseeds, ground sunflower seeds help add texture, protein and fiber to baked goods, and they make a fine wheat germ substitute if you have them on hand.
Sunflower seeds are much lower in carbs than wheat germ, but have around the same amount of protein, according to the USDA. They do have more fats, which can change the consistency in recipes like dough, so using them might be best avoided for bread recipes. Ground sunflower seeds won't give as much sweetness to your recipe either, so adjust as needed if you're using them.
You can swap in ground sunflower seeds in equal amounts as a substitute for wheat germ.
5. Whole Wheat Flour and Honey
If your recipe calls for one cup of all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of wheat germ, you can sub in one cup of whole wheat flour with 1/2 teaspoon of honey as a substitute. Typically, you might find this combo of ingredients in recipes for baked bars, cookies and muffins.
As whole wheat flour also comes from wheat, it's nutritionally similar to wheat germ. Whole wheat flour is high in fiber and iron, according to the USDA. Whole wheat flour on its own may lack the binding properties of wheat germ, but adding a small amount of honey is what makes the difference and also adds more sweetness to your recipe. That being said, these products are not gluten-free, so don't use them if you're sensitive or allergic.