Difference Between Cracked Wheat & Whole Wheat

By Mary Pletcher

The 2010 United States Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines recommend that at least half of all the grains consumed daily should be whole grains. Whole grains are grains that include the whole grain kernel, including the endosperm, bran and germ. The bran and germ are processed out of refined wheat products but contain needed dietary fiber, vitamin B and iron. Cracked wheat and whole wheat are both considered whole grains, but their uses vary.

Wheat is harvested and processed into many foods, including whole and cracked wheat.

Primary Uses of Cracked Wheat

Cracked wheat is also known as bulgur. It is wheat that has been parboiled, dried and very coarsely ground or cracked. It is commonly used in the Middle East as a basis for a salad called tabbouleh and as the main ingredient in pilafs. It can also be used to thicken casserole dishes or meatloaves or to make a vegetarian stuffed peppers. It is primarily treated as a grain and used as a cooking ingredient.

Primary Uses of Whole Wheat

Whole wheat is primarily used as the basis of whole-wheat flour. This is flour that is milled from the whole grain of wheat, including the bran and germ, making it more nutritious than flour milled solely from the endosperm. Although it contains the whole grain, it is fully milled and processed into a fine flour, unlike cracked wheat, which is not milled. It is used to bake bread, muffins and other baked goods.

Whole Wheat vs. Cracked Wheat in Bread

Whole wheat and cracked wheat often appear as bread ingredients. Whole-wheat breads may have no grains of wheat in them and apart from color often resemble white breads. Cracked-wheat breads may be made with whole-wheat flour or refined white flour but have cracked wheat stirred into the bread dough as an ingredient. Refined flour and cracked wheat make a whole-grain bread with a lighter texture than bread made with whole-wheat flour, but with fewer nutrients than a bread made with whole-wheat flour.

Uses as Substitutions

Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for white flour when baking. Try substituting half of the white flour when baking bread, pizza dough, muffins, pancakes or even cookies or cakes. Bulgur or cracked wheat can be used as a substitute for white rice in many dishes, including stir-fries. It can also be added to meat to make hamburgers or meatballs or added to a marinara sauce or stew. Cracked wheat can also be used to top a salad or cooked into a porridge.