Durum wheat and whole wheat (or common wheat, the species most commonly used to make bread) are two of the most popular species of wheat and often used in foods like bread, pasta, noodles, couscous, and baked goods. Yet, you may wonder how they differ.

Wheat is one of the most commonly consumed grains worldwide.

That’s because this grass of the Triticum family has adapted to diverse environments, grows in a variety of species, and can be cultivated year-round.

Both durum and common wheat are available in whole-grain or processed forms, but the term “whole wheat” is frequently used to mean unprocessed common wheat.

This article gives you an overview of the similarities and differences between durum wheat and common wheat.

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Durum wheat, or Triticum turgidum, is the second most cultivated species of wheat after bread wheat, which is also called common wheat or Triticum aestivum.

Durum wheat is typically planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, and it’s well adapted to the hot and dry conditions surrounding the Mediterranean sea (1).

Durum wheat grains can be ground into semolina — a type of coarse flour commonly used in pasta, including couscous (2).

They can also be used to make breakfast cereals, puddings, or bulgur, or ground into a finer flour to make unleavened bread or pizza dough (3, 4).


Durum wheat is a variety of spring wheat that’s typically ground into semolina and used to make pasta. It can also be ground into a finer flour and used to make bread or pizza dough.

By definition, whole wheat is an intact wheat grain, containing the following three parts (5, 6):

  • Bran. This is the hard outer layer of the grain, which contains fiber, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Germ. The germ is the nutrient-rich core of the grain, which contains vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds, as well as small amounts of carbs, fat, and protein.
  • Endosperm. This is the largest part of the grain and mostly made up of carbs and protein.

When refining wheat, the bran and germ — along with their many nutrients — are removed. The process leaves only the endosperm behind, which is why whole wheat is more nutrient-rich than refined wheat (7).

The term whole wheat is sometimes used interchangeably with Triticum aestivum also known as common wheat or “bread wheat”— which is the most cultivated species of wheat worldwide. However, both common wheat and durum wheat can be whole or refined (8).


Whole wheat is a wheat grain whose bran, germ, and endosperm are left intact, making it richer in nutrients than refined wheat. The term whole wheat is sometimes inaccurately used to describe common wheat.

Durum wheat and common wheat are closely related, which explains their similar nutritional profiles.

When whole, both grains are rich in fiber, B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium, as well as a slew of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds (9, 10).

Yet, despite being the same botanical species, durum wheat is harder than common wheat. Therefore, more thorough grinding is required to produce flour, which damages some of its starch content.

Notably, this makes durum wheat flour less suitable for making bread. That’s because dough made with flour with a damaged starch content has a reduced ability to ferment and rise (4).

In addition, durum wheat lacks the D genome — a set of DNA typically found in common wheat — which affects the properties of dough (4).

For instance, doughs made from durum wheat tend to have higher extensibility. This means they are more easily stretched into long pieces without breaking, making them ideal to use in pasta.

On the other hand, doughs made from common wheat have a higher elasticity, which helps them bounce back when kneaded. This makes common wheat a better choice when making bread (4).


Durum wheat and common wheat have similar nutritional profiles. However, due to differences in genetic makeup, durum wheat is best used to make pasta, while common wheat is more suitable for making bread.

Durum wheat and whole common wheat are two ingredients commonly found in foods like bread, pasta, noodles, couscous, and baked goods.

These closely related grains are the two most cultivated species of wheat and have similar nutritional profiles.

Yet, slight differences in genetic makeup influence the elasticity, extensibility, and fermentability of their doughs, making each more suitable for various culinary uses.