Rye comes in many of the same forms as other grains, but with a twist – there are many kinds of rye flour, and their names can be confusing.


Rye Field

This rye field is in Finland, where rye is an important part of everyday meals. Most rye grown is “winter rye” which is planted in the autumn; the plants then develop during the springtime, and are harvested by August (in the Northern Hemisphere).


Rye Berries

Whole rye kernels are usually referred to as “rye berries.”  Rye growing in the field has an inedible hull, which must be removed before milling or eating. In rye, the starchy endosperm constitutes about 80-85% of the whole kernel, the germ 2-3% and the outer bran layers about 10-15%. While the fiber in most grains is concentrated almost solely in the bran layers, some of rye’s fiber is also in the endosperm.


Cracked Rye or Rye Chops

Rye chops are the rye equivalent of cracked wheat  or steel-cut oats. That is to say, the whole kernel (the rye berry) is cracked or cut into a few pieces that are quicker to cook than the completely intact rye berry. 


Rye Flakes

Rye flakes are created like rolled oats: by steaming rye berries and then rolling and drying them. You can add them to baked goods, cook them for porridge, and otherwise use as you would rolled oats.

Rye Flour and Rye Meal

There is absolutely no standardization of names for different kinds of rye flour and rye meal. The table below describes some of the terms used:

name meaning(s)
White Rye Flour Rye flour containing only endosperm is often called “white rye flour.” As with refined wheat flour, white rye flour is missing many of the original nutrients in the rye kernel. Not a whole grain.
Cream or Light Rye Flour When small traces of the bran have been included, the flour is often called “cream” or “light” rye flour. Not a whole grain.
Medium Rye Flour If yet more bran is included, you get “medium rye flour,” which begins to exhibit the flavor and character of the rye. Not a whole grain.
Dark Rye Flour Dark rye from some millers is a 100% whole grain flour, while from others, it may include just the outer layers of the endosperm and some bran; from yet others, dark rye could be the leftovers from making white, light, or medium rye flour. May or may not be a whole grain.
Rye Meal Also called “whole grain rye flour,” rye meal contains all of the bran, germ and endosperm of the original rye kernel. Rye meal can be ground fine, medium or coarse. Should be a whole grain, but always look for the word whole.
Pumpernickel Flour or Meal Coarse, whole-grain rye flour is called pumpernickel, and gives its name to the traditional German bread. Should be a whole grain, but always look for the word whole.


Photos this page from Idabrel Bondia Pons, Kaisa Poutanen and iStock.