Triticale and Tritordeum

Triticale and Tritordeum

Both triticale and tritordeum are hybrids of wheat and other cereals. Generally, when a hybrid is created, the aim is to combine the advantages of several cereals. In the case of these hybrids, the goal was to maintain the baking quality of wheat while improving plant resistance to extreme conditions or enhancing nutritional benefits.

It’s important to clarify that although these cereals are often mixed up in labels and some articles as ancient wheat varieties, unlike these, hybrids are the most modern cereals that exist, resulting from the work of genetic breeders.


Among wheat hybrids, triticale is the oldest. This cereal is a cross between wheat and rye, developed in the late 19th century, specifically in 1875. At the time, the aim was to combine wheat’s versatility with rye’s resistance to soil and climate conditions. Today, triticale production worldwide is just under 20 million tons, with the main producing countries being Germany, Belarus, France, and Russia. The reality is that triticale has not been able to replace wheat in traditional uses and has mostly been relegated to animal feed.

It’s important to note that since triticale is a hybrid of two cereals not tolerated by celiac patients, it is also not tolerated by them. Therefore, triticale is considered to contain gluten.

Nutritionally, triticale has a composition more similar to wheat than to rye, so it doesn’t seem to provide any significant nutritional advantages. Some scientific articles have analysed triticale’s content of bioactive or nutritionally relevant substances, such as fibre, but most of these compounds are concentrated in the bran, so the use of white flours would greatly reduce their content, and they are not usually compared with those of wheat. In any case, there is no evidence that a diet replacing wheat with triticale (in both white or wholemeal flour forms) provides health benefits.

Like wheat, depending on the variety and growing conditions, there is a wide variation in triticale’s nutritional composition and flour functionality. Variations in protein content of over 10 points have been found, resulting in similar variations in starch content. Generally, triticale grains have slightly higher ash and fibre content than wheat, sometimes due to their smaller size. However, higher ash content has also been observed in white flours, which may be due to increased bran contamination, and in any case, it varies between different varieties. Another point to consider in triticale flours is their higher amylase activity compared to wheat flours, although, as with other parameters, there is considerable variability. Regarding baking quality, primarily linked to protein quality, triticale has lower glutenin content than wheat, and thus poorer baking quality. It is generally accepted that triticale behaves like a weak wheat, producing flours with low water absorption capacity, short kneading times, low tolerance to over-kneading, and low alveographic strength. However, significant differences can also be observed in this regard between different varieties and growing conditions.

Another problem triticale has faced in replacing wheat flour, besides its poorer baking quality, is its low milling yield. Like rye, triticale is generally softer than wheat, and separating bran and endosperm is somewhat more complex, resulting in lower yields compared to wheat. This problem is not a concern if you want to obtain wholemeal flour.

Regarding triticale’s baking quality, as mentioned, it is inferior to wheat, making it quite challenging to make bread solely with triticale flour. Therefore, when used in baking, it is usually mixed with wheat flour in small proportions. In these cases, appropriate marketing (multigrain, or indication of other cereals), diversification, or even cost reduction in some cases (depending on the cost of these flours compared to wheat, which varies in different countries) is sought. In these cases, triticale’s baking quality does not significantly influence the final result. If you want to increase the amount of triticale in the mixture, you should consider the baking quality of these flours, as with wheat, there are different varieties with different flour-baking characteristics, and soil and climate conditions can also affect flour quality. Triticale flours are better suited for making cookies or other products where gluten network development is not necessary. Still, if the percentage of triticale flour is high, it will be necessary to use regular flours with similar particle size, ash content, and protein content, or water absorption capacity.


Tritordeum is possibly the most modern cereal there is. It was developed in the late 20th century as a cross between durum wheat and barley. In contrast to triticale, being more modern, the genetic diversity of tritordeum (number of varieties) is much lower. However, after initial years where breeders’ main concern was to generate more productive varieties, today, varieties with greater potential in baking have been developed. Tritordeum seems somewhat more resistant than wheat to certain growing conditions, such as drought or high temperatures, but its yield is still lower than that of wheat, making it a more expensive cereal.

Overall, tritordeum has good flour-baking characteristics, superior to triticale, rye, and barley, although inferior to wheat. It is a soft cereal with good milling yield, and its baking quality has been compared to some wheat varieties, but this depends on the variety and growing conditions, as with wheat. Nutritionally, it is very similar to wheat, but its high carotenoid content is notable. This compound is present in higher quantities in durum wheat than in common wheat and is responsible for the yellowish colour of pasta made with semolina from these wheats. Similarly, tritordeum flours and their derived products have a more yellowish colour than those made with wheat. Although carotenoids have been associated with various health benefits, there is no study confirming that consuming tritordeum bread has health benefits compared to wheat bread. There are also no studies indicating the amount of tritordeum bread that should be consumed to obtain these potential benefits, but it seems clear that occasional consumption of tritordeum bread would not lead to significant health advantages over consuming wheat, a cereal already healthy for most of the population.

Like wheat, white or wholemeal flours can be obtained, although white flours are more common. Tritordeum can be used in small quantities in the production of bread or other products, such as cookies, in which case the baking quality of this product, or the differences that may exist between varieties, are not particularly important. However, it is also possible to make these products solely with tritordeum flour. In that case, it is necessary to obtain flours with homogeneous quality that adapt to the needs of the baker. In bread making, certain alveographic or farinographic values should be sought (water absorption, flour strength, balance, tolerance to over-kneading, etc.). Like various types of wheat flour with different characteristics suitable for one or another preparation, there should be a diversity of tritordeum flours. If the supply in terms of types is scarce, flour regularity (baking quality) should be guaranteed. For the production of other products, analyses such as water absorption capacity, protein content, or particle size will prevail.

Although the main motivation for consumers to buy products with tritordeum may be the novelty, or the belief that it may be better nutritionally, it should be noted that products made with tritordeum flour will have a more yellowish colour and a slightly different taste that may be more or less appealing, depending on the consumer. In addition, the final price of the product will be somewhat more expensive due to higher production costs.

In general, consumers who consume products made with cereals other than wheat are often more aware of nutritional and environmental issues. For this reason, in many cases, in addition to the variety of cereals, aspects such as cultivation practices or milling systems are also valued. Thus, the use of organic tritordeum or triticale, ground with a stone mill, may have added value.

Further information

Martín, A., Alvarez, J.B., Martín, L.M., Barro, F., Ballesteros, J. (1999) The development of tritordeum: a novel cereal for food processing. Journal of Cereal Science, 30:85-95.

McGoverin, C.M., Snyders, F., Muller, N., Botes, W., Fox, G., Manley, M. (2011) A review of triticale uses and the effect of growth environment on grain quality. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, 91:1155-1165.

Zhu, F. (2018) Triticale: Nutritional composition and food uses. Food Chemistry, 241:468-479.

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